Automania by Dr. Iain Corness

GM releases its most powerful Corvette ever

General Motors may be in trouble trying to sell off its fleet of SUVs, a market that the ordinary motorist is now shunning, but the performance area is queuing up to gets its hands on the new Corvette ZR1.

Corvette ZR1

The new Chevy performance flagship costs the same as a Porsche 911 GT3 in America, so the automaker has decided to price its offering alongside that from Germany. GM says the Corvette ZR1 will carry a sticker price of $US105,000 - including dealer delivery charges and gas-guzzler tax - when it goes on sale in America this northern summer. The fuel consumption tax reportedly accounts for $US1700 of the price.
Compared to the Corvette, the Porsche GT3 retails for $US107,500 in the US.
Just two options are offered in the ZR1 - chrome wheels for $US2000 and a premium interior package that includes ZR1-logoed leather trimmed sports seats, side airbags, Bose stereo and satellite navigation. This adds $US10,000 to the price.
However, the buyers of the Corvette do so for the performance, not the cosmetic extras. And the ZR1 has performance by the bucketload. Try such figures as a 0-100 km/h sprint in 3.5sec, beating the previous 7.0 liter Corvette Z06 by three tenths of a second. If you think that is fast, try 0-160 km/h in 7.0 sec, a full second quicker than last year’s car.
The engine of the ZR1 is a supercharged 6.2 liter LS9 V8 with an Eaton TVS Supercharger and intercooler that kicks out a monstrous 476 kW (638 horsepower) and 818 Nm of torque. Remember that horsepower numbers sell cars, but it is torque figures that win races (see item on the Le Mans race this year).
The ZR1 can run up to 330 kph (if you can find a road long enough), and comes with massive Brembo Carbon Ceramic Brakes to try and haul it back from those speeds. It is, by the way, the fastest Corvette ever.
The price of a Porsche GT3 in this country is somewhere around the 20 million baht region, so I would expect the Corvette ZR1 to be about the same. Totally ridiculous on Thailand’s goat tracks, but I certainly wouldn’t kick one out of my garage!
Of course there are the Ferrari fanatics who are singing the praises of the new 599 GTB Fiorano, saying it is the fastest naturally aspirated two seater in the world. OK, that’s all very well, but the Ferrari performance comes from its 6 liter V12 developing 456 kW at 7600 rpm and 608 Nm at 5600 rpm. That is a lot less that the Corvette numbers. With all its F1 race-bred technology the Ferrari 599 Fiorano covers 0-100 km/h in 3.7 seconds and 0-200 km/h 11 seconds. Enzo must be revolving in his grave, as that is not as quick as 6.2 liters of American iron, and who cares how they get the fuel into the engine. The Corvette will also be several millions of baht cheaper.

Autotrivia Quiz

Last week I asked how did famous body builder Pinin Farina get his name? This was easy and even only a short Googling would come up with the fact that Pinin Farina was the tenth of eleven children, and his nickname, “Pinin” meant the youngest/smallest (brother), in Piedmontese, referring to his being the baby of the family.
So to this week. What was the first car to go into production with a unitary fiberglass structure? And no, it was not the 1953 Chev Corvette, that had a fiberglass body.
For the Automania FREE beer this week, be the first correct answer to email [email protected]
Good luck!


What did we learn from Le Mans?
What was demonstrated again was the fact that horsepower sells cars, but torque wins races (see Corvette ZR1 item above). The diesel engined race cars swept the first six places, and the major reason was the fact that diesels give greater torque than petrol engines.

