So I had my SS out down in Bowie this past weekend for an autocross. It was my first Autocross ever, had a total of 6 runs. I ended up running 38.8 seconds with no cones.
Times averaged between 33 and 43 seconds for the course, which consisted of two decreasing radius gated turns with slaloms and boxes after each and after the last box was a 130 degree turn into a slalom to the finishing box. About 40 cars showed up, most of the cars were what you'd expect S2000s, Miatas, WRXs, and your assorted Hondas... Only four other American cars there other than mine, a 1995 corvette, 2 Factory Five Cobras (Sweet!), and a “tunerized” 5.0 mustang
. The cobras had by far the most impressive runs although I believe an s2000 ended up beating them in the final times. I rode along with the vette driver for most of his runs as this was my first autocross and he had about 15 years of autocrossing experience. That ’95 had a lot more balls than I ever gave them credit for and it was an absolute blast to ride along at the edges of that cars performance. The car was mint, w/ just under 16K miles, roll cage, the adjustable suspension, set on sport mode (middle stiffness), and the 300 hp LT1, tires were 295s. Times for the vette were in the 36s and the Rustang came in at 39.8.
Anyways, as you might expect the miata/s2000 crowd was hating on the Camaro pretty hard although everyone really liked the way it looks and sounds, there were lots of comments about how it was just too big, too heavy, etc for Autocross. I have to say that while the Camaro is relatively big and heavy she doesn't really act like it when you're really pushing her. I’ve owned a decent number of cars which I would consider to be above average in performance the most notable of the bunch are my ’85 Z28 and my ’05 Pontiac GP/GTP. The 2010 SS blows away anything else I have ever driven in both power and handling. After my runs people were commenting that they were surprised at the lack of significant body roll and equated the stiffness of the SS suspension to that of the vette, a huge complement as the Camaro is certainly much heavier.
So here are some of my impressions on unleashing my 100% stock Camaro 2SS/RS w/ ~1,700 miles on her at an autocross..
1) Launching is tuff, no one really burns out at these events as there is a sharp chicane right out of the starting box so you have to start hard but maintain your traction, something that is pretty hard to do with this SS/Manual without bogging the engine, I really thought I had this down, but competitively clutching out of the box was challenging;
2) My best runs of the day were all in 1st, 1st gear will take you all the way to 55mph at redline which was perfect for this course as average speeds were at about 30-35 mph;
3) I was surprised that running in 1st was easier than running in 2nd, you would think that 2nd would give you more leeway for throttle mistakes, but I found that the additional responsiveness of 1st was more beneficial and the more optimal position in the rpm band helped to counteract my lack of cornering skills as I could easily throttle steer to push and pull from cones;
4) The Camaros throttle response is amazing, roll the gas hard and your passenger will be yelping, my GF who rode along for one of the runs with the vette and four of my runs said that the Camaro pull harder than the vette every time I got on it;
5) For a big car she is well balanced, at WOT I was still able to maneuver the car through offset gates, dancing through the cones, without breaking lose, and as near as I can tell from the comments of others, the Camaro seemed surprisingly nimble, compared with the WRXs and Evos of the bunch;
6) At no point did I feel like I was going to lose control of the car, a little oversteer here or there due to the throttle position in the turns but 100% predictable, and the car lets you know plenty in advance that you’re approaching the limit, I have no doubt that I could have EEked out a much better time if I was a little less conservative, but this was my first time out after all; and
7) Understeer, yes the car is plagued by understeer, come into a corner too hot and turn the wheels and you keep going straight, this was most notable at the end of the course at the 130 degree turn and was where I lost about $100 worth of rubber from that nice pretty left front Pirelli. That being said I don’t feel that the understeer is prohibitive of being competitive with the lighter cars, you just have to know the car does it and set yourself up to come into the turn so you never get to the point of understeer. I would say that the understeer was a little more pronounced in the Camaro than the vette, but really, it almost seems that it was more the drivers experience level that made the difference.
This car was just an absolute blast to drive
, more responsive and more powerful than my GTP, and more consistent in and out of turns than my Z28. I was really very surprised by what this car can do. After about 1700 miles on her I thought I knew what her limits were and I was really doubting whether or not I could get this car to handle like my Z28, but boy was I proved wrong. This Camaro doesn’t have quite as stiff a feel as my Z28 but can be pushed harder than the Z would ever stand for. I highly recommend doing at least one of these Auto crossing events, you will find your cars limits, and have such a blast doing it you’ll find it hard not to come back. Not to mention you will have more attention on you than any s2000 or Miata ever would as people watch this refined version of the American classic run the course. All in all I am so hooked on this beast of a car and have a renewed respect for the engineering genius that designed her, not too mention the great team up at Oshawa who made it a reality, amazing job guys, I really can’t say enough. Thank you!