Motorsport is more than an adrenaline rush. The heat of competition forces evolution, and as a result, new technologies and innovations filter down to the street. There’s also the business side of things, with advertising opportunities for those sponsors that sticker the right car. But what happens when a car is so dominant the cameras turn elsewhere? For Corvette Racing in 2008, the answer may have been orders for a collision in pit lane.
Back in 1999, Corvette Racing program manager Doug Fehan approached General Motors with a proposal to go road racing, seeking GM’s backing to put Corvette on track in full factory regalia. Although GM had provided support to various racing teams in the past, Fehan’s proposal was for a deeper, full factory-backed effort. The pitch emphasized how Corvette Racing could bring GM some much-needed press, not to mention an additional boost in sporting cred among the performance crowd. GM brass was reluctant at first, but after Corvette Racing’s successful podium finish at Daytona in 1999, GM signed on.
With GM providing full support, Fehan and the Corvette Racing team quickly racked up the wins, consistently placing at the front in highly competitive classes. In 2007, however, many of Corvette Racing’s competitors started to bail. By 2008, Aston Martin, Maserati, Saleen, and Ferrari had exited the American Le Mans Series (ALMS), leaving Corvette Racing as one of the last factory-backed teams still on track.
While the dwindling field essentially assured Corvette Racing’s win in the GT1 class, the press started to lose interest. After all, the Corvette Racing cars were more or less racing amongst themselves, while more exciting battles were happening elsewhere.
Naturally, GM brass weren’t happy. Sponsors weren’t getting the coverage they expected, and while the Corvette Racing team was finishing each event 1-2, the business side of things started to falter.
Fast forward to ALMS Round 6 at Mid Ohio in 2008. As the cameras focused elsewhere, the Corvette Racing cars both entered the pit lane at the same time, stopping nose to tail in adjacent boxes.
After refueling and swapping in fresh tires, both cars were released simultaneously. However, as the two Vettes headed down pit lane side-by-side, the drivers appeared to swerve into one another, rubbing doors and swapping paint just ahead of pit exit – and grabbing cameras in the process.
Both drivers exited pit lane during a red flag period, landing the Corvette Racing team a time penalty. However, the incident also netted the two Vettes extra TV coverage as onlookers watched to see if the racers would once again play destruction derby down pit lane.
As a consequence, Corvette Racing got a ton of replays and interviews, and although there’s no evidence that the pit lane collision was a result of team orders, one can’t help but wonder.