National Corvette Museum’s Motorsports Park is a one-of-a-kind adventure

By Katherine Tandy Brown

The National Corvette Museum’s new Motorsports Park is designed with features reminiscent of the famous Le Sarthe Course in Le Mans, France.
The National Corvette Museum’s new Motorsports Park is designed with features reminiscent of the famous Le Sarthe Course in Le Mans, France.

Gentlemen – and women – start your engines! Surprisingly, an opportunity to do just that awaits in Bowling Green.

Since 1953, the Corvette has been America’s Sports Car, and since 1994, the 150,000-s.f. National Corvette Museum (NCM) has reigned as the mecca for ‘Vette enthusiasts. Within its award-winning walls, some 80-plus Corvettes – along with automotive memorabilia, historic displays, driving simulators, a film, educational speakers, a car prep and performance area, and a library and archives – tell the story of the beloved vehicle. Just a quarter-mile down the road, the General Motors Assembly Plant has made every Corvette since 1981 and offers tours daily.

And as of Labor Day 2014, the NCM Motorsports Park (MSP) adds total vehicular immersion with a 186-acre, world-class facility for high-performance driving, educational and safety programs, and a remarkable offsite venue for corporate group outings.

The initial phase of the park consists of a two-mile, 13-turn course and a one-mile, 10-turn course that can combine into multiple configurations. Designed with features reminiscent of the famed Le Sarthe Course at Le Mans, France, the track has technical turns, straights and elevations, a 22-acre autocross, a rentable pavilion and day garages, a tech inspection station and a commercial business park.

Depending upon a group’s goals, a day’s structure might include a morning indoors for company internal business, goal setting and/or sales training, and then a midday lunch, followed by afternoon activities to spark your inner Mario Andretti or Tony Stewart.

Corporate groups can design their own events to meet specific goals for teambuilding through myriad options. One is called Mirrorkhana, in which participants “race” each other on two identical (as in mirror image), coned-off courses. The fastest one back to the start box wins. Course speeds are limited to 50 mph. The winner accumulates points for his team, not to mention years of bragging rights.

The second, called Backseat Driving, puts two team members into a golf cart. Because the driver is blindfolded, it’s up to the passenger to talk him through the course correctly.

“It’s absolutely hilarious,” says Mitch Wright, general manager of NCM MSP. “You don’t want anybody standing around for any length of time, and this keeps the whole group involved.”

For company incentive rewards, the park teams up with Music City Dream Cars in Nashville to offer on-the-road experiences in such exotic autos as Ferraris, Lamborghinis, and classic Corvettes. Or you can treat your over-achievers to Hot Laps. Buckle up for even more bragging! The park brings out a few of its Corvettes and professional drivers give participants the ride of their lives on the race track at speeds in excess of 130 mph, for a true at-speed track experience.

The facility also specializes in evening corporate receptions and dinners, which can include all sorts of speakers. Possibilities range from auto engineering technical experts, to sales training gurus, to motivational specialists, whatever fits the needs of the group. A list of local catering providers – including Shogun, for hibachi and sushi, and the NCM’s 50’s-themed café – is available for all functions involving food.

The museum itself can accommodate space for up to 600 standing or 470 seated.

Scheduled for completion this winter (2015-16), a control tower will add spaces for training, meetings, hospitality, et al, with capacities of 160 in a classroom and 100 for banquets, plus a second-floor plaza for open-air functions.

In addition to corporate usage the MSP also offers focused drivers’ education and safety classes. To learn, practice and apply advanced car-control skills, the NCM’s high-performance driver education (HPDE) schools are intense programs led by highly trained classroom and certified in-car instructors who teach vehicle dynamics, car control, cornering, braking and driving fundamentals in the classroom and on the track.

Since 2004 the National Corvette Museum has been taking HPDE events on the road around the country to such tracks as Virginia International Raceway, Sebring, Autobahn and Thunderhill.

For the ladies, a Powder Puff Mechanics course teaches car basics 101 – what’s under the hood, control and warning lights, electrical systems, emergency situation know-how, and the how-to’s of jumping a battery, jump-starting a car, checking tire pressure and changing a flat.

Girl Scouts can even earn a badge by participating in a Powder Puff workshop. A minimum of 20 is required for groups.

Designed especially for permit holders and newly-licensed drivers, a Car Control and Situational Awareness clinic covers driving techniques such as parallel parking, city and rural driving hazards, adverse weather conditions, two-wheel drop-off recovery and the dangers of texting and drinking while driving. A Street-Survival school teaches teens the handling limitations of their own cars and how to control them.

The multifaceted park also offers emergency vehicle drivers training for police, fire and emergency personnel, while the NCM teams up with educational institutions to offer real-world applications for math, engineering and science students. Current partners include Western Kentucky University’s Ogden College of Engineering and Gatton Academy of Mathematics and Science.

Learn more about this fascinating race park at motorsportspark.org and about the largest car museum in the world dedicated to a single model at corvettemuseum.org.

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