Today we are looking back at an article and photos by Charley Robertson at the Corvette Racing Party held at the Simeone Foundation Automotive Museum in 2015. The coverage appeared in the January 2016 issue of Vette Vues Magazine.
Petit Le Mans was the last race of the 2015 IMSA-Tudor season. However, thanks to the Simeone Automotive Museum, Wes Wong, who is now on the board of directors for the National Corvette Museum, and Doug Fehan, Corvette Racing Program Manager, there was one more racing event to attend, or should I say party!
The Simeone Foundation Automotive Museum is located in Philadelphia, PA, close to the airport. It is a museum of vintage racing cars in various exhibits with painted walls to add to the character of the scene. For two days in October, Dr. Simeone opened up the museum doors to Corvette enthusiasts for a Corvette Racing theme event. On hand was the 1963 Grand Sport #002, a vehicle that CNN Money said was one of the top ten most valuable Corvettes and a 2016 C7.R edition in yellow, owned by Ron and Jessica Grove. Doug Fehan and driver Tommy Milner were the special guests for the event. How could we pass up something like this, even living in Florida?
We reserved our hotel rooms, and then Jim got our plane tickets. Plane? One has to get on a plane to get to Philly? Suddenly I had second thoughts about the trip as I hate to fly. My experience with planes is that either the ride is so fearsomely bumpy that it feels like it is going to crash, or in a couple of instances, the planes almost did crash! Jim told me it was too far to drive in the time we had off, and for a brief moment, I wondered if I started walking now could I get to Philly in time? I expressed my fears to Doug Fehan, who told me, “every flight almost crashes…..they call it a landing”! Oh yes, he definitely calmed my fears, not! At this point, I was really wishing Jim looked to a company such as Jettly that would have allowed us to fly to Philadelphia via a private aircraft, I definitely would have felt more comfortable that our safety was absolutely paramount, if I was going to have to fly then I’d also want to do it in style! Unfortunately, my hopes were unanswered but I’d grin and bear the flight nevertheless.
That Friday morning, we got up at 2:00 am to drive the hour and a half to the Panama City Beach International Airport. I do remember thinking I must be crazy to get on one of those flying missiles. The plane took off at 7:00 am, and I wished it was later in the morning so I could indulge in a stiff drink! As it turned out, the planes behaved themselves, and even going through Atlanta was a quick experience. We reached Philly safely, and I had happy feet when they touched the solid ground! However, there was a return flight to worry about.
A small group of us was fortunate to meet with Dr. Simeone at the 80,000 square foot automotive museum that afternoon. He is an exceptionally friendly person, a retired neurosurgeon who loves to talk to anyone who comes up to him. I do remember, at one point, he quoted John Stuart Mill, “Competition is indispensable to progress.” How I wish IMSA were there listening to Dr. Simeone! He told us that it took him 50 years to put together the collection and that all of the cars still run!
After Dr. Simeone’s talk, we had the chance to walk around this huge museum filled with racing cars of all years. The museum has 65 to 70 cars at different times and is displayed in dioramas per race track. My favorite collections were the Le Mans, Sebring, and American Le Mans; however, each collection had a car that simply took your breath away. I tried taking as my photos as I could, but the area is large, and I was in awe at each display. There is much to see, and the painted backgrounds make you feel like you are there during a race!
The National Corvette Museum store was on hand, and they had a wonderful display of all kinds of Corvette goodies for sale. Ron and Jessica Grove’s beautiful 2016 C7.R Edition fit in perfectly with all the older vintage cars.
The actual event started at 6:30 with a very nice and delicious dinner and a cash bar. Then Tommy and Doug walked up to the stage to give their usual comedy act. Each time you listen to them, you always learn something new, so don’t put off this event thinking you have already heard their talk at other events and races. Both have a knack in keeping the audience well entertained. You could see and hear the passion in Tommy’s voice when discussing the win at Le Mans and even the miserable weather and driving conditions at Petit Le Mans. Doug opened up the seminar for questions, and he received many, especially on the 2015 BoP (Balance of Performance). He discussed this and ended that Corvette Racing never gives up and Takes No Prisoners! He also discussed the Petit Le Mans race results and when IMSA sent the cars back on the track. He reminded the audience that the #4 did get a podium finish, 3rd place and that the #3 won the Endurance Challenge based on the points awarded at the Rolex 24 Hour, Sebring, and at Petit Le Mans. Doug said that the driving Tommy did during his stint was some of the best driving he had ever seen in those rainy conditions. He also answered questions on the Ford GT coming on the scene and the relationship of the C7 and C7.R on technology transfer. However, the audience was glued to their seat when the question was asked: “Should fans boycott the races if the BoP continues in 2016 against Corvette Racing?” Since I have heard this discussed by fans throughout the season, I was curious to see what Doug would say, and as usual, he answered it well. He explained about the wins and championships the team has won during the past 16 years, including eight Le Mans victories. He explained how Corvette Racing is a leader in innovation and how all the other teams look to copy their success. He asked that the fans continue their support for the team, and by going to the races, the fans are empowered, and IMSA does take notice of our efforts. Doug said that we are a very passionate and knowledgeable fan group, and this passion is noticed by the Corvette Racing team, IMSA, and the other teams in the garages.
Friday night ended with special gifts, from Doug Fehan, Corvette Racing and Chevrolet Enthusiast Connect for all attendees and a special one of a kind Corvette Racing poster commemorating the 2015 Le Mans win, as well as an autograph session by Doug and Tommy. With the cash bar opened, it was nice to have your drinks and visit with your friends. Because this is a smaller event, it also gives you plenty of opportunities to talk to Tommy and Doug.
The event continued Saturday with seminars by Lee Willard of Michelin and followed by Andy Moran of Mobil 1. Then what we all have been waiting for, the powering up and driving of the George Wintersteen No. 002 ’63 Grand Sport! In 1962, Zora Duntov planned to build 125 Grand Sports to compete with the Shelby Cobra. Five were built before GM pulled the plug on the program. What makes this car special is that it has not been restored and is still in “race condition.”
Dr. Simeone had us all head to the back of the lot where he gave a talk on the Grand Sport, and then Kevin Kelly, Curator, got in the car and demonstrated the power of the Wintersteen Grand Sport. It was awesome hearing that mighty engine roar past you as he took the car around the lot. Later a raffle was held, and one lucky person got to ride in the car!
The day continued with Doug and Tommy giving another Q&A session and then the exciting auction! Doug had brought items for everyone, regardless of your budget. So no excuses not to participate in the chance of bringing home a special Corvette Racing memorabilia. One of the highlights of the auction was Tommy donating his driver’s suit and helmet in return for a VERY generous donation to the foundation. All totaled, the Simeone Foundation Automotive Museum brought in close to $17,000 from the auction! Again, an autograph session followed before the event ended late in the afternoon.
Since we had so much to do, we failed to eat lunch, so our fun continued with an early dinner with several friends, Wes and his wife, Jeanean, Ron and Jessica Grove, John and Mary Nist, Pat and Evelyn Sullivan and Doug Fehan.
We found this event to be professionally organized with plenty of fun activities, a perfect end to the 2015 Corvette Racing Season.
Would we attend this event again? You betcha, and the Simeone Automotive Museum has already set the dates for next year, October 21-22, 2016. See you all there!
Here are some other blog posts you might enjoy:
If you are not getting Vette Vues Magazine you can see what our subscribers are enjoying each month in our Issue Preview.
Start getting Vette Vues each and every month right in your mailbox or at your office. Check out our subscription specials!
Share with your family and friends…