John Heinricy instructs Corvette owners on how to drive their sports cars during a recent High Performance Driving Event on the National Corvette Museum's Motorsports Park racetrack.
John Heinricy often doesn't knows what or where he might be driving any given weekend.
When he’s not racing his Corvettes or his Matick Chevy-sponsored Sonic, the Michigan racecar driver often spends time at road tracks and autocross courses training sports car enthusiasts on how to fine-tune and drive their vehicles.
A wide assortment of vehicles and drivers participate in these day-long gatherings.
At open events around metro Detroit, for example, “you’ll see every kind of make and model running,” says Alan Johnson, Matick Chevrolet’s Performance Vehicles sales manager. After participating in the events the past two summers, Johnson says Matick Chevy's Performance service team now offers many of the different car setups for Corvettes that he and Heinricy discuss with the autocross competitors.
At these entry-level events, miniature road courses are chalked out on a large parking lot and defined by pylons or cones. Drivers must wear helmets, but no special clothing.
“These are open to anybody,” adds Heinricy. “It’s very safe. You’re unlikely to do any damage to your car.”
Most who come out do this as a hobby. At any given event there can be 20 separate classes of cars, and up to 200 drivers signing up for time on the course. People who attend can expect to spend a full day because drivers also are assigned time to work at the course when not driving. Fees range from $20-$80.
Matick Chevy's Alan Johnson competes in a recent autocross at the Schoolcraft College Public Safety Training Complex in Michigan.
Autocross enthusiast Bruce Wentzel of Milford, Mich., attended his first autocross in 1964 and has been hooked ever since. “It’s a hobby that becomes addictive,” he says.
“My wife, Mary, is every bit as addicted as I am. If you enjoy driving a car fast, this is the safest way you can do it.”
The Wentzels, who own several Corvettes, are members of the Corvette Club of Michigan like many of the other participants in a recent event at Schoolcraft College Public Safety Training Complex in Livonia, Mich.
Wentzel says he does it to “get a thrill.” He recalls the first time he won the “fastest time of the day” honor back in the 1970s. “I was on Cloud 9,” he says.
He recommends newcomers give autocross a try. “There are a lot of people at these events to give you guidance. It’s multifaceted and that’s what I like about it.”
Here are resources to learn more about autocross events:
High Performance Driving Events at the National Corvette Museum allows owners opportunities to improve their driving skills.
FAST TRACK ACTION
For a real thrill, the beginner-to-expert driver who wants to drive a road course can step up to the fast action at High Performance Driving Events (HPDE).
Heinricy attends these events at various tracks around the country as a pro driver instructor, often sponsored by Matick Chevrolet, one of the largest Corvette dealers in the Midwest.
“It’s not as intense as racing, but you can damage your car,” he warns. “There’s more risk with HPDEs.”
Matick Chevy’s Alan Johnson had to ride with an instructor for a full day before he was permitted to drive solo at one track.
HPDEs allow “for passing when the person in front designates a pass,” he says. “It’s that way for safety.”
At an Aug. 27-28 HPDE event at the National Corvette Museum in Bowling Green, Ky., participants each drove on the track for 20 minutes up to four separate times. Most drove their own Corvettes.
“But I did see some Camaros and Mustangs,” says Heinricy.
The cost can range from $150 to $250 per day, depending on the event.
To see what driving is like, take a virtual seat inside a vehicle at this HPDE event.
At Bowling Green, Heinricy ran his Matick C7 Corvette and Johnson drove his own C7.
“I enjoy it,” says Heinricy, who counted 120 attendees. "People came from all over — Michigan, Illinois, North and South Carolina." rel="lightbox353286"
Heinricy drove hot laps on the museum's track with six Corvette owners. Those lucky ones were selected in a hot-lap drawing, which was sponsored by Matick Chevy.
Corvette lovers also paid to ride with Heinricy during the weekend event, and that amount was donated to the museum, he says.
Heinricy and his passengers wore helmets with communications gear, which enabled him to narrate what was happening in the owner’s car while on the course.
“Sometimes the passenger can’t tell if I’m driving with an open or partial throttle,” Heinricy says, “so this allows me to talk with them.”
John Heinricy celebrates another summer victory in his Matick Chevy-sponsored Sonic at a New Jersey track.
HEINRICY RACING EVENTS
Heinricy, who won the SCCA National Championship in his 2012 Matick Chevy Sonic last year, will return to defend his title at the SCCA National Championship Runoffs at the Mid-Ohio Raceway. The Sonic will race at 4:25 p.m. Sept. 24. Heinricy is also taking his 2002 Camaro to compete in the A Sedan class on Sept. 23.
All championship races will be broadcast live on www.scca.com.
Back home in Michigan, he’ll participate with his C7 at the Detroit Council of Sports Car Club autocross Oct. 2 at the Michigan International Speedway in Brooklyn, Mich.
Heinricy also is talking with promoters about taking his Matick Chevy Stingray for HPDEs to Grattan Raceway for a Devos Hospital benefit Oct. 6 in Grand Rapids.
On Nov. 10-11, he’s run the Trans Am series with a Corvette owned by Stewart Bachmann Motorsports, where his 800 hp vehicle could hit speeds of 200 mph.
Posted September 21, 2016