Seems like yesterday when I plopped down on my plump Rooms To Go leather couch to flip actual Car and Driver paper pages, in anticipation to see how the second iteration of the mighty Z06 would do at this iconic 4.1-mile track in Virginia. But that was 17 years ago, and boy how things have changed (as shown by this year’s lightning lap).
For one, the winner’s time in that inaugural year would not even place in the fastest third of the record book, which numbers 315 vehicles to date. That vehicle? The revered 2006 Ford GT, which won with a time of 3:00.07. Do you want more crazy context for how far we have come? There is now a $52,000 Toyota Corolla, yes a Corolla, that beat the mighty GT with a 2023 time of 2:59.6. Let’s take a moment to let out a collective lol and yikes.
So back to that first 2006 contest with the C6 Z06. For fun take a guess at how much faster this year’s champion C8 Z06 was around the 4.1-mile Grand Course at VIR. Ten seconds? No, faster. Fifteen seconds? Getting warmer. The 2023 Z06 was 22.5 seconds faster than the Z06 from just 3 generations ago. My brother has a 2006 Z that he’s in love with, I won’t tell him if you don’t.
Here’s a look at the beautiful Z06 that set a new Corvette record by blazing around VIR in 2:38.6. A Corvette record you say? But what about the 2019 ZR1, which was lighter and had 85 more horsepower?!? Yep, it was close but the ZR1 turned a 2:39.5 time, which was good enough for a 2nd place finish in the 2018 Lightning Lap (beat by a Porsche 911 GT2 RS). Our own Mark Capayas did a write-up on the ZR1 at VIR here (with a video).
What does this impressive time mean? Use whatever term suits you, but the Lightning Lap is the benchmark, the litmus test, a measuring stick, and this track and comparison is kinda a big deal, not just for enthusiasts but the manufacturers, who not only try to bring their best but also bring extra tires to ensure the fastest times possible.Some other notable stats from this year’s winner, the Z ascended through the infamous Climbing Esses at an average speed of 133.4 and hit g-forces of 1.22 in turn one. As that glorious LT6 screamed around the 4.1 mile track, living near its 8500 rpm redline, the oil temperature never exceeded 200 degrees (well done GM engineers!).How did this 2023 Z06’s time of 2:38.6 fare over the 17-year history of the Lightning Lap? The Z is firmly planted at #5, only to be supplanted by exotic names like the McLaren (twice), AMG GT Black Series, and 911 GT2RS.
There’s a great video embedded in this link with no driver commentary, just that wonderful flat-plane crank LT6 engine revving towards 8500 rpm, and if you want some driver commentary skip to 8:00 in the video below to hear K.C. Colwell’s impression of driving this beast around VIR. His comment that stands out for me was after being asked how he felt about driving the Z06, K.C. immediately goes on to say, “I mean, nervous for sure…”
Congrats to the Z06 for a well-deserved win. We often have vibrant discussions over on our Facebook page, I would love to hear from you! Douglas B.