Corvettes have led and paced races for years. On a regular basis, General Motors sells Pace Car replicas to prove it. But this time the tables are a bit turned, as GM is offering a special edition car to honor the true workhorses in the racing arena: the race cars themselves!
The racing C5-Rs have proven to be the cars to beat, winning championships in the GTS Class in both 2001 and 2002, as well as winning their class two years in a row at the world's most prestigious sports car endurance race, the 24 Hours of Le Mans. Whether on home soil or abroad, the C5-Rs dominate their class.
With Corvette reinstated as a leader in endurance racing circles and the C5 street car reaching legendary levels of performance, joining the two is a natural progression for commemorating the achieved milestones both on and off the track. The evolution and improvements that have carried both the C5 and its track sibling to the top of the food chain continue this year as well with both vehicles receiving their share of improvements. The C5-R received several safety features as well as cockpit changes to make the car more livable for the drivers during their stints leading the rest of the pack around the track. The Z06, already pressing comfort and safety levels to an all-time high, adds more performance this year.
There are two Commemorative Edition packages available, one for the Z06 and one for the coupe and convertible Corvettes. The C5 coupe and convertible Commemorative Editions, while not at the performance levels of the Z06, still carry the Corvette Racing banner with their Le Mans Blue paint, special emblems, and a clean, classic shale-colored interior. For the more timorous Corvette driver, the coupe or convertible allows them to show their pride in the accomplishments of the Corvette with 350 hp wrapped in taste, sophistication, and style; while the Limited Edition Z06, the more raucous member of the C5 family, hammers the fact home with 405 hp and a special graphics package covering its trunk, roof, and new carbon-fiber hood.
The carbon-fiber hood represents the first time this advanced material has been used as original equipment for a painted exterior panel on a North American- produced vehicle. To keep the hood's Le Mans Blue finish consistent with the rest of the car, special care was needed to align the carbon fibers in a single direction. The unique Le Mans Blue paint with a silver and red center graphic will appear on the race car only at Le Mans for 2003 and on the street with a limited number of '04 Commemorative Edition Z06s.
More than just paint and emblems, the Z06 gets increased performance through refinements. The carbon-fiber hood, available only on the Commemorative Edition version of the '04 Z06, weighs only 20.5 pounds, which is 10.6 pounds lighter than the standard C5 hood. The suspension received slight tweaking that provides for quicker, smoother response when pushed to the limit. While the enhancements for the '04 Z06 are not extreme in terms of parts, the increase in performance and feel is greatly increased. The shock's damping characteristics have been revised to provide improved handling while maintaining good ride control for everyday driving. Through changing the shock's valves, the impact of yaw and roll on the car in a series of tight corners or S-turns is greatly reduced.
After several high-speed testing sessions at Germany's famed Nurburgring circuit, the '04 Corvette Z06 became one of the few to achieve a sub-8-minute lap through the track's 14-mile course with approximately 170 turns and constant elevation changes.
How do those refinements transfer when the rubber meets the road? After several high-speed testing sessions at Germany's famed Nurburgring circuit, the '04 Corvette Z06 became one of the few to achieve a sub-8-minute lap through the track's 14-mile course with approximately 170 turns and constant elevation changes.
Improving on a good thing is difficult. Improving on a class-dominating racecar and a secure street fighter can prove almost impossible. With the newest release of the Z06 and C5-R, "almost" seems to be the operative word. The only thing better than issuing a Commemorative Edition Corvette that pays homage to a world-class, two-time winning C5-R would be building one for a three-time class- winning C5-R. By the time you read this, we'll know if they won three in a row at Le Mans. It would be a shame if they had to go back and change all those badges on each of the Commemorative cars, but we're sure GM wouldn't mind too much.