Corvette owners test their nerves where the rubber meets the road
FARMER’S KORNER – Even from a distance you can tell what the three men are talking about. Their left arms are outstretched, hands curled in the air in a white-knuckle grip around a steering wheel only they can see; they stomp their feet on the sidewalk, shifting the imaginary clutch in their right hand as they hoot and holler.
Their passion – the same adrenaline-fed mettle that drew the hundreds of drivers, spectators and volunteers to the Vettes on the Rockies autocross races at Summit High School Saturday – is horsepower.
And the one-upsmanship – so common among men for whom grease beneath the fingernails is glamour – is measured in miles per hour.
“I got her up to 166 – but that was in Utah,” said Ron Shelato, a Westminster family man who brought his 1998 Corvette Roadster pace car to Summit County for the weekend’s events.
The Vettes on the Rockies gathering attracts nearly 500 Corvettes and their owners each year. The weekend’s worth of events includes speakers, dealers, concept car shows, convoy drives and – of course – a chance for drivers to drop the hammer and leave patches on some pavement.
There is a mystique that enraptures Corvette owners. For some, it is classic Americana, a symbol of freedom born in the heartland of Kentucky.
To others, there is an irresistible attraction in the sleek lines reminiscent of sharks, keen like knives. But on this Saturday, the Vette owners are the kind who emblazon their personalized license plates with URSLOOW and CUL8TR.
“It’s all physics,” said Darin Divinia, who drove the 1,000 miles from Dallas with his wife, Dawn, in their 2002 red convertible. While classic and antique car owners ferry their machines to shows and rallies on trailers, half the joy for Corvette owners is getting their behind the wheel of their toys.
Divinia walks the autocross course – a winding, jaw-clenching clip marked by paint and orange pylons through which drivers will squeal, rarely leaving first gear – to get his bearings before donning a helmet and buckling in. His major interest is drag-racing, and both he and his wife have taken driving courses.
“You learn how and when to brake, when to accelerate in a turn,” said Divinia, who fell in love with Corvettes 10 years ago and takes pride in convincing his wife to switch over from Porsches. “You learn how weight in the car affects the handling and the performance. It helps a lot to learn it all.”
For most of the owners, though, who covet their Corvettes like children or show dogs, racing is an infrequent event, reserved for gatherings like this one. Shelato, a member of the Denver-based Looking Glass Corvette Association, which organizes the Summit County gathering, saves his speed for this event each year. “It’s awfully hard on a car,” he said.
And the drivers vary in their seriousness. Some cruise the course, enjoying the feel of highly tuned rack-and-pinion steering. Some get on it from the get-go, smoking out the tires to the cheers of on-lookers. Some push the car beyond their driving skills and drag cones a dozen yards before backing up and steering onto the course once again.
The Summit High School parking lot – the largest unobstructed, paved surface in the county – doesn’t provide as much room as typical autocross tracks. The cars rarely exceed the 40 mph range. But it doesn’t feel like that inside the car.
Shelato buckles in and inserts a CD into the Corvette’s dash (just below the radar detector and American-flag fuzzy dice). He fast forwards until he finds appropriate music – Golden Earring’s “Radar Love” – and waits for bell toll-like guitar intro to finish. The world blurs when he puts the gas pedal to the floor.
Thirty seconds later, Shelato crosses the finish line, squeals to a stop and leaps from the Corvette.
“Now that’s what I’m talking about,” he shouts, high-fiving a race volunteer. “That should last me till this afternoon.”
Corvette Events Today
– 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. – Cars on display on Main and Ridge streets, Breck
– 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. – Concept cars and family entertainment on Washington Avenue
– 10 to 11:30 a.m. – Kids car-building crafts on the Riverwalk lawn
– 1 p.m. – Awards ceremony at the Riverwalk Center
Reid Williams can be reached at (970) 668-3998, ext. 237, or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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