It was difficult to decide what was more spectacular at the first-ever Lingenfelter Performance Nationals: the blistering performance of GM engineer Dave Michaels, who ran away with the autocross title while piloting a Thomson Automotive–prepared Grand Sport, or the mind-warping 7.09-second elapsed time laid down by Mark Carlyle in his IRS-suspended, turbocharged Z06. Either way, the enthusiasts in attendance were treated to a show—and history.
The event, held at Summit Racing Equipment Motorsports Park, in Norwalk, Ohio, was officially a thank-you to Lingenfelter Performance Engineering's customers, as well as a qualifying event for the Optima Ultimate Street Car Invitational. It was also a respectful homage to the late John Lingenfelter, the drag racer and engine builder who founded the company that is now owned by distant relative Ken Lingenfelter—a detail that is truly more coincidental than familial.
There was also technically a car show during the event, but some nasty weather that blew through ahead of and during the weekend conspired against it. Then again, the storm front brought with it some chilly air and a strong westerly tailwind, which favored every competitor whose front wheels tickled the staging beams—none more so than Mark Carlyle.
We caught up with Carlyle and his crew as they busied themselves preparing the 7-second “street” car on opening day. The Ohio-based racer had already run a personal-best trap speed of 209.88 mph during time trials, and he was looking to eclipse his best e.t. of 7.22, the quickest for an IRS Corvette on record. Shortly after our conversation, his Atomic Orange C6 rolled to the line and shattered that mark with a stunning 7.14. The record for an LS street car, regardless of the suspension or vehicle model, was 7.11—and it was definitely within reach.
The dense, cold air persisted, and Carlyle's Z06 continued to amaze, ripping a 7.11, a 7.10, and finally, on the last day, a 7.09/212-mph blast. The car launched hard and straight, and more significantly, it didn't drop a single part the whole weekend. It was a tremendous display. (Editor's note: Shortly after the LPE event, Carlyle's Z recorded a stunning 6.99/209, making it the first LS-powered car to run 6s on drag radials.)
Dave Michaels' performance was equally impressive in the hotly contested autocross competition. He piloted a late-model Grand Sport upfitted with a few ZR1 components—most notably the carbon brakes—along with a Thomson-built 442-cubic-inch LS7 that cranked out about 700 horsepower. The car literally screamed around the track, emitting a mechanical wail that was two parts NASCAR mixed with one part high-rpm Indy car. We've been following the build-up of the impressive, naturally aspirated powerhouse and will bring it to you soon.
Michaels also drove home with the Grand Champion trophy for the Optima portion of the event, as the multifaceted competition also included points for the car show, a cruise, and dragstrip e.t.'s, where the GS went as quick as 11.38 at 128 mph. There were other great stories from Corvette owners and racers at the track that weekend, some of which we've highlighted in the accompanying photos.
As inaugural events go, the Lingenfelter Performance Nationals set a benchmark that will be tough to beat. We hope to return for the 2013 running to see if those amazing performance feats can be eclipsed.