Corvette owner Mike Howard likes to fully enjoy the speed his favorite ride is capable of--the faster, the better. To date, he's piloted his '07 Z06 to 216.2 mph in the Texas Mile standing-mile event, a speed that, at the time, was a record for a stock-bodied Corvette. (The mark has since been eclipsed.) MTI Racing in Marietta, Georgia, modified the car for standing-mile racing by installing a 502ci LS engine topped with a 2300 Magnuson supercharger and further invigorated by a 200-horse shot of nitrous oxide.
The result? A rousing 980 rear-wheel horsepower. The black beast is now undergoing further modifications, including removing the Magnuson and adding twin turbos to the 502. Howard is planning on going back to the Texas mile and trying to set a new record.
Up until 2011, Howard had never been involved in road racing. This changed when he attended an MTI-sponsored track day at the Roebling Road racetrack near his home in Savannah, Georgia. Accompanied by MTI owner and former racer Reese Cox, he piloted a fellow customer's Corvette around the tight, twisty road course. Howard was instantly hooked, so he began looking for another Corvette to use as a track car.
Shortly after his Roebling Road experience, he became a founding member of the new Atlanta Motorsports Park (AMP) in Dawsonville, Georgia. This members-only facility features a two-mile road course and is 90 percent complete at this writing. It's scheduled to be open by the time you read this.
Anxious to hit the new track, Howard located and purchased an original '99 C5-R "box car" in Florida. GM built a limited number of these bare-chassis C5s for select Corvette race teams between 1999 and 2001. The idea was to help ensure that the then-new fifth- generation Corvette was well represented in the Speed GT and Motorola Cup racing series. But shortly after taking delivery of the car, Howard realized he needed a less potent vehicle in which to hone his road-racing skills.
In April 2011, Howard took delivery of a new Arctic White Z06 with the optional CFZ Carbon Fiber Package. He then delivered it to MTI for some "minor" modifications, including Penske adjustable coilovers, Pfadt antiroll bars, and a head-cam-and-intake setup for the LS7. A more aggressive spoiler package (including a tall rear wing), a four-point rollbar, Brembo brakes, new wheels, and racing seats ensured that the 581rwhp car was track ready.
With the window sticker still in the car glovebox, Howard broke in his new track car at Road Atlanta, Virginia International Raceway, Barber Motorsports Park, Little Talladega, and Roebling Road. We caught up with him at Daytona International Speedway, where he was competing in the final event of the North American Road Racing Association (NARRA) season.
NARRA includes several categories for competitors to select from, including the Dodge Viper Cup, the USGTC race series (for all brands of cars), Solo PDE (for beginning drivers), and, finally, the U.S. Time Trials. Howard was competing in the latter category, which is divided into two classes, TT-1 and TT-U. TT-1 is for slower, less modified cars, while TT-U is for all-out race machines. Because Howard's Z06 is still street legal, the organizers put him TT-1. The goal is simple: to see which competitor laps DIS the quickest during the weekend.
Howard admits being a little awed at getting the opportunity to drive on the 3.56-mile Daytona course. On Friday he followed his mentor Cox around the track to learn the correct lines. The day also gave him time to let his crew adjust the car's suspension for optimum handling in the infield and on the high banking.
The white Z06 quickly became the car to watch around the pits. Most competitors in both classes were having difficulty breaking the two-minute barrier, but Howard was soon running 1:59 laps. As he became more comfortable with the car, his times dropped further, until he set a blistering mark of 1:56.809. This was the fastest time-trial lap of the weekend--in either class.
Afterward he told us, "I blew by the Vipers in the infield and banking." He also shared that the GT-U Viper class winner had visited him in the pits to say, "I was trying to learn your line, but I couldn't keep up with you!"
Howard is happy with his Corvette's performance and has decided to let MTI make some safety improvements. These include a complete fire-suppression system and an eight-point rollcage. Howard's car clearly demonstrates what a "track star" the Corvette Z06 can be with minor upgrades.
Is the Z06 currently the best street/track Corvette available? It depends on whom you ask. But if you saw this white-hot rocket storming by Vipers, Porsches, and Ferraris like we did on the high banks of Daytona, you just might be convinced.