First off....this will be long and detailed.
My background: I have been instructing for about 15 years with numerous clubs, last held a NASA comp license, and have had the opportunity to drive (hard) all sorts of street cars on different tracks including Lotus Elise, Exige, Evora, Esprit V8TT, 996 TT, C4s, Noble M400, Ferrari 599, BMW M6, M3, M5, Maserati Quottroporte Executive GT, Firebreather, Evo, Integra Type R, S2000, GT500, Dodge Minivan, Subaru Legacy and many more but you get the idea. However..the 1LE is the first V8 RWD car I have owned that I have tracked.
Event was with 3Ballsracing.com at Grattan Raceway in Michigan. Grattan has seen many a magazine test and has seen many development miles from manufacturers here in Michigan as it is only about 2 hours from Detroit.
My setup: 1LE picked up from Rodgers Chevrolet 1.5 weeks ago. I have just over 1000 miles on it. I had the oil changed, Motul 600 brake fluid added and dialed in the camber a hair. -1.3/-1.4 front and -0.08 / -0.09 in the rear. I pulled the fuse for the NPP exhaust for the noise and other than that it was all stock. Tire pressure was set at 32psi cold in the morning and away I went. I drove in both competitive mode and with everything off. Day started clear/sunny and in the 50s and climbed to high 60s in the afternoon.
1LE first impression: I really like the car as it is great out of the box. (DISCLAIMER: I am an aggressive driver so this car may be perfect for 80%+ of you to track it stock) The car is very fun to drive but shows it weight on acceleration and in the corners. It was "tossable" but had more body roll than expected. Acceleration was good...but I had a hard time at Grattan as 2nd was too low (too much RPM) and 3rd was too tall coming out of some of the corners (I ended up with 3rd gear as I had to "pedal" 2nd to control wheel spin). The tires were good and wear was even after 3, 20 minute sessions.
Steering feel and turn in was great.
The rear end would come around with throttle if asked
It actually felt tossable as the transition from right, left, right set-up left through the esses was very good.
Brakes are good and the stock pads worked well
Transmission was flawless and engages nicely
Car is stable at speed.
1LE will hit the claimed 1G according to the data I have.
The motor did not use a drop of oil.
Coolant temps and oil temps looked consistent all day.
Owner of 2012 Z06 was very confused when SS Camaro caught him on the track and told his son the passenger (who told me) "Its only a Camaro....what is going on! after I passed him
Room for improvement: (for me) (NOTE: This is a great car out of the box for the $)
Seats...even with cloth I was sliding around.
Brakes: I want to add cooling ducts and a little more aggressive pad (long term will be 6 piston set-up)
HP: I want more (who doesn't)
Suspension: I might try some springs and maybe a rear bar to reduce body roll. Maybe coil overs down the road...but I want to see what springs and a bar would do
AGAIN: this is my wish list...may not be needed by all
Conclusion: The car does exactly what I paid for and what I expect for the price...What does that mean? It means it is good but not perfect (for me). This is a 3800+lb car with 426hp so it did very well given its heft. I like it a lot but will love it with a few tweeks.
LAP TIMES: Numbers don't tell the complete story but my fastest lap was with traction off and in my third session out. I was braking early on the straight as I don't have a trusting relationship with these Brembos yet and I was still getting a feel for the car. With that said.... My fastest lap was a 1:31.47. So how does that stack up to other stock V8 RWD cars at Grattan? Pretty darn good for the price:
2012 ZL1 1:27.94 (Road and track)
2013 Mustang GT500 1:28.52 (Road and track)
2010 Corvette Grand Sport 1:30.2 (Car and Driver)
2013 Camaro 1LE 1:31.47 (Matt Jensen/me!)
2010 Mustang GT 500 1:33.3 (Car and Driver)
There is also an Internet claim that Car and Driver ran both a Zl1 and a GT500 to a 1:30.2, but I can't find anything to verify that.
I think there was a tad more in the car I could have rung out.....but I had to drive it to South Haven (1.5 hrs south, home of Gingerman Raceway) after to pick up the family and the ohhh so understanding wife would have been ohhhh so not happy had I broke it when it was 8 days old! Second issue....I was sick all morning and trying not to let on...Combination of lack of sleep, (I camped out at the track, it got down to 46 degrees so I moved to the car at 3:30am an slept in the passenger seat) bad choice of food, (Monster and a donut), bug or combo of all dumb choices above. I am not sure what did it, but I did throw up just before lunch and then Joe P from Rodgers bought some ice cream for me. I felt way better after that!! (for real) Thanks again Joe!
So what makes a ZL1 3.53 seconds faster on this 2.2 mile road course? A couple of items like 6 pistons brakes, better suspension and about 154hp. Grattan has a 3200 foot long straightaway (see picture below) and the 1LE just does not have the HP to keep up with a ZL1 on that straight. Add to that the 6 pistons Brembos and the ZL1 can haul down the extra weight over and over again with little to no fade at the end of the straight unlike the 1LE.
I had the chance to drive my students ZL1 who was none other than Becky D from Rodgers at her first track event ever.....(and she did very well!) The suspension was great in track mode (I believe setting 5) the brakes felt great and the power was more than enough to get in trouble. I am pretty sure Becky was hitting a higher top speed in her ZL1 than I could muster out of my 1LE even with my higher corner exit speed onto the straight....the ZL1 just has more go! According to the Motortrend test thje ZL1 hit 136 on the Grattan straight I was letting off at about 123 (according to data) as I was still unsure of the brakes. (I have hit 155MPH in my Evo race car back in the day on that stretch)
So do I want a ZL1 over a 1LE? Yes as it is a great car, but No as I figure with a little suspension work, about 50whp and a set of CTS-V/ZL1 6-piston front brakes I could have just as much fun and be just as fast a a ZL1 on almost any track.
So if you made it through all of that here are a couple pictures from the event along with some data log snap shots....I have video but was having issues with my editor so I gave up for tonight. There are also a ton more pictures that will be uploaded later.
Another note: wash your car after a track day. (As you should) Even with the stock pads there was a bunch of brake dusk in the crevasse on the inside of the lip of our wheels. You need to get that area clean as it can stick to and damage the surface.
The rear view mirror picture was taken on lunch time parade laps. That is Becky D and Joe from Rodgers Chevrolet in the white ZL1 and Mr. Wyndham (Joe) in his silver ZL1 who drove in from Buffalo NY for the event! The STIGWHO plate is not really mine...I good friend works for SVT and has the STIG plate on his Mustang so another friend got this plate for his Z06. It was on my car for a little fun.