GM Racing Profile: Road Racing Group Manager Steve Wesoloski
Wesoloski Embodies GM’s Philosophy of Using Motorsports to Improve Products and People
DETROIT – It’s 4 a.m. on Sunday morning, and Steve Wesoloski is putting in a long day and night at the office. Today his “office” is located in the Corvette Racing garage at the 24 Hours of Le Mans. His business attire is a fire-resistant Nomex suit and a helmet. Twelve hours down. Twelve hours to go.
Suddenly a screaming yellow Corvette C6.R arrives in a tornado of carbon brake dust. Amid the sound and fury, Wesoloski is the first one into the pit lane, signaling the start of an artfully choreographed driver change. Wedged between the Corvette’s door and roll cage, he assists Ron Fellows from the driver’s seat, then ushers Johnny O’Connell into the cocoon of steel tubing. With practiced motion, Wesoloski connects the radio wires and attaches the air conditioning hose to O’Connell’s helmet, then cinches the seat belts with a determined tug. He attaches the window net to the roll cage, secures the door, and leaps clear of the left-side tire changers as they complete their appointed rounds.
Wesoloski works as if the driver’s life depended on his performance. In fact, it does.
On June 1, Wesoloski was named the manager of GM Racing’s road racing group. In his new role, he is responsible for engineering and administration for GM’s motorsports programs in the American Le Mans Series (Corvette Racing), SCCA SPEED World Challenge Championship (Team Cadillac) and the Grand American Rolex Sports Car Series (Pontiac GTO.R and Daytona Prototype). And as a key member of Corvette Racing’s “over the wall gang,” Wesoloski is obviously not a desk-bound manager putting in his 40 hours in an office cubicle.
“I came to Corvette Racing from the engineering group that was working on the production Corvette,” Wesoloski explained. “My specialty was structural analysis. I could have sat in front of a computer doing analysis for the next 10 years. I decided to do something different. Working with Corvette Racing was the best engineering job I could imagine.”
Wesoloski is the physical embodiment of GM’s philosophy of using motorsports to improve both products and people. He received his bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering from Michigan Technological University in 1987 and earned a master’s degree in engineering from the University of Michigan in 1990. He was working for Rockwell International on heavy-duty truck components when a friend told him about a job opening at the Corvette engineering group.
“I could design front axles for dump trucks or work on Corvettes,” Wesoloski laughed. “It was an easy decision to make.”
Wesoloski began his career at GM in July 1989 as a release engineer assigned to the C4 (fourth-generation) Corvette. He found his calling in the emerging field of finite element analysis (FEA), a method of analyzing the stiffness and strength of a structure using sophisticated computer programs.
“When I started working with FEA in 1991, it was fairly new technology,” he noted. “It would take all day on a mainframe computer to run one simulation. Now we can do the same job on a laptop in minutes.”
Wesoloski performed a detailed analysis of the chassis for the fifth-generation Corvette, and applied his expertise to optimizing the structures of the 2000 Monte Carlo/Impala and Cadillac’s XLR sports cars. When Corvette Racing engineers wanted to optimize the roll cage design for a racing version of the C5 Corvette, they knew who to call.
“I worked on the production car during the week, and spent weekends working on the structure of the C5-R race car,” Wesoloski said. “That was my first taste of engineering a race car.”
Corvette chief engineer Dave Hill is a strong proponent of rotating his engineers through the racing team to help them gain insight and experience in an intense environment. When Wesoloski’s predecessor at Corvette Racing was scheduled to return to the production realm, Steve camped out at Hill’s office door and asked for the job. Wesoloski joined Corvette Racing on May 15, 2001. One month later, he was with the team in France celebrating Corvette’s first victory in the 24 Hours of Le Mans.
“It was a huge transition from the production side to racing,” Wesoloski recalled. “Corvette has an elite engineering team that is able to focus intensely on the product, so I was accustomed to working with a small group of very talented people. The difference was that the rate of development in racing was faster than I ever imagined. A race team needs results today if they want to build something for the next race. That was a new way of doing business, but that’s the way it has to be in racing.”
As he gained real-world experience, Wesoloski saw his role with Corvette Racing expand from chassis engineering to overall program engineering. “On the production side, there is a program engineering manager who coordinates all of the special projects,” he said. “I thought that the racing effort could benefit from similar communication between GM Racing and all of our technical partners.”
“As the program manager for Corvette Racing, Doug Fehan has the overall vision for the program,” Wesoloski continued. “But with so many responsibilities, he couldn’t focus on the engineering. We developed a very productive partnership, and I learned from him how to make a team successful.”
Fehan and Wesoloski also collaborated on the production-based Pontiac GTO.R that made its competition debut in the Grand American Rolex Sports Car Series last month.
“As GM continues to focus on production-based racing programs, I’m in the heart of the action,” Wesoloski observed. “With my roots in production engineering, I know the people and the processes. We can form partnerships that will benefit both parties – the result will be better cars for racing and better cars for GM customers.”
In spite of his additional responsibilities, Wesoloski isn’t about to give up his weekend job with Corvette Racing.
“Working with the race team gives me a different perspective,” he said. “When the car comes in for a pit stop, these guys are counting on me. It’s a 60-second adrenaline rush, and there’s no feeling like the one you get when everyone is doing high-fives after a fast stop.”
Each member of Corvette Racing’s over-the-wall crew has a nickname painted on the back of his helmet. When Wesoloski joined the team, someone wrote “Rookie” on a piece of yellow tape and stuck it on his helmet. The tape is still there, but Rookie has now been crossed out. In its place is one word: BOSS.
Release Date: July 19, 2005