Doug Fehan moved from Kenmore, New York to Birmingham in 1954 when he was six years old and his grandfather opened up a car dealership on S. Old Woodward.
“Cars were always my world,” said Fehan, who has led the prestigious Global Corvette GT race program since 1996. “At the age of fourteen I began an apprenticeship at our family-owned Birmingham-based auto body repair shop, working there after school and on weekends, masking, sanding and doing maintenance chores. From hanging around I got more skilled and ended up getting a certification in body and collision repair.”
After attending Eastern Michigan University, where he majored in Industrial Technology, Fehan was recruited by a family friend to be a sales engineer for an H-VAC equipment manufacturer, where he focused on selling specialized equipment to automobile assembly plants.
At the same time, he, along with his dad and brother, started racing sports cars at the Waterford Hills Road Racing Club, where a lot of auto executives hung out. “We built and drove the cars and became the team to beat,” the car enthusiast says.
As a result, in 1988, General Motors recruited Fehan to evaluate their existing road race programs and then in 1996, to develop the comprehensive racing program for Corvette that continues to this day.
“In an average year, we run 11 races in North America plus the Le Mans in France, and our focus is solely on Corvettes. As the Corvette Racing program manager, I am responsible for all aspects of the races, including chassis, aero, engine development, logistics, sponsor relations and acquisition and marketing implementation,” Fehan explained.
“The Le Mans race is the holy grail of all motor sports and is the most difficult road racing event in the world. The eight-and-a-half mile race course, which runs right through the town of Le Mans, requires lots of turns, accelerating and braking,” he says. “Along with the race day preparation and because the racers have to make a pit stop every hour, the crew actually has to stay awake for 40 hours straight to complete the 24-hour race. But strangely enough, although each year approximately 350,000 people attend Le Mans and 850 million people watch it on television, the event is huge everywhere except the USA.”
Fehan noted that is a monumental achievement. “Only about 60 percent of the 56 cars entered do so. And to win it is the epitome of a road racing career. Corvette has actually won LeMans eight times and because of that we have a huge following. We are the most revered and respected sports car racing team in the world.
“Managing the Corvette team has given me such an interesting life,” Fehan said, which he noted entails so much more than just racing cars. “The places I’ve gone to, the people I’ve met, the things I’ve gotten to do would not have been possible without the racing.”
And just in case you are wondering, the longtime Birmingham resident’s very first car was a 1957 Plymouth that his father gave him when he was sixteen. “It was originally white but I painted it a dark emerald green metallic color myself,” he said.
Nowadays he drives both a Corvette Stingray and a Chevy Cruze hatchback. And when asked if he could have any car in the world what would he choose, Fehan replied, without hesitation: “The next generation Corvette which along with me, the whole world is eagerly anticipating.”
Photo: Jean Lannen