Video: Nervous Corvette ZR1 Duels With Camaro ZL1 1LE At Hockenheim!

Flowing, fast, and with plenty of heavy braking, Hockenheim is an ideal location to test two of America’s best track-oriented cars. Their V8 power is fully exploited through its faster sections, and the tractability of their motors is tested in the course’s several hairpins — as are the effectiveness of the brakes. With a few quick corners, high-speed balance is also something that plays a significant role at this varied circuit where Sport Auto has battled some of the best supercars in the business.

We’ve seen how the Camaro ZL1 can take on the Porsche GT3 RS and Mercedes GT4 cars, so how does it fare against its fitter brother? With the skilled and supremely brave Christian Gebhardt extracting every iota of performance from these two, we’re in for some major fireworks in Fourth of July fashion.

Easier to Exploit

Excellent composure over the curbs, strong traction, and a fairly forgiving chassis allow Gebhardt to lean on the Camaro. Without a doubt, it looks the more confidence-inspiring of the two, and it deploys its 650 horsepower without spinning the Goodyear Eagle F1 Supercar rubber much. However, its ~3,900 pounds hamper its progression in hairpins, where it can’t quite roll the same amount of entry- nor mid-corner speed as its more angular sibling.

The Camaro’s heft forces it to linger a little longer in the slower corners (1:10).

Let’s take a closer look. In the middle of the Turn 8 hairpin (1:43), the Camaro’s minimum speed is 51 miles per hour. The Corvette rolls a minimum of 54 miles per hour through the same bend and gets back to full throttle much sooner (3:05). These marginal gains might not sound like much, but just by watching the footage, we can see the difference. Better yet, the benefits from Gebhardt matting his right foot a half-second sooner compound the Corvette’s straight-line advantage.

Weighing 300-pounds less and boasting another 100 horsepower, the Corvette has the edge on paper. Perhaps it’s just the camera angle, but the way it accrues speed out of Hockenheim’s Turn 3 (2:36) makes one giddy just watching it on a screen. The Corvette is also a much edgier animal; a snappiness accompanies its willingness to change direction at the limit which a novice really couldn’t contend with. Still, for a monster with 755 horsepower, it’s relatively settled. Those Michelin Pilot Sport Cup 2 tires have to give at some point, after all.

Sharper Teeth and the Talent Required

In addition to having to contend with more power-oversteer, the Corvette doesn’t look as planted over surface changes. Watch how the car dances over the exit curbing through Turn 1 (2:26). A quick flick of countersteering, while the car is hopping slightly, is just enough to keep him from going dangerously wide. While it makes for great entertainment, it’s hard to imagine many intermediate drivers getting away with that sort of stunt.

With all four wheels on the grass, Gebhardt countersteers carefully to keep the wiggle from becoming something worse.

Gebhardt’s throttle inputs are more cautious too, most notably through Turn 7. Turning in early, he has to balance the car on maintenance throttle for a long time through the middle of the corner. He possibly chews off a bit too much on entry, compromising his exit. Still, with a patient right foot, the Corvette remains settled enough to not drop a tire through one of the hairier corners on the course — proving it has a tractable motor and a pointy setup. It’s a good thing the gearbox allows him to keep both hands on the wheel at all times!

Able to roll a consistent few miles-per-hour more through the middle of most corners, the Corvette has the edge in cornering speed. Combine that with an ability to put the power down earlier — a trait that suits Gebhardt’s quick hands — and much stronger acceleration, and the ZR1 crosses the line nearly three-seconds faster. Though it never looks like Gebhardt’s breathing easily behind the wheel of the Corvette, he snags a 1:06.9.

That time is nearly three-seconds faster than its softer, sweeter, but still very athletic sibling. Interestingly, it’s the same time the C7 Z06 set here a while ago — although the ambient temperature was much cooler on the day the Z06 was tested — and just two-tenths off the time set by the Mercedes AMG GT R. Yes, the Corvette took the victory comfortably today, but there’s no denying the whole family has stellar genes.

About the author

Tommy Parry

Tommy Parry has been racing and writing about racing cars for the past seven years. As an automotive enthusiast from a young age, he worked jobs revolving around cars throughout high school, and tried his hand on the race track on his 20th birthday. After winning his first outdoor kart race, Tommy began working as an apprentice mechanic to amateur racers in the Bay Area to sharpen his mechanical understanding. He has worked as a track day instructor and automotive writer since 2012, and continues to race karts, formula cars, sedans, and rally cars in the San Francisco region.
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