With less overall weight, less weight on the front, a racing suspension that uses specially valved Bilstein coilover shocks, and fabricated stabilizer bars, the Phoenix turns better than any ZR-1 I've ever driven and seems adequately damped. The only time the car became a handful was in low-speed turns. Then, the car seemed a bit loose. It might have been the trashed tires, but for whatever reason, she was loose. When you are aware of it, loose can be fun-not the fastest way around a race track, but plenty of fun.
Off the 13th turn, one of the really tight ones, is where we began this story. That downhill straight is long. On it hard, I went to just before the 7,500 rpm limiter in second and third gears and was wide open in fourth until I backed off (OK-it was before Coop would have lifted), braked hard, then went into that last big sweeper. Near the end of the sweeper, I backshifted and was on the brakes again for the 90-degree lefthander. Through that, hard on the gas for a sec, then braking again for a sharp right that put me back on the front straight. Exiting that last turn, I had everything just right. I balanced the wheelspin and throttle so the car slid to the outside of the track, then gave it wide-open throttle, saw 7,000 or so, shifted and was back on it again when, out of the corner of my eye, I saw one of the Pirates waving me in. My half-dozen-or-so laps of fun was over.
I exited the track, pulled up next to the Pirate Racing trailer and let the motor idle a minute while I pulled off my helmet and goggles. I cut the engine as JVD undid the window net. My pulse was still racing. What a blast that last lap was! The noise at 7,500 rpm, the acceleration, the lateral "g"s in turns-I was pumped. I climbed out of the car, and Van Dorn handed me a cold Pepsi, looked me in the eye a second, then nodded his head and said "Well-not bad for a magazine hack, but I don't think Cooper's going to be worrying about his job."
Well, how 'bout me as your test driver?" I deadpanned.
We both busted up.
Phoenix Postscript I was probably the last person to drive Pirate Racing's ZR-1 in World Challenge trim. For the 2000 season, C4s are no longer eligible for competition and, even if they were, no doubt that SCCA would stack the deck enough against the LT5 engine that a ZR-1 would no longer be competitive.
After our test at Spring Mountain Motorsports Park the car was put in storage at Pirate Racing's facility in California. The team has indicated it may sell the car to a club racer or an open road event competitor. Rather than that, we'd like to see it donated to the National Corvette Museum. If that was to happen, the NCM will own both of the most successful ZR-1s in racing, and #75 would be saved for all our hobby to appreciate.