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.
The Rubber That Met The Road
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
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.