After a full year of hard work, blood, sweat (not my sweat mind you, but the sweat of quality mechanics, builders, painters, and tuners) and tears (those were mine), the STI Killer is finally ready for us to begin heavily testing suspension, tires, wheels, brakes, and anything else that makes it haul the mail around a road course the quickest. Built specifically from the ground up to allow us to test anything we, and by extension you, want, the STI Killer is not only a fun car to drive but it is a car with a purpose and a mission: to dominate all other cars in its class on any road surface, including the auto-cross, road course, dragstrip, and street.
If you have been following along with our progress, you have already seen our '01 Camaro receive a new GMPP LS6 engine, a D&D Performance T56, a full host of bolt-on parts, a built rear-end and a set of awesome 6-piston CTS-V Brembo brakes. Until now, the Killer has been good at making noise and spinning the dyno rollers, but its stock suspension has made it difficult to get around a road course and do what it's supposed to do. During our first round of testing ("A Killer on the Loose," Jan '11), we found several things wrong with the Camaro, as lap after lap we blew through braking zones, lumbered heavily into corners and generally just fought to make a clean road course lap. As our friends and critics watched on, the Killer did what it could, mustering several 1.10-second lap times and spinning its way to a 12.996-second quarter-mile pass.
However, this month, the STI Killer was on top of its game and we left the track with much, much better results. As you will see on the following pages, this month's project was all about suspension. With help from BMR Fabrication, Koni North America and our trusty pals at AntiVenom, we were able to install several key suspension components, including BMR's all-new 1-inch hollow front sway bar and re-designed lowering springs, and the results were impressive. In just a couple of laps around Gainesville Raceway's 1.6-mile road course, we were able to drop lap times into the 1.07-second range, running a new best of 1.06.707-a gain of 3.289-seconds from our previous endeavors. The Camaro felt smooth, predictable, and fast, especially during post-apex power-on cornering.
With the 1-inch hollow front sway bar and the Koni shocks set 4-turns from soft, the Killer exhibited zero understeer, even when intentionally pushed too hot into heavy corners. This was one of the most surprising aspects of our install, as we initially expected the 295/30/18 Nitto NT05's up front to object to heavy turn-in, but the combination proved to be almost perfect. At no point did we feel the nose fight our inputs and the steering response was excellent, even in the low speed, heavy turn-in corners.
Out back, however, well, that was another story. Once our speed picked up, the rear was quick to rotate, although it remained predictable. We're not talking about hit the brakes, turn in and spin type of rotation, but just a slight drift to the outside of the corner. Once settled and turning, the Killer was a beast, with great mid-corner grip and a stable feel. The BMR sway bars certainly worked well, taming the Camaro's roll center and keeping the car flat and planted through the turns. On-throttle exits were, well, awesome. It seems that our 295/30/18-inch Nitto NT05 rear tires are simply no match for aggressive throttle application and many a corner became a dance of throttle modulation, counter steering and smiles, as the rear tires went up in smoke. We must take a minute to praise the Eaton differential we installed earlier this year ("10-bolt Basics," August '10), as it applied power evenly throughout the entire test session and showed no signs of slipping or one-wheel peeling.
In a straight line our new suspension helped out as well, even with the rear Koni shocks still set at 1-turn from full stiff. Using the same tires as always, we laid down a 12.64 at 114.5 mph in the quarter, a gain of .348-seconds and 4.5 mph, which we attribute to the suspension transferring weight better and planting the rear tires, as we could finally use wide-open throttle in first and second gear. Overall, we were impressed by the new changes to the STI Killer's suspension and we can't wait to spend some more time in the driver seat. Going forward, we might even need to rename out project the C6 Killer, but that's an entirely different story that we're going to save for another issue!