Into the 11-second zone with our stock 2015 Corvette Stingray test car and how you can do it too!
Congratulations! If you own a C7 Corvette Stingray with an automatic transmission (6-speed or 8-speed), you own an 11-second car. With a light base weight, an over-achieving small block Chevy, and an incredibly sophisticated performance management system onboard, the C7 rocks! The only trick is getting you prepared to take full advantage of the incredible performance that the Chevrolet engineers built into their amazing sports car. This article will detail all that we know at this time of how to extract the maximum performance from your C7 Corvette. More tips and techniques will come out as we continue to refine our program with these cars, and we encourage you to comment on this article with anything that you’ve learned or that you think we can improve on.
Order the car with the right options
If you are really into straight-line performance (you are reading Cars Illustrated, so we’ll assume you are a straight-line freak), then you’ll want to start your program at the point of ordering the car. For our money, there is only one option that you have to have if you really want a quick C7: the 8-speed automatic (8L90E). Without going into the reasons now (we will later in this article), understand that your C7 with just the automatic transmission option will come in at just over $50,000. That’s a bunch of coin, but if you’ve bought a new SUV in the last couple of years, then you know it’s a bargain.
One of our test cars was ordered with the dual-mode exhaust, a piece of equipment that gives you more hp and tq (5 each) and allows for open exhaust (after the cats) in certain driving modes and at higher rpm levels. We’ve seen cars run fast without this, but at $1,200, it’s actually a bargain. So, we’d recommend this exhaust option, but it’s not mandatory.
The Z51 option includes more gear (2.73:1 for the Z51 vs. 2.41:1 for the base C7), dry sump oiling, bigger tires, bigger brakes, more suspension components, and multiple cooling systems to ensure the Stingray operates well during road course driving. The gears are great – they’ll put the car into fifth gear at the finish line, but the rest of it will slow you down. In our testing, you do not need the Z51 package to go fast in a straight line.
Manual transmission cars are significantly slower, like half a second slower in the quarter. If you are serious about max ET, forget about shifting for yourself. That might be a really tough pill for some of you to swallow, but one drive/ride in a new 8-speed car will change your mind the first time the car bangs second gear. You simply cannot manually shift a car as fast as these new automatics do the job for you.
If you need help finding a Stingray with the right options and at the right price, call Les Stanford Chevrolet and ask for Weston Stanford (586-339-5335). Tell him you want the “Cars Illustrated package”, and he’ll take good care of you.
Break in procedure
“If you break them in hard, they’ll run hard.” Or, at least that’s what we used to think. We used to terrorize band new cars, thinking that they would run their best if they were treated to an abusive life for their first few hundred miles. We’re not so sure that style of break in works on the new Stingray, in fact, we wouldn’t recommend it. Our three test cars have all been given a very gentle break in – as suggested by Chevrolet. In fact, if you don’t have one of these cars yet, you’ll be greeted by a dashboard with a 3,500 rpm red line. Don’t freak out. After 500 miles, the dash evolves into its “normal” setting with a raised red line. While we’ve all heard about the “break in calibration” or a “green cal” as we’ve heard it referred to, we aren’t sure that this holds the Stingray back. But, trust us, after a gentle 500-mile break in, these cars are ready to party.
Do the 500-mile Oil Change
At 500 miles, take your Stingray to the Chevrolet dealership and get an oil change. Just do it. There are two recommended oils for the LT1. They are both Mobil 1 full synthetic. Chevrolet designates 5W-30 for a regular street fill or the 5W-50 for the car if it’s going to be in road race competition.
We’ve never heard of an OE recommending different oil for competition, but we love it. Pick the lighter weight oil for drag strip use (5W-30), and you’ll be good to go. Mobil 1 tells us that with the 5W-30 oil in the oil pan, you’ll pick up a couple horsepower as well as keep your LT1 safe.
Enthusiastic Corvette owners first described and then later developed the “driver mod” as a training tool to get your act together as a driver. These tips focus on maximizing what the Corvette owner can do with what the factory has already put into the car. We all know that a good driver can make a huge difference with how the car can perform, and here’s how you can maximize your Stingray.
It is critical that you understand the art of drag racing – max ET style. If you don’t know the basics, do lots of research, and keep your eyes peeled for a full-blown drag racing primer right here at Cars Illustrated. Maybe even attend a Frank Hawley drag racing school session.
Maximum ET occurs when you apply all of the available power as quickly as possible for the full length of the quarter mile.
That means that any time you waste spinning your tires or not at full throttle is an opportunity to improve your ET. You need to have a game plan with each pass. The “just getting acquainted” pass is perfectly fine for a car that you are taking down the track for the first time. But, as you progress, and you get more comfortable with your car, you’ll want to hone in on launch technique to maximize forward moment. Focus on shallow staging the car (just barely turning on the “staged” light on the starting line tree) – to get a running start at the quarter mile.
Keep good records of each run so that you can go back and look at what you’ve learned. Record weather, track conditions, any modifications that you have made to the car, any new driving techniques that you are trying out, and anything that you think that you’ll want to reference back to at a later date. And, like most cars, you’ll want to really study that 60-foot time. A stock A8 Stingray will run sub-1.800-second short times with stock tires and a good track.
