Romain Grosjean walked away from a horrific, fiery wreck at the Bahrain Grand Prix. Here’s what led to the crash, and what allowed Grosjean to escape it without serious injury.
Romain Grosjean started Sunday’s Bahrain Grand Prix from 19th on the grid. A poor start by second-placed Valtteri Bottas slowed the entire rest of the field, creating chaos and an opportunity for Grosjean to make up spots in a car that has struggled for outright pace for the past year. He was already making up positions heading into Turn 1, and light contact between a Ferrari and a McLaren on the exit of Turn 3 created even more opportunity. Grosjean saw the opportunity to take another position, maybe even a few, heading into Turn 4, so he dove to the inside line and prepared to out-brake the cars that had exited Turn 3 with far less momentum. This is when his right-rear corner struck the right-front corner of Daniil Kvyat’s AlphaTauri entry, forcing Grosjean off track at a high speed.
On an ordinary Formula 1 track, Grosjean would have collided with a wall at a forgiving diagonal, spreading the impact out over the nose and sidepod of the car as it slid along the wall or guardrail. Bahrain’s Turn 3 exit, however, is a temporary guardrail, one that juts out into the paved off-track area meant to allow drivers to recover from exactly this sort of collision. Grosjean’s trajectory just so happened to put him nearly perpendicular to the wall. The nose of his car seemed to hit precisely at a seam in the three-layer guardrail, splitting the barrier open. Rather than absorbing the impact, the wall halted Grosjean’s car immediately.
This is when the car split in two.
The car bisected at the point where the driver’s protective carbon fiber “tub” connects to the powertrain and rear bodywork. The cockpit hit the guardrail with such force, Grosjean and the remainder of the car went clear through to the other side.
This is where the fireball erupted.
Formula 1 cars carry a full fuel load at the start of every race, a safety measure designed to eliminate in-race refueling that can lead to fires in the pit lane. While most of Grosjean’s fuel seemed not to ignite, the immediate and sustained fire implies that at least some fuel seeped out and caught flame. The fireball was enormous and explosive, engulfing only the cockpit area on the infield side of the barrier, the side Grosjean was sitting in.
Seconds later, Grosjean emerged from the flames on his own. A safety team began putting out the fire, and Grosjean leaped over what remained of the barrier and walked to the waiting medical team. He spent an overnight in a hospital in Bahrain, but preliminary scans show no broken bones. Aside from burns on the backs of his hands, Grosjean escaped the horrific crash without major injury.
Grosjean suffered the ultimate nightmare of any racing driver, a perfect storm of cascading catastrophes. Everything that could go wrong did, all at once, and each component of the crash was meant to be controlled by a specific safety measure. Grosjean not only lived, he walked away from one of the most harrowing racing crashes imaginable without a single broken bone.
This is how it happened.
To understand what went right, we also need to understand what went wrong. This starts with the collision itself, a simple result of on-track jockeying for position at the cramped center of a chaotic standing start that left a car careening off the line at a high-speed section of track. All of this is relatively routine, and would traditionally be countered by a flat wall or guardrail positioned to slow an out-of-control car with a glancing blow. Grosjean’s car would hit such a barrier at an angle and slide along its length, dissipating energy and shedding speed. Instead, this particular wall juts outward, covering an access road made from existing runoff area. This positioning created a nearly head-on collision, the first thing to go wrong.
Grosjean struck the wall at a reported 137 mph. A three-piece steel guardrail, colloquially known by the brand-name Armco, is designed to deform on impact, absorbing momentum and keeping the car from piercing through the barrier. The guardrail that Grosjean hit ended up splitting between the first and second bars, the forceful impact of the car’s nose seeming to break the bars in two. This led directly to the worst elements of the incident.
BBC Sport’s Andrew Benson reported that the 137-mph impact had a force of 53 g. That energy had to go somewhere. With the driver’s survival cell suddenly stopped, the impact force pounded through the car, splitting the chassis in half at the point where the cockpit connects to the drivetrain and rear of the car. This splitting off is by design—the car is built to protect the survival cell by dissipating the impact elsewhere, and a violent crash can cause the drivetrain to snap off. But Grosjean’s high-speed separation seems to have released fuel that was then ignited, creating a towering fireball—the third and most dramatic of the catastrophic failures that contributed to this crash.
DAN ISTITENE – FORMULA 1GETTY IMAGES
After the nose of the car pierced the guardrail, the next thing to hit would have been Grosjean’s helmet. This was the fourth catastrophic failure of the crash, and the point where we get to see up-close the life-saving power of recent safety changes.
On the other side of the guardrail, the force of the impact actually created a new point for the area above the nose to hit at full speed. In the past, this exposed area would be an open cockpit, and the next point of impact would have been the driver’s helmet. This was the fourth catastrophic failure.This content is imported from Twitter. You may be able to find the same content in another format, or you may be able to find more information, at their web site.
It was just three years ago when Formula 1 mandated the introduction of the “halo” safety device that adds a secondary protective structure around the driver’s helmet. Grosjean’s halo made direct contact with the top portion of the barrier, a collision that should theoretically be impossible in the controlled conditions of a live race. It was not impossible, of course, and the halo ended up absorbing some portion of the impact.
Grosjean likely survived the impact thanks to the halo; without it, his helmet would have been directly in the line of the impact. It meant he could escape the fire on his own, in under 30 seconds, avoiding more serious injury—and disproving some early fears that the halo would impede a driver’s ability to get free of a burning wreck. Had he not been able to escape, Formula 1’s professional safety team was able to get to the car almost immediately.
Fire protection gear is only effective for so long, and Grosjean was able to get out of the car before coming close to those limitations. Series doctor Ian Roberts, who spoke with the Sky F1 broadcast team after the race, arrived at the crash so quickly, he was able to help Grosjean over the guardrail as crews were still putting the fire out. Formula 1’s professional rescue team, like the IndyCar team that saved James Hinchcliffe’s life in 2015, is a fully-dedicated group, led by Roberts since 2013, with extensive training in extracting, diagnosing and treating drivers immediately at the scene of a crash. The rescue team’s performance at Bahrain was a shining bright spot in this incident, with the safety car arriving mere seconds after Grosjean’s car came to a halt. Thankfully, their role was minimal, but had things gone differently—had Grosjean been knocked unconscious in the crash, or had his tub been trapped within the mangled guardrail instead of piercing through—the rescue team would have been tasked with a difficult extraction under urgent time pressure.
Make no mistake, this was not a proud day for Formula 1. Like so many harrowing wrecks, this incident was the result of a cascade of failures both catastrophic and banal. Racing safety is made up of two components: the car and the track. The Bahrain International Circuit is responsible for the design of the guardrail Grosjean hit as well as its positioning relative to the direction of travel. Formula 1 regulations dictate the height of the car’s nose, which seemed to allow the No. 8 Haas to split through the guardrail, as well as the design and positioning of the fuel system, which was clearly compromised in some way when the car split apart, turning a violent crash into a fiery one. And Formula 1 approved the track, and those walls—along with another, faster track layout for a race next weekend.
All of these individual decisions contributed to the scale of the crash. If the guardrail that angled toward the track had instead been designed as a reinforced barrier running away from the racing line, Grosjean might simply have had an unremarkable crash and retired from the race. If the guardrail was in its current position, but built from a more modern impact-absorbing structure—like the SAFER barriers used in the U.S. or the recently-updated TecPro barriers used in high impact points at multiple Formula 1 tracks—Grosjean might have suffered an unusually painful hit, but the car likely would not have split in two, and there would likely be no impact to the halo. If the car hadn’t broken in half, there likely would have been no fire. Thankfully, other safeguards were in place, and Grosjean was able to survive all four of these catastrophic unexpected problems.
There was also considerable luck involved. Had this crash happened further away from the pit lane, the recovery team would have taken longer to arrive. Had the car gotten tangled in the guardrail rather than piercing all the way through, Grosjean would have struggled to free himself from the wreck. Most importantly, had Grosjean lost consciousness, this could have been a tragedy. A number of things had to go right for everyone involved to get this lucky, but none of that would have mattered without the decades of safety improvements that allowed Grosjean to survive the impact in the first place.
There are failures here that need to be investigated, and changes that will need to be made quickly. The FIA will spend the next few months investigating Grosjean’s crash and will eventually share its findings. Hopefully, what’s learned will make Formula 1 even safer for future generations of drivers and participants. Until then, all we can do is be thankful that auto racing is at a point where so many of these safety features have been implemented already. These findings should lead to real safety improvements, ones that will mean a driver won’t need such improbable luck to survive so many things going wrong. Constant safety improvement has allowed Formula 1, and modern auto racing in general, to reach this point of safety. It can’t stop here simply because Grosjean walked away from what could have easily been a fatal crash. His survival is nothing short of miraculous, and it would have been impossible if Formula 1 ever gave up on getting safer.
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We’ve been expecting to hear this news and finally today it has been confirmed by Chevrolet that the new 2020 Corvette Stingray will be the official Pace Car of the 104th Indianapolis 500. This marks the 17th race that Corvette has served as the official Pace Car, and the 31st Chevrolet to lead the field.
This year’s running of the Indy 500 will take place on Sunday, August 23 with the race being shown live on NBC.
With no fans allowed in attendance this year due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the official pace car driver will be GM President Mark Reuss.
“It’s truly an honor to have the opportunity to be behind the wheel of the mid-engine Corvette Pace Car at such a historic race as the Indy 500,” said GM President Mark Reuss. “The 2020 Corvette Stingray is the result of a close collaboration between the Corvette Racing and production engineering teams, setting a new benchmark for supercars around the world.”
The 2020 Corvette Stingray Pace Car is Torch Red and features the high Wing Spoiler and ground effects package. The Z51 Coupe will also wear the 104th Indy 500 livery on the doors. The new 2020 Stingray is capable of accelerating from 0-60 in 2.9 seconds and has a top speed of 194 mph, so it should have no trouble in setting the pace for the IndyCar racers.
“This is a continuation of our outstanding partnership with Chevrolet,” Indianapolis Motor Speedway President J. Douglas Boles said. “We’re so grateful for all that Chevrolet has contributed to the success of our events. The Torch Red 2020 Corvette Stingray is a world-class machine rich with speed, performance and excitement, perfectly suited to pace the ‘500′ field.”
Chevrolet has been linked to the Indianapolis Motor Speedway with both entities founded in 1911. Company founder and namesake Louis Chevrolet and his brothers Arthur and Gaston raced in the early 500-mile races with Gaston winning the race in 1920. Today, Louis Chevrolet rests in peace in a local Indianapolis cemetery just 15 minutes away from the track.
This afternoon we came across this Facebook post from Corvette Exterior Design Manager Kirk Bennion sharing these words from fellow GM designer Adam Barry who led the project. The 2020 Corvette Pace Car features a number of items from Genuine Corvette Accessories as discussed:
Indianapolis Motor Speedway
Many gearheads have a strange affinity to Hot Wheels. Here is everything you’ve ever wanted to know about the company, but never asked.
Toy cars can be divided into two categories: Hot Wheels and everybody else. For over 50 years, Mattel has dominated with what is now recognized as the best-selling toy in the world. It’s impossible to count how many car buffs, from mechanics to real race stars to TV personalities, grew up playing with these cars. Whether it was just a few models or massive collections, Hot Wheels has been part of car culture for decades and is never going to stop. Whether it’s a simple model or some fancy licensed vehicle, Hot Wheels simply enthralls.
Yet it’s incredible how some people are unaware of the facts of the company and its history. From its unique origins to how these cars are put together, the story behind Hot Wheels is fascinating. There are also touches from how some of these cars are more expensive than real ones to some unique touches on the culture. Here are 20 amazing facts about Hot Wheels to prove they’re more than just “kids toys.”‘
20/20 Real-Life Hot Wheels Jump Was A World Record
Growing up a massive Hot Wheels fan, racer Tanner Foust decided to honor them in a fun way. At the 2011 Indy 500, Foust talked the management into seeing up a massive orange ramp and raced down it in a rally car.
After 90 feet of track, Foust sailed 332 feet, the longest record for such a move. He topped it by driving through a 66-foot loop in 2012 to live out the dreams of every kid.
19 Technology In Car Building Is Amazing…
Making toys has become a very high-tech business today. Just like real car companies, Hot Wheels has adapted to the 21st century nicely. Computers and 3-D technology are utilized to make sure the designs are perfected before the building begins.
It also helps them keep on top of the latest car trends to ensure that today’s Hot Wheels are sleeker and more natural than the ones of the past.
18 But They’re Still Diecast
There are many toy car lines out there, but Hot Wheels is still the king of the bunch. The key reason is that, for all the advances in technology, every car is still diecast and built mostly by hand.
Even when cheaper materials are available, Mattel knows the diecast is what the fans want. It’s also helped in making customized cars at home for popular models. After 50 years, Mattel doesn’t want to mess with success and do away with diecast.
17 They’ve Worked With NASA
Hot Wheels have done a few astronaut-themed toys over the years. But that’s not the only connection they have with NASA. In 1998, they were able to work with the agency to create an exact replica of the Mars Rover, which landed on the Red Planet that very year.
They also worked with them in 2012 for scale models of the Curiosity rover. It’s amazing how the company got access to top-secret plans to make these toys.
16 Collectors Take It Seriously
Some may dismiss Hot Wheels as “just for kids.” But collectors take it more seriously than real automobiles. The 1969 Volkswagen Beach Bomb (only 16 prototypes were made) is known to go for at least $15,000.
Some rare models can go for a hundred grand, and collectors are always on the lookout for unique mint models. Entire museums are devoted to various cars as some Hot Wheels collections put legit car collectors to shame.
15 Scaling Down The Cars Was Tricky
A key to the company’s success is that they work with scores of real car companies to get looks at plans for their toy models. Yet it’s not so simple as just “make a smaller version.” The biggest challenge is to achieve the proper scale for the toys in a diecast model yet retain the details of the actual car.
That can be complex with some fancy vehicles. That every model has to be sized to fit the same tracks just adds to why it takes as long developing a toy car as a real one.
14 NASCAR Star Has The Record For The Longest Track
Ever since the Hot Wheels tracks were created, fans have been trying to top themselves making the most extended and most complex. A few have achieved great ones, but it’s fitting a NASCAR star holds the record for the longest.
In 2019, Joey Logano unveiled a 1,941-foot long track stretched across his garage. It weaves through his car collection with 1222 boosters before ending in Logano’s own 2018 HW Ford Mustang. Add yet another title to Logano’s list of accolades.
