The other drawback of such soft-compound rubber is tire life. With a treadwear rating of just 80—compared with 220 for the standard Goodyear Eagle F1 Supercar G:2s—the Pilot Sport Cups are not long for this world. Nor are they designed for wet or cold weather. According to GM, “They are competition-oriented tires, optimized for warm, dry conditions….” Thankfully, that was exactly the weather forecast on the day of our autocross event.
THE SKY WAS CRYSTAL CLEAR AS THE SUN ROSE OVER CAMARILLO AIRPORT. We’d already snapped dozens of photos of the Centennial Special Edition Z06, taking advantage of the soft, pre-dawn light—shooting a black car in direct sunlight presents its challenges. The unused portion of a landing strip was already filling up with cars. Though the Santa Barbara region of the Porsche Club of America organized the autocross, the event was open to all comers. The field was exceedingly diverse, with more Honda S2000s than Porsche 911s, a VW Rabbit and plenty of Lotus 7s. We weren’t the only ones with a Corvette. Ron Posen had entered his supercharged ’06 Z51 coupe and the father/son duo of Paul and Stephen MacFarland would be sharing their modified ’01 C5.
Our goal for the event was not to set the top time of the day, but to get a feel for our Z07-equipped machine in a safe and controlled setting. We’d also been given fairly strict marching orders by Chevrolet: It only wanted us to perform two timed runs. Before we arrived in LA, we thought tire wear was Chevy’s biggest concern, but after discovering this Z06’s propensity for kicking up stones, we realized our press patrons were probably more worried about the paint.
After our car passed its tech inspection (the 500-mile odometer readout must have been an all-time low), we proceeded to the driver meeting. Event chair Martin Keller emphasized the fact that, relative to previous courses at the same site, this course was particularly fast, with one straightaway where some of the cars might hit 100 mph in third gear—a rarity in the coned confines of autocrossing. We were excited to learn that the course would provide the opportunity to stretch the Z06’s legs a bit and put its Brembo brakes to the test.
We took one practice run to try and learn the track before paying attention to the clock. As it turns out, the course was a lot tighter than we had thought—our wide-body Corvette felt very wide indeed—and that seemingly long straight was over in a flash.
For our first timed run, we put the PTM in its #4 or “dry” setting. (Optimized for wet conditions, the #5 setting is the most intrusive in terms of traction- and yaw-control intervention.) We had already placed the MSRC shocks in their stiffer Sport setting. Both of these tasks are accomplished via the same large knob located directly ahead of the center arm rest.
With a wave of the flag from the starting official, we were off. Soon we were negotiating the slalom portion and realizing we could carry a lot more speed through this section. We pushed harder through the next sequence of corners, and as the car started to rotate we felt the PTM kick in, well before it seemed necessary. We then exited onto the straight at full throttle and grabbed third gear just before nailing the brakes. Then, before we knew it, the Corvette had broke the timing beam and we were creeping back to the end of the line, reflecting on our run.