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Chevys Run Hard in the 2015 Super Chevy Suspension & Handling Challenge at Willow Springs Raceway

Track Thrash: Chevys run hard in the Falken Tire 2015 Super Chevy Suspension & Handling Challenge at Willow Springs Raceway

Sep 30, 2015
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Back in 2008 we came up with an idea; let’s invite various suspension companies to come out to sunny California and run their cars through a gauntlet of handling tests. It turned out to be a hit and since then we’ve been flinging Chevys around our test venues with reckless (as in we haven’t had any wrecks) abandon. For 2015, the Super Chevy Suspension & Handling Challenge is proud to welcome a title sponsor, Falken Tire. After all, tires are critical to handling and this way we could make sure all the cars in the competition were on the same 200-treadwear Azenis RT615K rollers.

As in years past, our testing took place at Willow Springs Raceway in Rosamond, California, and entailed three segments: slalom, skidpad, and road course. These three events are vastly different and let us analyze each car’s automotive personality. The catch is, the cars aren’t competing against each other, but instead against a 2015 Chevrolet Camaro SS with the 1LE track pack option. Why? Because comparing cars that vary so wildly in terms of cost, complexity, and weight wouldn’t really make sense. For example, a 1969 Camaro with an LS7 and full chassis should be faster around a track than 1967 Chevelle with a small-block and bolt on parts. By comparing the various entries to a modern performance car we get a benchmark that people can relate to. After all, when you’re buying suspension parts, you want to know that they will give your classic modern handling prowess, right?

This year, eight companies brought cars from all over the country to run hard in the desert heat. And, for the first time ever, the field was devoid of Camaros (besides our baseline 2015 1LE). Yep, this year seemed to be all about Novas with cars fielded by Church Boys, Classic Performance Products (CPP), Speedway Motors, Speed Tech, and Total Cost Involved (TCI). The balance of the field included one Chevelle from Global West, the Falken Tire-backed C2 Corvette of Brian Hobaugh, and a 1984 Monte Carlo from Schwartz Performance.

002 A 2015 Super Chevy Suspension Challenge Speedway Nova Lug Check 2/18

The first order of business was to run each car through technical inspection. Since this wasn’t anyone’s first rodeo the cars came ready to rock, but we still made sure the lug nuts were tight, the batteries secure, and all the junk was out of the trunk.

003 A 2015 Super Chevy Suspension Challenge 1965 Falken Corvette Weight 3/18

One new bit of information we started gathering last year was vehicle weights. After all, a ride that comes in at 3,100 pounds has a distinct advantage over one that tips the scales at 3,800. The weight ranges of the cars ran from just over 3,000 pounds to a scale-crushing 3,866 pounds, turned in by our baseline Camaro.

004 A 2015 Super Chevy Suspension Challenge Speedway Yellow Pit Car 4/18

The coolest pit vehicle we’ve ever seen was Speedway’s Chevy-powered roadster. It carried tools, fire equipment, air, and a good supply of fuel. And it did it in style.

005 A 2015 Super Chevy Suspension Challenge Video Drone 5/18

Our Super Chevy video crew was frantically busy mounting GoPro cameras and piloting drones. This means we’ll have some kick-ass video of all the action on www.superchevy.com.

006 A 2015 Super Chevy Suspension Challenge Cpp Nova Detailing 6/18

Yeah, it was a driving event, but everything also had to be shined up pretty since each car will be featured over the next few months. In those features we will spill the beans on how the car did and how they stacked up against our 2015 Camaro 1LE.

007 A 2015 Super Chevy Suspension Challenge Mary Pozzi 7/18

One constant in all our years of testing is Mary Pozzi. We lost track of how many national autocrossing championships she’s won and she’s very adept and hopping from car to car and quickly getting a feel for each vehicle. This year participants could use Mary for their timed road course laps or bring a driver of their choosing. But Mary still drove each car and will provide her impressions in each upcoming car feature.

008 A 2015 Super Chevy Suspension Challenge Cpp 1967 Nova 8/18

CPP did a mad scramble and finished this 1967 Nova SS just in time for the event.

009 A 2015 Super Chevy Suspension Challenge Schwartz 1984 Monte Carlo 9/18

The newest Chevy to show up was the NASCAR-themed 1984 Monte Carlo fielded by Schwartz Performance. It’s actually a customer’s car, so it was nice that Dan Howe was brave enough to let us beat on it.

010 A 2015 Super Chevy Suspension Challenge 1965 Nova Speedway Motors Robby Unser 10/18

The nastiest sounding car at the event was Speedway Motors’ 1965 Nova and its 12:1-compression 406-inch small-block. The Nova came loaded for bear with Robby Unser behind the wheel. Speaking of wheels, it often lifted the inside front one when in turns.

