Black Betty Track Report
By Nick Licata
Going into the ’11 RTTC event, I was optimistic about how well Black Betty would do. Being that it’s decked out with Global West suspension components, I left owner Doug Norrdin in charge of setting up and fine-tuning the suspension — a definite luxury most guys don’t have. Besides, if I start messing with the rebound and compression knobs, I’d probably just screw everything up.
The first competition of the day for my group was the road course. Being that it had rained overnight, the track still had some wet areas, but that didn’t hinder us from hitting the course hard. Besides, I was sporting a fresh set of BFGoodrich rubber, so I was confident the section on the course we jokingly referred to as “Splash Mountain” wouldn’t be much of an issue. Besides, I’ve been waiting a year for this event, so a little river running through the track wasn’t going to ruin my day.
After a few lead-follow laps with the track operators, I was able to get to know the course fairly well. So I hit the track like a bat out of hell on my first timed runs.
Once I got the tires up to temperature, it was apparent the suspension was dialed in. The car never felt loose, nor did it push on corner entry or exit. It just felt very well balanced.
Having recently upgraded to a Wilwood brake system, this was my first time out on a road course with the new brake setup, so I used the first few laps to get acquainted. I left in the BP-10 brake pads (recommended for street and light track use) for the first session and was impressed with how much abuse they could handle. The course wasn’t incredibly fast, but there was one section where I had to really hit the brakes hard, and after a few laps I could tell the pads were getting a little too hot. Fortunately, Wilwood was a major sponsor of the event and had brought along a set of their PolyMatrix H race pads for display, so Wilwood sales and tech consultant Dustin Burr suggested I give them a try for my afternoon session. The nice thing about Wilwood brakes is that changing pads is a very simple process. We borrowed a jack and some tools from our pals over at Chevy High Performance magazine to make the swap, and after quickly bedding in the pads, Dustin got me back in action. The H compound pads are designed for racing and enabled me to brake deeper into the corners.
I got down to a 1:11.8 lap on Sunday, which put me in the top third of the field. I felt pretty good about my times and how well the car performed overall. I have to say, driving on that road course was the most fun I’ve had in the car to date.
Speed Stop Challenge
The second part of the competition for our group was the Baer Speed Stop Challenge. I took my three runs and just hammered the car out of the gate the best I could while trying to keep tire spin to a minimum. Previous braking numbers showed the car has had a best stopping distance of 105 ft in 60-0–mph testing, so I figured at about 80 mph (my max speed during this part of the competition), I would slam on the brakes just past the 200-foot markers (you have to love ABS).
On the first run, I went too deep and went about 5 feet beyond the stop box. Close, but a DNQ. I was able to stay within the box on the next two runs and ultimately ended up with a best time of 12.576 seconds. Right about then I was wishing I had about 200 more horsepower under the hood. But considering the First Place time was an 11.545 second run, I felt really good about how well the car did.
With 56 cars entered in the autocross, I was able to manage a 15th Place finish. Just like on the road course, I was happy with how well the car did. The suspension was really being taxed, but the car handled great and was very predictable on corner entry and exit. Even when I made a mistake, the car was very forgiving. As of now, it’s loaded with a stock rearend and 3.42 gears, so it’s a little sluggish out of the hole and tight corners. But as I type this little report, there is a Moser 12-bolt stuffed with 3.73s waiting to be installed. That should make a huge difference.
I had hoped to finish a little better on the road course and autocross, but one thing I didn’t count on was how much horsepower the rest of the competitors would be bringing to the table. Compared to many cars in the field, ol’ Black Betty was struggling to keep up in the power department. I just need to remember that this ’01 Camaro is my daily driver. I use it to pick up my boys from school during the week and beat on it pretty good on weekends. But seriously, this car has really performed far above my expectations. And if Project Orange Krate is ready by this time next year, I’ll be armed with well over 600 hp and one pissed off second-gen Camaro.