13 They Made A Car Coated In Diamonds
In 2008, Mattel made a big deal of celebrating the 40th anniversary of the Hot Wheels line. As a special reward, Mattel had Jasons of Beverly Hills craft the most expensive Hot Wheels car on the planet.
Cast in 18-karat gold, it’s covered with 2700 diamonds and gems totaling nearly $150,000 today. It’s become a rotating exhibit at toy museums for the glitziest Hot Wheels you could see.
12 The Darth Car Is A Speed Machine
While they do stick to toys, the company has been busy creating some real-sized cars for collectors. One of the most notable is based on Darth Vader, with the hood looking like his fearsome helmet and in jet black.
This isn’t just for show as it’s based on a C5 Corvette with a GM LS3 V-8 engine capable of 526 hp and 150 mph. The Dark Lord of the Sith would be proud of this powerful craft.
11 Every Car Is Tested To Make Sure It Can Run A Track
Almost from the beginning, Hot Wheels car fans had to have a track with the cars. They’ve gone from straight lines to elaborate roller-coaster-like loop systems to leave kids entertained for hours.
What few realize is that the track determines if a car makes it as Mattel prides itself on “every car can fit every track.” More than once, a prototype has to be altered when it won’t fit as the track decides a car’s final form.
10 There Are More Hot Wheels Cars Than Real Cars
While it’s tricky to figure out for sure, most sources agree there are at least one billion cars on the planet (give or take a few hundred thousand in auto graveyards). In contrast, since 1968, six billion Hot Wheels cars have been created.
True, many have been trashed and/or recycled, and it’s impossible to count how many have been lost in backyards. But given how 16 cars are produced every second, it’s no shock the toys outnumber the real deals.
9 Several Creators Are Legit Car Designers
The one constant of Hot Wheels is that the cars look just as good as the real deal. There’s an excellent reason for that as scores of the manufacturers are legitimate car designers. Larry Wood was a veteran of Ford before becoming one of the first Hot Wheels designers.
He’s not alone as Jack Ryan was a rocket designer who crafted the bearings that made the cars so great. Scores of the car designers were in real automobiles first, so it’s no wonder the vehicles look so good.
8 The Original Camaro Is Worth A Fortune
Mint conditions of the Original 16 Hot Wheels releases are all pretty collectible items. But one dominates from the pack. While versions of a Camaro were produced, a few had white enamel paint.
They had been meant to discover flaws in a prototype but accidentally released. A mint version of one went for a hundred thousand dollars and made this one of the most expensive toys on the planet
7 They Released A Custom Corvette Before GM Did
An early standout for the company at a custom Corvette in 1968. What made it notable was that the toy was released before GM had their actual Corvette in car dealerships.
The fact designer Harry Bradley had worked at GM indicates he may have “borrowed” the designs before he left to allow Mattel to beat GM to releasing a Corvette to the masses.
6 The Red Stripes Are Expensive
If you find what looks like an old Hot Wheels car, take a good look at the wheels. If they have red stripes, then you’ve just found a fantastic collector’s item. From 1968 to 1977, designers hand-painted red lines onto the wheels to make the cars look distinctive.
As a cost-cutting measure, they switched to all-black wheels in 1978. Some mint condition red-striped vehicles have been known to go for thousands online.
5 One Of The Original Cars Was Based On A Car With No Doors
The first wave of Hot Wheels was just 16 cars, and any of them can be valuable today. One is notable, the 1965 Dodge Deora. This car boasted no doors but rather a hatch for folks to crawl into.
It was based on a fun design used by Mike and Larry Alexander but in an irony, no real Dodge Deoras were built, to make this a truly unique model
4 A Tie-In Cartoon Got Pulled By The FCC
Today, cartoons based on toy lines are commonplace. But in 1969, Hot Wheels got in trouble when they put out a cartoon series about some teenage car drivers. Despite good messages, the show was hit by complaints about being a “half-hour commercial.”
The FCC agreed, and it was yanked off the air. The company was just ahead of their time with a cartoon tie-in for a hit toy line.
3 There’s A Fight On Where The Name Came From
Much of Hot Wheels is shrouded in myth, and that includes just where the name comes from. The familiar story is that when Eliot Handler saw the first models from designer Fred Adickes, he remarked: “those are some hot wheels you’ve got there.”
Another version is that Handler just blurted the name out in a meeting with a designer. Regardless, it just stuck to become one of the most popular toys on the planet.
2 They’re Number One…Because They Remain So Cheap
In the ranks of the most popular toys on the planet, Hot Wheels dominates. They’re not just the biggest toy vehicle sellers but also the number one selling toy in the entire world. The reason is that in many markets, the cars can still go for only a dollar each.
True, they can be put out in packs, and some nations charging a few bucks more. But many stores do sell the cars for less than a bottle of water, which is the reason they are so dominant.
1 Its Creator Was Married To Barbie’s Creator
Elliott and Ruth Handler were the First Couple of the toy world. The two had founded Mattel as a picture frame company in 1945. While making a dollhouse, Ruth decided to craft a series of dolls she named Barbie.
It was an instant hit to make Mattel a success. Elliott then realized how a toy car line could be great for boys to craft what would become Hot Wheels. The two remained together until Ruth’s death in 2002 (Elliott passed on nine years later) to be icons of their industry.
Sources: Mentalfloss.com, hotwheels.com, hotwheelsmedia.com, thrillist.com
Both cars retail for about $81,000, but one is a lot more accessible.
SPEED PHENOM ON YOUTUBE
If you’ve got $80,000 to spend and want an American high-performance car, now’s a pretty good time to be in the market. In addition to tire-shredding stalwarts like the Camaro ZL1 and Challenger Hellcat, Ford and Chevy have recently launched high-profile, track-ready sports cars. And thanks to a new video by Speed Phenom, we now know how they directly compare on track.
Naturally, we wanted to do this comparison ourselves. But the GT500 wasn’t ready during our Performance Car of the Year competition when we had an early C8 to test. And now that both cars are on sale, stay-at-home orders and track closures mean we’ll have to wait for an opportunity to do a full R&T comparison.
In the meantime, Speed Phenom does a good job of breaking down how they perform. With the caveat that he’s got a base model GT500 without the optional Pilot Sport Cup 2 tires, he notes that the car struggles for grip more often than the similarly-tired Corvette. It’s also less composed through mid-corner bumps, with slower cornering all around. Thanks to its massive horsepower advantage, though, it jets through straightaways.
The C8, meanwhile, benefits from serious mechanical grip. The better-balanced midship car fires through corners and has no problem putting its power down. That makes it more approachable, not surprising given that it’s the tamest version of the C8 while the GT500 is stretching the limits of the S550 platform. We’re sure to see more track-ready Corvettes soon, but for now the Stingray is a surprisingly capable start.
Mack Hogan- Road&Track
Even off the pavement, the new ‘Vette is a rocket ship.
The 2020 C8 Chevy Corvette is a fast car. In base form, it can hit a staggering 194 mph flat-out. Even with the drag-inducing Z51 performance package, the car can still do 184. Hennessey Performance took theirs to 182 mph with ease before they turbocharged it to oblivion. Now, there’s another C8 top-speed run on the internet, and this time, it takes place on a dry lake bed.
Popular YouTube TheStradman took his new Z51-equipped Corvette to a dry lake bed in Utah to test out the top speed of the car. He managed to hit an impressive 173 mph before slowing down—not bad considering the uneven and bumpy surface. It helps that there’s absolutely nothing for miles in either direction. In fact, from inside the cabin, it looks a bit uneventful. Here’s a perspective from outside the car to give you a sense of how fast 173 mph is:
If the base Corvette is this quick right out of the box, we’re curious to see how the upcoming Z06 stacks up. Considering the last-gen car could hit 200 mph, we’re expecting big things.
Source: Brian Silvestro; for RoadandTrack
The Goldilocks zone of Corvette C8 interiors?
By now, you should know that Chevrolet has started deliveries of the mid-engine 2020 Corvette. Lucky owners of the ‘Vette C8 are starting to receive their newest toy and most likely you’ve already seen one on the streets – that’s if the state you’re in is not affected by the coronavirus lockdown.
If you’re among those who are planning to purchase the new Corvette but are undecided with the trim level to choose, this video might be able to help you – especially if you’re particular with a car’s interior.
The Corvette C8 comes with three trim levels: 1LT, 2LT, and 3LT. The differences lie mainly in the features offered on each trim level, which defines that the cabin will look and feel like. That’s pretty important, considering that we spend so much time inside the car rather than staring at our investment from a distance. So, here’s a little guide.
The base 1LT trim isn’t really basic. With the entry-level trim, you already get the GT1 seats wrapped in mulan leather, a customizable 12-inch gauge cluster, push-button ignition and keyless entry, and an 8-inch Chevy MyLink infotainment system with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, 4G LTE Wi-Fi, and 10-speaker Bose sound system. The Corvette 1LT trim is available in three color options: black, gray, or red.
Going up the 2LT trim gives you more interior color options plus features like a rearview camera mirror, a colored head-up display, heated/cooled seats, heated steering wheel, advanced blind-spot monitor, and rear cross-traffic warning. The infotainment gets upgraded as well with a wireless charger and a 14-speaker Boss audio system.
Finally, the 3LT trim dials up the ante by adding a premium Nappa leather with suede microfiber accents – all in combination with the GT2 seats that have more bolsters. These seem not a lot but the range-topping trim adds luxury to the sports coupe.
If you’re still undecided, watch the 2LT interior review on top of this page to check whether you need to take it down a notch to 1LT or go all out on the top-level 3LT.
Source: HorsePower Obsessed
It took 30 hours for Hennessey Performance Engineering to tear apart a new 2020 Chevrolet Corvette, install twin-turbo setup, and put it back together.
It’s no surprise, then, that the twin-turbo C8 Corvette isn’t ready to be sold to customers. The engine lacks intercoolers and Hennessey hasn’t cracked the code of GM’s new electrical architecture to reprogram the ECU.
“This is just the beginning, our own car, doing R&D,” company founder and CEO John Hennessey told Motor Authority.
On Monday, the engine made 643 horsepower and 570 pound-feet of torque at the wheels on a Dynojet dyno while running just 5 psi of boost. That compares to baseline testing HPE performed on the stock car which revealed 466 hp and 451 lb-ft of torque. HPE plans to offer a 1,200-hp version of the C8, which Hennessey said could make 18-20 psi of boost.
Hennessey took delivery of an orange C8 Corvette in Detroit on March 13. He and his daughter, Emma, drove back to the performance outfitter’s Texas headquarters and performed baseline testing before the Hennessey team tore apart the car.
The orange C8 fired back to life on Friday with twin 62-mm Precision Turbos and twin blow-off valves connected to the throttle body mounted behind the catalytic converters. Both turbos are oil-cooled with twin scavenge pumps that feed back into the motor.
The system is not intercooled. Instead, there’s a methanol injection setup to keep things from getting too hot. HPE is considering where to put intercoolers. The current packaging has limited space for intercoolers without cutting into trunk space, which Hennessey does not want to do. 2020 Chevrolet Corvette Stingray undergoes twin-turbo conversion at Hennessey
Hennessey told Motor Authority his team currently can’t tune the factory ECU, but it is looking at aftermarket solutions for the engine management system. He noted it took a year for solutions to come to market for the C7 and added, “hopefully, it won’t take a year.”
Hennessey said when the turbocharged C8 was first started it didn’t throw any codes, errors, or a check engine light. “The computer seems happy with the turbos,” Hennessey noted. A check engine light did appear when the front wheel speed sensors were disconnected to put the car on the dyno, Hennessey said.
The orange C8 will used for R&D of upcoming modifications. Hennessey said he doesn’t expect to deliver modified customer C8s for at least six months, and all will have intercoolers and full plumbing.
Joel Feder for Motor Authority
Did you see the two race on YouTube? We’ve tested them, too; here’s why the results were no surprise.
- We have tested both the 2020 Chevrolet Corvette (11.2 seconds at 122 mph) and the 2020 Ford Mustang Shelby GT500 (11.4 seconds at 132 mph) in the quarter-mile.
- A video on YouTube, however, shows flipped results: 11.5 seconds at 120 mph for the Corvette and 10.8 seconds at 132 mph for the GT500.
- As always, the driver and track conditions are critical, and our two-run average is far more repeatable than any one-off run at a drag strip.
When we tested Ford’s new 2020 Mustang Shelby GT500 against the top-dog 2020 Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 1LE, the Mustang came out on top on the drag strip. But how does the front-engine Shelby stack up against the other, now mid-engine, threat from Chevy?
Greg PajoCar and Driver
During our testing, the GT500 hurtled through the quarter-mile in 11.4 seconds at 132 mph. But that was on a regular street-like surface, not a sticky, prepped drag strip. We struggled mightily with traction at launch, and our best run was with the launch control set to the lowest rpm allowed (1200 rpm) to prevent igniting a rear-tire fire. However, no surprise: with more traction far, better numbers are possible, and we’ve seen numbers below 11 seconds at drag strips, including this kid, who ran a 10.665 shortly after he acquired the car.’Murica Which Ultimate Pony Car Is the 1/4-Mile King?This Kid Ran a 10.66 Quarter Mile In His GT500
On the other hand, the 2020 Corvette has far fewer launch struggles, as it benefits from its newly acquired mid-engine layout and rear weight bias. Moving the weight distribution rearward improves launch traction, helping it jump off the line much quicker. During our testing, and despite far less horsepower, the mid-engine Vette outaccelerated the GT500 through the quarter-mile by two tenths of a second, reaching it in 11.2 seconds at 122 mph.Advertisement – Continue Reading Below
We’re starting to see other people’s numbers from both of these cars, though, as customers are starting to take deliveries of their C8 Corvettes and GT500s. Contrary to our test results, there’s a video circulating on YouTube that shows the new GT500 beating the C8 Corvette through the quarter-mile by seven-tenths of a second. It raced to the quarter-mile in 10.8 seconds while the Corvette reached it in 11.5 seconds.
Keep in mind that the driver and conditions are huge factors in quarter-mile and acceleration results. We suspect that here, the Corvette likely got bogged down on the high-grip surface, as the launch control isn’t optimized for those conditions, and the 760-hp Mustang benefited from the extra traction on the track.
Connor Hoffman for CarandDriver
William Walker: Photographer Manufacturer Photographer Mar 11, 2020
It’s weird to say, but immediately after my first test drive in the new mid-engine, eighth-generation 2020 Chevrolet C8 Corvette, I was angry. Angry not because the car didn’t do what it should, but precisely because it did everything I asked of it, and did it beautifully—and I’d been led to believe it was a hot, understeering mess by the reviews I’d read elsewhere. How could they all have been so wildly off base?
