Long time readers of CorvetteBlogger know that I don’t many comparo stories. Although not perfect, the Corvette has proven to be MY favorite car time and time again and I don’t need to get into a dick measuring contest to prove it. But as we get close to Sebring, I started thinking about the fight between Porsche and Corvette and how all that racing technology transfers to street cars. I guess the folks at Porsche’s Excellence Magazine had the same thoughts and decided to find out what happens when you pit the ultimate street versions against each other.
Less than a month after the epic Porsche-Corvette battle at Laguna Seca that ended with Porsche winning the checkered flag and the Corvette going hard into the wall, the two street versions are side by side at Infineon Raceway in Sonoma, California. Doing the evaluation is professional ALMS driver Johannes Van Overbeek. Johannes spent four years driving Porsches for Flying Lizard and is currently teamed with Scott Sharpe in a Ferrari 430 GT.
Johanne takes the familiar Porsche GT2 out first and it performs just as he thought it would:
Heading into Turn 3, a left-hander with a downhill turn-in that rises dramatically just past the apex, the GT2 is settled. When I touch the inside curbing, the car easily swallows the curb in a way that reminds me how unbelievably tough Porsches are. With each shift, turn of the wheel, or press of the brake pedal, the GT2 taunts you to push it harder.
After three laps, Johannes times in the Porsche are 1:49.8, 1:49.8, and 1:49.2.
Now its the Corvette ZR1′s turn.
Van Overbeek was never a fan of Corvettes, and we hear about the malaise-generation Corvettes of the 70′s with their 7.4L big blocks and relatively low horsepower output. We also get the “Cobalt steering wheel” comparison. Yes, the truth hurts. But after an encounter with the 2001 Z06, Johannes attitude toward Corvettes warmed.
Now he’s in the 638-hp Corvette ZR1 and although its not as familiar as the GT2, it takes surprisingly little time to get comfortable:
Heading around the track on my out lap, the ZR1 has a quality that’s hard to put my finger on. It feels supple on track but not necessarily soft. There’s a lot of dive under braking, but it upsets neither the chassis nor its balance. The magic ingredient must be the ZR1’s Magnetic Selective Ride Control. The real-time system swaps the standard Corvette’s conventional dampers for units filled with a fluid that contains iron particles. Under the influence of a magnetic charge, the particles produce instantaneous valving changes. With a cycle speed of a thousand times per second, MSRC is claimed to be the fastest-reacting active damper.
After three laps, the times for the ZR1 are faster than the GT2: 1:49.2, 1:49.2, and 1:48.8.
While the Corvette ZR1 wins the battle of track times, the most important win is the intangible. In the hands of an experience driver, and one with hours of seat time in the Porsche 911, the ZR1 leaves a positive impression that shows that the Corvette belongs in the upper echelon of Sports cars:
As a Porsche fan first and a racing driver second, I have to admit that I’m taken with the ZR1. It’s been said that the ZR1 is the best car GM has ever built. I can’t comment on that, but I can say that it’s by far the best GM vehicle I’ve ever driven — on and off the track.This is a fun read, not just because of the outcome, but for the process and imagery. I definitely recommend you take in the entire 5-page article. And thanks go out to the editors at Porsche’s Excellence Magazine for publishing the story.
Thanks JT for the tip!