Each member of the tight-knit...
Each member of the tight-knit team performs multiple tasks in preparing and maintaining the two Corvettes. Team members are (from left): Teddy Marsh, Eric Curran, Terry Briggs, Marc "Scuppa" Summer, Khris Sowa, Bob Russell, and Sonny Whelen.
Whelen Racing created quite a stir during last year's SPEED GT season, when driver Eric Curran recorded multiple victories in a Marsh Racing-prepared No. 30 C6. We recently had a chance to tour the team's facility in Old Lyme, Connecticut, where we got an up-close look at how these dazzlingly fast Corvette race cars are built. Afterward, we spoke with team sponsor/No. 31 car driver Sonny Whelen, Marsh Racing owner Teddy Marsh, and Curran about the team's history as well as its outlook for 2008.
Vette Magazine: Sonny, how did you get interested in racing?
Sonny Whelen: It started with a media ride around Lime Rock in a Viper. After that, I bought a Viper and started participating in track-day events. Then, I attended the Justin Bell and Panoz driving schools. That helped me get comfortable racing, [at which point] I bought a fully race-prepared Viper. I had a lot of success in the Viper Racing League and won several championships. I was ready to move into SPEED GT, and naturally I wanted to drive a Viper.
Curran stunned the competition...
Curran stunned the competition at the '07 SPEED GT season-opener at Sebring, when he built an insurmountable 16-second lead over the rest of the field.
VM: What made you switch to a Corvette?
SW: Dodge was not very supportive, so I bought a C5 Corvette SPEED GT car from 3R Racing. We ran that car throughout the '05 season, and Teddy made steady improvements to the car as the year progressed. At the end of the season, Teddy rebodied the car with C6 panels, and I drove it in the '06 season.
VM: Where did the second car come from?
SW: Teddy found a C5 frame on eBay for $4,000, and between races built a second car [No. 30]. Near the end of the '06 season, we hired Eric Curran to test it. Teddy had met Eric when he sat beside him on a plane from Laguna to Phoenix. Because he lived so close, Teddy suggested hiring Eric to sort out our new car. He did a great job with the car, but he was under contract with Real Time Racing.
VM: Eric, what changed with Real Time that allowed you to join Whelen Racing?
Eric Curran: At the beginning of the '07 season, Real Time called me and said they would not need my services. This was two weeks before the first race at Sebring. I called Teddy and told him about my situation, and he suggested I talk with Sonny. Sonny and I met, and he invited me to join the team.
VM: Teddy, how did you find out that you had a new driver?
Teddy Marsh: Two hours after Eric and I talked, Sonny came into the shop and said, "Can I see you in your office?" We sat down and Sonny said, "What do you think about running a two-car team?" I told him we'd need to find a second motor and scramble a little, but we could do it. Sonny said OK, and that was that.
Here's a rare glimpse of a...
Here's a rare glimpse of a SPEED GT Corvette undergoing a rebuild. The race car uses many stock Corvette components, but additional driver safety is built-in throughout.
The 500-plus-horsepower LS2...
The 500-plus-horsepower LS2 engine is dry-sumped and equipped with NASCAR-style headers. The front bumper bar has been removed from the factory frame and replaced with a tubular custom unit.
This rear view shows how the...
This rear view shows how the rollcage is tied into the frame and cross-braced for strength. The rear bumper bar provides a secure foundation for the wing struts.