Photos by Amy Teshima
When most people think of a commuter car, a 2003 Chevy Z06 Corvette typically isn’t the first thing that comes to mind. If we’re honest, it probably doesn’t even make the list. But for Jake Rozelle, a 22 year old electrical engineering student at UCSD who logs over 400 miles a week between school, home and the race track, a Prius just wouldn’t cut it.
Jake comes from a long line of thrill seekers and spent his early years racing motorcycles offroad with his dad. Following a back surgery in his teens, Jake realized further subjecting his body to the abuse of offroad racing might have long term consequences and that’s when he decided to swap the handlebars for a steering wheel.
“My dad and I had always worked on cars as a hobby but it was at that point that I started taking a greater interest in it” says Rozelle of his 17 year old self. Jakes father owned a ’69 Camaro that became the platform for Jake’s auto racing career.
After a few years testing the waters in some local events, Jake and his father got to know owner and organizer Cris Gonzalez of JCG Restoration and Customs. “Cris was running a series called the So Cal Challenge at the time and after seeing what he was doing and getting consistent results and improvements, we talked to him about doing some work on the car.”
What started as improving the rear suspension and a few odds and ends escalated to front and rear suspension, a new LS7 and Tremec T56 transmission, brake package and eventually a complete aero package, all done by Cris and his team at JCG Restoration and Customs.
Fast forward two years and Jake has made a name for himself as one of the top contenders (not to mention the youngest) in the USCA series and is a regular at the Optima Ultimate Street Car Invitational, the Super Bowl of pro touring events. After showing remarkable consistency, Cris and Jake partnered up on this latest build as Jake sought out an all around car that could get him to and from school while still being competitive on the race track.
“The Z06 just made a lot of sense for me” said Rozelle. “It’s hard to beat the Corvette. I get 30 MPG which helps me out a lot driving so much for school and it’s got a big trunk. It’s really practical while being a great race car too.”
The goal for the build will be enhancing the performance but not at the expense of reliability; this is his daily driver after all. Thus far the car has received new seats, a Van Steel bushing kit, new brakes and new wheels rapped in Falken treads. A Raft Racing spring package courtesy of Danny Popp and Raft tuned JRi Shocks are on deck to improve the handling of the car as well.
Of the new partnership between Rozelle and JCG Restoration and Customs, Gonzalez said he is impressed with Jake’s talent and eagerness to learn both on and off the track. “He’s very passionate about racing and is like a sponge, absorbing every bit of information not only about his driving but in car setup from shock settings to sway bar changes.” Gonzalez has watched Jake compete over the last few years and has seen him grow into a well liked and respected member of the racing community. “The biggest reason for our involvement with Jake is the appreciation that he shows towards me & his dad (Roy) for supporting his racing career. Jake is one of a hand full of drivers that I would toss the keys to one of my own personal cars to drive on the road course. His future in racing will be a journey that I am proud to be a part of.”
JCG and Rozelle are working closely to development a few new products for the C5 Corvette and using Jakes new vehicle as a test car. “Testing prototypes and receiving timely and accurate feedback helps us know if we’re on the right path” says Gonzalez.
Rozelle’s first official event with his new ride took place February 13th at the Streets of Willow stop of the Wildwood Corvette Challenge in Willow Springs California. A 1:25.3 was good enough for 1st place though Jake knows the car has more in it. “We had some shifting alignment issues from an alignment that wasn’t torqued all the way but I’m happy with the finish. Especially for basically a stock car.”
Stay tuned to JCGRestorationandCustoms.com for updates on Jakes Z06 Corvette build as well as following the JCG crew to numerous racing events throughout 2016.