By Jack Webster & Eddie LePine
We watched the 2021 edition of the 24 Hours of Le Mans on television (delayed until August due to Covid from its traditional June date) and were riveted by the dramatic 24-hour sprint race which took place in the GTE Pro class among Ferrari, Corvette and Porsche. In the end, it was Ferrari taking a forty-one second victory over the #63 Corvette C8.R squad in a GT battle that will go down in history as one of the closest and toughest on record.
Also watching Le Mans on television this year for the first time in many years was former Corvette Racing Program Manager, Doug Fehan, who was “retired” by General Motors at the end of the 2020 racing season. Corvette Racing fans from around the country and around the world expressed shock and disappointment at the sudden departure of Corvette’s long time and highly successful manager, and they were quite vocal about it. They were in fact, so shocked and disappointed, that their ire – via countless emails and social media posts – made it to the powers-that-be at General Motors just in time for the 2021 racing season to get underway. It was then that GM announced that Doug Fehan would once again be joining Corvette Racing, but this time as a “Brand Manager”. In this concession to the will of the Corvette faithful, Doug would still be attending some race events as the voice and face of Corvette Racing – and once again be interacting with the legions of fans that he has cultivated for Corvette Racing in the over two decades he has been associated with the team. It is not an exaggeration to say that without Doug Fehan’s involvement with Corvette Racing over the years, the team may very well not even exist.
Rarely has an individual been so closely associated with a race team and a brand of automobile like the one and only Doug Fehan. Doug has been the face, the voice, and frankly the soul of Corvette Racing since he was appointed to the post of Program Manager by Chevrolet back in 1996.
He was quite literally, right there for the birth of Corvette Racing and oversaw the development of every Corvette Racing car from the very beginnings of the program – The C5.R, C6.R, C7.R and finally the C8.R.
His racing record as Corvette Program Manager speaks for itself, and will most likely never be topped by anyone who tries to fill his shoes in the future. How about that in his 22 seasons, Corvette Racing has taken 14 team championships, 13 Manufacturers’ titles and 13 driver championships?
His tally includes 113 race victories in championships ranging from the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship to the American Le Mans Series, to the FIA-WEC World Championship to the Le Mans 24 Hours.
How about 8 class wins at Le Mans, 12 class wins at the 12 Hours of Sebring, 3 class wins (and an overall win) at the Rolex 24 Hours of Daytona, and 8 class wins at Petit Le Mans? We are not likely to see numbers like those again anytime soon, if ever. It is telling perhaps, that many of the drivers who worked with Doug over the years – names like Ron Fellows, Johnny O’Connell and Oliver Gavin to name a few – are as synonymous with Corvette Racing as he is. It says a lot about the man.
And to put an exclamation point on it all, how about delivering a clean sweep of the Manufacturer, team and drivers titles in his final season of 2020 which was the debut year of the all new Corvette C8.R?
On top of all those racing achievements, Doug Fehan is one hell of a guy as well – always taking time to interact with fans, conducting countless charity auctions to raise money for worthy causes, always being there to be the voice and face of Corvette Racing. We can attest to the power of his personality as the face of Corvette Racing, as we attended many of those Corvette Corral meetings at race events ranging from Sebring to Road America to Petit Le Mans where he gave pep talks to the Corvette faithful. The man did it all, and always with a smile on his face and laughter in his voice.
We know that racing is all about change, and people in this sport tend to come and go without much fanfare or notice, but Doug Fehan is that rare individual who transcends the sport and deserves all the accolades that have been, and are continuing to be, sent his way. Perhaps we have become weary of corporate America using people up and then discarding them once they have decided to “change direction” or “re-evaluate their objectives”. Loyalty should still mean something in this modern world, and you will never find a more loyal or dedicated individual than Doug Fehan. The man defines what Corvette Racing has stood for under his direction – teamwork, dedication, loyalty and success. The saying, “Never Give Up” could have been coined by Doug.
There couldn’t be a worse time for General Motors to be making a change at the top of its Corvette Racing program. With factory supported GT racing facing an uncertain future, Doug Fehan’s relationship with rule making bodies such as IMSA, the FIA and the ACO cannot be underestimated.
What direction, if any, Corvette Racing will take in the future is an unknown without the leadership of its patriarch, Doug Fehan.
We can only hope that the blood, sweat and tears he invested in Corvette Racing will continue to help it survive and prosper in the future.
We look forward to seeing him as an ambassador for Corvette for years to come.
See you at the races, Doug.