Lightning Lap Legends: Chevrolet Camaro vs. Ford Mustang! ""

By | September 5, 2017

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The Ford Mustang/Chevrolet Camaro battle is so competitive and so fraught, it's likely that more than a few readers are preparing angry notes over us putting the Mustang before the Camaro at the beginning of this sentence. What does it mean? Do we favor the Mustang? What did that guy just say about that Camaro-loving commenter’s mom? It's an intense rivalry, and perhaps never more so than at our annual Lightning Lap track test at Virginia International Raceway. We've run several examples of each car over 11 events and compiled their times here, so sit back, take a side, and take in the latest Ford-vs.-Chevro—er, Chevrolet-vs.-Ford showdown:Amazingly enough, that performance made the Cobalt SS 0.3 second quicker than the 300-hp Ford Mustang GT. The Mustang was actually a couple mph quicker than the Cobalt on the straightaways, but the Ford suffered from weak brakes and a floppy chassis. After only two laps, the brakes started to give ground and the soft suspension allowed the car to move around too much to go quickly through the high-speed esses of Sector Two. The Cobalt averaged 4.7 mph faster through that part of the track. On the plus side, cornering grip and balance were decent. With more suspension control, the Mustang would have taken better advantage of these attributes. READ MORE >>Our first suspicion was a tank of 87 octane. At least, we think that’s why the Mustang EcoBoost refused to make any boost. High ambient temps probably didn’t help, either. So we burned off the first tank of fuel and started over with a tank of 93 octane.--Lap times improved, but even with the fresh fill, the Mustang still wouldn’t give max boost as the 2.3-liter four revved to its 5500-rpm power peak. Without full boost at the power peak, we’re thinking that a few of the engine’s claimed 310 ponies ended up at the glue factory. After experimenting with our upshift rpm, we determined that the quickest times happened when we shifted just as the boost began to fall. Shifting with the boost gauge instead of the tach is something entirely new to us. READ MORE >>The quickest entry in class LL1 proved once again just how large a role tires play in performance. Our Mustang GT showed up wearing the wrong tires, so while we waited for a set of Pirelli P Zeros (part of the $1530 Track pack) to arrive, we turned a couple of educational practice laps. The Mustang was noncommittal on turn-in and floppy and floaty through the esses. Great, we thought, another flaccid pony car that doesn’t know how to turn.Taking the LL1 crown this year and tying the class-record time of 3:12.5 was Ford’s 305-hp V-6 Mustang. We have little doubt that it could have unseated the co–class-champ 2006 Nissan 350Z Track if the Ford hadn’t been equipped with a 114-mph governor, which the car banged into for more than 15 seconds per lap. Yet despite the interference of the electric anchor, the new V-6–powered car still managed to beat last year’s 315-hp V-8 Mustang by 0.8 second. READ MORE >>There were no such discussions concerning the Ford Shelby GT500, which returned because bad ignition parts soured its visit to last year’s Lightning Lap. It’s a strange car—it moves around obsessively when driven hard, with so much body roll and pitch that it’s hard to believe it was designed to perform in such a manner. It is, however, a safe car to drive fast because it is exceptionally predictable, is seemingly impossible to spin, and has brakes that hold up well. As long as the ambient temperature was below 70 degrees, the GT500 was fairly quick and posted a 3:05.9 lap. But when the temperature climbed to about 90 degrees, the engine started lying down, and the lap time lengthened by four seconds. None of the other cars was so affected by the heat. READ MORE >>It might feel as wide as Nebraska and offer the outward visibility of a corn maze, but the Camaro SS is actually quite at home on the racetrack. Helping to offset its husky build is a 426-hp V-8 that delivers power in such an effortless manner that we occasionally bumped into the rev limiter. A large shift knob nearly the size of a baseball moves through longish throws that require a firm hand, but tall gearing and abundant torque reduce the number of shifts required per lap. READ MORE >>The Mustang GT gives you the best parts of the V-6–powered car, only with more ponies. Its 412-hp V-8 is 107 horses stronger than the 113-pound-lighter V-6 model, and it’s 138 horses short of the 198-pound-heavier, V-8–powered Shelby GT500. The GT’s additional juice, without a correspondingly significant weight penalty, is a key reason why we ­singled it out for this year’s 10Best Cars award and why it performs so well on a track. It is worth noting, though, that a mandatory option for hot lapping is the $1695 Brembo front brake package, which also brings sticky Pirelli P Zero tires. With that package, the GT turns a 3:08.6 lap, 0.9 second quicker than its longtime pony-car rival, the Camaro SS, managed in last year’s Lightning Lap, and third in class despite being the second-least-expensive LL2 car, at $36,280. READ MORE >>Having the lesser Mustang GT on hand was not a good thing for the Shelby GT500. