Do you ever wonder where this is all going to end? More power, bigger wings, better aero, fatter tires. Remember when the ’90s Porsche 911 Turbo and Chevrolet Corvette ZR1 hit 400 horsepower? We thought we were all going to die. Yet now we’re close to doubling that. What hath the demon seed of technology
Do you ever wonder where this is all going to end? More power, bigger wings, better aero, fatter tires. Remember when the ’90s Porsche 911 Turbo and Chevrolet Corvette ZR1 hit 400 horsepower?
We thought we were all going to die. Yet now we’re close to doubling that. What hath the demon seed of technologyWith such existential theorizing in mind, we present the ever-rising top of the upward spiral: the 2019 Chevrolet Corvette ZR1 with ZTK package and the 2018 Porsche GT2 RS Weissach Edition.
As a result of my long racing career and introduction to the inner workings of Porsche Motorsport when I had a factory contract, plus my 10 seasons of track testing with Motor Trend, I have followed firsthand with interest and wonder the twists and turns of this steady progression of technology and performance.
These supercars are the highest evolution of their own long lineages and make claim to being at the top of the aforementioned spiral in the entire major automaker universe, as well.
Let’s start with the ZR1, because ‘Murica! Today’s ‘Vette is the last of the C7 generation, created directly out of the C6, tracing its history back to the 2005 model year. The standard engine then was the 6.0-liter LS2, rated at 400 hp, later upping to 430 with the 6.2-liter LS3. In response to the ever-swelling output of its American V-10 rival Dodge Viper, the C6 ZR1 fired a major salvo in the dyno wars with its 638-horse supercharged Blower-Under-Glass (with see-through hood bulge). A couple years later came the Z06, with 650 horses and a strong tendency to overheat—both the engine’s vital fluids and the intake air temps—when driven at pro speeds on track (something I discovered on my first three laps at a Road Atlanta press day). This track-oriented model was simply not ready for prime time, though it’s true that more conservative owners were able to successfully track their Z06s at a milder pace.
This leads us to the latest ZR1 and its top-dawg 755-hp LT5. The challenge for the Corvette team was to simultaneously improve the speed and the cooling of the Z06/Z07 we know and love. Tough task, because those two goals pull the needle in opposite directions. More power equals more heat. To address this, five new radiators have been added, resulting in far better cooling. On track, temps still get warm, but during my time at the wheel, the needles never speared the red zones.
Compare that to the Porsche GT2 RS. Right up front, it’s more than twice as much moolah—if you can find one to buy. But it’s also a new pinnacle in the long and brilliant history of the 911. For 15 years, I was up to my ears racing them. I started racing just as the water-cooled cars were coming to market. With far superior control of engine temperatures and four-valves-per-cylinder breathing, the 996 made far more power than the venerable fan-and-fin-cooled flat-sixes.
But a funny thing happened. After years of working so hard to reduce the famous oversteering tendencies of the rear-engine 911—culminating with my now second-favorite 911 chassis to drive, the 993—the oversteer was back. The 996 was twitchy and loose and dicey. New generation, back to the drawing board. I raced with both versions on my teams at Alex Job Racing and with Greg Fordahl Motorsports in the early 2000s, and I saw how the old 993 RSR would kill the new 911 GT3 R in the corners with stable, usable grip but get smoked down the straights by the newer car’s four-valve urge and slick, low-drag aero.
Why the history lesson? To explain why I’m so excited about the new GT2 RS. It’s the first 911 since 1999 that truly takes advantage of its rearward weight distribution and turns its copious torque into acceleration. It’s my hope that this will be the new paradigm.
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