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Story by Jack Baruth

An early embargo break by our esteemed colleagues in the motoring press means we can now immediately bring you the scoop on the 2009 Corvette ZR1, and that scoop can be summed up as: No. Fuggin. Way. We expected outrageous horsepower, and we got it, with a rated capacity of “at least” 620 ponies. We expected a major-league chassis, and with carbon-ceramic brakes packing twice the front pad area of the already substantial brakes on the Z06, we got that too. What we perhaps didn’t expect was the sheer f***-the-environment bravado of the C6-R style, exposed-carbon-fiber-everywhere body, or the chassis improvements that are so substantial that one of the press releases actually compares the car to an angry Kodiak bear, or, most unbelievably, the polycarbonate window in the hood to make the supercharger visible to other drivers, women, law enforcement personnel, the homeless, and orbiting satellites in space.

More, and a link to the comprehensive gallery, after the jump.

View Complete 2009 Corvette ZR1 Gallery (45 images)

The ZR1, which is most emphatically not called the ZR-1 with a dash, gives every impression of having clawed its way out of a Chevrolet project-car basement somewhere. Nearly everything about the physical appearance of the car is deliberately calculated to shock. It’s now plain why there wasn’t too much of the proverbial wailing and gnashing of teeth at GM when the six-hundred-horsepower Viper debuted; the ZR1 has street presence to match or exceed it. The transparent bonnet panel is simply icing on the cake, a sizzling stream of urination on Ralph Nader’s grave. (Note: Ralph Nader is not yet dead, which means the gravediggers will have an unpleasant task when he does die.)

But there’s real performance and power behind the outrageous looks; there’s also a rather interesting mission statement behind the car as a whole. Since the “Blue Devil” was first hypothesized, many have suggested that it would be a very different car from the Z06. The Z06 would continue to be the ultimate road-course Vette and the touchstone for the legions of skull-stickered Corvette ALMS fans, while the ZR1 would be a gift to the traditional Corvette owners who like automatic transmissions, softer rides, and drag-strip performance. This would have made plenty of sense, as many long-time ‘Vette buyers simply won’t buy a Z06 due to the mandatory stick shift and the lack of a convertible or glass-roofed version.

Those people are going to have to continue to wait. The ZR1 is clearly meant to eclipse the Z06 on-track. As noted above, the brakes are enormous, and according to Chevrolet they match the world’s largest production carbon-ceramic brakes, whatever those are. (Our guess: the stoppers on the Euro-market Bentley Continental GT Speed.) The LS9 supercharged 6.2-liter V8 is moved slightly lower in the chassis than the already low-and-dry-sumped LS7 in the Z06. The press materials specifically state that the ZR1 will outcorner the Z06, even with the Magnetic Ride suspension – which means it will be easier to drive on the street as well.

Here at Dubspeed, we’ll continue to bring you material on the ZR1 as it becomes available, but one thing is for sure. This is the fastest Corvette in history, possibly the fastest American-made street-legal car in history, and it’s going to be making a lot of news.

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Jack Baruth

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