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Corvette Racing Team – 20 Years of Winning Ways

Mike Rockenfeller piloting the Corvette. [Jack Webster Photo]

Mike Rockenfeller piloting the Corvette in the Rolex 24 at Daytona. [Jack Webster Photo]

 Turk’s Tracks
A Few Loose Lug Nuts from Pit Row

This year’s Rolex 24 was the start of the Corvette Racing Team’s 20th year in competitive racing. This team has done what no other racing team has done. It has been 20 years with the same manufacturer, the same model car, and the same core team. In its 20 years of racing, the Corvette team has accomplished the following:

  • 106 total wins since 1999 in 398 starts
  • Won at 21 tracks
  • 3 Rolex 24 wins in 7 starts
  • 12 Manufacture and Team championships
  • 11 Driver titles
  • Completed 263,074 racing miles since 1999

This is quite an impressive accomplishment and this team ranks as one of the most successful sports car teams in the history of the motor sport. So, I was curious as to what made this group’s winning ways.

In 1997, Corvette introduces it’s all new fifth generation C5. This car was a major departure from the previous generation Corvette. It had an all-aluminum V-8, a rigid chassis, new suspension and brakes, and a new transmission that was moved to the rear of the car. The car now came very close to meeting that ideal 50/50 weight distribution. Then in 1999, Corvette introduced the C5R and went racing. They knew that they had a winning combination from the get go. Here was a car that could compete and beat any sports car that Europe or Japan could build. The C5R let to the C6R after 2005 and then to the present C7R after 2014. Now that we have the car, what else is needed to win?

A good car can only be as good as its drivers. The Corvette team has had some of the best drivers in the world. Here is just a partial list: Justin Bell, Dale Earnhardt, Dale Earnhardt Jr., Ron Fellows, Jan Magnussen, Simon Paganaud, John Paul, Jr. Oliver Gavin, and Tommy Milner. As a side note, 20 drivers have driven for the Corvette Team in the Rolex 24.

One of the drivers that have been key to the team’s success is Tommy Milner. In 1999, Mr. Milner was driving for the Rahal/Letterman BMW team. He joined the Corvette Team in 2011 as a full time driver. In his seven years with the team, he has earned 11 wins, 2 victories in the 24 hours of Lemans and two class driver championships. Quite an impressive resume for a young man!

So we have the car and the driver, let’s look at the team. The Corvette Racing Team is like no other team in the racing world. The core team has been together for the entire 20 years. Mr. Milner believes that one of the important things that makes this team so good is that everyone now has a huge wealth of knowledge and experience in all kind of scenarios. He believes that level of experience and cohesiveness just doesn’t exist with other teams. This team is known for developing excellent race strategies that have allowed them to win races when they may not have always had the fastest car. Ironically, I could find only two times when the Corvette was on the pole for a race.

Finally, let’s look at the pit crew. Without a doubt, those guys are great. There are many examples when the Corvette would come in for a late pit stop while in third or fourth place only to leave the pit in first place with a big lead. So how good are they? The team recently set a new record for the fastest brake change.

So there you have it, winning ways when all the key elements come together to work for a common goal. Who knows, this team could just keep winning for the next 20 years.

 

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Gene Turk was born with racing in his blood. At age 8 he started racing Quarter Midgets as member of the Great Milwaukee Quarter Midget club. For five years he raced the #7 car that his father built. He then graduated from the Milwaukee School of Engineering (MSOE) with a degree in Industrial Engineering and Internal Combustion Engineering.

While in college he obtained his Private Pilot’s License.

Along the way he has attended numerous Indy car and stock car races at the Milwaukee Mile during the 60s, 70sand 80s along with area Midget car races. He would also frequently fly to the Brickyard to watch the Indy 500 time trials in the 60s and 70s and more recently attended the 2014 Indy 500.

He has also attended numerous sports car and NASCAR races at Elkhart Lake Road America. Finally, Gene has owned many classic cars including his present 1990 Corvette and is a self-described “Gear Head.”