There are many possible explanations, of course—differing driver skill levels, evaluation methods, and conditions. But two variables stand out among the rest: the C8 Corvette’s option for track or street alignments, and the length of exposure to the car. Addressing the latter issue first, we were lucky enough to spend the better part of week with the new C8, a rare chance given the limited availability of test cars so early in the Corvette’s production (All-Stars testing took place in early December 2019). That greater exposure to the car allowed us more time to get a feel for its behavior in a wide array of situations, both on the road and on the Streets of Willow Springs racetrack.
Perhaps even more importantly, however, was the choice of track and street suspension alignments. You see, the 2020 C8 Corvette has two official specifications for its alignment settings; the street alignment sets the camber at 0 degrees, while the track alignment sets the camber to 3 degrees negative. The result is the difference between a (somewhat) understeer-biased street setup and a balanced, ready-to-rotate super sports car. The former is intended to help Corvette owners new to the world of low polar-moment mid-engine cars make the transition without ending up backward in a guardrail their first time out. We spent our week with the Corvette in track-alignment mode, whether hammering out laps or zooming around the mountains near Lake Hughes.
But wait, isn’t that cheating, you ask? It might seem like it at first—track settings are meant for the track, not the street, right?–but Chevrolet itself recommends owners who use the track setting for track go ahead and leave the car setup that way all the time. No, it won’t cause excessive or premature tire wear, at least according to Chevy’s engineers. For the record, we did visually notice more wear to the front tires’ inside shoulders than we’d expect with the more conventional setup, so we’d be curious to see the state of the rubber after 5,000 or so miles with this alignment. It’s certainly something for owners to be aware of and to keep an eye on, at the very least.
Regardless, and not for nothing, the two alignment settings might better be named “beginner” and “advanced”. If you’re a moderately accomplished driver who’s comfortable with a car that’s willing to rotate, don’t leave the lot with your new Corvette until you’ve had the car set to its more aggressive alignment.
With that out of the way, holy cow, is this thing good! The nearly instant-on torque from the 6.2-liter V-8 means you’re never left wanting for thrust, the quick-shifting eight-speed dual-clutch transmission bangs out upshifts with authority, and the steering feel, while not telepathic, is still abundantly communicative. Detroit bureau chief Todd Lassa did note, however, that several of our evaluators found “the steering in its own separate Track mode is too heavy without doing anything for feel,” and resident professional race driver Andy Pilgrim pointed out, “The gearbox is very good on the street, but did not always give me the lower gear I wanted on the track.” If those are the worst things we could think to say after back-to-back runs in hardware as exotic as the $474,000-plus Ferrari F8 Tributo and the nearly as pricey McLaren GT, it’s pretty apparent the mid-engine Corvette is something special.
Braking is remarkably stable for a mid-engine car, as is power application, the latter thanks at least in part to the car’s Performance Traction Management system. Chevy’s PTM is one of the key technology transfers from the factory Corvette Racing program, and it shows its racing roots when put to the test. But of course even the best traction-control programs can’t work when the tires aren’t in contact with the road; that’s where the Corvette’s excellent suspension tune comes in.
“Glides over broken mountain roads like a hovercraft—but still sticks like crazy,” wrote contributor Arthur St. Antoine in his evaluation notes. Pilgrim agreed, noting the C8 Corvette “has more suspension travel than the Porsche 992, and feels more compliant, allowing more roll in transition; none of which is a bad thing for everyday driving comfort.”
In fact, far from a rabid, on-the-edge supercar, it’s clear the Chevy engineers behind the new C8 Corvette put a great deal of time and effort into the car’s daily driving demeanor, or, as features editor Rory Jurnecka noted, “It should make a nice road car with good interior space. Feels pretty easy to live with.” Not only is there a rear trunk that’ll fit two golf bags (or several carry-on bags or backpacks), there’s a front trunk (or frunk) that’ll hold some more. But the new C8 Corvette’s interior is what truly stands out in terms of daily comfort, especially in comparison to previous Corvettes.
“When I took the C8 on the road trip between the hotel and the winners’ shoot location, I was blown away at how good of a GT car it is,” social media editor Billy Rehbock said. “I put on the cooled seats, played music over the crystal-clear sound system, and rolled in complete comfort. My only complaint was that it was actually a bit quiet, even when being driven hard, but subsequent performance versions will fix that, no doubt.”
Beyond even the excellent interior feature set (though the verdict is still out on the extra-long button strip in the center console), the most notable and immediately noticeable upgrade to the C8 Corvette’s interior is the massive improvement of materials and build quality over previous generations. Our test car’s 3LT interior trim specification included Chevy’s upgraded infotainment system, a 14-speaker Bose audio system, and a head-up display. And in addition to the upgraded materials, it featured extended leather surface treatments, and GT2 bucket seats—though ours swapped the GT2 seats for “competition sport bucket” seats for an extra $500); the 3LT spec added $11,950 to the car’s $59,995 base price. Tack that cash onto the additional list of optional extras like the Z51 performance package ($5,000), magnetic ride control suspension system ($1,895), front lift system ($1,495), upgraded 19-inch front/20-inch rear wheels and tires ($1,495), and engine appearance package ($995), among others. Total price, as configured: a surprisingly reasonable $83,825.
Admittedly, this was a pre-production car, but it was also one of just a handful of streetable C8 Corvettes available at the time, meaning it had already lived a rather hard life before our testing even began. Sitting in the C8 back-to-back with the Ferrari F8, the Italian doesn’t come off as insanely luxurious or refined—and the F8’s interior is already perfectly lovely.
It’s no revelation that the 2020 Chevrolet C8 Corvette is a great performance value; the Corvette has been that way for decades. But for Chevy to have done such an impressive job on its first go with the engine behind the driver, and to have included so many improvements to the luxury and quality of the C8, all for a price that’s a fraction of the cars with which it competes, it’s easy to see why I was so angry after experiencing the car for myself—and it’s hard not to agree with Jurnecka when he says, “So glad this car is what I’d hoped for. Worth the wait.”
Nelson Ireson for Automobile
Oh ZR1, how quickly we have forgotten you and moved on to the C8. But then comes along a video like this that reminds us that even with an engine upfront, you are still one of our favorites!
All kidding aside, the 2019 Corvette ZR1 is one of our favorite Corvettes of all time particularly because of the things it could do, like shooting down a former Space Shuttle runway at Cape Canaveral at nearly 200 MPH!
Typically we see these high speed runs with a ZR1 that has the ZTK’s High Wing. This Long Beach Red Corvette ZR1 has the low wing for less drag and it seems to definitely show off its speed in this standing mile run in which the Corvette reached a top speed of 191.16 MPH.
Two views are shown including the in-car with telemetry overlay on the screen. We see the car was still accelerating past the mile and we’re excited as they tell us that two more videos coming that show the ZR1 also running 2.3 miles and 2.7 miles down the runway.
The video comes the Johnny Bohmer Proving Grounds on Merritt Island Florida. Previously we have seen the Genovation GXE Electric Corvette run on the same track and in fact, it might be interesting to compare the two cars after the ZR1 shares the two final runs
From Johnny Bohmer Proving Grounds via YouTube:
With the highest performance versions of the seventh generation Corvette, customers were forced to make a choice. Did they want their car to have the highest possible top speed, or did they want to sacrifice some of that by bolting a slew of aerodynamic aids to their car for maximum cornering ability?
We would love for Chevrolet to take that decision out of the ordering equation for buyers of the upcoming Z models and the Grand Sport. They could give buyers the best of both worlds with the incorporation of Active Aerodynamics.
Active Aerodynamics can take many forms, from grille vents that close at high speeds to streamline a car, to suspension that lowers at speed to reduce lift. We know that the Corvette team would build a fully functional system that integrates several of these technologies into a cohesive package, just like they did on the C7 ZR1’s chassis-mounted wing and innovative balancing front underwing, but what we mostly want to focus on here is the most visible piece of such a system, the rear wing.
This unit would elevate both the performance and even the prestige of GM’s looming halo car. There are several benefits of an active rear wing that accompany their off-the-charts cool factor.
1. An active rear wing can be lowered, causing it, for all intents and purposes, to disappear, along with any drag that it was creating. Top-end General Motors Products have become so fast that the most track-worthy editions have suffered at the dragstrip because of massive fixed wings. The effects of the C7 Z06/Z07’s wickerbill spoiler have been well documented. Chevrolet officially listed the top speed of ZR1’s with the “big-wing” ZTK package as 10 MPH lower than their stock counterparts, and the Camaro ZL1 with the 1LE package has proven slower than the car it is based on, even in distances as short as a quarter-mile. Allowing these serious track performers to retract their wing, and the ZTK/Z07/1LE models become the best version of their respective model-line with no excuses or asterisks, which is what buyers that dole out more funds expect.
Photo Credit: https://www.sciencelearn.org.nz
2. Just as these wings can retract to reduce drag and improve top speed, they can be “actively” placed in full “attack mode” for maximum downforce in the corners. This increases cornering speed, stability, and driver confidence which can lead to drastically lower lap times.
3. Upon hard braking, an active wing can also go vertical, transforming into an air brake. This assists the actual brakes, resulting in shorter stopping distances. It also keeps more weight in the rear of the car, again helping with stability and, especially in a rear-wheel drive car, improved corner exit speeds.
Photo Credit: Car Magazine (UK)
All three of these traits brought to the table by an active wing radically assist the driver and make the car faster in all aspects. The coolest thing is that, with the right programming, the wing does all three automatically with seamless transitions, and, did we mention how awesome they also look?
There has been speculation about Active Aero coming to the Corvette for several years now. These rumors were fueled by GM’s own patent filings which showed a sketch of a C7 fitted with advanced aerodynamic trickery. We think the top dog mid-engine offerings are the perfect place for the General to finally deploy this technology that can already be found on the majority of the world’s supercars.
From an acclaimed concept car John DeLorean reportedly dismissed because he wanted something “smaller and more European,” to the design that ended a feud between a pair of GM giants — but may have set the Corvette back decades — a trove of unique documents, sketches and models tells a secret history of the 60-year quest to build a mid engine Chevrolet Corvette.
The story begins in the late 1950s with legendary Corvette chief engineer Zora Arkus-Duntov and came to fruition when the first mid engine 2020 Corvette Stingray sold for $3 million at auction in January.
Titled “The Vision Realized: 60 Years of Mid engine Corvette Design” and created by GM Design Archive & Collections, the exhibit included 19 original sketches by designers including Larry Shinoda and Tom Peters, the massive 4-Rotor rotary engine from the 1973 Aerovette engineering, a wood wind-tunnel model, even letters from Arkus-Duntov’s personal files.
“The story of the mid engine Corvette is incredibly complicated, full of fits and starts,” said Christo Datini, manager of the GM Design Archive & Collections.
Cristo Datini at the General Motors Warren Technical Center in Warren, Michigan on Friday, January, 31, 2020 (Photo: Eric Seals, Detroit Free Press)
A mid engine Corvette was a dream shared by GM designers and engineers. The layout, in which the engine is behind the passenger compartment and immediately over the rear wheels, improves acceleration and handling. It’s been a mainstay at Ferrari for decades, and inspired repeated design and engineering projects at GM. None of them made it to production till now, largely because the Corvette’s original front-engine layout was so successful.
“Why would we change the Corvette?” GM chairman and CEO Richard Gerstenberg said to Arkus-Duntov before both men retired in the mid-1970s. “We sell every one we can make.”
‘Design without limit’
A generation of GM designers and engineers had already fought that attitude toward the sports car that debuted in 1953 model, and a couple more would before the midengine eighth-generation C8 Corvette Stingray debuted last year.
The exhibition included dozens of sketches, models, photos and documents.
“Our mission is to preserve the heritage of GM Design and educate our designers on GM’s prominence in the world of design,” Datini said. The archive also is working with the Detroit Institute of Arts on a massive exhibition dedicated to automotive design that opens this summer.
The Corvette exhibition closed at the end of January, but elements of it are likely to be displayed at other events and locations, possibly including the National Corvette Museum in Bowling Green, Kentucky, which provided materials for the collection.
Original magazines with drawings of what Corvettes could have looked like on display at the General Motors Warren Technical Center in Warren, Michigan on Friday, January, 31, 2020 (Photo: Eric Seals, Detroit Free Press)
Chevrolet Engineering Research Vehicle I, Also called SERV I and XP-708, was the beginning. A running model that debuted in 1960, the car had the looks of an Indy car and a chassis that tested what a midengine layout could do. It was “a design without limit” and an “admirable tool” to help Chevy figure out “what to put in Corvette,” said Duntov, himself a former driver in the 24 Hours of Le Mans sports car race.
CERV I was used as a test vehicle for years. Larry Shinoda, who would go on to be known as the father of the ’63 Corvette Stingray and the Mako Shark concept car, tweaked its design repeatedly as engineers tested it with seven different power trains.
GM eventually retired CERV I, selling it to the Briggs Cunningham Automotive Museum for $1. When the museum failed in the 1980s, GM bought it back for “somewhat more,” Datini said.
A model of the 1968 Chevrolet mid-engine Corvette Roadster that is one of many items for General Motors workers to see at the Corvette design display at the General Motors Warren Technical Center in Warren, Michigan on Friday, January, 31, 2020 (Photo: Eric Seals, Detroit Free Press)
Corvettes the world never saw
Shortly thereafter, Duntov heard rumors Ford was developing a Le Mans racer to challenge Ferrari and launched work on CERV II. GM decided not to race, Ford and Carroll Shelby built the GT40 that inspired “Ford vs. Ferrari,” and the CERV II was used as an engineering test bed at secret proving grounds and never seen by the public during its active lifetime. Built in 1964, CERV II had a 500-horsepower V8, 210-mph top speed and 2.8-second 0-60 mph time.
A picture of the CERV II Corvette. The sports car never went into production but it was influential in the design of the C5 production Corvette. (Photo: Eric Seals, Detroit Free Press)
“By that time, engineers and designers knew a midengine chassis was necessary” to get maximum performance from the ‘Vette, Datini said. Putting the engine behind the passenger compartment puts the car’s weight over the rear wheels to put down more power without spinning. Shifting balance from the production ‘Vette’s nose-heavy weight distribution would also improve handling.
Also in 1964, the XP-819 experimental car was being tested. Designed by Shinoda, it bore a strong resemblance to 1970 Corvettes, but Duntov hated it, calling it an “ugly duckling” at least in part because he wished his engineering team got some of the budget allotted to designing the car. It had a 327 cubic-inch V8 and pop-up headlights.
Like many concept and engineering vehicles, XP-819 was destroyed, chopped up. Years later, the pieces were found in NASCAR designer and mechanic Smokey Yunick’s garage.
