[VIDEO] Is Understeer the 2020 Corvette’s Achilles Heel?


[VIDEO] Is Understeer the 2020 Corvette's Achilles Heel?

Photo Credits: Jeremy Welborn

The 2020 Mid-Engine Corvette has received accolades as a “Game Changer,” “Grand Slam Home Run,” and “Mid-Engine Masterpiece” from numerous media outlets since the Next Generation Corvette Reveal last July. I was fortunate enough to have reserved a place on National Corvette Salesman Mike Furman’s C8 order list several years ago, so I’ve had my 2020 Z51 Corvette Stingray since March 11 when I picked it up at the National Corvette Museum in Bowling Green, Kentucky. As I’ve had the opportunity to drive my 2020 Corvette a little over 2100 miles to date, I’ve come to agree with the high praise that’s been given by the automotive industry. As Mike Furman says, “The car is the star!”

The Mid-Engine Corvette is fighter jet inspired, and not just in aesthetic design. This sports car launches like a fighter jet too and I’m consistently seeing 2.8 second 0-60 launch times with my 2020 Corvette.

The only real concern I’ve had about the radically redesigned Corvette platform was raised early on by one media outlet that reported significant understeer during track testing. Having the knowledge that setting the alignment to GM’s track alignment specifications is a critical component of on-track performance, I was hopeful that the media outlet’s understeer report could be chalked up to track testing with a street alignment. I wouldn’t know for sure, however, until I could personally experience the C8 Corvette on-track.

[VIDEO] Is Understeer the 2020 Corvette's Achilles Heel?

Months before Spring Mountain Motor Resort officially announced dates for their first 8th Generation Corvette Owners School sessions, I had contacted the resort about registering for one of their initial school opportunities. There is no better performance driving instruction than what you will find in the Ron Fellows Performance Driving School, the official performance driving school of Spring Mountain Motor Resort in Pahrump, Nevada. Additionally, there is no better performance driving school value than the $1,000 Corvette Owners School that is supplemented by General Motors and made available during the first year of new Corvette ownership. I was able to attend the June 20-21, 2020, Corvette Owners School and experienced the full performance capabilities of the C8 Corvette for myself.

[VIDEO] Is Understeer the 2020 Corvette's Achilles Heel?

Author Jeremy Welborn and “his” 2020 Corvette at Spring Mountain

During initial track sessions on Spring Mountain’s West Track, speeds were somewhat reduced in order to teach the proper line around the track, so it wasn’t until later in the first day that I was in a position to really push the new Corvette. The lead instructor for this particular school, Justin “JJ” Johnson, had already shared that the C8 Corvettes we would be driving had all been configured to the recommended track settings. He specifically stated that driving the new Corvette on-track with street alignment was not desirable at all, having done that himself during testing of the new Corvette’s on-track performance.

[VIDEO] Is Understeer the 2020 Corvette's Achilles Heel?

2020 Corvette on the West Track at Spring Mountain

As speeds began to increase around the track, and also in the Oval and Wet Figure 8 exercises that day, I became more and more impressed with the engineering genius behind the new Mid-Engine Corvette. The car’s 60-40 weight distribution is expertly balanced for the optimal performance driving experience! The key is not being in a rush to get on the throttle as you finish a corner. A light brush of the brakes quickly positions the nose of the car right where it needs to be so you can light up the throttle and launch the car ahead.

On the second day of the school, we had two autocross sessions, and I quickly discovered that the nimble and quick Mid-Engine Corvette is perfectly suited for autocross. But it was during the competitive autocross session that I finally discovered the potential for understeer.

[VIDEO] Is Understeer the 2020 Corvette's Achilles Heel?

2020 Corvette on the Autocross at Spring Mountain

Having already had an excellent second run, which I eventually learned had produced the competition’s winning time, I decided to really push the envelope on the final run. I came in hot to the horseshoe turnaround, braked into the turn, but made the mistake of getting on the throttle too soon. The front end didn’t want to go where I was trying to get it to go and I lost a little time getting it back on line. This was the only time in two days of performance driving that the car didn’t go exactly where I wanted it to go. But this wasn’t the car’s fault at all…it was my over-zealous right foot! So, is understeer the 2020 Corvette’s Achilles Heel? It emphatically is NOT!

[VIDEO] Is Understeer the 2020 Corvette's Achilles Heel?

Ron Fellows Instructor “JJ” Johnson

After two days at Spring Mountain, my assessment of the 2020 Corvette’s performance capabilities is this: the Mid-Engine Corvette is a highly qualified performance masterpiece that excels on a variety of track and performance driving formats. I plan on sharing some of my own C8 track video footage and other track perceptions and notes, but Lead Instructor JJ’s hot laps on Spring Mountain’s West Track at the end of the Corvette Owners School first day will give you the best idea of just how capable the C8 Corvette Stingray really is.

Justin “JJ” Johnson has been an instructor for the Ron Fellows Performance Driving School at Spring Mountain Motor Resort in Parhump, Nevada, since 2005. He has taught countless 6th, 7th, and 8th Generation Corvette owners in the Corvette Owners Schools at Spring Mountain. As a professional race car driver, Justin has over 100 career wins and 9 championships in various series.

Photos and Video by Jeremy Welborn

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  1. So, no achilles heel when the alignment is set up for the track, but that leaves the guys trying to be Mario on the street with the stock alignment in a terrible situation. No wonder we’ve seen so many C8s wrecked where the understeer got the driver into trouble. Sad. Real Sad.

  2. Understeer is safer with regard to litigation in court. But I’d be willing to bet trailing throttle oversteer could be induced, hopefully not when least expected.

  3. Randy, poor driving has caused accidents in every generation…the problem isn’t with the car, but with the driver most of the time.

  4. Brake the weight to the front entering a curve and power out into the straightaway. No coasting through turns. Understeer for this car is a safety feather for a tail heavy car.

  5. I’m curious if Justin can provide his best lap times for the last 3 generations (C-6, C-7, C-8) on this track…..I’d really like to see how the car’s capability has changed thru the generations…..have been to Spring Mountain for classes/private instruction 7 times so far (each and every one a kick in the you know where) and Justin gave me my first hot lap ride there in 2009 in a ZR-1…..I still recall it fondly!!!!!!!!!!

  6. Jim, he hasn’t had a chance to hot lap the C8 with just him in the car, so his 1:17 isn’t the best he could do on that track. That said, he told me that his best C6 time was 1:20 and his best C7 Stingray time was 1:16. I bet he shaves a few seconds off that time when he finally gets some hot laps on that track with him alone in a C8.

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