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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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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