Half Corvette, half Porsche
With a name GM would later recycle on a minivan, the Astro II XP-880 was never publicly identified as a Corvette, but it was one, intended for production in 1970, but never got there. It debuted at the New York auto show, featuring a nose, front fenders and Firefrost Blue paint that that foreshadowed 1970s production cars.
DeLorean, then Chevrolet general manager, asked for a rush program to create a different midengine design to match the midengine Pantera Ford was developing with Italian sports car maker De Tomaso to debut at the 1970 New York auto show. The XP-882 had a tapering body with dramatic fender flares and a louvered rear window like the Mako Shark II concept car. Like so many midengine ‘Vettes before and after, GM brass decided to stick with the tried and true front-engine layout.
Also in the 1970s GM president Ed Cole — another legendary engineer who led the development of the small block V8 and catalytic converter, among other achievements — became enamored with the Wankel rotary engine. Duntov built two midengine experimental ‘Vettes with rotary engines, glad for Cole’s support despite not sharing his enthusiasm for the engine.
Sketching and notes about the Corvette, one of the many originals on display for workers to see at the General Motors Warren Technical Center in Warren, Michigan on Friday, January, 31, 2020 (Photo: Eric Seals, Detroit Free Press)
The 1973 Corvette 2-Rotor XP-987GT was a smaller, European-scale sports car with a rotary engine. The body was all Corvette, but its chassis came from a Porsche 914. Italian design house Pininfarina built its body. GM displayed the 2-Rotor at auto shows in Frankfurt and Paris before the car disappeared, probably sold to a collector.
Bill Mitchell’s most beautiful car
At the same time, Duntov wanted to develop a bigger midengine Corvette. He and Cole hadn’t been on speaking terms since Duntov refused an annual bonus he thought was insultingly small. They made up, at least in part because Duntov wanted a budget to develop what would become the Corvette 4-Rotor Aerovette, an iconic, gull wing design. Duntov believed it was the most beautiful vehicle GM design chief Bill Mitchell oversaw in a career that included the ’57 Chevy Bel Air and ’66 Buick Riviera.
Duntov recycled the XP-882’s chassis for the Aerovette, which featured silver leather interior trim.
A picture of the Aerovette featuring bi-fold gulping doors in the sports car that was never made. It is one of many photographs, drawings and sketches on display on all things Corvette design inside the General Motors Warren Technical Center in Warren, Michigan on Friday, January, 31, 2020 (Photo: Eric Seals, Detroit Free Press)
Despite the car’s striking appearance, Duntov would come to believe his agreement to use a rotary engine was a nail in the midengine ‘Vette’s coffin.
Despite that, another midengine engineering car arrived in 1974. The XP-895 began its life with a steel body. Intrigued by the idea of lightweight materials, DeLorean asked Reynolds Aluminum to create an aluminum body. That cut the car’s weight by nearly 40%, but DeLorean pulled the plug on the project because he wanted a smaller, more European design.
That never happened, and design work on midengine ‘Vettes came to a halt for more than a decade, as GM struggled meeting the challenge of higher fuel prices.
Closing the deal
By 1986, the quest for a midengine Corvette was ready to create another giant figure, and it got one when a young designer named Tom Peters began work on the Corvette Indy concept car. Peters went on to become the chief designer of the sixth- and seventh-generation C6 and C7 Corvettes and play a key role in starting work on the 2020 C8.
With a radically short hood compared to production ‘Vettes and cutting-edge technologies including four-wheel steering, traction control and active suspension, the Indy — so named because it used a 2.65L V8 Chevy developed for Indy Car racing — kept dreams of the midengine ‘Vette alive
The 1990 CERV III — this time the C stood for “Corporate,” not Chevrolet Engineering Research Vehicle — was the next step. Datini’s research convinced him it was an attempt at a production version of the Indy.
CERV III had scissors doors and was built of Kevlar, carbon fiber and aluminum. With a 650-hp twin-turbo 5.7L V8, GM predicted a top speed of 225 mph. It debuted at the 1990 North American International Auto Show in Detroit.
After that, work on the midengine Corvette went undercover for two decades. Photos of disguised prototypes at test tracks surfaced from time to time, but the car seemed to be as much myth as metal. There are whispers the Great Recession halted work on one, setting development back years.
A display of Zora Arkus-Duntov known as “The Godfather of the Corvette” at the General Motors Warren Technical Center in Warren, Michigan on Friday, January, 31, 2020. (Photo: Eric Seals, Detroit Free Press)
Development of the 2020 Corvette Stingray began around eight years ago, a long time for most projects, but the blink of an eye when it’s the last chapter of a 60-year story.
Mark Phelan for Detroit Free Press
The 58th Rolex 24 at Daytona, the first round of the 2020 IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship season, saw the first race for the new Corvette C8.R, the participation of an all-female driver line-up, 2019 NASCAR champion Kyle Busch’s first start in a 24-hour race and Ben Keating at the wheel of two different cars.
A NOTEWORTHY DEBUT FOR THE NEW CORVETTE C8.R
The #3 Corvette C8.R finished the first 24-hour race of its career in fourth place in GTLM (the equivalent of LMGTE Pro at the 24 Hours of Le Mans). Drivers Antonio García, Jordan Taylor and Nicky Catsburg encountered zero problems with the car and completed 785 laps (nearly 5,000 kilometers). Unfortunately, the same cannot be said of the #4 Corvette C8.R of Gavin-Milner-Fässler. As the car was in the top 5 in its class going into the ninth hour, an oil leak caused the car to return to its garage. The leak was found to be in an area that forced the mechanics to remove the engine for repair and the work took almost nine hours. The #4 was then able to hit the track again and finished the race in 36th place.
Much like the 24 Hours of Le Mans, the 24 Hours of Daytona is an extremely challenging race. To make it to the checkered flag with an all-new car is already a major accomplishment for Corvette Racing. The American team’s next stop is the 6 Hours of the Circuit of The Americas on Sunday 23 February in Austin, the fifth round of the 2019-2020 FIA World Endurance Championship season.
AN ALL-FEMALE DRIVER LINE-UP
All-female driver line-up Christina Nielsen, Katherine Legge, Tati Calderon and Rahel Frey shared GEAR Racing powered by GRT Grasser’s Lamborghini Huracan GT3 in the GTD class, but the car was forced to retire after a fire.
KYLE BUSCH ENJOYS HIS FIRST ENDURANCE RACE
2019 NASCAR champion Kyle Busch took the start in his first Rolex 24 at Daytona at the wheel of the AIM VASSER SULLIVAN team’s Lexus RC-F GT3. Along with teammates Parker Chase, Jack Hawksworth and Michael de Quesada, Busch finished 26th overall and ninth in the GTD class. The American driver pulled off a double and a triple stint without the slightest mistake and said after the race he really enjoyed the experience and hopes to return for the overall win.
BEN KEATING DOUBLES DOWN
Ben Keating participated in his 10th Rolex 24 at Daytona at the wheel of not one but two cars: the #52 ORECA 07 fielded by PR1 Mathiasen Motorsports in the LMP2 class and the #74 Mercedes AMG-GT3 fielded by Riley Motorsports in GTD. Both cars crossed the finish line, the #52 ORECA 07 in 10th place overall and second in its class two laps from the winners, and the #74 Mercedes AMG-GT3 in 29th place overall and 11th in its class. This was the fifth time Keating participated in the race with two different cars.
Source: 24H LE MANS
There’s A New Engine In The C8.R Corvette, And It Sounds Nothing Like Its Predecessor.
They say beauty is in the eye of the beholder, and although that’s true, it can also be in the ear of the listener.
Since the Corvette first hit the streets back in the 1950s, it was imbued with the beautiful and nearly magical sound of V-8 performance. It was a deep, bass-filled rumble that just oozed a feeling of power. Over the years, the sound emanating from Corvettes, both on the street and at the track, had a distinctive note that became synonymous with the car. When the Corvette moved to the LS1 in 1997, the firing order was tweaked a bit, and although the sound did change, it still had that deep rumble that we all love.
But the only thing constant in the world is change. For the C8.R, Chevrolet Racing really changed things up with its new mid-engine marvel, but it wasn’t the engine placement that ended the car’s iconic sound signature. It was the engine itself. Gone is the deep baritone exhaust note, replaced instead with a high-pitched Ferrari-like sound. Think puberty in reverse. And although we love the sound of a wound-out Ferrari or other Italian supercars, having that pitch emanate from the back of a Corvette is something that will be hard to get used to. We’re not saying the sound is bad—it’s actually pretty badass—but it’s not even close to the sound signature we’ve come to associate with Corvettes.
The real culprit here isn’t the new 5.5L DOHC V-8 that Chevrolet moved to. Instead, it was the choice to go with a high-revving flat-plane crank. This drastically changed the firing order of the engine and eliminated the classic American V-8 sound that’s typical with the firing sequence of a traditional cross-plane crank. But we know what you’re thinking: “Well, this is just the race car, so I’m going to be able to get my V-8 rumble fix from the production car!” Well, yeah, for now. You see, for Chevrolet Racing to run this new DOHC flat-plane crank mill in the C8.R, it has to, according to the rules, run a similar engine in at least 300 production cars. So does this mean that an eventual C8 Z06 variant will lose its iconic exhaust note?
Corvette “had reason” to take its No. 4 car back out on track after lengthy repair…
The “tough lessons” of the No. 4 Chevrolet Corvette C8.R’s tumultuous Rolex 24 at Daytona debut gave Corvette Racing confidence going forward with its new car, according to team manager Ben Johnson.
The silver No. 4 Corvette spent eight hours in its garage during the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship season-opener after a cracked bell housing resulted in an oil leak.
Having pitted at around 11 p.m. the car eventually returned to the track close to 8 a.m. but it still managed to be classified as a finisher, albeit 327 laps behind the GTLM class winner.
While not divulging the extent of the oil leak and associated damage, Johnson explained why the team kept its car in the garage for so long.
“To fix the problem we had to move the engine back,” he told Sportscar365.
“We tried to do it with the engine installed to expedite it but then we realized that if we wanted to get it back on track, we had to take time to take the engine out and put it back in.
“We just took our time to make sure that there was nothing else. At that point, we were no longer in contention, but we had reason to go out and just understand where else the car may have issues.
“It was just kind of a test session after that.
“I think we will go back and disassemble the whole car. We have some issues to address with the oil leak.”
Oliver Gavin, who shared driving duties in the No. 4 with Tommy Milner and Marcel Fassler, said the Corvette crew “wanted to be methodical” about its repairs which added to the length of time it spent in the garage.
The Englishman suggested that the car was starting to show signs of promising pace that it could have taken through the night had the leak not occurred.
“It was really tough on the guys, eight hours of working from midnight until eight in the morning, it was crazy,” Gavin told Sportscar365.
“As soon as that happened, we knew that our day was done and that we wouldn’t be challenging. It was a shame because up to that point, our car had just started to come along.
“It wasn’t super strong right at the start, but we were gaining on it as we went through the race. Could we have been in the mix at the end? Who knows. But there was a lot that we’ve learned from this.
“As a team, we figured a lot of stuff out today. Testing is great but you really see exactly where you are when you come to a race and see where your competition is.
“We’ll take that away and process the data to see how we can make ourselves and the car better for Sebring.”
The No. 3 Corvette fared better than its sister car with Antonio Garcia, Jordan Taylor and Nicky Catsburg bringing home a fourth-place class finish on the lead lap.
Johnson said that this car’s run wasn’t entirely straightforward, but it held up well enough to remain in contention for a podium heading into the final two hours.
“We had a slight clutch issue at one point, but we had fixed it after the first stop that we witnessed it, so it wasn’t a time loss,” he explained.
“But nothing held up that car specifically again. We were really happy that all the execution, pit stops, driver changes… all things that you don’t get to test in anger until you reach the race, all went super well.”
Johnson added that the Rolex 24 has given the Corvette team confidence ahead of its next race outing at the ‘Super Sebring’ endurance racing double-header weekend in March.
“Coming away from our first race with one car on the lead lap… the issue with the oil leak is obviously very apparent, but when we looked at it we realized it’s a pretty simple fix,” he said.
“I think it raises everyone’s confidence that we can get through some of these early tough lessons and move on to Sebring in a much better spot.”
Source: Daniel Llyod for Sportscar365
Corvette Racing’s veteran stars, Oliver Gavin and Antonio Garcia, are positive about the new mid-engined C8.R’s progress but are uncertain how it will perform relative to its GT Le Mans class opposition at this weekend’s Rolex 24 at Daytona.
Gavin’s full-time partner Tommy Milner set Corvette Racing’s fastest time in Roar Before the 24 qualifying which decides garages and pit stalls, and he was encouragingly just 0.108sec off the top time in class, set by James Calado in the Risi Competizione Ferrari 488 GTE.
However, Gavin warned that the race will be several hours old before everyone gets an accurate picture of how the GTLM contenders match up.
“The C8.R is a brand new car and this is its first race outing,” said the 2016 Rolex 24 winner. “We won’t know where we are in respect to the competition, and they will be looking at us and figuring out where we’re strong and where we’re weak.
“You can pick up little bits and pieces during the Roar and even in the two or three practice sessions before the Rolex 24, but you never really get a great idea of where you’re at until you get five hours or so into the race.
“But it always comes down to the last two hours. It would be quite remarkable if we could come right out of the box and be super-fast, super-reliable and have a successful weekend the first time out.”
Two-time IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship GT Le Mans title winner and 2015 Rolex 24 winner Garcia also sounded a note of caution.
“So far, the new Corvette has been quite decent in testing,” said the Spaniard who is entering his seventh season with the legendary team. “It is still very early stages for this car.
“Even though we think we are ready, there are things that can come up. We must do everything we can to make sure we are as prepared as possible. Then we can see what we really have.
“Our testing has been a consistent evolution between track days and simulator work. We’ve been able to develop a plan to develop the car even though we weren’t testing on the track. The correlation of data has been good. Everything that we have tested virtually is working in real life. That makes life a lot easier when you can use all your tools to improve.
“We continue to validate all the work we’ve done and what we find on the racetrack. We are on the right track.”
While Gavin and Milner continue to be partnered by Marcel Fassler for the endurance races, Garcia not only is working with a new enduro extra – Nicky Catsburg – he also has a new full-time partner.
Jordan Taylor, who in 2017 won the IMSA Prototype title with the team owned by his father Wayne Taylor, and has two Rolex 24 wins to his credit, has moved to the GTLM class with Corvette, replacing Jan Magnussen.
