Recently, Team VETTE was given the opportunity to not only see the spectacular new Daytona 500 Z06 Pace Car in its natural environment, but also to speak with its creator, GM Director of Design for Specialty Vehicles John "Kip" Wasenko. Kip, a longtime Corvette racer and plastic fanatic, works out of GM's Technical Center, in Warren, Michigan, and is the head of what might best be described as the corporation's pace-car-design team.
In an interview, Kip and Chevy Communications' Travis Parman provided us with an inside look at what went into designing the newest-and possibly baddest-special-edition Corvette ever to hit an oval. Here's what the duo had to say.
VM: Let's start off with an easy one. Which of the pace cars has your team designed?
Kip: Our design team was formed, along with the GM Performance Division, maybe three or four years ago. The first Corvette pace-car design we did was the 50th Anniversary that paced Le Mans. We also designed the '04 and '05 Corvette Indy Cars and the Daytona 500 Corvette from last year.
Photo courtesy of General Motors
VM: The Corvette seems to be pretty popular with your group. Other than its history, what makes it so well received?
Kip: The tweaking required on Corvettes is minimal. That's how good those cars are. You can really take one as it is, and they don't require a lot of modification. I mean, the modification, of course, is the elaborate paint scheme.
VM: Aside from that, and this being a premiere year, what made the Z06 the ideal candidate for the Daytona 500?
Kip: The Z06 paint scheme that was selected is very vivid. It's very important to be able to see the pace car from the top of the grandstands. Because of the paint technology we used, which was "Hot Hues" through DuPont, the Z06 presents well. However, in what I'll call "non-natural" lighting, like a photo studio environment, it's not as good, because the color needs the sun to bring out its presence. Even as we painted the vehicle, we would check the color by taking it outside because, in the indoor lighting, the color looks very different. By going outside we knew what adjustments to make to the paint's colors based on how the car would respond to outside lighting conditions.
VM: Tell us about last year's pace-car design on the '05 C6. How has its design influenced the current one?
Kip: We did the yellow Corvette last year to introduce the new C6, and by design we tied it in very closely to what we had exhibited at SEMA the November before. It was very much influenced by the new C6 and C5-R-as well as the soon-to-be-seen C6.R-hence the big wing, rockers, and carbon-fiber pieces. When we did the [car for the] Indy 500, which I go to every year, the C6 had already been introduced. I wanted to do a theme that was something very tasty and sophisticated because that, to me, is my impression of what Indy is. This year, however, we really wanted to stretch outside the box. We had the SSR Pace Truck that we did for the Nextel race the year before, which had the classic American flames. We thought there was nothing more American than flames, and we were proud of it. More importantly, so was the crowd at NASCAR. The fans absolutely loved the flamed SSR. So, this year, we developed a new theme with a more contemporary evolution.