Catch me if you can
Drives: 2012 IOM ZL-1
Join Date: Nov 2009
ahhhh! Really dude?
(repost I know)
By Aaron Gold
You're probably wondering how my drive of the 2012 Camaro ZL1 went. As you can see from the photo, it could have gone better.
According to the good folks at GM, I am the first civilian (i.e. non-GM employee) to crash their new 580 horsepower performance car. It's a title I can't say I relish, but I'm okay and I am told that the damage is purely cosmetic and that the car will live to fight another day. (Although they could just be saying that to make me feel better.)
How did it happen? Well, we were lapping the track at Virginia International Raceway, and it started to drizzle. I'd like to tell you I was hot-shoeing around the track came into a corner full on the brakes at 120 MPH, spun three times, caught on fire, and slammed into the tire wall.
But the truth is that I was driving relatively slowly and cautiously on a pretty slow part of the track. Nervous about the fresh rain, I was way off the proper line, and I had the car in second gear when I probably should have had been in third. Fresh rain brings up the oils on the track; I gave it a bit too much juice, broke the rear tires loose, and that was it -- I went off the track, sliding forward and sideways, onto the wet grass and nose-first into the tire wall.
Those few times when younger journalists have asked me for advice, I have always said "Observe the situation, figure out who that guy is, and Don't Be That Guy."
Today I was That Guy.
The hit really wasn't all that fast; there was no airbag deployment. But here's the cool part: As soon as I hit the tire wall, the OnStar system placed an SOS call. An live operator came on, told me he had detected a collision, and wanted to know if I needed help. Although I wish the circumstances were different, it was pretty cool to see the OnStar system work.
The track workers arrived, checked to see that I was okay, and then set to work pulling the crumpled fender away from the wheel and bungeeing the plastic fascia to the front of the car. There was no obvious mechanical damage save a leaking washer-fluid tank, so they determined that the car could be driven. The ZL1 fired right up, and I sheepishly wheeled it back to the paddock.
I don't want to besmirch the good reputation of the Camaro ZL1. High-power, rear-drive cars can be quite a handful, but the truth is that the ZL1 is much more tame than other such cars I've driven. In previous turns, it was squirelly, but not unmanageable. I think I just got way out of shape at the wrong time, and being off the proper line -- where previous cars on previous laps had kept the pavement in better shape -- didn't help me at all. A better driver probably could have gathered it up, but I didn't.
The Chevy PR folks were exceptionally accomodating -- you would never guess that I had just driven their $60,000 press car into a wall of tires. As long as I was all right, they said, that was all that mattered. Thanks, guys -- and for the twelfth time, I am so, so sorry about the car. (And to my fellow journalists attending the program this week who are now short one track car, I also apologize.)
Luckily, I screwed the pooch towards the end of our track session, and had already had a lot of on-street seat time -- enough to write a review, which I'll post shortly. -- Aaron Gold
Photo © Aaron