Those of you who have been following our 2012 Camaro SS project car might remember our previous road course testing, driven by former Editor Parker, around Sebring International Raceway. The Track Guys Performance Driving Events team provided a sensational track day, giving us the opportunity to test our Phastek Performance coilovers and LSR’s sway bars, toe rods, trailing arms, and bump steer kit (click here for the story). Fast-forward two months, where the November issue of GMHTP brings our highly anticipated installation of ProCharger’s revolutionary programmable ratio supercharger, called the i-1. To keep from spoiling the January issue’s second half of the installation, just know that every component was bolted up with ease. Needless to say, the time has come to put the blown and intercooled SS through the ringer before any more modifications, and record a solid blower baseline. Before heading out, Kyle Miller from AntiVenom swapped our street pads with Hawk DTC-60 pads up front, Hawk HP Plus pads in the rear, and the stock brake fluid was replaced with Motul DOT 5.1. With everything loaded up, we bolted on over to our new testing grounds, Palm Beach International Raceway (PBIR).
The 2.034-mile, 11-turn road course offers up a variety of corners, perfect for performing baseline laps. The familiar track hadn’t changed a bit, since the last time I buckled in for a test session in a Grand-Am-ready Aston Martin Vantage racecar (head on over to my Google+ page for various racing videos). Needless to say, having the track all to myself was a treat that every driver can appreciate, and after checking the Nitto NT05’s pressures, we strapped in and exited the pits.
Before I start discussing the nuances of our Camaro’s capabilities, I’d like to preface the feedback with a few notable stipulations. Keep in mind; the SS is still a streetcar, even with swapped pads, fluid, suspension, and the supercharger. We were not on the track to go racing, but to safely put the SS through a solid baseline test. Thanks to the Seibon carbon fiber hood, trunk, and fenders, we did shed some weight, but the overall curbweight hasn’t gone down, and in fact, might have gone up slightly with the ProCharger. The laps were done on NT05s, great performance-street tires, but not super-sticky slicks. Finally, a fellow car nut, also adding some more pounds, occupied the passenger seat. Considering all of the factors, let’s start reviewing the results.
Starting with the additional horsepower from the ProCharger (you’ll have to wait for the January issue to see numbers), the tires held up fairly well. Granted, I only did two, four lap sessions. The above-stock power was easily controllable on-track, and the boost was delightfully addicting. I had little power over-steer, thanks to a smooth right foot and slow hands. Critical temperatures stayed pleasingly low, during those two sessions, and the i-1 pulled us down the back straightaway up to around 135mph.
Thanks to the Phastek coilovers, the Camaro was well behaved on turn-in, limiting the heavy car’s body roll. The stiffer-than-stock setup allowed for quick and easy directional changes, like through turns 2 and 7. I decided not to mess with the shock settings or sway bar settings during the two sessions, this time around. The car’s low-speed cornering behavior, like around turns 4 and 10, was rich with understeer (listen to those NT05s scream), limiting corner speed. Like I said before, the Camaro is a swift (heavy) streetcar, and was actually handling surprisingly well, even on street tires. The Camaro rang up an average lap time of 1:34:50.
The weak links in the equation hover around the brakes. Even though we swapped the pads and fluid, after the first four laps I began loosing trust in the brake pedal. While the pads only experienced little fade, the fluid behaved like a tantrum-throwing-two-year-old. At first, the brakes were wonderful. All of a sudden, with one-corner warning, the brake pedal was on the floor, and there were no brakes. Pumping the pedal helped to slow the car’s speed enough to get back to the pits, but the fluid was not tolerating the heat. I would, however, recommend the pads to those of you looking to attend a track day in your own chariot. The DTC-60s had a high-enough heat threshold for the test, and still had enough bite on the ride over from Tampa with no heat in them.
In retrospect, the baseline test at PBIR was successful. The i-1 supercharger from ProCharger performed flawlessly, always enticing me to stay in the throttle longer. I could have driven the car deeper into the corners, had it not been for the brakes. Like I said before, the brakes are essentially stock, and held up decently given the conditions. The coilovers and stiffer sway bars aided handling. The Camaro turned-in sharply, transitioned into understeer in almost every corner, but exited nicely with slight oversteer on track-out thanks to the boost.
Next time on the track, the Camaro would benefit from a diet. Perhaps, it can shed some weight with the stock seats removed. The Camaro would also greatly benefit from a bigger brake setup. For the street, the stock brakes work well. On the track, they tend to roll off a cliff too soon. Nonetheless, the test provided great feedback, thanks the fun Palm Beach International Raceway. Stay tuned, as our 2012 Camaro SS project car makes more progress. We will, undoubtedly, be at the track again soon!