I invested another 150 passes in that car and only eked out three more hundredths. But the additional experience brought strong consistency to my driving. On the final day of my '04 season at Atco Raceway, I ran four passes within five one-hundredths of a second, the best being 11.53 at 119.79 mph. The previous week at Capitol, I set what remains the record for a stock '02-and-later Z06 with a cold-air intake and drag radials: 11.52 at 120.21 mph. Records are made to be broken, and someone will break that one someday. Hopefully, it will be captured on video because I'll want to see it.
As an outgrowth of this quest, I have continued to write and post acceleration technique guidance on several Internet sites catering to driving enthusiasts, particularly the Corvette Forum. My body of writing has helped other owners leverage the learning curve I've already ridden. Not surprisingly I guess, these tutorials spawned new demands on my time to answer questions from around the country and overseas. It became clear that thousands of Corvette owners want to improve their acceleration skills. Their positive feedback to my writing reinforced my commitment to the quest.
Light My Fire Ranger heats...
Light My Fire
Ranger heats the drag radials on his '06 Z06, still on paper tags, 1,450 miles on the odometer at Capitol Raceway, Crofton, Maryland, March 2006. The e.t. on this pass was 11.20.
Go! Ranger launches his '02...
Ranger launches his '02 Z06 at Atco Raceway, Atco, New Jersey, November 2004. This pass was 11.53 at 119.79 mph.
Color Me Gone Ranger launches...
Color Me Gone
Ranger launches his '06 Z06 at Maryland International Raceway, Budds Creek, Maryland, in March 2006. This pass was his fourth in the car: 11.31 at 126.92, stock except for drag radials.
In early 2006, I transitioned to the 427ci, 505hp C6 Z06 with its Chevy quarter-mile spec of 11.7 at 125 mph. As everyone knows by now, the car lives up to its billing as the fastest production vehicle GM has ever sold, at least so far. The C6 Z06 is a more difficult car to drive than its C5 counterpart. There are three major challenges a new owner must overcome. First, the C6Z's extra 100 hp demands added finesse, lest the tires spin excessively on launch and shifts. Second, the LS7 clutch is simply intolerant of an aggressive launch. Even slight slipping of the clutch on a 3,000-rpm launch will glaze the clutch and hang the clutch pedal midway up. This forces an aborted run and parking to cool down the clutch. Third, the LS7 engine management computer (ECU/PCM) features a devilishly clever function called Torque Management (TM) that reduces engine power to protect the drivetrain under certain conditions involving strong acceleration. A driver can really feel that momentary power loss when the TM is invoked. These three changes combine to make the C6Z a difficult car to drive well at the limit.
With that as background, the techniques I'd honed through 500 passes in C5Zs needed revision when I hit the track in the C6Z. My first day at Maryland International Raceway, running stock on drag radials, my new Z06 hung the clutch pedal on its first launch. I cooled the clutch down and adjusted my launch procedures. On the fourth pass, I ran an 11.31 at 126.92 mph. The next day at Capitol, the progression was 11.38, 11.36, 11.28, and 11.20. I was disappointed. The 11.20 was only three-tenths of a second faster than I'd run in the '02 Z06 with 100 less horsepower. It was obvious I had some learning to do.
Unless the driver of any traction-limited, manual-tranny car is told the optimal driving techniques, he generally will need at least 30-50 passes to discover them independently. By pass number 37 in the C6Z, I had dropped the stock-tire e.t. to 11.24 at 127.03. But bedeviled by the finicky LS7 clutch and Torque Management, I'd hit a plateau at 11.20 on the drag radials.
My remediation effort involved ten pure R&D passes focused on launch techniques and different tire combinations. The problem was confined to my launch and the 1-2 shift, the first 200 feet of the 1320. The rest of the pass was very consistent and fast enough to support dropping into the 10-second range. This methodical approach yielded the adjustments I needed.