Le Mans 24 Hours

Whilst it looked as if the French Peugeots were the class act, it was Germany’s Audi that took the outright placing, giving the Ingolstadt based marque their eighth victory in nine attempts, this time thanks to the trio of Kristensen-McNish-Capello. The Danish driver, Tom Kristensen also celebrated his eighth personal victory in this classic race which establishes a new record. Peugeot completed the podium by putting two of their 908 Hdi FAP models into second and third place. The French constructor led for most of the first half of the race, but their greater number of fuel stops took its toll over the 24 hours, letting the Audi slip by.
The Le Mans race is also split into different classes and the LM P2 was won by the Porsche Spyders who came first and second on their first visit to the Le Mans 24 hours. The LM GT1 was taken by Aston Martin’s DBR 9 followed by two Chev Corvettes and Ferrari annihilated the LM GT2 class with their 1-2-3-4 placing.
It was a huge crowd (over 258,000) that braved the elements for the 24 hour race, with recurring rain being a feature. The spectators had to put up with some really appalling weather conditions, never mind the drivers. This was the 76th running of the 24 hour classic, which has survived being held in France, with some very parochial French decisions from time to time. I was interested to see that they are looking at changing the rules again next year to slow down the diesel cars. If the Peugeot diesel had won, I wonder if the rule change would have been raised?

What did we learn from the French GP?
Well it seems as though the French have not forgotten their defeat at the Battle of Agincourt in 1415. If he had stayed out there any longer, Lewis Hamilton (McLaren Mercedes) would have been penalized for breathing. The drive-through penalty for passing Vettel (Squadro Toro Rosso) was nonsensical. Hamilton had already passed Vettel before the corner in question. But ah well, the current crop of French stewards are the sons of those who disqualified the BMC Mini’s in the Monte Carlo Rally for the wrong wattage in their headlight bulbs in 1966!
Massa (Ferrari) was lucky to win, as he was being completely outclassed by team mate Raikkonen, until Raikkonen’s exhaust fell asunder. However, you grab every win with both hands and (pretend to) commiserate with the loser later. Ferrari were the class act, no question about that, but there is a question as to why Raikkonen was not pulled in for examination of the flailing exhaust pipe. Being hit in the face with 300 mm of hot pipe is potentially very dangerous. But then again, the stewards were French.
BMW were nowhere, despite a valiant fifth by Kubica. He just did not have the speed. His soon to be replaced team mate Heidfeld finished thirteenth, having never been seen all afternoon.
Red Bull’s Webber (6th) looks as though he still has a season or two, but Coulthard is looking doubtful. I think he will be playing Maitre d’ in one of his Monaco hotels next year.
With the GP being in France and the (name) Renault coming from France, even though the team is based in Enstone in the UK, national pride was evident with both the Renault drivers hogging the majority of the TV coverage. The Sulky Spaniard ran on two and a quarter spoonsful of fuel in qualifying to make him seem more competitive, and was first in for fuel in the race. The strategy did not work and Alonso had the ignominy of being beaten by Nelsinho Piquet, with the pair seventh and eighth.
McLaren-Mercedes did not cover themselves with glory either. Hamilton did not drive like the boy wonder the press has made him out to be, and Kovalainen was unable to pass Trulli’s Toyota for the entire race. “Toyota beats Mercedes” should be the headline to warm the hearts of all the Yaris and Corolla drivers. Timo Glock in the second Toyota came nowhere, however.
While still in Japan, Honda was back to being so far from the points they may as well have stayed at home. Jenson Button crashed again. Perhaps a referral to his local eye specialist is in order? And Rooby was nowhere all afternoon. He had been given a five place penalty after changing a gearbox. Totally unnecessary, driving the ‘Earth Nightmare’ Honda is penalty enough.
Force India seems to have run out of curry powder, and we did not see them for the entire race, or perhaps the TV producer just missed them. Of course, the French don’t like Indian food either. Eighteenth and nineteenth will not be giving VL Mallya many jollies.
Squadro Roaring Tossers did have a Frenchman on board with Sebastian Bourdais, but he’s not giving them much to roar about. Seventeenth when his team mate Vettel was twelfth is woeful. Toro Rosso is for sale, but they will need two drivers for 2009. Nobody will want Bourdais and Vettel will be snapped up by BMW.
If you think this sounds as if the French GP was dull, you are correct. Perhaps the reason for questionable stewarding is to add some excitement to the procession.