Chevy Gives ’Vette Owners More Options for Going Faster
If for nothing else, halo cars should be appreciated for one thing: the trickle-down effect. Now, owners of standard Corvette Stingrays can benefit from the go-fast development that produced the wicked Chevrolet Corvette Z06. Chevrolet Performance, GM’s in-house tuning arm, announced a slew of new parts available for the Corvette at SEMA, and we were invited to test them out at Spring Mountain Motorsports Ranch just outside of Las Vegas.
Although one of the Z06’s biggest selling points is its supercharged, 6.2-liter LT4 engine that’s rated at 650 hp and 650 lb-ft of torque, the supercar-killer has many other unique features that can help improve the base Stingray. Chevrolet Performance’s job is to test those parts and determine which ones make sense to offer to existing owners and new customers looking to accessorize their cars before they take delivery. Many of the parts available for the Corvette, including the big brake kit, carbon-fiber underbody braces, transmission cooler and associated parts, and rear spoiler, are derived from the Z06. But other parts were developed independently for the Stingray. The T1 suspension, for example, was developed for competition in the SCCA Touring 1 (T1) class. It’s comprised of track-tuned dampers, redesigned front and rear lower control arms, and stiffer front and rear stabilizer bars. Another part designed specifically for the Stingray is the secondary radiator kit, which lays flat underneath the primary radiator. Chevy says this part is essential for heavy track use.
Before trying out the new parts, journalists were given a chance to sample a stock Corvette Z51 for comparison. We were allowed a couple of lead-follow laps around Spring Mountain’s east track to get a feel for the standard ‘Vette. Even without the Chevrolet Performance goodies, the Stingray doesn’t disappoint. Turn-in is sharp, and the ‘Vette’s long nose just goes right where you point it. Through turns, the Corvette corners flat with minimal body roll. Although it doesn’t pack the same supercharged punch as the Z06, the standard Corvette has ample power at 460 hp and 455 lb-ft. Hammer on the throttle when you hit the straightaway, and you’ll be braking before you know it.
After the quick lapping session in the Z51, we switched to ‘Vettes modified with the Ultimate Performance package. These cars were outfitted with virtually every go-fast part available for the Corvette in the Chevrolet Performance catalog. The first thing you notice is that stopping power has increased, which means you can brake much later compared to the stock Z51. Although the stock Z51 cornered flat through turns, the east track’s series of esses upset the car a bit. The ‘Vette with the T1 suspension felt much more stable through that section, and I was able to carry more speed as a result.
With all the parts installed, the Stingray with the Ultimate Performance package is 1 second faster than a Z51 around Spring Mountain. Once you throw on a set of Michelin racing slicks, made possible by the T1 suspension, the Ultimate Performance package is 4 seconds faster than a stock Z51. To get an idea of what that combination was like, I rode shotgun with three-time Le Mans winner Ron Fellows. Even from the passenger seat, I could tell the grip from those slicks was on another level. Cornering speeds increased greatly, and our braking zones were essentially just before the turn-in point. (It’s hard to say how much of that extra speed was the tires and how much was the difference in driver skill level.) Fellows liked this combination of parts so much that he helped design a spec racing series around it. Beginning in 2016, the Michelin Corvette Challenge will pit drivers racing identical Corvettes against one another for a 15-race season at Spring Mountain.
The Ultimate Performance package turns a car that already handles well into an even more potent track weapon. It does come at a cost, however. The Z06 big brake package with iron rotors costs $4,895 USD (combined front and rear), and the T1 suspension runs $3,250 USD. Other big-ticket items include the Z06’s carbon-fiber driveshaft and support assembly ($4,109 USD) and exposed carbon-fiber ground effects ($4,000 USD). Add everything together, and you’re looking at roughly $20,000 USD worth of parts. That price might not be outrageous for Corvette Stingray owners who want to take their cars racing, but more casual track-goers might want to pick and choose the options that are worth it for them. You could even mix and match with other parts from the aftermarket. However, Chevrolet Performance parts won’t void your vehicle warranty.
The parts in Chevrolet Performance’s catalog may be pricey, but the R & D that went into them could justify the cost—especially when you consider that many of those parts have already been proven on the mighty Corvette Z06. After walking the majority of the SEMA show floor, I saw many worse ways you could spend money on a Corvette.