CORVETTE'S FEHAN: EFFICIENCY IS THE BUZZWORD
Corvette's green innovations and other random thoughts
When it comes to preaching the gospel of GM and green racing, there's no better messenger than Doug Fehan. Corvette Racing's immensely popular program manager will be on his way to Daytona Beach, Fla., for a Thursday night address to participants in the EcoCAR Challenge. The program is a three-year collegiate advanced vehicle technology engineering competition established by the United States Department of Energy (DOE) and General Motors (GM), and is being managed by Argonne National Laboratory.
"The plan is to talk to them about what GM's initiatives are and what we do at Corvette Racing - our association with E85 and the MICHELIN GREEN X Challenge," said Fehan, who oversaw Corvette's 2009 effort that netted the Green Challenge GT championship as well as American Le Mans Series victories in both GT1 and GT2. "From a pure racing standpoint, we'll be looking at things like our use of E85 in the C6.R, aerodynamic advancements, ceramic wheel bearings, zero viscosity lubricants and working with Michelin on rolling resistance in tires."
The competition challenges 17 universities across North America to reduce the environmental impact of vehicles by minimizing the vehicle's fuel consumption and reducing its emissions while retaining the vehicle's performance, safety and consumer appeal. Students use a real-world engineering process to design and integrate their advanced technology solutions into a GM-donated vehicle.
"Efficiency is the buzzword," Fehan said. "The same things we look at in race cars are the same ones we look at in production cars. Manufacturers are looking at those things like components and wind resistances, not just fuel and energy. The ZR1 (the car on which the GT Corvette is homologated) is a living, breathing testament to what we call cascade engineering. We went from C5 to C6 to Z06 to now the ZR1, sharing information and developments with the production side of GM.
"This is going to progress in steps," he said of the continual push for automotive efficiency and innovation. "You know, Edison looked at more than 2,000 iterations of the light bulb that didn't work. He was interviewed and said he was encouraged because he found 2,000 ways it didn't work and was that much closer to having something that did work. You have to go through these processes in order to eliminate ideas that aren't practical."
Fehan also answered a couple of other Corvette Racing-related queries...
Testing of new Corvette 5.5-liter GT motor
"We had one of the cars testing at Road Atlanta in November with the 5.5- liter. The feedback was very, very good. The dyno work has been continuous. We will be back on track again in February for the final test before we debut it at Sebring for the 12 Hours."
Corvette customer prospects?
"We've had a tremendous amount of interest. Admittedly, it's tough in these times. But both in North America and Europe, people are genuinely excited and we've fielded a lot of calls."
Will the Belle Isle Grand Prix be back?
"I would certainly hope so. That is strictly up to Roger (Penske) but I think every competitor would like to see that brought back on the schedule. Roger said he would take a two-year hiatus and evaluate things (Ed. Note: Indeed, event chairman Bud Denker is optimistic for a 2011 return). He has made a terrific investment in the infrastructure on Belle Isle."
The importance of the Detroit Auto Show to the city and GM?
"It is still a massive event. Clearly, the extravagance in the displays across the board has been dramatically reduced. That's Toyota, Mercedes, GM, Ford - everyone is taking a serious look at where they are. But Detroit is still the motor capital of the world, and the importance of the show hasn't changed a bit."
The American Le Mans Series will open its 12th season with America's greatest sports car race, the 58th Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring presented by Fresh from Florida from March 17-20. The green flag will fall at 10:35 a.m. on Saturday, March 20 with live coverage on SPEED.
The annual American Le Mans Series Winter Test is scheduled for February 22- 23, also at Sebring International Raceway.