A Corvette ZR1 serves as the perfect Ferrari foil
By: Don Sherman
Locking throttles open for a mile or more at a time has been my stock in trade for decades, mainly because it's a calling that never goes stale. So, the instant I heard a Texas Mile attack was planned, I began conniving a way to snatch a slice of the speed.
My ploy was an intramural race folded into the mix of 1000-hp sports cars and 200-mph motorcycles competing at the Goliad Industrial Airpark. I proposed pitting the home team, a Chevrolet Corvette ZR1, against the pedigreed Italian stallion campaigned by my esteemed colleague, Jason Cammisa. This is a classic confrontation:
Ancient pushrod engine technology versus the latest Formula 1 horsepower science. Traditional clutch pedal and H-pattern transmission versus computerized launch control and power shifting.
Fat, force-fed pistons versus a lean, normally aspirated DOHC V-8 singing 9000 rpm.
A merely expensive car versus one attainable only by the filthy rich with platinum status on the Ferrari customer list. Years of testing have taught me not to rush blindly into uncharted territory. Referring to acceleration data logged last summer, I feared that the Ferrari 458 Italia enjoyed the performance edge. Tended by a crew of five Maranello engineers and technicians, one very fit prancing horse bolted from rest to 180 mph in 4500 feet. ZR1 Corvettes tested in 2008 required another 500 feet-5000 total-to clear that same hurdle. To be assured of a strong finish in Texas, the Chevrolet would need what racing great Mark Donohue aptly dubbed an "unfair advantage."
From my perspective, two factors make a modification or two fair game for the Texas Mile. First, the majority of the cars and bikes competing here are tuned with horsepower helpers that range from mild to wild. The second point I stressed while posturing the Corvette to Automobile Magazine management as the underdog is that a ZR1 costs less than half the price of any new Ferrari. My request to exploit an unfair advantage was approved.