This continues a relationship with the Doug Fehan-run team that stretches back to 2012, the first of six years in which Taylor raced a Corvette in the Le Mans 24 Hours. Partnering Gavin and Milner, he won the GTE Pro class at Le Mans in 2015.
“I’m excited to go back into GT racing with Corvette in GTLM with all-manufacturer teams and all-professional drivers,” he said. “The class will get a lot of eyes on it with the first race for the C8.R.
“The race itself will be extremely difficult. I’ll have to get used to looking in my mirrors again! In testing, I was reminding myself to check the mirrors leaving certain corners so I could get in the habit of doing it for the race.
“So I’m looking forward to it. Overall wins are fantastic, but a win is a win; you still get a Rolex watch no matter what class you’re in! But for us in GTLM, the competition will be the same if not more difficult than in prototypes.”
Source: David Malsher-Lopez
Corvette Racing set for COTA-Sebring double FIA WEC run with C8.R
Corvette Racing looks set to contest the 1000 Miles of Sebring, in what would be the second consecutive FIA World Endurance Championship outing for the new Chevrolet Corvette C8.R.
Sportscar365 has learned that provisional plans are in place to run the Sebring WEC race alongside its two-car factory GT Le Mans class program in the Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring the following day.
It would come as one of the prerequisites from the ACO, which has stipulated that the Pratt & Miller-run team must run in at least two regular-season WEC races in order to be guaranteed a pair of GTE-Pro entries for the 24 Hours of Le Mans.
The team ran the Shanghai WEC race in 2018 in addition to Sebring last year with its previous-gen Corvette C7.R.
While declining to comment or confirm on any WEC plans beyond its COTA entry, Corvette Racing program manager Doug Fehan said that it’s been their intention to run two regular-season races in the 2019-20 WEC season.
“Right now, that’s the plan but we’re running down a road,” Fehan told Sportscar365.
“We haven’t refined what exactly that plan is going to be. I couldn’t give you every detail and widget.
“We’ve been busy for a couple of years trying to race and design, build and develop the new car. This adds to the challenge of all of that.
“I think most people would understand that we don’t have it completely defined yet.
“It’s a case of dealing it in an orderly fashion.
“We can’t become overwhelmed too much with what’s going on down the road when we have to focus on what we need to accomplish [in Daytona] in a couple of weeks.”
While set to give the new mid-engined GTE contender its competition debut in the Rolex 24 at Daytona later this month, the car’s second race will come just four weeks later at Circuit of The Americas, with a single entry having been submitted for the WEC replacement round.
Fehan said details on that program, including drivers, have yet to be determined.
He explained the reason for doing the additional WEC races is to “try as best we can” to support the globe-trotting championship.
“We understand the value that has to the sanctioning body and the value to the global fan base,” he said.
“We know it’s important but they also know the business side of it that prevents us from doing both things. They get that.
“I think they also appreciate how hard we’re trying to make all of the accommodations we can to keep the ball moving down the field.
“It’s not easy for us and they know it’s not easy for us and they appreciate that.”
No Issues in 2019 ‘Super Sebring’ Endeavor
Fehan said the team faced no issues in its double-duty endeavor at Sebring last year, in what was only the second-ever time the team raced three cars between two different series on the same weekend.
In addition to its over-the-wall crew and several other staff, drivers Antonio Garcia, Jan Magnussen and Mike Rockenfeller took part in both Friday’s eight-hour WEC race and the around-the-clock IMSA enduro the day later.
“That worked out great,” Fehan said. “We were lucky because we had enough equipment.
“It’s not like you can piggyback what you have set up. You’ve got to have a completely additional set of stuff.
“Between stuff that we had in stock and stuff that we had for the Cadillac program, we had enough in place.
“That system is getting better and we learned from that on all the things we did right and all the things that we know we could improve upon.”
Source John Dagys; SportsCar365
Corvette Racing drivers on anticipation of Roar Before Rolex 24 with new mid-engined C8.R…
Antonio Garcia believes there will be “big steps” to come in the Chevrolet Corvette C8.R’s development as the new-for-2020 mid-engined GT Le Mans class contender makes its public debut in this weekend’s Roar Before the Rolex 24.
The Pratt & Miller-built Corvette, along with Porsche’s 2019-spec 911 RSR, are the two all-new GTE-spec cars set for their first official competitive outings in IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship competition during the three-day mandatory test.
While having already completed private testing at the 3.56-mile oval/road course, Garcia believe every lap will matter in their plan for the weekend.
“There is a lot to discover and develop,” Garcia said. “Usually your starting point is better than what you previously had.
“But this is completely different. We are still in the early stages with this new Corvette.
“There will be big steps for sure.
“I don’t know when we will get to the point where we will start making little steps. We need to run this car and we need to race it to find out where we are against our competition.
“We are concentrating on our own work. Whenever it becomes race time, we will know where we actually are.”
Garcia’s new full-season co-driver Jordan Taylor said they won’t necessarily be concerned about pace at the Roar, which will also set the pit lane and garage allocations through a qualifying session on Sunday morning.
The 28-year-old, who makes the switch from his family’s Wayne Taylor Racing operation, said little things, such as driver changes, will be a focal point as well once they achieve the targeted baseline.
“As many laps as we can get at the Roar and going through the program, getting all the drivers on the same page from a setup point of view and then the little things like pit stops and driver changes will be different than what we’ve had in the past,” he said.
“The car is a little more tricky to get in and out.
“Understanding that muscle memory of the process of getting in and out, where the seatbelts go, where the drinks bottle is, where the air hose goes… those little details that we haven’t refined that were refined with the C7.R are things that will show up in a 24-hour event, so those are things we will need to check off the list at the Roar.”
Gavin: “Very Structured” Plan for Weekend
Team veteran Oliver Gavin, who returns to the No. 4 entry alongside Tommy Milner, said that coming away with achieving 60 or 70 percent of their list will be considered a “big win” over the weekend.
“The team is going to have a very structured plan,” Gavin said. “And that’s one of the things that’s so good about Corvette Racing. We plan our time and fundamentally understand what all we have to work through and the list of things we need to achieve.
“The third drivers will need time in the car. We’ll all have to work through that program and procedure as best we can.
“Certainly we’ll learn a huge amount every time we go on track just with how certain tires work, how the braking package works, the aero setup, weight placement… all kinds of different thoughts that the team will look to work through.
“We know that of that list of 50 things we want to try and achieve, the chances are that if we can come away with 60 or 70 percent of that done, it’s a pretty big win.”
Original Source; John Dagys. Sportscar365
Spring Mountain Motor Resort and Country Club, home of the Ron Fellows Performance Driving School, is located less than hour from Las Vegas and they bring a continent of cars and people to the annual SEMA Show at the Las Vegas Convention Center.
Drivers for Ron Fellows School provide hot laps for the attendees which is hella fun if you have ever had the opportunity to catch a ride in one of the ZR1s they have. In addition to the hot laps, Spring Mountain also has booth display at SEMA and featured prominently is the 2020 Corvette Stingray wearing the Ron Fellows Driving School livery.
We asked Spring Mountain’s Todd Crutcher send us some photos of the 2020 Corvette on display as it’s the only place at SEMA outside the Chevrolet display where you catch the C8 Corvette in the flesh.
Chevy had displayed a C8 Corvette with the Ron Fellows door stickers at both the Woodward Dream Cruise and Corvettes at Carlisle, but the car on display at SEMA is much more representative of the Ron Fellows livery that also features the No. 01 car number on the front and back while Michelin stickers are also featured. A windshield banner completes the look.
This C8 Corvette is a Z51 model and 3LT trim package and inside is the two-tone Blue leather interior. The Stingray also shows off the visible carbon fiber roof panel that’s only been spotted a couple of times.
There has yet to be any kind of announcement regarding a driving school for owners of the C8 Corvette at the world-class driving school, but we’ve been told to stay tuned as things are progressing. We do know that a continent of cars will be built for the school and that they will be used as part of the official GM training for dealerships who are selling the new sports cars. While the strike has messed up the original timeline for the school to receive their cars, we expect some sort of announcement will be made in the near future.
If you have purchased a C7 Corvette in the last year, your time is limited to take advantage of the 2-day Corvette Owner’s School that’s heavily subsidized by Chevrolet. To find out more information about the Corvette Owner’s school, visit SpringMountainMotorsports.com or call Melinda or Donna for details 1-800-391-6891. All Corvette enthusiasts are invited!
Spring Mountain / Ron Fellows Driving School
Production of the new mid-engine 2020 Corvette Stingray was expected to start the week of December 2nd. But then the UAW strike happened, which pushed the earliest TPWs (Target Production Weeks) for those buyers with accepted orders back to January 20th at the earliest. Others have reported that updates to their TPWs pushed the start of their cars into February.
But now that the strike is over and the Corvette Assembly Plant has reopened, things are starting to get back to normal. After several days to assess their current situation, the Corvette team may be getting ready to make new adjustments to the current Corvette orders.
Over the last two days, we’ve heard from customers and dealers alike who have reported that current orders no longer have any Target Production Weeks attached them. Dealers are saying there are no TPWs in the order system.
This sounds like good news to us.
The Corvette Assembly Plant still has to knock out the remaining C7 orders, and plant spokesperson Rackel Bagshaw confirmed earlier this week that the plant will be down from November 18th – December 6th for C8 retooling.
If that’s the case, then perhaps we’ll see the first TPWs shifted back to December 2019. That would be fantastic news as then the strike would have only delayed the start of C8 production by just a week. Of course, the flip side is that TPWs could be moved even further into 2020 which is a very real possibility as well. Stay tuned on this and for those of you with orders, be patient!
Keith Cornett; CorvetteBlogger
Eleven worthy competitors, one surprising winner.
Crowning the Road & Track Performance Car of the Year is not an easy task. Each fall, we gather every new or revised performance car that we can get our hands on. While some of these candidates naturally worm into our hearts, this is more than a popularity contest—the award doesn’t simply go to the machine we like the most or the one we think is the coolest. PCOTY is about looking to the future and finding the car that provides the most hope for the enthusiast: a machine that offers everything you expect of a modern vehicle yet still tugs at the heart.
To pick a winner, we used the following criteria:
- Outright speed and testing numbers are part of the package, but they don’t determine the winner. Beyond sheer pace, a car has to bring emotion to the table.
- The car must embrace track duty while still being enjoyable on the road.
- Technology has to be used in service of the driver, not just added speed. Feedback and sensation via complexity is great, but complexity alone doesn’t cut it.
- Lastly, we ask ourselves, would any other manufacturer build it? Does the car feel uniquely of its story and brand, with a personality all its own?
This year’s test saw 11 cars join us for two days at Northern California’s Thunderhill Raceway Park. A staff vote at the end of our track time cut the field to six contenders. Those six were then road-tripped on a winding, demanding test route through the Sierra Nevada, ending at Lake Tahoe. A final vote at the end of the journey determined the winner.
You might be wondering why we elected to conduct track testing first this year. Past PCOTY contests have tested cars on the road first, then trekked to a closed course. Our current method gave the staff a chance to drive every car in similar conditions, learning their limits in a safe, controlled environment.
When it came to lap times, we enlisted a licensed club racer with no Thunderhill experience: me. We did this for a reason, and it wasn’t to build my ego. Most of our readers are not pro drivers. When you buy a new car, a professional’s lap time at any track is an interesting metric, but it’s rarely reflective of a normal person’s experience. We wanted to stress accessibility and adaptability. How easy is it to get up to speed in a given car? How communicative is the car? Is it hard to learn the quirks? Under the watchful eyes of our testing staff, every PCOTY contender got a quick warm-up session to set tire pressures, then no more than seven timed laps. Just enough to establish a representative lap and suss idiosyncrasies, not enough to set a record.
Of course, no method is perfect. Ambient temperature during our lapping day started at around 85 degrees Fahrenheit and eventually hit 107. That kind of heat doesn’t help lap speed, and it ensured that late runners needed shorter stints, as times immediately dropped off. While I made every attempt to, as one of our contributors once said, “underserve all the cars equally,” most amateur drivers will get faster over the course of a day at a track they had never before seen, learning the pavement’s nuances, and I am no exception. With those caveats in mind, it’s best to view the lap times as bellwether, not absolute. A loose guide to judge the spectacular machinery on these pages.
In the end, that’s the key. We hold PCOTY testing each year as reason to celebrate the future of the performance car, not lament it. The industry is undergoing transformation. More than ever, regulations try to force automakers into a box. Consumer trends lean toward amorphous appliances. At Road & Track, we drive hundreds of new cars each year, which means our affection for hydraulic steering, natural aspiration, lightweight efficiency, and a good, old-fashioned stick shift is tested on a regular basis.
Yet look at the field we have here. These cars are proof that there’s still plenty to be excited about. None of them fade into the background or aim to remove you from the experience. In a time when we’re told that the driverless car is around the corner, these machines put the driver squarely at the front of the experience. As it should be.
Frequently Asked Questions
What is this PCOTY thing?
One of this magazine’s crown jewels: A racetrack. A multi-day road route covering hundreds of miles. A king anointed among the year’s most significant new sports and exotic cars. Our priorities are emotion, engineering cohesion, relevance, and price, in that order. Plus beef jerky. (It’s a road trip. There’s always beef jerky.)
It’s not cheap. While fast cars have to work in cities, they’re most effectively and safely tested in the middle of nowhere. In this case, that meant shipping employees and equipment to a remote location, then orchestrating hotels, food, support vehicles, data collection, and two photographers. (Plus we spent $5 on giant stick-on googly eyes.)
That was senior editor Zach Bowman. Never give a Tennessean a corporate card in a Walmart.
Did you stick them on something?
One of the dim-looking minivans we use for chase and photography.
What did that poor van do to you?
Not much. But Bowman did walk out of that Walmart with a CD copy of Black Sabbath’s 1970 masterpiece Paranoid, because he wanted to hear “War Pigs” at ear-bleed level while wearing aviator sunglasses and doing van burnouts at stoplights.
That sounds awfully specific.
PCOTY is all about specifics. And generals gathered in their masses.
I’m sure nothing went wrong.
One staffer “ran out of pavement” (his words) and put the McLaren off at Thunderhill. (No one was hurt, and the car was fine.) The Lexus and Lotus got flat tires. And one of our vans was broken into in San Francisco—they took deputy editor Bob Sorokanich’s backpack, but not the copy of Paranoid. Editor-at-large Sam Smith left an open bag of Haribo gummy bears in the van during the break-in and then grumped for a bit because the bag had broken glass in it.
Was Bob upset?
Smith was heartbroken.
Who are the other mooks here?