011 A 2015 Super Chevy Suspension Challenge Speedtech 1968 Nova Red 11/18

Another customer car was this 1968 Nova brought out by Speed Tech Performance. It looked great; in fact, it was so pretty we were a bit sad to flog it so hard, but we did anyways.

012 A 2015 Super Chevy Suspension Challenge 1963 Nova Church Boys 12/18

Church Boys Racing brought out their sweet 1963 Chevy II Nova. Church Boys has been to many of our events, always in a Nova, and this is the nicest one they’ve brought so far.

013 A 2015 Super Chevy Suspension Challenge 1968 Chevelle Global West 13/18

A last minute entry was this 427 LS-powered 1968 Chevelle owned by Brent Josephson representing Global West Suspension. The car was built to tackle all forms of motorsports, from land-speed racing to drag racing and even track days like this one.

014 A 2015 Super Chevy Suspension Challenge Tci Nova 14/18

Our fifth Nova came to us courtesy of Total Cost Involved (TCI) and belonged to one of their employees, Evan Dalley. This 427 small-block-powered Chevy had only recently been finished, so we give them credit for beating on such a fresh build.

015 A 2015 Super Chevy Suspension Challenge 1965 Corvette Falken Mike Maier Hobaugh 15/18

Our tire sponsor was allowed to bring an entry and they chose the 1965 Corvette owned by Brain Hobaugh. The car is powered by a 364-inch small-block and has been raced in events all over the U.S. It’s certainly one sorted ride.

016 A 2015 Super Chevy Suspension Challenge Nova Kicking Dust 16/18

Over the two days of the event, the cars were pushed hard. Aside from a few minor mechanical hiccups, the cars came through with flying colors. On the track we kept “off track excursions” to a minimum, but the drivers ran their machines hard in their efforts to best our 2015 Camaro 1LE. How did they do? Well, you’re going to have to wait for us to roll out the results over the next few months. Be sure to keep checking superchevy.com for all the latest and for the track video we promised.


The Rubber That Met The Road

017 A 2015 Super Chevy Suspension Challenge Falken Rt615k Competition Tire 17/18

In any driving competition tires are a huge factor in lap times. So, to keep things fair we opted to specify a tire for the event. In this case it was one of our favorites, the Falken Azenis RT615K. The RT615K has become one of the favorite tires of drivers competing in autocross and full-tilt driving events like the Optima Ultimate Street Car Series – and for good reason, they stick! In fact, many of our competitors were already running this tire prior to the event.

This championship-winning DOT-approved competition street tire has a motorsports-inspired 8/32-inch tread depth while the solid center rib provides significant traction in a straight line while the asymmetric pattern gives tons of lateral grip. The tread compound carries a rating of 200, but what’s nice about this tire is they maintain grip even as temperatures increase. The three “high-void” grooves help resist hydroplaning in wet conditions while the massive shoulder-blocks grip hard in the turns. It’s a great tire for those who want to drive fast and we were thrilled when Falken signed up to sponsor the event.


2015 Camaro 1LE

018 A 2015 Super Chevy Suspension Challenge Camaro 1le Baseline 18/18

Having a baseline car is a way for all of this to make sense. After all, if we tell you that car X ran Willow Springs in 1 minute 12 seconds what does that tell you? The answer is not much since you have nothing to compare it to. But if you know one of the Chevys we tested was a second faster or slower than a new Camaro 1LE then it gives you a frame of reference. The 1LE was the heaviest car at our event (3,866 pounds), but it also had goodies like ABS and a computer to manage the suspension. We had Mary Pozzi flog it around the track and here’s what she had to say.

“Steve Rupp handed me the keys and with a sly grin, said ‘Drive it!’ So I did. We first discussed which nanny mode would be optimal for my trip around the Streets of Willow and decided Competition was best. Minimal interaction from the computer with a pinch of StabiliTrak thrown in for good measure was fun and provided excellent ‘feel’ of the track no matter what position the big red car ended up in. I elected not to play with the launch control as it really wasn’t needed for my driving evaluation. I did, however, recognize that Traction Control and StabiliTrak were still in the background, and that the steering felt a bit heavier (a plus for me) for better and more precise corner entry. The icing on this cake were the Recaro seats, and these buckets held me in place no matter how hard I got flung around.

I found the Camaro 1LE very neutral, and with all the suspension and chassis strengthening bits pulled from the ZL1 it should be. The six-speed manual was geared perfectly for the 3.91:1 axle ratio and had plenty of pull from the 6.2-liter LS3 with “only” 426 hp. Remember when that was a pretty decent number? Well, it still is for this car, as every bit of it was able to reach the ground as the Camaro gobbled up the corners and then spit them out along with the exhaust. It still drove somewhat “big” and there was a hint of understeer on corner entry (much preferred to the alternative) but it didn’t seem ponderous or heavy.” We would like to give a huge thanks to Chevrolet for lending us one hell of a car for our tests.

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