With its robust 670-horsepower LT6 V-8 engine, the new Corvette Z06 may not claim the title of the most potent Vette in history. Moreover, at a weight of 3646 pounds, it’s far from being the lightest. However, when it comes to racetrack performance, this C8 Z06 stands unparalleled among its Vette counterparts, making it the ultimate street-legal Corvette.
While previous Corvettes were often associated with benchmark times set by Chevrolet engineers, the Z06 hadn’t officially established its dominance on the Grand Course, aside from some preliminary laps at VIR. Yet, its performance at other tracks was quite remarkable, running laps on par with the 755-horsepower C7 ZR1. The most exciting part was surpassing our old ZR1’s lap time by nearly a second, despite the ZR1’s 85-horsepower advantage and 4.5-mph higher top speed on the Front Straight.
The Z06’s impressive time of 2 minutes and 38.6 seconds places it as the fifth fastest in Lightning Lap history, and it holds the record for the best lap time for a naturally aspirated engine, outperforming much pricier alternatives with considerable straight-line speed. Don’t be mistaken, though; the engine is no weak point.
On the street, the Z06 roars at a blistering 8500 rpm, startling pedestrians with its distinctive sound. However, on public roads, there’s no safe way to fully exploit the exceptional chassis capabilities. With the ability to pull 1.22 g’s in Turn 1 and averaging 133.4 mph while ascending the Climbing Esses, it becomes evident that this Corvette is truly built for the track.
When equipped with optional carbon-fiber wheels, shedding 41 pounds of rotating and unsprung mass, the Z06 exhibits a level of responsiveness like no other at high speeds. Understeer is nearly non-existent at any velocity, and the chassis balance allows for easy adjustments of the front-end grip by applying brake pressure. The Z06 is so eager to turn in that we found ourselves opting for the heaviest steering setting, not because it offered more feedback but because the additional on-center effort provided resistance when entering corners.
In the midst of cornering, the optional competition sport seats, while comfortable, do not hold the driver in place as effectively as Porsche’s equivalent. Instead, drivers are left wrestling with massive g-forces as their arms and legs fight fatigue. Replacing them with the GT4 RS’s bucket seats might result in a quicker lap time.
Beyond the power and chassis excellence, the Z06’s story is also one of temperature management. Running the LT6 engine hard for 10 laps hardly affects oil temperatures. During the LT6’s development, the engineering team identified hot spots in the main bearings caused by cavitation near the redline, particularly when the oil thins out at higher temperatures. To counter this, the Z06 is equipped with multiple heat exchangers in its front end to maintain oil temperatures below 200 degrees. While these coolers may be all that other cars see in their rearview mirrors, the Corvette Z06 swiftly moves past them, never lingering for long.