Staff mooks joined by contributing mooks! Some adept at track driving, others with a penchant for sussing out a car’s foibles on the road. While a few fancy themselves engineers, others have actual engineering know-how. But all love sports cars and have strong opinions about which end of the Corvette should house the engine. You could say each participant brought a very particular set of skills.
Like Liam Neeson in Taken.
Only with more Lamborghini. And Bob, a professional editor who intimidates approximately nobody, speaking calmly about his backpack theft. (“I have a particular set of skills with… adjectives.”)
Why Thunderhill Raceway Park?
It’s a perfect arena. Demanding of both driver and car, modern, safe. Plus great roads in spitting distance.
The mid-engine Corvette: how’d you get a car so rare and new?
We asked to borrow a preproduction C8 from GM. They said yes, with caveats. The Corvette had minders, and they took the car back each night, checking it over. We also had to agree to an embargo, keeping drive impressions confidential for weeks.
What a peek behind the curtain! Got any more secrets?
Maybe! Ask Matt Farah about his superpower. Ask Bowman why he had an obsession with Gatorade Limon Pepino. And whatever you do, don’t ask Smith and Jason Cammisa what happens when Gladys Knight’s “Midnight Train to Georgia” hits the radio on a road trip. They will demonstrate. And you will regret it.
This year’s PCOTY field was one of our strongest, but as with every year, there were notable absences. The absentees generally fall into one of three categories: the car you’re thinking of wasn’t launched as a new vehicle in the year preceding PCOTY testing (and was thus ineligible), the manufacturer wouldn’t lend us one (privately owned test cars are impractical), or the car in question just isn’t any good. Here are the models that received invitations but couldn’t make the party.
2019 Aston Martin DBS Superleggera: A lightweight DB11 with 715 hp. Aston elected to not participate in the test.
2020 Audi R8: The first facelifted R8s arrived in the U.S. a week before our test. Sadly, there wasn’t enough time to get one shipped to Thunderhill.
2020 BMW M8: The new flagship M car was first shown in June, but BMW only made it available for review (in Europe) the same week as PCOTY.
2020 Ferrari F8 Tributo: The 710-hp V-8 from the wild, track-focused 488 Pista, in a more road-oriented package. Ferrari couldn’t provide one during our test window.
2020 Ford Mustang Shelby GT500: Supercharged V-8 and hellacious speed, but Ford didn’t provide test cars to journalists until a month after PCOTY testing.
2019 Mercedes-AMG GT R Pro:
A track-attack version of a car already known for circuit prowess. Only hitch: the first GT R Pros didn’t cross the Atlantic until the tail end of 2019, after this issue shipped to the printer.
2020 Polestar 1: A 600-hp, hybrid, carbon-bodied GT from Volvo’s new electric-performance offshoot. Polestar wasn’t ready to let us borrow one, but don’t worry—we’ll drive it soon.
2020 Porsche 718 Cayman GT4: On paper, a PCOTY front-runner. Which is a shame, because Porsche had no test cars in the country.
2020 Subaru WRX STI S209: The WRX STI might be a few years old, but the S209 promises to be the best version yet. Subaru held a media test event for the car during PCOTY week, so its loaner 209s were all tied up.
We love bleeding-edge science experiments from companies like Bugatti, Koenigsegg, Pagani, and Rimac, but hypercars just don’t fit the spirit of this particular test. Mostly because of their near-unattainable prices. We’ve made exceptions in the past, due to circumstance or serendipity (last year’s PCOTY included a McLaren Senna, for example), but in this case, we preferred to avoid the archetype.
Where We Drove
We based the 2020 Performance Car of the Year test out of Willows, California, mostly for the town’s proximity to Thunderhill Raceway. The staff of this magazine spent two days there, setting lap times and evaluating the competitors in the rolling grass north of Sacramento.
Two days at any track is a blessing, but turning laps is less than half of what makes a sports car compelling. Everything about a Lotus or a McLaren hints at where the machine might take you, the lines of the thing whispering how the two of you might burn a tank of fuel. Or three.
We were aiming for gold country. Those mountains played stage to the 1800s boom that brought more than 300,000 people to Northern California in search of a fortune. By 1855, the rush had largely turned to bust, the masses vanishing as quickly as they had appeared. Those people left plenty behind—mostly vestigial towns dotting the hills, but also a spiderweb of wagon-route roads connecting them. On a map, the highways look like sports-car catnip. We only had to get there.
The farmland around Willows is flat and drab, fruit orchards aligned in dusty grids. Our unlikely caravan shot through it in the morning, over Highway 162, a thin needle across the state’s Central Valley, from Willows to Oroville. It’s strange and beautiful, home to the Gray Lodge Wildlife Area. Great egrets loped through the wetlands on either side of the highway. They chased their reflections for one slow-motion moment, then turned skyward.
Whatever envy we felt only lasted as long as it took us to make our way to Highway 70. The two-lane runs vaguely northeast, winding up and through a fir forest from Oroville. A year ago, the Camp Fire, California’s deadliest and most destructive wildfire, devoured the landscape, and the place still shows the scars of it. Gutted stone homes, black tree trunks like charcoal scrawls. But that road is a work of art, the pavement stitched to the north fork of the Feather River as it pools and falls down the mountain.
The water runs through the core of California’s mother lode, a seam of gold-rich land just three miles wide but more than 120 miles long. John Bidwell found gold in the Feather in 1848 just outside Oroville, creating what would become Bidwell’s Bar, one of the richest mines in the area. Three years later, the place was home to 2000 miners, each aimed at digging money from the ground.
The radio crackled. It was contributor Matt Farah.
“I don’t know who picked this road, but it’s spectacular.”
Farah is a Californian, an East Coast transplant who lives in Venice Beach. He’s a journalist and R&T contributor who spends his days driving around the state, and there we were, on a stretch of pavement he’d never seen. Proof that a hundred lifetimes wouldn’t show you every inch of California. When we stopped for a driver change, the judges gathered on the side of the road. We’re all prone to big gestures and loud voices, but something about that place, the sound of the water and the stillness of those trees, kept us quieter than usual, our vocabularies sapped by the sight of Northern California at its finest. Editor-at-large Sam Smith looked down at the Feather, a coil of green basins. “I can’t believe this is in the same state as Los Angeles.”
Some of our favorite roads are wedded to water, and Highway 70 is one of the best. We chased it upstream for better than an hour. It was already autumn in the hills, the light sharp and clear as it filtered through the trees and splashed over our windshields. Far below, sunbathers and fishermen sat on the banks in the sunlight, oblivious to our passing as the road writhed over steel-trestle bridges and through old stone tunnels.
We paused in Quincy for fuel, the cars jockeying for pumps. The day before, in Willows, it had been 107 degrees, but we’d been gaining elevation with every switchback, and the air now sat closer to 50. None of us dressed warmly enough, but we didn’t care. Every convertible had its top back and the heat cranked, an idiot grin glowing from the driver’s seat. We left the gas station and took off toward Quincy’s main street, then hung a right on Highway 119. The road abandoned the river and climbed further into the ragged mountains.
Up there, teetering snow poles marked the shoulder, placed to guide plows through the winter. They towered over the cars. Suddenly, the sepia photos we saw in every convenience store made sense: 1930s Fords and ’40s Buicks parked beside 20-foot walls of ice and snow.
Highway 119 spilled onto the long, windswept Bucks Lake, and we arrived in a blink, settling into the gravel lot at Lakeshore Resort, a small restaurant and lodge on the shore. With the cars tucked in next to local pickups, we headed inside for lunch. The restaurant’s back patio was drenched in that crackling sunlight that seems so particular to Northern California afternoons. Iced tea arrived by the pitcher, and we washed down burgers as bald eagles circled the lake.
Senior editor Kyle Kinard looked out over the water, whitecaps forming on the surface, whipped up by a far-off wind. He had planned the route, arriving weeks before to scout the path and lay out a map.
“I don’t know how to say this without overselling what’s coming, but it gets better from here.”
After lunch, we turned onto Highway 120 toward La Porte, another wonder. Tighter even than the climb to Bucks Lake, the pavement ascending thousands of feet. In some spots, the road narrowed to one lane, the pavement necking between sheer rock walls and thick stands of trees. One moment, we dived into a set of wooded hairpins. The next, we broke into a clearing above a thousand-foot drop. Kinard was right.
The rest of the day carried on the same. A series of exclamation points. After the mountain, the road unwound, Highway 120’s tight bends making way for a river of fresh tarmac. The trees thinned, replaced by golden fields and stocky barns covered in flaking red paint. The caravan dropped into high gear, enjoying a few miles of lazy pace as the sun set.
Night descended as we made our way toward Tahoe, parading through one camp town after another. We caught Highway 49 through Tahoe National Forest, the trees turning to dark pillars in the fading light. The cooler air made for eager engines, exhausts popping and echoing through the woods. The group spread out, and it wasn’t until we caught up to each other at a stop sign, leading onto a highway, that someone noted we had all been running windows down, stereos off.
We called it a night outside Truckee, filling the garage and driveway of an Airbnb house with more than half a million dollars of sports cars. Editor-in-chief Travis Okulski stood in the drive for a moment, hands in his pockets, surveying the cars as everyone gathered luggage.
“This whole day has been like a movie,” he said.
It was true. We’d run through a series of driving bests. We had watched the roads spiral and contract, fell head over heels for a corner of California as the sun sank low. How many perfect days behind the wheel do you get, really? Sports cars demand so much from your life. Time. Space. Money. They don’t fit the family. They cannot brave a Costco run. Most spend their days slogging through a commute or languishing in a garage. But a good run up a clear bit of asphalt can wipe all that away. A day of it is the stuff of fantasy.
When we woke the next morning, we found ourselves with a pile of sports cars in the heart of some of the country’s best driving. We loaded up again and pointed at Donner Pass. California can be an insufferable place. Expensive and full of itself, but also so gorgeous it hurts, packed with more perfect roads per mile than anywhere else in the nation. The route up the pass felt as precious as all that ore Bidwell and his miners pulled out of those ridges. From up there, Donner Lake shone in the sun, reflecting that unreal California sky back at itself. We parked the cars and marveled.
You rip toward Turn 1. The straight is shorter than it looks. Fourth gear, though, at the end. Then into the first corner, a tight left-right combo. Looks like a needle-thread: Huck the car in, all the brake for the right, trailing it, maybe, to keep the nose under you in the corner’s second half. Don’t put it in the grass; people put it in the grass here. (Remember the old saw: don’t look for the wall, or you’ll find it.)
Uphill to the right after that. Turn 2, a third-gear left that goes on forever, painted across a hill. Camber will probably make the car push wide in the midcorner, the nose indifferent and light, and then the front tires set, third or fourth gear as the corner opens into the downhill straight that follows, the tail on casters.
Delicacy! Two corners in, it’s obvious: this place wants finesse.
Turn 3 leaps into your face. Overslowing will happen, because it looks tighter than it is. Mountains to the west, filling the windshield. The first time through 3, you realize you can straight-line the sucker, ripping over the curb. Some cars fly a wheel or two. Then the track changes again, blind, Turns 4 and 5, undulating pavement and no camber where you need it, big grassy berms on exit. The car doesn’t turn, then it turns too much. Turn 5 pinches down and seems to want you in that dirt. It’s a quick transition, but you have to keep your hands tidy or the car won’t settle enough to stay on the pavement.
A breath. Bit of a break, the track seems to open up here.
Six seems normal. It’s not. Your first time through here is also a wake-up, a realization as the pavement appears: 6 connects to 7! So you place the car properly or run out of road when you least expect, committed to a line you can’t see, the exit over a hill. There are divots in the grass at the exit, bites in the dirt where people have tried to hit it early, snipe a little more speed on entry, a little more room on the way out.
Seven is a tight left, arm over arm. Doesn’t feel right and probably can’t. Eight and 9 are waiting games. You go up and over the blind-right 8, cresting a hill at the apex, taillights light. Down into a tight, grippy right for 9, and finally the slow, hard left of 10, a release onto the straight.
It feels like walking through an open door—all that paved runoff, hands unwound as soon as you can, right mirror almost kissing the tires stacked next to the wall. The car yelling its guts out, waiting for 1 again. Lot going on here, you think, passing the flag stand. Do it better next time, your inner voice says, as you wrap that first lap.
And with every one after.
Mazda Miata RF 1:34.64
Hyundai Veloster N 1:31.44
Toyota Supra 1:28.93
Lexus RC F Track 1:27.56
BMW M2 Competition 1:26.91
Lotus Evora GT 1:25.35
Nissan GT-R Nismo 1:23.80
Porsche 911 Carrera S 1:23.08
Chevrolet Corvette 1:22.83
McLaren 600LT 1:20.42
Lamborghini Huracán Evo 1:20.00
We Chose a Hyundai
A Hyundai hatchback, over some of the most significant supercars of our era. Over the second coming of the Toyota Supra, an all-new Porsche 911, and even that beast of myth and legend, the mid-engine Corvette.
It seems impossible. But before you set this magazine on fire and use it to light a pitchfork-lined path to our door, understand that the Hyundai was not the convenient answer.
Politics and popular opinion all but demanded we hand our laurels to a brand with a dusty pedigree. Over the course of PCOTY testing, each of our judges squirreled away feelings on the hatchback, guarding them from others for fear of ridicule or expulsion. But the truth is simple: the 2020 Hyundai Veloster N is a greater celebration of the philosophies we treasure than any other new vehicle.
Let me explain.
There were 11 cars, handpicked and brilliant. They had to prove capable and engaging on the two undulating miles of Thunderhill Raceway Park’s West track before we’d set them loose on our demanding public-road test route. After two days of track time, only six cars would be allowed to join us on the street drive.
The job should have been easy work for machines like the McLaren 600LT, the Lamborghini Huracán Evo, and the Nissan GT-R NISMO, but 2019 was a big year for sports cars. The Supra has returned. The Chevrolet Corvette is mid-engine for the first time. And the Porsche 911 has entered an all-new generation, a sharper, stronger iteration of the world’s most versatile fast car. The others were no less honed, representing every facet of performance, from affordable gems like the Mazda Miata RF Club and the Hyundai, to serious hardware like the sleeper BMW M2 Competition, the bristling Lexus RC F Track, and the exotic, focused Lotus Evora GT.
We’ve never had such a competitive or disparate group of vehicles, each with an honest shot at taking home the prize. This isn’t an editor’s-choice award or a lap-time sprint for gold. Road & Track’s Performance Car of the Year must work well on a track, but it can’t be a one-trick pony; excellent apex behavior must give way to on-road competence. And most of all, a PCOTY winner has to use its technology in service of driver emotion, not just loftier speed. Automakers are increasingly occupied with deleting humanity from the automotive experience, and these days, speed is easy. The harder job is building a car worth driving.
