It used to be that television was inspired by real life. Those days are gone. Now, we have real life (and its attendant reality series) brought to us by, of all things, a video game. The Forza Motorsport Showdown aired on SPEED TV in late winter, modeled after the popular video game of the same name. The star of the show (at least for us Corvette types) was Louis Gigliotti's '07 Velocity Yellow Z51 coupe.
If the name Louis Gigliotti rings a bell (and it ought to), it's because Louis is the son of World Challenge stalwart Lou Gigliotti. Louis crewchiefs Lou's World Challenge C6 on race weekends and runs the family's full-time speedware business the rest of the week.
For those unfamiliar with the show (and the game), here's a prcis: Six amateur racers were teamed up with six cars and their race teams for the competition. The racers had diverse backgrounds including circle-trackers, an autocross driver, and even a professional (hey, what happened to "amateur" drivers?) drifter.
Each team supplied the car of its choice. Being longtime Corvette racers, the LG Motorsports crew was approached to field a car and a crew for the show. Not surprisingly, they showed up with a Vette, while other teams brought rides ranging from classic muscle to modern sports cars. In the mix were a '69 Camaro, a '73 Challenger, a pair of Nissan 350Zs, and a supercharged '05 Mustang GT.
According to the show's Web site, "Forza Motorsport Showdown was inspired by the realism of vehicle customization and tuning features within the game, and is designed to put contestants to the ultimate test of high-performance driving and mechanical skills." In each installment of the four-episode series, the teams and their drivers competed in two driving disciplines including drifting, road racing, autocross, and drag racing. The payoff was a check for $100,000 in the winner-take-all format.
After each race, the drivers were awarded credits with which they could upgrade their car at the Speed Shop-just like in the game, except on the show it took more than the push of a button. At least, that is how it was supposed to work. Instead, the show completely ignored the points required to upgrade the cars, and mostly ignored the LG crew's upgrades altogether. Instead, they focused on the human drama, most of which was fabricated.
It could be argued that, in the interest of parity, the weakest drivers were teamed with the strongest cars and vice-versa. As it was, the LG bunch was given the youngest driver, an 18-year-old circle-track driver/Napoleon Dynamite doppelganger. As if simply having the brand-new Corvette wasn't a big enough advantage, the driver had the benefit of the LG Motorsports crew providing mechanical support and a cadre of the company's race-proven parts. Better still, the driver had unlimited access to LG himself to offer driver coaching.
We'll come back to the driver and the drama shortly. For now, we're sure you want to know about the car. The Forza C6 (which is now known as "Superstar" around the LG shop) was purchased by Louis in the fall of 2006, and was his first new car. The car was originally slated to be the testbed for the APS twin-turbo kit and some new forced-induction LG camshaft grinds for the turbo market. As luck would have it, the gods of poor timing saw to it that the new car arrived just before Louis departed to Texas for his final semester at Purdue. He returned to school without the car, just as the crew at the shop was preparing to perform the turbo install. The plan was to deliver it to him at the World Challenge race at Road America.
Fate again intervened, this time in the form of a call from the execs at SPEED TV. Lou (Sr.) had several conversations with them to hammer out the details of the upcoming series. Once that was done, the shop turned its attention to finding an appropriate "donor car" for the show. They just happened to have a new '07 Z06 on hand, but that was deemed a bit much for the competition. Instead, Louis's new '07 Z51 car was pressed into service.
With the proper forms filled out, a parts list for the modifications was submitted for approval, and the wheels were in motion. With just a week-and-a-half to ready the car for the show, a full-fledged thrash was undertaken. The partially installed turbo kit was removed, and the car returned to stock. All told, the LG bunch spent five days wrenching on the car to ensure the utmost safety and performance for their driver.
Safety was addressed with the addition of a four-point roll bar, a five-point harness, a thorough flush and bleed of the braking system, and the installation of a set of Cobalt race pads. Next, the LG crew put a wrench on every bolt to ensure absolutely nothing was going to come loose. They trial-fit all of their "upgrades" to ensure the components fit properly, and prepped everything so there would be as little time lost as possible once shooting got underway. At this point, they had no idea how much time would be allotted for modifications, so efficiency was foremost in their minds.
With that, the trailer was loaded with the car, the modification components, and a huge load of tools. The filming was to take place at and around Road Atlanta, so off to Georgia they went.