Ordinarily, when a son asks his father if he can borrow the car, it is for a special date or maybe a road trip with the guys. But when J.R. Amantea asked his dad, Bob, if he could use the family '01 Z06 for the Car and Driver One Lap of America race, Bob was willing to hand over the keys.
"We bought the car in February 2001, and Dad was looking to sell it, but I convinced him to keep it," J.R. says. Once the decision had been made, the Amanteas began to look for a tuner to get the car race-ready, and recalled seeing some Mallett entries in previous One Lap races.
"We'd heard of Mallett Cars and knew of their involvement with Corvettes," Bob says. "We had seen their cars in competition, so when it came time to decide on a tuner, it was an easy choice. At Corvettes at Carlisle 2001, J.R and I made it a point to make Mallett Cars' display our first stop. We talked to Chuck [Mallett] and told him of our goals and what we wanted to do with the car. He was very receptive and up for the task. He wasn't pushy in trying to sell us the most expensive package. We admired him and how he worked within our budget.
"We decided we were going to send Mallett Cars our '01 Z06 as soon as we got back from the Carlisle show. We contacted Chuck when we got back, and shortly after he faxed us a proposal. A few weeks later, we arrived at the Malletts' shop in Berea, Oregon. We planned on a short stay-just drop off the car and go-but not at this place. When we walked into the massive facility, we felt as if we had walked into a hospital, because of the sparkly white floors, custom-painted toolboxes with granite countertops, and the organization of the shop; there wasn't anything out of place. Chuck greeted us and took us for a grand tour of the whole operation. He showed us the work that was going to be done to our car, and everybody that was going to be working on our car introduced themselves. As we looked around, we couldn't believe the 30-plus cars they were working on, and each one was different."
J.R. says the '96 Mallett entry into the One Lap was the one that left the most lasting impression. "It was a '96 Grand Sport with an IMSA motor," he says. "It was completely handmade carbon fiber."
J.R. would have plenty of time to admire it and the other cars in the facility. The Malletts don't take the dry-cleaner approach. They wanted J.R. intimately involved in the construction of his car.
"One of the requirements Chuck had was that J.R. come to the shop at different stages to work on it and get familiar with the modifications being performed," Bob says. "He wanted [J.R.] to be well-acquainted with the components, such as Mallett/Penske double-adjustable shocks, all the different coolers, chassis adjustments, etc. What was only going to be a few trips turned out to be practically every other week for Thursday-Sunday, all his college breaks, and [summer vacation]."
J.R., 19, studies computer and mechanical engineering at Central Connecticut State, and he and his dad had restored a '63 Corvette. So, he was no stranger to the workings of a shop.
"I was pretty mechanically inclined, so I picked it up quickly," J.R. says. "But, I had to learn metric, which was different. Charley [Mallett] had me disassemble the motor, and I said, 'Are you sure? This is my motor.' But he showed me the sequence for taking it apart."
Charley should know. After all, he built it. The 372ci LS6 engine features Manley billet-steel rods, 11.5-compresion Wiseco pistons, a Moldex stroker crankshaft, a custom-ground Mallett cam, and CNC-ported and polished aluminum heads.
The Amanteas' Z06 was the 11th Mallett car built in 2001. Lance Mallett did the bodywork and the yellow/black Sikkens paint. The car was also fitted with a lightweight Mallett 427 carbon-fiber hood.
Inside, the lightweight carbon-fiber seats with five-point harnesses are surrounded by a four-point rollcage, although J.R. says they may upgrade to a full 'cage.
For the suspension,Mallett/Penske 8100-series double-adjustable shocks were installed in the front and rear, as well as custom Mallett sway bars and a 3.73 rearend. The Mallett twin five-spoke wheels are wrapped with One Lap Michelins (285/30-18 and 345/30-19). "There are only certain tires you can run on the [One Lap race], and one of the unique things they do is build your shocks to your tire choice," J.R. says.
J.R.'s schooling would continue once he arrived at the One Lap of America race. The event was doubly challenging for him, because it was not only his first time in the car since the rebuild, but also his first time on the track.
"I did Skip Arbor and Justin Bell's racing schools, but I mostly used the first race for experience," J.R. says. "The seat time was invaluable. It humbles you. I finished 16th in my class, and most of the Top 10 finishers were pro instructors or guys that are on a track all the time. But you don't have to have the fastest car to win.
"It's really hard if you don't know the track. Some guys will rent the track to practice, which is great if you have the time and money."
J.R. plans to continue the One Lap of America races, while also doing some SSCA events, enduros, and other track races to continue to hone his driving skills. But it shouldn't take long for him to challenge the best drivers. He's a quick study.