Tarmac Twisters: a term not normally used to describe the essence of Corvette, but rather brutish old-school cars swilling 116-octane leaded gas and tearing up the drag-tracks of this fair land. But do superb handling and a refined driving experience necessarily mean that a Vette can't excel at drag racing? We think not, and to prove the point, we issued a shout-out to Texas-area tuners and enthusiasts to bring out their high-powered late-model Vettes and turn them loose on the 1,320. The venue for the event was Lone Star Motorsports Park in Sealy, Texas, located just west of Houston alongside I-10-squarely in the epicenter of the state's notorious C5 and C6 horsepower wars. A total of seven Vettes accepted the challenge.
In our first installment, we'll showcase a trio of Vettes that demonstrate three different ways to build a brutal artificially aspirated C6. So sit back, close your eyes, and imagine the auditory bliss of force-fed LS-series engines reaching high-rpm crescendos while overwhelming g-forces slam you into the seat. How will the foes fare against each other, and will they put down impressive numbers or simply obliterate their tires? We're about to find out.
Author's note: LSMP is located 185 feet above sea level, and on a cool day the track can support record-shattering runs. Unfortunately, ambient temperatures on this day topped the century mark, and the combination of barometric pressure and dew point made the air similar to racing at 3,000 feet. Although we won't "correct" the e.t.'s to reflect sea-level conditions, suffice it to say that with these corrections, the runs that follow would have been notably quicker.
We'd like to thank the crew of Late Model Racecraft and Lone Star Motorsports Park, who made this event possible, as well as the great group of volunteers who kept things running smoothly throughout the day.
As the co-owner of Late Model Racecraft in Houston, Steven Fereday and his partner, Josh Ledford, are famous in LS-series racing for posting multiple class wins in the LSX shootout since 2003. When not racing, the firm turns out some of the nastiest LS-powered vehicles on the planet, going so far as to call itself "Home of the World's Quickest and Fastest Stock-Suspended LSXs." Fereday purchased this '07 C6 coupe as a present for his father, Ernest, a mere month before the event and promptly set about to taking the Z51-optioned coupe to the next level. After pondering his options, he decided to build a derivation of LMR's Twisted and Reaper packages for the C6.
The setup uses the stock 6.0L LS2 that has been bored and fitted with aftermarket rods and pistons to yield a 9:1 compression ratio. Ported LS2 cylinder heads, meanwhile, make a perfect fit for a ProCharger HO intercooled supercharger kit. To retain a completely innocuous idle, an LS6 cam was installed, while a top-notch exhaust system ensures that the C6 will transform into a boosted warrior when the go-pedal is mashed. The newly minted combination put down 600 rwhp on the LMR chassis dyno and should be able to run deep into the 11s.
Getting any high-powered C6 to put up impressive numbers on stock tires is a challenge, since you have to ease it out in order to maintain some level of traction without blowing the tires off. Launching gingerly at just 1,500 rpm, the tightly suspended C6 managed a best 60-foot time of 2.01. Manually shifted at 6,800 rpm, it went on to run an 11.572-second e.t. at a staggering 127.73 mph. With that type of trap-speed, a 10-second run should be easily possible with the addition of a set of drag radials. Impressive e.t.'s aside, the gorgeous Monterey Red Metallic coupe may be better suited for high-speed events, as evidenced by the duo's 190-mph average in the Texas Mile event.
Vette enthusiasts light up at the sight of a ZR1, so imagine the look on Andrew Alepa's face when his fiancée, Kim Amador, presented him with the keys to a brand-new black Z as an early birthday present! After driving the ZR1 for less than 200 miles, Alepa called up LMR to turn this viciously fast Vette into a bona fide supercar killer.
After a couple of quick pulls on LMR's chassis dyno, it was determined that the stock Z was putting out just north of 530 hp at the wheels. To up the ante, LMR put on the first stage of its ZR1 Street Stalker package, replacing the exhaust manifolds with American Racing Headers 17/8-inch long-tubes, performing a pulley swap, and doing a custom ECM tune. When the rollers stopped spinning, 602 rwhp registered on the dyno readout. But even stock ZR1s are infamous for their tire-melting tendencies, and without having had a chance to get comfortable with the car's freshly engorged output, Alepa looked to have his work cut out for him at LSMP.
As expected, the combination of insufficient wheel time and tremendous instantaneous power conspired to shred the stock tires, even launching at a paltry 1,000 rpm. By the time the car finally gained a foothold in Third, a poor 2.347 60-foot time had swelled the e.t. to 12.95 at 124 mph. When LMR offered up its spare set of drag radials mounted on CCW wheels, Alepa quickly jumped at the offer. By adjusting his launch rpm to 3,500, he knocked down a 2.02 60-foot en route to a much-improved 12.27 at 126 mph. For his next run, Alepa decided to raise his launch rpm again, this time to 4,500, to prevent the car from bogging at the line. But it seemed the stock clutch was a tad too warm from the previous run, as evidenced by the sickening smell of burnt lining that filled the air on the One-Two shift. Although an 11-second e.t. wasn't in the cards for Alepa this time around, it certainly didn't affect his upbeat attitude or his penchant for speed.
A few months later, the ZR1 was promoted to Reaper status with a cam, ported heads, a blower-snout upgrade, and a Spec twin-disc clutch-upgrades that registered 800 rwhp on LMR's chassis dyno. With Steven Fereday rowing the gears on a cool winter day, it ran an electrifying 9.93 at 140 mph.
As the owner of Advanced Racing Dynamics (ARD) in Houston, Owen Priest brought an impressive résumé, including having built some of the fastest street cars in the area. For our purposes, Priest brought his personal '05 Le Mans Blue C6, which had been transformed into a Z06 replica with a few major deviations.
Replacing the stock LS2 is a GMPP LSX short-deck block that's been bored and stroked to 455 ci, stuffed with a forged rotating assembly, and topped with a set of ARD-ported L92 heads that flow 370 cfm. If that wasn't enough, there's a 200-horse nitrous plate system with a dedicated fuel cell and an auxiliary pump to bump rwhp from 585 to 790. As the car is set up for street driving and the occasional road course, its suspension is very adept at corner carving and high-speed sweepers. Would the street tires have enough traction at the strip, or would this road warrior simply roast rubber? Assuming the former, could the nitrous even be enabled without breaking every IHRA rule in the book?
Priest and driver Gary Harmon found themselves in quite a quandary. Neither the Hoosier road-race tires they brought along nor the Nitto Invos the car usually runs could effectively harness the brute force of the 455. After numerous tire-pressure and suspension adjustments, the best naturally aspirated run came in at 12.17 at 121.85 mph, with a lazy 2.13 60-foot time and significant wheelhop. Given the lack of traction, Priest and Harmon elected not to unloose the nitrous and risk an "incident" partway down the track. But even in NA form, the C6 was probably capable of mid-11s given more time for chassis tuning and a sticky set of drag radials. And if grip had been more plentiful, it's a sure bet that a 10-second nitrous-assisted run would have lit up the board. Still, when you have a dialed-in street and road-race weapon at your disposal, it's better to head home in comfort and let your dedicated strip car do the heavy lifting (more on that next month).
Priest's faux Z06 may not have owned the field this day, but it was nevertheless a visual stunner with a muscle-bound genie under the hood, just waiting to pop out and smoke the competition.