I didn't see this posted already so sorry if it already has been. I found it interesting.
Imagine if you will, driving into Virginia International Raceway and seeing sights like this…
…and this, four track ready 2012 ZL1 Camaros wait for their time to impress both on and off the track.
This is how I spent the last 36-hours of my life and there is no reason for this but the obligation to share this incredible experience with everyone from Chevrolet, to Camaro junkies and fans of performance both old and new regardless of their brand loyalties…
After a quick orientation with the staff from both V.I.R. and GM I opted for the street driving section of the test day in hopes of the track warming up in the cold of the Virginia morning.
Compromise is sometimes a word that labels performance vehicles and in the case of the ZL1 it’s a label it would have to shed to convince me that a car set up for track use would be nothing short of annoying on a mild drive though the countryside.
In some ways I was wrong and in some I was right. The heavily bolstered seats hug you like a grandmother grasps her first grandchild, but not to the point where you feel constricted. The control placement and dash array are easy to read and finding a good rock station wasn’t all that hard once I got on the road and for the record I was in a automatic which made the ease of trolling down the back roads of Virginia that much easier.
After a few miles I started to figure out that if you just lay back, don’t attack every apex and let the ZL1 be a regular car that it’s not all that brutish or harsh. Sure there is road noise, sure there is limited rearward visibility but aren’t these thing we already know about the Camaro? I say yes…so after jumping from River Bend Rd. and onto State Route 764 and pulling back into V.I.R. with the feeling that if I was lucky enough to own a ZL1 the quirks would disappear with every trip to the track and that was what I was about to do…it’s what I really came here to do.
Once again I listened to the V.I.R. staff and ZL1 test drivers give us the orientation to what we were being handed – a loaded gun. First came “lead and follows” with passengers and then after a few more laps playing “follow the instructor” they let me loose…now it gets fun.
First off before I go into my take of the ZL1 “on track” I must first qualify my skill-set behind the wheel of a car. Yes, I am a “race-car driver”, but only in the sense that I’ve got a few years in the bucket of my own dirt cars and yes I’ve been to Bondurant…but there is a HUGE difference between spending days at a track learning the rhythm of a racepark and flying blind off pit lane in a 580HP Camaro into the wild blue yonder…that said let me get started.
First thing you will notice as you tear out onto the track is the lack of wheel hop. The rear suspension pins the ZL1 to the ground and helps harness every bit of power as I speed toward the front half of V.I.R. Through the “Horseshoe,” the Camaro is level headed and rotating direction is easy no matter your driving style. After you’ve navigated “NASCAR bend” and the “Left Hook” – which was tougher than you think for what looks like a easy transition corner, it gave me fits all day – then through the “Snake” and under the North Paddock bridge headed towards the esses and this is where I was impressed the most with the ZL1 and the magnetic ride control. Set on Mode-3 for very good reason, one being lack of time on V.I.R., the ride control was amazing in the fact that as you hit each curb the car would stay under control and level out without bounce or feeling unsettled even at just over the recommended 100 miles per hour. After that you head for “Oak tree” and get to truly test the Brembo supplied brakes that scrub off speed with confidence and no sense of fade whatsoever. No matter the situation the ZL1 felt glued to the track surfaces and 100% stable….but then it started to happen.
First only sprinkles and then a light steady rain started to fall and it became even more evident that the ZL1 had my back. Slipping and sliding through the last of my test laps I was more and more impressed by the fact that even though Chevrolet had developed a downright terror of a track car, this was a car filled with state of the art technologies that could even make a dirt-tracking wanna-be road racer, goofy ex-body and paint guy look good on the track and thankfully I was NOT one of the drivers who decided to help the V.I.R. landscaping crews.
Overall the Camaro ZL1 is a potent and powerful machine that can deliver on it’s claim to not only give its new owner an e-ticket ride at the racetrack, but also a car that can be driven to the store for milk and bread. Now there is always a downside to every car and the ZL1 is no different. Beyond the “dead horse” visibility issues and if your over 6ft and plan on wearing a helmet the sunroof is out of the question. You need multiple sets of tires; one set for the road course another for the drag strip and your day to days. But then again if you’re sitting in the garage staring at your new 2012 Camaro ZL1…I doubt you care and neither would I.
I would simply drive it like it I stole it...