So the Supra should have won, right? It’s a fast, ultra-modern coupe pointed directly at people like us. The Supra nameplate, with its long and storied history, is now engineered in concert with a company—BMW—that rose to prominence selling “the Ultimate Driving Machine.”
Except the Toyota didn’t win. Our judges voted it out, almost unanimously, in the initial cut. The car didn’t leave the track.
Why? How? The Supra is a magnet, low and small and absolutely electric, our testers trying to hide their excitement at simply seeing the thing, let alone driving it. But there’s not much Supra here—none of the name’s legendary solidity and brawn—or even much Toyota. The chassis and driveline are shared with the BMW Z4; the badge on the hood has a BMW part number. The interior smells like a BMW. And despite the Toyota-specific suspension and driveline tune, the car suffers from the same maladies that plague most modern BMWs.
Not that it isn’t seriously fast. Editor-in-chief Travis Okulski took the Supra to a ripping 1:28.93 around Thunderhill West, only a few tenths slower than the more powerful RC F Track. Much of the Supra’s time came from its spectacular front-end grip and precision, the front tires responsive and predictable, though filtered through dead steering. But the real problem is in how the thing does its job. At the limit, it can be twitchy and distant.
“The Toyota somehow manages to be joyless,” editor-at-large Sam Smith said, after his first session. “There’s no reward for focus, no incentive to be a hooligan… It doesn’t feel like any fast Toyota I’ve driven. None of the confidence or unflappability of a second- or third-generation Supra.”
Some of this likely lies at the feet of the car’s maker—without undoing a single fastener, we counted 28 separate uses of the word “BMW,” or the BMW logo, under the Supra’s hood. For a few years now, the Bavarians have been content to turn out cars the mechanical equivalent of the music student who can hit every note at recital but still miss the point of a piece. No surprise, then, that the BMW M2 Competition suffers some of the Supra’s pitfalls, despite clocking an impressive 1:26.91. With 405 hp, the 3600-pound M2 is far from slow, but BMW seems to have worked hard to isolate the driver. All that hustle occurs through a cotton filter. The steering is light and vague. The extra grunt and suspension stiffness over the discontinued, 365-hp base M2 are part of a wholesale trade, exchanging a bit of that car’s talk for straight-line speed and a willingness to drift.
“I have mixed feelings,” contributor Ross Bentley said. “It’s not a bad car, just not what it should be. Good brakes, a little too much understeer. It gives confidence because it’s not going to do anything bad.”
A shame, because nearly everyone praised the M2’s slick gearbox and perfectly positioned pedals. Proof that deep down, BMW still remembers the pleasure of a manual transmission. Unfortunately, that wasn’t enough to make the cut for the road portion of the test. Heartbreaking for a group of judges packed with BMW owners.
And those cars weren’t alone. PCOTY always carries a few surprises and underdogs. The Lexus RC F was out of its depth in this company, but we adored the car’s audacity, its snorty V-8 and too-stiff chassis. It’s a perfect caricature of a Dodge Challenger: great and hilarious, but unrefined and outshined.
Nothing paints a clearer picture of the field’s competitiveness than the strengths of the vehicles left behind. Five cars had to go, and the Lexus was too flawed to stay. Same for the Nissan GT-R NISMO. Who cares that the GT-R is now in its 12th model year? The Nissan is effortlessly fast and laugh-out-loud entertaining. Of all the six-digit cars on hand, it was also the only one that didn’t come with an army of factory minders. Just one guy in a Nissan Armada carrying an extra set of tires. When we asked him if we should make any concessions for the test’s 107-degree heat, maybe bleed off tire pressures, he just shrugged and smiled.
“Nah, it’ll be fine.”
It was. Despite being the heaviest car in the running, the 3865-pound GT-R popped a 1:23.80, less than a second behind both the Porsche and the Corvette. Nissan has improved the car almost every year since its 2007 launch, taking it from distant missile to talkative weapon. The NISMO feels like an old friend, but this year’s updates weren’t enough to keep its head above water. A great car outdone by exceptional ones.
The Lamborghini was also glorious, but it didn’t leave the track, either. Prior to PCOTY, most of us had only experienced the 630-hp, V-10-powered Huracán Evo on public streets, where phrases like “involuntary manslaughter” and “reckless endangerment” shackle you to what’s possible. Unleashed on a closed circuit, the Evo proved its abilities. Miraculous and terrifying ones, mostly. Violent shifts that echo like small-arms fire. Acceleration that rummages through your stomach to see what you had for lunch. That all-wheel-drive system performs the unnatural with a shrug, thanks partly to a front end that feels stitched to the ground. And when you think you’ve come to the edge of that ocean of traction, the Lamborghini digs around in its cupboard and produces another pitcher of the stuff. Trip into a slide, the car almost catches itself, despite feeling big as a city block.
The Evo was hands-down the fastest car around the course. The sound chased it from corner to corner, a Doppler flag marking position. In a field packed with muted and turbocharged exhaust notes, that barking, naturally aspirated engine could not have stood further apart.
“Lamborghinis are supposed to be all style and no substance,” said contributing editor Jason Cammisa. “This has both in equal measure.”
Okulski had just stepped from the car after his laps when Smith cornered him, curious.
“Remember 2018’s Huracán Performante?” Okulski asked.
“Yeah. Sublime. Nothing wrong with it,” Smith said.
“This is better.”
The only problem lurked on pit lane in white paint. A cannon that bumped the Lamborghini from the list of finalists despite being slower around the track. From its nonsensical doors and carbon-fiber buckets to its airy cockpit and turbocharged, theatrical V-8, the McLaren 600LT managed to out-occasion the Huracán at every turn. The LT had the same lightning acceleration, just married to a lithe chassis and the most tactile steering in the business.
Switching from McLaren to Lamborghini was like trading skin and bone for a pattern of pixels. And while the ever-stable Huracán seems to always have a guiding hand on your back, the McLaren could not care less if you chased your dumbest instincts. Drop the hammer in a second-gear hairpin and it does exactly what a 592-horse rear-driver should: spit you sideways in smoke and noise, the limiter kicking at your skull. The British car accomplished as much as the Italian but said more in the process, pushed you to greater heights. Shouted messages to your spine where the Huracán was all murmurs. And when it came down to it, that was the common thread through our six finalists—a hint that someone in R&D did more than tick boxes.
So we left that Lamborghini behind. The McLaren led the pack on the way out of Willows as we hopscotched a series of slow-moving 18-wheelers. The Veloster was next, followed by the 911 and the Corvette. The Miata bopped along behind, the Lotus and its supercharged bark last in line. We worked our way east, toward Tahoe.
Passing in a 600LT is a profanity. Tap the left paddle twice, check the oncoming lane, then plant your right foot and wait for England to put a boot to your chest. For all of our braying about speed’s irrelevance, there’s plenty to be said for a straight road. And while the McLaren’s capabilities are far past the legal limit, the car has other tricks. You can fold the hardtop or roll down the back cabin glass to let that V-8 gasp in your ear.
Before you die, try to execute at least one full-throttle rip through a mountain tunnel in a 600LT with the roof peeled back. It’ll make the best-of when your life flashes before your eyes.
Our stops turned into mini conferences, judges gathering to point and pick at the cars.
“I cannot believe they just let regular people buy these,” contributor Matt Farah said, gesturing at the McLaren. “It’s so obscenely fast. Feels like the craziest engine on Earth is bolted to your spine.”
“It’s the car Lotus wishes they could build,” deputy editor Bob Sorokanich added. “It simply disappears underneath you.”
The Corvette, too, had a way of vanishing in your hands. Few vehicles have felt so uniquely crafted to flip our switches. Our test car, a pre-production unit supplied by GM, brought caveats. For the record, this is not generally how we like to do things. There can be wide gulfs between a car’s test-build performance and job one, and judging a nearly complete effort isn’t always fair. But the eighth-generation Vette is the most significant sports car in recent memory, and GM said that if we wanted that icon in this year’s PCOTY, we had to accept a prepro car.
No one cared when they rolled it out of the trailer. The Chevrolet turned us into children, pointing and crawling over it even as it was backed from the hauler. The C8 is a weird cocktail of familiar and foreign. It smells like Corvette inside, that faint whiff of glue. The valve covers are sparkly, bass-boat red. You can stuff a live human into the cavernous rear trunk. A single individual can remove and stow the roof panel. You sit so far forward, all but atop the front axle. Which is partly why the steering feels instantaneous.
The Corvette has been nipping at supercar heels for years, and it finally seems poised to take a proper bite. The C8 is a brilliant car. “Some elements—engine blueprint, sound, power delivery—are emphatically Corvette,” said senior editor Kyle Kinard. “Others—seating position, turn-in, rotation—aren’t.” As Smith pointed out, the Corvette has always been centered on the democratization of an experience: an affordable version of the European sports car in the 1950s, of the cocaine-cruiser highway vibe of BMW and Mercedes-Benz in the 1980s, and in recent years, Porsche-besting performance with a Silverado price tag. Viewed through that lens, as a Lamborghini for Lubbock, it is pure success.
But there are kinks. The C8’s cabin felt more claustrophobic than that of the front-engined C7, and someone in the General Motors chain of command decided that this car, mid-engine for the first time, needed to drive a lot like the old one. Steering aside, it feels very much like a C7, minus a bit of balance. We missed the liveliness and poise of other mid-engine cars, the nose grip. The delta prompted a question: if you’re going to scrap 66 years of brand precedent and abandon the manual transmission altogether, why look back? Go for broke.
Still, you could make an argument that such things are irrelevant. So the Corvette doesn’t pirouette like a European supercar costing twice as much. Who cares? In Okulski’s lapping, the Chevrolet was still quicker than its longtime rival, the 911, beating the German by a quarter of a second.
And on the road to Tahoe, it was as good as a Corvette has ever been. Comfortable and relaxed when you wanted, eating miles with that V-8 barely breathing. Or sharp and alive, dicing through switchbacks.
When we stopped for fuel, curious strangers lingered near the fleet, making slow passes on their way to the cashier. The Corvette was king, onlookers ignoring the McLaren and 911 for a better look at the C8. In that crowd, certain cars simply vanished, the Veloster N and Miata RF all but invisible. Win some, lose some.
The hitch, sinking the C8, was the transmission. A twin-clutch automatic, Corvette’s first. In automatic mode, on track or the street, it is perfectly adept, handing out shifts quicker than thought. But manual mode is a half step behind the competition, denying downshifts or letting the engine bash the limiter, unsure of how much intervention to provide.
If you must take our clutch pedals, at least swap them for a transmission that wants to play. GM benchmarked the PDK dual-clutch in the 911 while developing the Vette’s transaxle, and it’s clear why. There is no more satisfying or evolved two-pedal gearbox. The PDK in the new 911 Carrera S is quicker and more focused than any human, but it doesn’t rub your nose in it or rap your knuckles when you slip up. Lap after lap, the trans works with you to be a little quicker, covering your tail when you miss a shift and dropping a gear if it thinks you can gain a tenth.
Maybe the Corvette’s production gearbox will be better. Regardless, the disparity was instructive. The 911 and Vette come from different schools of thought. Chevrolet used to know how to subtly refine a product while guarding its identity; Porsche still does. This new-generation 911 fully embraces its rear-engine heritage, and on track, you can feel that delicious weight imbalance, the car’s strengths helping to fire you off each apex.
“This thing is so good, it’s almost impossible to hate,” Farah said. “Who could ask for more power? Who could ask for better steering or more grip? How do you argue with PDK? The only real problem is that you don’t need to spend nearly as much to go this quick, if you don’t want a Porsche. But the 911 is still the Swiss Army knife of sports cars.”
That’s no small compliment. The Porsche’s back seats are large enough to stow a couple kids or a few small pieces of luggage. And when you don’t have the car by the scruff, it fades from your mind, so you can wrestle with what’s for dinner instead of struggling to see out the back window.
On the other hand, maybe that’s the 911 curse. As Cammisa noted, at commuting speeds, the car turns into a Panamera Coupe, Porsche’s luxury sedan, always in the background.
No one accused the Lotus of blending into anything. The car seemed to have dropped in from a different dimension. Or at least a different time. The Evora GT is a snapshot of sports cars from 10 years ago, bare and alive, a minor evolution of a relatively simple platform that debuted in 2009.
It’s weirdly bad at being a car. The seats are mounted a bit too high. The stereo is an aftermarket afterthought. The ignition sequence is an annoying secret handshake—a series of unintuitive button presses to disable the factory alarm—designed to make you look like an idiot at the valet. The rearview mirror provides a spectacular view of the engine’s wastegate actuator and nothing else. It’s loud. And none of that mattered, because the Evora is that good. The GT’s supercharged 3.5-liter V-6 is the same Toyota engine Lotus has used for years, but it sings. As I chased the Corvette up Northern California’s Donner Pass in second gear, roadside granite bluffs bounced the noise back through the open windows, the blower whine crawling around in my lap. On track, the gears felt a little long, the cable-shifted six-speed too clunky for quick shifts, but on the street, the gearbox was divine. It’s the car most of us would have in our garage.
“Fast, winding canyons are like sailing or skiing or ice-skating,” Smith said. “Just dancing. You choose the flow and the Lotus serves it up on a platter.”
There is magic here, and not from electronic trickery. No electronically adjustable shocks or computer-controlled differentials, just careful geometry and tuning. The stuff that has long made Lotus, Lotus. Unlike others in this group, the Evora demanded something of the driver. Skill was necessary for quick laps, but the car never punished a lack of it. You need more than a pulse to make an Evora circle a road course. But that was also true of another machine.
By cold logic, the Mazda Miata RF Club, the slowest and least powerful car at Thunderhill, should not have made the final cut. The RF is essentially an ordinary Miata with a folding steel hardtop in place of the base model’s soft convertible top. Unlike the convertible, however, the RF cannot meet most track-day roll-over inspections without substantial modifications. But Miatas are not logical cars, and those downsides were trumped by the simple fact that the Mazda is a kid’s birthday party behind the wheel, all sugar and pony rides and bliss. The yards of suspension travel and narrow tires make it the perfect forgiving trainer, intentions shouted through body roll. Much of the good came from the Mazda’s new engine, a rev-happy, 181-hp 2.0-liter. That four is best within a whisper of redline, and while most of us loved using every ounce of its performance, some judges were less interested in thrashing a tiny four-cylinder.
At a stop, Farah held up the Miata key, shaking it.
