|Corvette finished 1-2 at Lime Rock|
Make no mistake, it was hot, unseasonably so, at the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship Northeast Grand Prix on July 23 at Lime Rock Park in Connecticut, the warmest conditions the WeatherTech Championship competitors have seen.
But compared to September 2, 2000, at Texas Motor Speedway in Fort Worth, Lime Rock felt like an icebox.
TMS was the site of Corvette Racing's first win. Lime Rock was where the team took its 100th win, and as icing on the cake, its 60th one-two finish. While many members of the Corvette team have scattered over the 16 years since that first victory, at least a couple are close by: Program manager Doug Fehan has been there from the start, and presided over the 100th, achieved when Oliver Gavin and Tommy Milner brought the No. 3 Corvette C7.R home with the class win, followed by the No. 4 of Jan Magnussen and Antonio Garcia.
Andy Pilgrim, who brought home that first victory for Chevrolet, no longer drives for Chevrolet, but was racing at Lime Rock, driving the No. 540 Porsche 911 GT3 R for Black Swan Racing, with co-driver Tim Pappas in the GT Daytona class.
One of Pilgrim's central talents over the years has been the fact that he is nearly impervious to the heat – as usual, he looked fresh as a daisy after the closing stint at Lime Rock. Perhaps living in South Florida helps. But that day back in Fort Worth, it was singularly helpful.
[adinserter name="GOOGLE AD"]"It was an incredible 117 degrees at 7 p.m. for the race, and Ron Fellows had gotten out after his stint very overheated," Fehan recalled in an interview with Peter De Lorenzo of Autoextremist.com. "I remember taking a garden hose and spraying him down in the paddock area while he sat in a lawn chair in his tighty-whities. Andy Pilgrim brought home the victory actually lapping the second place Viper. You don't forget something like that."
Said Pilgrim: "Ron came in for the driver change after the first stint and I jumped in and off I went. It was getting towards end of my stint and a call came on the radio asking if I could go again. I said ‘OK.' I think I added, ‘Just talk to me every now and then to make sure I'm not getting dopey.' I never talk on the radio much and if you didn't speak back then, the pit left you alone until it was time to pit.
"I never had a clue Ron had overheated in his first stint and was not ready to get in – they just asked me if I was good to go so I pitted, fueled and went again. I think there was 30 minutes to go and we were leading when I stopped again. This time Ron jumped in. I got out and jumped over the wall, and I about knocked down (Pratt & Miller Public Relations Director) Robin Pratt and the EMTs that were right there.
"They sat me in a chair before I even had my helmet off. Robin then started to take my shoes off, and I started laughing and enquired, ‘Why do you want my shoes?' Then she looked at me and asked if I was OK. I said I'm fine, why?
"She must have asked me at least three more times if I was OK. She then says, ‘Well, several drivers have been overcome with the heat, including Ron, and you just did a double stint…' We had no cooling in the cars then. I assured her I was fine and she started laughing, too.
"I was told after the race that Fehan was interviewed on TV about the fact that I was doing a double stint when it was so hot, I think 114 degrees at the race's start, especially after other guys were getting dragged out of cars after one stint. I believe his reply was, ‘It's Pilgrim, we're not worried, he's a friggin' reptile.'"
|Corvette and Ford GT battle at Lime Rock|
It was, said Pilgrim, "A great night, and a privilege to have won with Ron."
Since then, of course, there have been so many Corvette victories – less than a month later, at Road Atlanta, with Pilgrim, Franck Freon and Kelly Collins, then the next year, the Rolex 24 at Daytona and the 24 Hours of Le Mans.
The wins started with the Corvette C5.R, then the team transitioned to the C6.R for the win at Road Atlanta April 17, 2005. The first win for the C7.R came at Long Beach on May 12, 2014.
There are four more events in the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship season, including some tracks that have been very kind to the Corvettes. One of those is site of the next race, the Continental Tire Road Race Showcase at Road America in Wisconsin August 5-7.
Don't be surprised if the Corvette team gets a start on the road to 200 wins before 2016 is over.