Get Serious With Your Day at the Track
Like any car, you’ll start to realize that the weather plays a big part in your Stingray’s performance. It’s like a surfer watching the weather for the big wave. If the air is cool and crisp, and the track is hooking, it’s magic time!
Real hard-core max effort guys will only come out in the Spring or Fall. They’ll stalk well-known fast tracks like Atco, NJ or Maryland International Raceway. Catch the right night at either of these tracks, and your car will be half a second faster than on a mid-West track in the heat of the summer. Air density helps stuff more oxygen into the cylinders offering you huge power swings.
Other than towing your hot rod Corvette across the country, you can plan your attack at your local track better. Watch the weather and talk to the local bracket guys. They’ll give you air density and altitude information from decades of racing at the same track.
And, while most of us think about heading to the track on a Friday night Test and Tune, you may want to consider a different approach. Test and Tune nights are fun, but they bring out a lot of street-tired cars (just like your stock C7). Besides dragging water from the burnout box to the starting line, street-tired cars will tear up a starting line, eventually leading to a racing surface that will keep you from maximizing your Vette. If your local test night is the only time you can make it to the track, get there early, take advantage of the good track prep, and do your best.
As an alternate approach, think about hitting the track during a Saturday bracket program. Yes, you’ll sit around for hours between runs, and you might only get three passes. But, all of those big-tired cars will do wonders for keeping the track surface covered with sticky rubber.
Okay, so you’ve ordered the right car, you’ve got your driving game together, and you are ready to race. What can you do to get the car ready for battle? This section is going to mix things we know work with other theories that we think will work. You can help us with the data by posting on this story or dropping some knowledge in the Cars Illustrated forums.
Get the weight out. Make sure that when your car hits the track, you’ve got everything out of it. Those detail products, nylon Corvette club jackets, loafers, gold chains, and golf clubs will do nothing but slow you down. Make sure before you head out to the track that the car is empty of everything you don’t need.
Run it hot. Like the LS before it, the LT1 has no problem running it’s best at 220 degrees. Actually, we think that engine likes it cool, but the programmers put a fail safe in the cal to keep things from eating themselves. What’s this mean? Well, it looks like the LT1 will use the most aggressive fuel, air, and spark table if it’s at full operating temperature. Honestly, our best passes have been right off the street after driving an hour to get to the track. Cool the car down, and it loses a tenth. What? It goes against everything we thought we knew about running a car fast. So, we keep the hood down and have no problem idling up to the starting line for ten minutes in the staging lanes.
Run with a full tank of fuel. Having a full tank of gas, behind the rear tires where it does the best work, is critical for C5 and C6 performance. While we have not exhausted this theory on the C7 Stingray, we believe that a full tank of gas will not hurt you. The LT1 makes so much torque down low that it can carry the extra weight, and that extra weight will provide you with much needed traction out of the hole. If you’ve got data that supports this one – one way or another – we want to hear from you.
Pull the engine cover. We think it’s because the engine cover holds heat right on the fuel rails which eventually causes the computer to pull timing, but keeping heat off of this critical area of your LT1 sure can’t hurt. While we haven’t testing this theory, we had a Gen 5 Camaro that picked up 2.5 tenths by just pulling the engine cover. We’ll be back to let you know if this one works. If you have tried it, let us know what you found.
Tire pressure. Pump the fronts up ten pounds for less rolling resistance. Don’t forget to put the pressure back to manufacturer specifications for the ride home. Rear tire pressure can be left at stock setting or dropped slightly to something around 24-26 psi. If you find something that works better, drop us a note – we are still testing this one at the time of publishing this story.
Burnouts are a funny thing with this car. You need to clean the tires off for sure, but you don’t need to do a smoke show. The stock Michelin P285/35ZR19 (base car) tires offer you a very sticky surface to work with, but they will get greasy if you go too far with them. A good aggressive hazing of the rear tires, and you’ll be good to go.
And, for goodness sake, drive around the water box. We’ll say it again: Drive around the water box! If you drive through the water, you are going to fill both the front treads and your rear treads with water that you will drag to the starting line. You will sit in that water and spin for the first few feet. The run will be blown.
Know Your Mode
Okay, so now we are going to get into the real black art of making one of these little suckers run like it’s really pissed off. Oh, yes, the Stingray can get very, very angry when you treat it right.
Getting your Stingray in the right driver mode before hitting the 1320 can make the difference between a 12.30 snoozer and an 11.80 stock hero. What are we talking about? Okay, that dial on the console that allows you to select driver modes … it’s not there to help you have a more comfortable ride. It’s there to help you maximize your Stingray’s potential on any road surface, including your local drag strip.
The Chevrolet engineers have done an amazing job of giving you the right tools to maximize your Stingray. You just need to know how to use them. First thing, you want the car in Competition Mode (or “Competitive Mode” as it will flash on your dash). You get to Comp Mode by putting the car in Track Mode and then giving two quick taps to the Stabilitrac button (in the center of the mode selector dial).
