It finally happened. You got old. Which means you finally have a few bucks in your pocket. Obvious next step: Corvette, duh. Why not? The cars are fast, sexy, and hands down the best performance bang for your buck dollar for dollar. Now that you have the Vette, it’s time to race that baby. Hello Corvette Challenge, the time trial series for Corvettes only, brought to you by guys at Speed Ventures.
Time trials are relatively cheap to play in. You are looking at entry fees of about $180 a day. True, it isn’t as inexpensive as a $25 autocross but you will get much more actual track time during a time trial event versus an autocross, hence the extra scratch. You will need a good helmet which you can score from I/O Port Racing Supplies for around $300. A transponder is required for keeping track of your lap times (a steep $495 to own one, but usually $40-$50 a weekend for a rental). Tow hooks are required, so add in another $50 for those and some graphics for your favorite car number, another $50-$100 depending on how crazy you go with the decals (don’t be a newbie and use shoe polish on your window).
However, in regards to cost, this is called the Corvette Challenge for a reason, so you will have the initial cost of the Corvette (which isn’t free). But time trials don’t require a roll cage, cut-off switch, window net, etc. which is mandatory for road racing (and quite pricey as well).
Many different sanctioning bodies run time trial events during track days including National Auto Sport Association (NASA). But the Corvette Challenge is specific to Speed Ventures. They hold their Corvette Challenge events during their weekend track days at different race venues in California. The Corvette Challenge gets their own run group during the day as to avoid having lesser (slower) cars in the way on course.
Speed Ventures has four different classes for the Corvette Challenge: Stock, Modified, Super Modified, and Ultimate. The classing of your Corvette is dependent on the year, model and modifications (including tires).
You are doing what the Corvette was designed to do, go fast. This is the real article, high speeds, fast corners, a deep V8 howl, and late braking. Running a Corvette on a dedicated race track is an adrenaline rush like no other. The performance of the Corvette is so far above what most of us have spent time racing (Miatas, E30s, Neons, SE-Rs) that it takes a second to realize how fast you are actually going. Because your lap times count, this is a competitive time trial event, you push yourself even harder trying to find that extra tenth of a second to give yourself the win. It is awesome.
Track days are very hard on brakes. The speeds are up there so deceleration builds up enormous heat. You need to have good brake pads, fresh rotors and a very high boiling point brake fluid. We use Carbotech Racing Brake Pads and ProSpeed RS683 Extreme Performance Brake Fluid. How your Corvette holds up during the Corvette Challenge is dependent on your right foot and the quickness of your hands. These cars are a handful to drive fast. To really get the most out of the car, all electronic driving aids are turned off. This means you are on your own. Ole General Motors put electronic stability control and traction control in these cars because without those aids, the average person would total a Corvette in about 50 feet. But on the race track you want every bit of performance available and the electronic aids are just too limiting. So if you aren’t on your game, your fiberglass and carbon fiber Corvette will ultimately find something hard to crash into. Your insurance isn’t going to cover damage at the track. Chances are, due to the cost of these cars, you have financed the ride. Nobody wants to continue to make monthly payments on a hulk of aluminum and fiberglass that has been totaled.
Time trial track days are pretty relaxed compared to road racing. You will arrive, complete your registration, get the car tech inspected, install your transponder, enjoy a lengthy driver’s meeting and then watch the clock for your scheduled sessions. Usually Corvette Challenge events have four different sessions on track. In most cases your fastest lap from any one of those sessions will go toward your score. Best time in class is the winner. Occasionally depending on the weather, the first session of the day may be your chance to lay down a hot lap, other times it may be your last session, when you finally get the track figured out and put down a barn burner.
I have found the Corvette Challenge crowd to look like exactly what you thought they would look like: older white dudes. Sure, there is a stereotype for the average Corvette owner, and this group does nothing to break it. But they are a nice group of older white dudes, who know a lot about Corvettes. The paddock is filled with immense Corvette knowledge and the guys are willing to share information with anyone who is willing to listen. Bring your folding chair (with the required Corvette flags embroidered on the seat back) and hang around and pick up some setup advice.
There is no podium ceremony, or champagne, or trophy girls. In fact, there isn’t even a trophy. There is a trophy at the end of the year when a champion in each class is crowned. If you have the fastest lap in your class at the end of the day, reach around and pat yourself on the back. When you get home, you can go online and see that you won. Yay. That’s about it. If you want champagne baths and hot trophy girls, time trial events are not what you are looking for. For that sort of glory you will need to add a roll cage to the car and rub fenders in a road race.
OH, YOU WANT TO WIN, DO YA?
A small combination of letters and numbers are what you need to win the Corvette Challenge: Z06. It is called the Corvette Challenge, but in reality it is the Z06 Challenge.
The key to winning any time trial event is to ensure your car is maxed out with car preparation for the specific class. For instance, in Corvette Challenge a C6 Z06 is already bumped up out of the Stock class and into the Modified class. By simply adding Hoosier Tires, the C6 Z06 is then bumped into the Super Modified class (where there are other Z06s with more mods). So you have to decide where you want to compete.
Knowing the track well will give you a huge advantage. If you have done two hundred laps at Willow Springs, you have a big advantage over the guys in your class who are at the track for the first or second time.
Traffic. You only need one fast lap out of the entire day to win the Corvette Challenge. If you have to work through traffic and make passes, that hinders your lap time. Find a nice space cushion during your session and then rip off a flyer. That will ensure you are the winner. I use radios from Sampson Racing Communications and a spotter to help guide me through traffic.
Oh, and one more thing. You have to drive the hell out of that Z06. The car will try to kill you every chance it can. You have to grab the reigns of that bitch and run that car into the ground to ensure you are the winner. Well, that’s how I won the Corvette Challenge event at Buttonwillow Raceway, anyway.
We detailed the build of our Z06 at Z06Life.com.
RACER BOY GAUGE
Let’s review the Racer Boy gauge cluster here:
FUEL (Cost): The fuel gauge is less than a quarter tank because this isn’t cheap. This series requires a Corvette Z06 to win. Corvettes use big tires, and big brakes, which cost big money to replace. My advice: get rich.
RPMs (Adrenaline): The tachometer is at 6,800 RPMs because this is the real deal. Running a Corvette Z06 at max speed on a closed course is epic. Nothing compares to it.
MPH (Danger): The speedometer is at 123 miles per hour because if you drive a Corvette, chances are you will be going 123 miles per hour between every corner of any racetrack. These cars are fast.
VOLTS (Time): The volts gauge is less than a quarter full because time trials are a full day affair (and prepping the car for time trials takes longer than simply getting ready for an autocross). Tell your wife you’re busy.
MILEAGE (Car Wear): The mileage is at 150,000 miles because running a Corvette at ten tenths on a closed course (with walls and tire barriers) can be hard on your carbon fiber fenders. Corvette Challenge events have sadly seen the demise of many LS7 engines which grenaded in spectacular (and expensive) fashion.
Speed Venture’s Corvette Challenge is an awesome way to run your Corvette at the limit and compete with likeminded and like-equipped individuals. If you have a Z06, it is something you have to do. It is what the car was made to do. See you at the track!
If you enjoy Rob Krider’s Racer Boy column then check out his novel “Cadet Blues” available in print or e-book at Amazon.