Could the 8th Generation Mid-Engine Corvette really be the most track-worthy production Corvette ever engineered? After spending two days behind the wheel of a Rapid Blue 2020 Z51 Corvette at Spring Mountain Motor Resort in Pahrump, Nevada, I must admit that wheeling the C8 around the track and through the various high-performance driving exercises there has convinced me that The General has achieved an entirely new standard of Corvette performance.
I need to take a short detour at this point to contextualize my opinion. First, I’ve owned 20 Corvettes over the last 17 years, including at least one from each generation. In addition, I’ve had the opportunity to put Corvettes from four generations on a track at one time or another. And finally, I’ve taken the Ron Fellow’s Performance Driving School’s Corvette Owners School in the 7th Generation Stingray, 7th Generation Grand Sport, and 8th Generation Stingray, as well as their Level 1 School in the 7th Generation Stingray. I’m not a professional race car driver, but I do know my way around a track.
One of the big questions that I came to Spring Mountain with was how much on-track understeer I would experience with the C8. I was so impressed by the way the C8 handles that I wrote a previous article about what I discovered. The big takeaway is that the C8 doesn’t have an inherent problem with understeer and knowing how to handle the 40/60 weight distribution will completely eliminate any concern.
It is important to note that following the track recommended setup specifications as found in the owner’s manual is essential to maximizing the C8 Corvette’s performance potential. This is especially true with regard to track alignment specifications and cornering ability. Fortunately, Spring Mountain’s Corvette Owners School technicians keep their fleet of new Corvettes track ready at all times and all I had to think about was trying to drive the wheels and brakes off the car.
Spring Mountain Motor Resort is located in Pahrump, Nevada, and averages 26 days of precipitation per year with an average of 285 days of sunshine. The average high temperature during the month of June is 95. Leading up to the June 20-21 8th Generation Corvette Owners School that I was set to attend, highs were in the upper 80s and lower to mid-90s. Of course, the high temperatures while I was there were 100 on June 20 and 102 on June 21. If you think I would have preferred the 80s and 90s, you’re right. But the 100+ temps gave me the opportunity to put the new Corvette’s cooling capabilities to the test.
During the first day, there were a couple of opportunities for class participants to sit in our assigned 2020 Corvettes with the engines running and the air conditioning on while we watched instructors and fellow participants practice a variety of performance exercises. I took note of the fact that at one point, after idling for 15 minutes with the a/c on and the car showing it to be 103 outside, the engine coolant temp was 203, engine oil temp was 196, and the transmission oil temp was 187.
Our most aggressive track driving took place on the second day. Late that afternoon during the 8th lap of the final track session, the car I was driving showed an engine coolant temp of 230, an engine oil temp of 237, and a transmission oil temp of 216. I’ve included a screenshot of the Cosworth Toolbox Vehicle Health Page for that session, which shows the maximum and minimum temps for the entire eight laps. I was in the number one position behind the instructor for the first four laps. The high temps during the fifth lap came when we pulled over on the straightaway to allow the other student driver in our group to catch up.
Is the 2020 Z51 Corvette able to keep its cool on the track under heated conditions? Not once did any of the cars on the track show even the slightest indication that the mid-day heat was an issue. No warning lights came on and none of the cars ever even thought about entering limp mode. The Corvette engineers got the mid-engine Corvette’s cooling right, which means the car is always ready to get on the track and run as hard as the driver is capable of pushing it.
Keep in mind that excessive heat will have an impact on performance, regardless of how well the vehicle handles the heat. Tires will lose some grip and engines will lose some power. Elevation also plays a role, which, combined with the heat, is noticeable at Spring Mountain. Pahrump’s elevation is 2,697 feet above sea level and this in itself impacts engine performance to some degree.
One of our second day sessions was launch control runs. While the focus wasn’t on getting a 0-60 time during the short run from one set of cones to another, I was able to get 0-60 times on two out of three of my launch control runs. As you will see in the video, one of my 0-60 times was 3.95 seconds. The other run was 3.95 seconds as well. Back home in SW Oklahoma, with an elevation of 1,100 feet and high temps in the 70s, I’ve been able to consistently hit 2.8 second 0-60 times. I shared all of this with our lead instructor. First, he was impressed by the 0-60 times that some have been able to achieve in ideal conditions. He also said that 2019 ZR1 0-60 times on hot days there will only see low 4s, so the 3.95s I was able to hit were certainly impressive.
My favorite newly added driving activity during the Corvette Owners School is the autocross sessions. There was a practice session of 3-4 runs on the morning of the second day, followed by a competition that afternoon. The exceptional performance capabilities of the C8 Mid-Engine Corvette were evident during every performance driving exercise and track session, but the new Corvette’s performance shined most during the autocross sessions. Of all the Corvettes I’ve had the privilege of owning, this Corvette is the most nimble and quick. The mid-engine platform maximizes the torque created by the LT2 V8 and the driving position directly behind the front wheels creates a sense of being one with the car. It accelerates like a bat out of hell, has awesome braking ability, and handles the quick corners of an autocross with precision.
I’ve included video from my best autocross run of the day, which was the next to the last run during the competition. I managed a first-place time of 40.87 seconds during that run, then went for broke during the final run. Unfortunately, I was overaggressive with the throttle on the horseshoe turnaround which created my one and only obvious understeer moment of the weekend. I got off the throttle and pointed the nose in the right direction, but I know that what I did cost me a better final run time.
Finally, Spring Mountain puts their Corvette Owners School participants in 2020 Corvettes with the Competition Seats, which is the source of my one and only complaint. The issue really isn’t with the Competition Seat as much as it is with the width of my legs. The bolsters on the Competition Seat are the firmest of the 2020 Corvette’s three seat options and are best suited for a thinner body. By the end of each day, my outer thighs were ready for a break. That said, the Competition Seat does an incredible job keeping the driver planted in the seat even during the most aggressive cornering. The GT2 seat that I have in my personal 2020 Corvette is much more comfortable, and, while I haven’t tested it with the same aggressiveness yet, I think it will be adequate for my performance driving needs.
Everything about the 2020 Corvette comes together in a manner that provides the most thrilling and exhilarating track driving experiences I have ever had. The 8th Generation Corvette Stingray is Corvette’s finest engineering achievement to date. And just think, it’s Corvette’s entry level mid-engine offering. Imagine what they’ll come up with next! If the world’s supercar superpowers haven’t already taken notice, they’re about to get left behind in Corvette’s dust!
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