“I don’t like the Mazda much if you’re not caning the hell out of it,” he said. “Those transitions when you’re passing a semi, say. You have to go from sixth, to fifth, to fourth, to third.”
“Oh, I dig that,” Okulski grinned. “I was behind the Miata earlier, and every time it had to make a pass, you could tell the driver was ripping off downshifts. Looked fun.”
“You have to be comfortable owning a car you have to beat the hell out of all the time,” Farah said. “It’s not fun if you’re going slow and the whole thing is vibrating. It’s buzzy.”
Several other judges met him with cocked eyebrows. Cammisa spoke up. “A car that can rip off a 5.8-second 0-to-60 isn’t slow for most people.”
“Well, I still don’t fit in the damned thing,” Farah laughed.
Either way, the power differential was inconsequential in the Plumas National Forest. That was the Miata’s playground. Tight corners, short sightlines, and the Mazda’s accelerator bolted to the floor—those high-dollar cars couldn’t use their power, and they had nowhere to run. There are moments in our driving lives when everything clicks, and the Miata has long been a reliable key for opening that door. The current RF is the same. Even with some of the world’s most athletic vehicles on hand, the Miata was never left behind, carrying its momentum without spilling a drop.
As we sat around a table discussing the week, competitors dropped from contention one by one. The McLaren, for all its supercar glory, could be simultaneously dull and exhausting at a public pace. Gearbox complaints felled the Corvette from grace; every judge wanted an honest manual in place of the dual-clutch, in part because the manual C7 in similar trim was more joyous and alive. And the 911, so close to perfect, still felt big on those back roads. The Lotus, with its wailing V-6, missed the mark in refinement and, like the GT-R, is an old car trying to stay young, not so much moving the sports-car game forward as preserving it in amber. Even the Miata came up short, hamstrung by a folding hardtop that makes installation of a proper roll bar difficult—necessary hardware if you want to take the car to the track.
Only one machine garnered rave reviews all week, painting every driver’s face with a mile-wide grin. Only one gathered an almost unanimous vote.
The Veloster was an outlier—outgunned and outclassed by nearly every other car in this test. A gawky front-drive hatch, zero brand pedigree, in a field of slinky sports cars. But the Hyundai’s behavior quickly set it apart from the crowd. Hyundai’s head of performance development, Albert Biermann, spent 30 years working for BMW, back when the German company built a different sort of car. It shows, because the Hyundai is a love letter to folks like us. After a few happy miles at Thunderhill, Cammisa took to a logbook to remind us that front-wheel-drive cars famously fall apart on a road course—stumbling over themselves, running out of brake, drowning in understeer. But if that’s a universal truth, no one told Biermann. His work behaves like a front-wheel-drive greatest-hits album: want the savagery of a John Cooper Works Mini with the fleetfoot bliss of a Ford Fiesta ST? Turn-in is immediate, the steering precise and bubbling with feedback. The Hyundai has a more sorted front end and more cohesive feel than cars costing three times as much.
“This is a $30,430 car that makes a Volkswagen Golf R irrelevant,” Cammisa said.
What he did not say: The Golf R, one of history’s great hatchbacks, costs around 10 grand more and feels numb by comparison.
Because the Veloster N is so cheap, anyone with a nine-to-five can sign a note and ride off with one of the sharpest cars on the market. But it was more than price. Pressing the “N” button on the steering wheel changed the car dramatically. We tend to turn up our noses at drive modes on fun cars: Why does a Lamborghini need a Sport setting? Didn’t you buy the expensive loud one? The button makes perfect sense here, switching the car from quiet and comfortable daily driver to snotty hot hatch, the exhaust popping and snapping with more authority than anything the Corvette could muster. It is so fantastically neutral, pivoting at your hips, the throttle and brake yaw rheostats.
No front-drive car should work this well, but the Veloster is eager, urging you to run up and stick a pin in some expensive supercar’s ego. To watch it deflate as you fill their mirrors.
“It doesn’t care how you treat it,” Kinard said. “You can drive it on its tippy toes, like someone who knows what they’re doing. Or you can drive it like me, a ham-fisted Colin McRae wannabe. The thing rewards you.”
“That’s what the Civic Type R should have made people say,” Smith agreed.
There are flaws. The engine has all the character of an ink-jet printer, and the gas and brake pedal occupy different zip codes. But after five minutes, it doesn’t matter. As we chased the new Corvette away from our lunch stop on the final day of testing, the Hyundai had that mid-engine thing’s number, dancing and playing but forever confident. Kinard called it a bucket of puppies, but that’s not quite right. I’ve never met a puppy that can run down a McLaren on a back road.
For all their bluster and power, their lap times and displacement, most of the carmakers at this test made a deal with the devil—they traded what once made them great in the search for outright speed. Never has the disparity been greater between the capabilities of a modern fast car and what is legally possible. The new definition of performance isn’t what a car can do, but what it will do on a good road.
The Veloster N is what a great front-wheel-drive car should feel like. A delight that welds a smile to your face every time you drive it. It cheers you on, treating you like the hero. And it came from a company that had no reason to build it. Chevrolet has to make a Corvette; Porsche, a 911. Short of a giant meteorite or nuclear winter, those names will always exist. Cars like the Veloster N are more special, crafted not of obligation, but for the sheer joy of driving. That’s why the Hyundai Veloster N is Road & Track’s 2020 Performance Car of the Year.
We got your letter, Hyundai. We heart you, too.
It’s drop-dead gorgeous, with a few breaks in tradition
Oh boy, Chevrolet invited out the pitchforks with the reveal of the totally redesigned 2020 Chevrolet Corvette, or as it’s known inside Chevy: the C8. It’s a major leap of faith for those in charge at the bow tie brand. This marks the eighth generation of the iconic 2-seater. From the get-go, the introduction of every generational Corvette has been highly anticipated. So, what makes this launch any different? Well, nearly everything.
The first of two glaring changes is, for the first time since its original launch 67 years ago, the engine is located between the passengers and the rear axle. Yep, the 2020 Corvette is a midengine car. The second huge change is, it will no longer offer a manual transmission. What! That’s right, the only transmission available is an 8-speed dual-clutch automatic. A driver can still manually shift the transmission, but it’s by-wire technology. Also, for the first time, leaf springs won’t be a suspension component. Chevy went with coil springs at each wheel.
Clearly, Chevy has two key goals for the radically updated Corvette: Thrust it into the elite circle of supercars like Acura NSX, Audi R8 and McLaren 570, as well as appeal to a younger audience. In doing so, however, the threat is the loss of Corvette’s traditional owner base. Cue the pitchforks. If early orders already accounting for the first year’s production are any indication, though, Chevy doesn’t have much to fret about.
Forgetting the politics of such a sea change, while ignoring our own knee-jerk predispositions for maintaining Corvette traditions, we found our time behind the wheel to be a real revelation. Checking all the supercar boxes of performance, active suspension, midengine design and stunning exterior styling, the reimagined 2020 Chevrolet Corvette should win the hearts and minds of new generations of Corvette owners. As for the traditionalists, we think what the 8th-gen Corvette brings to the party will win over most of them, as well.
The Corvette is totally redesigned for 2020.
What we like
- The Corvette is totally redesigned for 2020.
- What we like
- Drop-dead gorgeous styling
- Radically improved handling
- A supercar that’s an everyday driver
- Sub 3-second sprint to 60 mph with Z51 package
- A $59,995 starting price
What we don’t
- Stingy cargo space
- Hard-to-appreciate steering-wheel design
- Will probably be in short supply for the first year or more
$59,995 to $73,040
Filling the well behind the passengers is an updated version of last year’s LT1 engine. It’s the LT2 that’s a 495-horsepower 6.2-kiter V8 developing 470 lb-ft of peak torque. This is the most hp and torque on any entry-level ‘Vette yet. Chevy made a few changes, mostly to accommodate its amidships placement. One being that the air intake now originates in the rear.
Hustling engine output to the rear wheels is an 8-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission with steering wheel-mounted paddle shifters.
As already mentioned, Chevy is claiming a 0-to-60 mph time of less than three seconds with the $5,000 Z51 package.
No fuel economy government estimates were available as of this writing.
Standard features and options
The 2020 Corvette is available in three trims: 1LT, 2LT and 3LT. When it goes on sale early in 2020, there will also be a convertible version. All prices include the $1,095 factory delivery charge.
The Corvette 1LT ($59,995) comes with Brembo anti-lock brakes with black-painted calipers, a clear engine-compartment cover, 19-in front/20-in rear aluminum wheels, power outboard mirrors with integrated turn signals, LED headlights, a 12-in diagonal color driver information center, dual-zone automatic climate control, Mulan leather seating with perforated inserts, 8-way power-adjustable seats, cruise control, keyless open and start, remote start, a leather-wrapped power tilt-and-telescopic steering wheel, Teen Driver parental controls, an HD backup camera, rear park assist, Bluetooth connectivity, 4G LTE Wi-Fi hot spot capability, OnStar connected services capability, Infotainment 3 Plus System, an 8-in HD color touchscreen, a 10-speaker Bose audio system with HD radio and satellite radio capability.
To the 1LT features the 2LT ($68,390) adds heated/autodimming/power-folding outboard mirrors, a 14-speaker Bose Performance-Series audio system, cargo nets, upgraded 3 Plus infotainment system with navigation, HD front vision camera, a head-up display, a heated steering wheel, an inclination sensor, memory driver/passenger convenience package, power-lumbar and power seat-back bolster front seats, rear cross-traffic alert, blind spot monitoring, antitheft system and wireless charging.
Stepping up to the 3LT ($73,040) adds a custom leather-wrapped interior package, upgraded seats, Napa leather seating with perforated inserts and sueded microfiber-wrapped upper interior trim.
Some features standard on a higher trim are options on lower ones. Several options, though, are across the board, like the performance exhaust, Z51 Package, the body-color dual roof, the carbon fiber roof and the transparent roof panel. There are plenty of customizing touches, too, like different color calipers, seat belts, exterior accents, interior accents and red seating.
The updated Corvette has the usual safety features like four air bags, stability control, traction control and anti-lock brakes. Also standard across the trims is a backup camera, rear park assist and Teen Driver. Standard on the 2LT and 3LT are blind spot monitoring, rear cross-traffic alert and a front vision camera.
No third party has safety or crash tested the 2020 Corvette.
Behind the wheel
The first thing you notice when climbing into the driver’s seat is the uber-low seating position. Next is the oddly shaped steering wheel that’s more of a rectangle than a circle. This is a driver-centric cabin, surrounding the driver on three sides with controls and switches of one sort or another. Things not directly in front of the driver are canted toward him or her. This is not a cockpit engineered for trips to lover’s lane. You can see and speak with the passenger from the driver’s perch, but anything beyond patting your passenger’s head is another matter entirely. The center tunnel is huge.
Enough about the color of the drapes. We like the options Corvette provides to the driver to make the experience his or her own. There are four driver settings (Tour, Sport, Track and Weather) to dial in performance to suit the current conditions. There’s even another setting for the driver to customize things to personal taste.
At the end of the day, what the Corvette is all about is the driving experience. Thanks to the midengine arrangement, not only is the weight more evenly distributed front and rear, the engine sits lower for a lower center of gravity. The car feels more planted and predictable. You really feel in control. A function of 470 hp and a svelte 3,500 pounds of mass, acceleration is as neck snapping as you want it to be.
Chevy made every effort to make the new Corvette more rigid, which translates into better control and cornering. Whether cruising along the freeway or attacking a few curves, the 2020 Corvette is every inch the supercar Chevrolet hoped it would be. And, we still think it’s the best performance bang for the buck.
Other cars to consider
2020 Acura NSX — Don’t let the fact the NSX has a hybrid powertrain fool you. This is still a performance midengine car with impressive acceleration and excellent handling.
2020 Audi R8 — Even without Tony Stark’s endorsement, the R8 is a terrific car. Enjoying a little more horsepower and torque for 2020, it performs as well as it looks.
2020 Porsche Cayman — Hey, it’s a Porsche . Timeless styling and an available 2.5-liter turbo engine that delivers as much as 365 hp.
How can you go wrong picking any combination of Corvette trims and options? Having said that, we’d recommend sticking with the 1LT and adding the Z51 Package. It keeps the price about as low as possible, but provides serious performance.
This story originally ran on Autotrader.com.
Formula 1 is going to see a bunch of changes in 2021. The series is implementing some major shifts to the rules, with new car designs and a budget cap for teams, all with the goal of increasing competition and making races more exciting. For the first time, we’re able to see what the 2021 F1 cars will look like.
Formula 1 revealed the finalized car design at a press conference today, outlining all the new rules and regulations that will go into effect come 2021. The cars will be slightly heavier, and wear 18-inch wheels, which should allow for bigger brakes.
The aerodynamic package is what’s most important, however, because it’ll reduce disruption through the air, allowing for closer battles and more passing opportunities, which should mean more exciting racing. There are major changes to the front and rear wings, as well as the floor of the car. The suspension has been simplified, and wheel-wake control devices have been added to smooth out flow. In August, Formula 1 said this new design will have a 45-percent decrease in airflow disruption.
One thing that isn’t getting a significant update is the powertrain layout—2021 cars will still be using a 1.6-liter hybrid-assisted turbo V-6.
Of course, the car isn’t the only thing that’s been overhauled. The series is standardizing more parts, while restricting how many times certain components can be replaced or upgraded during a race weekend. There’s also a budget cap for every team for how much can spend on performance development, set at $175 million per season. The series says it’s contracted an independent regulator to make sure the spending limit is enforced.
That’s not all. There are changes being made to the race weekend schedule as well, with the pre-race press conference now happening on Friday, right before the first practice session. Furthermore, all teams must run at least two practice sessions per year with drivers who have completed two Grands Prix or fewer. This is done to give new drivers a change to show their worth.
Formula 1 has uploaded a video summarized all of the changes in a video below.
Source: Brian Silvestro, Road&Track
Fernando Alonso confirmed today at a Toyota Gazoo Racing press conference he will be competing in the 2020 Dakar rally, according to Autosport. The Spanish Formula 1 champion will drive a V-8-powered Toyota Hilux throughout the 12-day event, taking place in January.
Alonso has been testing with Toyota since March 2019, before entering his first event in August to get accustomed to the rigors of longer off-road competition. Hopes for a top-10 finish in Morocco were dashed after a crash on stage three forced him and co-driver Marc Coma to retire thanks to front suspension damage, according to Motorsport.com.
Autosport reports the 38-year old Spaniard will race in a regional rally in Saudi Arabia in preparation for Dakar this December. The decision to compete came after Dakar organizers banned testing in the country leading up to the start of the event.
Source: Brian Silvestro, Road&Track