The president of General Motors is standing in race overalls, occasionally answering intrigued Festival-goers about the very yellow Chevrolet Corvette Z06 coupe he’s standing beside.
None of them appears to know who he is, but he can answer all questions about this 641bhp supercharged beast. Ammann is GM’s number two, reporting to CEO Mary Barra, and he’s also an official Nurburgring pool driver, qualified for track-testing. So I’m anticipating a brisk hill ascent.
We’re a long time waiting – some offs delay the start – which provides plenty of time to talk about GM, and the ’62 Cadillac DeVille Series 62 he’s having restored. It used to be family wheels until rust got to it, and he was faced with either scrapping this elegant, post-fin Cadillac, or having it restored. At the very start of the job, the restorer told him ‘I just want you to know that you will never get your money back on this,’ the task costing more than the Caddy’s value.
Ammann went ahead anyway - ‘it will be ready in a month or two,’ he says - and clearly admires the restorer’s straight approach to the maths of the project.
It’s the same kind of straight-thinking that he applies to his job, his finance background partly behind the company’s bold decision to shut down its Russian factory operations – ‘we don’t yet know whether that was a good decision or not,’ he says candidly – and to withdraw Chevrolet, (Corvette and Camaro apart) from Europe. But of this he’s in no doubt that it makes sense to put all the effort behind Opel and Vauxhall. As to the iconics, as the Corvette and Camaro are known internally, Ammann reckons that eventually there’ll be right-hand drive versions of both, ‘although they are not in the plan’, he says, referring to the model cycle plan that sanctions a new model’s development.
The desirability of this development only intensifies when you’re sitting in this Corvette and Ammann is warming its rear tyres with one of several pre-climb burn-outs. The Z06 lunges at the tail of the Corvette in front with enough ferocity to slam my helmet into the headrest, Ammann correcting some torque-induced weave. The same happens again when we blast from the start, the ‘Vette unhesitating as it dives through the hill’s first two curves (there’s no opposite-lockery, Ammann all-too aware of the news value of a senior GM-er having an incident) before rampaging up the straight towards the treacherous crest-obscuring Molecomb bend without any panicky overshoot slitherings.