There are two ways to increase on-track performance: improve your driving technique; or improve what you're driving. For one Texas race-driving instructor, that second step involved a second-hand Corvette: the Machine Silver '06 seen here.
Stephanie Cemo is an instructor at Texas World Speedway and is the C6's current owner, buying it from friend Jack Salvaggio about a year ago. "I'm actually the godmother of Jack Salvaggio's baby," she says from her Houston home. "He had made me three offers to buy the car, because he wanted to keep it 'in the family.'" That third offer turned out to be the charmer that enticed Stephanie to sell her old Z06 and buy this modified '06 coupe, which is the third Corvette that she's owned.
We say "modified"-but that's putting it lightly. Previous owner Salvaggio commissioned Houston's Late Model Racecraft to build a nitrous-urged 438-cubic-inch LS engine, plus he had the chassis updated with dual-purpose street/track modifications like coilovers all around. The result is more than just a dual-purpose Corvette, according to Stephanie. "This car is way more of a show car, but it's super, super fast," she says when asked to compare it to the Vettes she owned previously. "It's way faster than my old Z06, which had bolt-ons and a 150-shot (of nitrous oxide) for weekend fun stuff."
Stephanie's definition of "weekend fun stuff" may differ from yours-if yours doesn't include a significant amount of track time. She recounts the last time she had this C6 on the track, at Texas' Motorsports Ranch Houston, at an event that she was instructing at, and she'd invited one of her fellow Texas World Speedway instructors to bring his Vette. "He and I are around the same lap times, and I couldn't believe it-it was like the first time I'd taken the car to the track," she says. "He would get close to me in the corners, and then as soon as I would get back on the gas after the apex, I'd look up and he would be like a speck of dirt behind me! He has a stone stock C5 Z06, and it dawned on me that this is how people get faster lap times, by having super, super fast cars. I'd thought it was all driving skill."
Stephanie does see one area on this Vette that she may improve, in her view: the clutch. "It has an RPS triple-disc carbon clutch, which is not very streetable," she says. "It either wants to grab or not. So, when you take off in first gear, you hear all of those discs turning. It's kind of obnoxious, but it's the only thing I'd consider changing."
Changing a stone-stock example of America's Only True Sports Car into a road-course carver is one way to improve your lap times. Stephanie has some suggestions if you're so inspired. "It depends on what you want to do," she says of the choice of hardware-and the choice to keep it dual-purpose or make it track-only. "When it comes to upgrading, definitely if you're doing track you might want to put coilovers and T-1 bars on. I don't think you need big brake kits. What we call "NAPA disposable" rotors and some race pads, and obviously a good seat, helmet, and harnesses, are definitely needed.
Stephanie sums it up by saying about Vettes in general, "The Corvette, out of the box, is the best car performance-wise for the money," and about hers in particular, "This car is just insane!"