One public service notice here: Getting into Comp Mode can be frustrating at times, especially if you are trying to hustle your way up through the staging lanes. It goes like this: You start the car, and it starts running through all of its features, not just the mode selection. So, it might start syncing with you phone or checking the radio, when all you want to do it get it into “let’s party” mode. Plus, the car doesn’t react quite as fast as you do. Our advice is to just be cool, take your time, and after some practice, getting the car into Competition Mode will become second nature.
If you ordered the car with the Z51 option, cool, just put it into PTM mode. Everything that follows will hold true for you.
Okay, you’re in the lanes, helmet on, the car is in Competition Mode, and you are ready to rock. Now, comes the fun part. Your friendly neighborhood Chevrolet Corvette engineers thought of everything. In fact, they even built in a two-step with traction control to maximize forward acceleration on any race surface. Amazing! It’s called Launch Control, and it’s going to be your very best friend.
Launch Control works like this: You bump the car into the staging lights. Give the brake pedal a hard, emergency brake, pressure. Then, just stand on the gas – quickly. The car will rock back and forth just a little. Don’t let that unnerve you. Hold both of the pedals down, and look what happens. The car just sits there at around 1,800-2,000 rpm. Light turns green (or last amber), and BANG! You drop the brake pedal, and the Stingray simply explodes off of the starting line.
I’ve heard it described by fellow Stingray owners as a “slingshot”. The end result is that the car launches as hard as it possibly can. Stabilitrac sensors monitor tire spin a million times a second, giving you maximum power for that given track surface. Full throttle upshifts happen so fast – they just crush you in the seat. The exhaust does this “shotgun” effect on each gear exchange, and, if you’re on a good track, you just ran 11.80s (or better) at over 120 mph in a bone stock Corvette. Sick!
Using the exact same technique, our stocker base car has run at best ET of 11.86 seconds. We’ve gone as fast as 120.20 mph. And, on one magical night at Milan Dragway in Milan, MI (near Detroit), we cut a 1.7956 second 60-foot time on a bone stock car with just over 500 miles on the clock.
Fast, but there is so much more. Corvette racers on the East Coast have run 11.40s with short times in the 1.60-second range. And, after seeing ours run these numbers on an 60-degree day in Mid-West air, we believe their times.
Our black test car, a nasty Z51 with Kooks headers, cold air intake, and M/T slicks has struggled with the launch control. We are waiting for good Fall air for the owner to get used to his new car. Oh, and then there is the Livernois-installed 150-shot nitrous kit. Look for this near stock car to run mid-10s while still getting 30 mpg. Amazing!
The “Easter Egg” Mod
If you’ve made it this far, we’ve got a real find for you. After really digging into the modes that are available on the C7 Stingray, we struck gold. As it turns out, there are some serious straight-line nuts at Chevrolet, and they built a gem into their car.
The following are notes directly from Chevrolet Corvette engineering. It details a hidden mode (or and Easter Egg) that allows for the launch control to work with slicks at lower than manufacture’s recommended tire pressure. Here goes:
Three possible solutions to running slicks on the C7 with Launch Control activated:
- If all 4 TPMS (tire pressure monitor sensor) are gone, and the car doesn’t find any others it can register the system will work normally. If it has the two fronts still functional, or if it finds the rears at the pit area, or if it finds a tire with the same code in a TPM on another car, it will not allow you to get in PTM or comp mode where Launch Control is available.
- If ‘track detect’ is set it will ignore the TPMS system. This takes about 1 lap of a normal road course, probably not applicable here (at a drag strip).
- If the car keeps finding some tires and won’t work, we put in an Easter egg to disable all interactions with TPMS. You stop, set the park brake, push the TCS button 6 times in 5 seconds. It will register that you were successful by blinking the TCS light for about 3-4 seconds. You have to do this every key cycle.
I think #3 is what you will want to go with for drag strip applications. Put wheels on, set parking brake, start car, press TC button 6 times quickly. Hammer Down. The 6 button hits will allow you to get into Comp Mode and such. Think of the 6 hits as a way to tell the car that you know the TPMS are dead, but you don’t care. Hence why it’s a secret mode not found in the owners manual. You hit the button 6 times, (the car now knows to ignore the lack of TPMS signal). Then, you can put the car in whatever mode you want. And, you will have to do this for every key cycle
You will probably have to relearn the TPMS once the tires are reinstalled … probably. If you do this enough, its probably a good idea to buy one of the TPMS learning tools. Otherwise you have to dump the air in the tire, which is a pain.
We are currently testing this method on the black Z51 test car. If you have data on the Easter Egg technique to run launch control with slicks on the car, please drop us a note on how it works.
The Fast List
If you want to see how you are stacking up against the rest of the country,
post your time slips right here on CarsIllustrated.com. We’ll start a list so you can compare notes.
The modern Stingray is an amazing car. It provides world class styling, an amazing interior design, and a powertrain that will run high-11s in stock form while returning 30-plus MPG fuel economy on the highway. We used to think that 13-second cars with the same level of civility were outstanding – now, those cars are outclassed. With the right driver, the right conditions, and a good track, you can go deep, deep into the 11-second zone. Set your sights high, get to the track, and let us know if this guide has helped you become a local track superstar. Good luck!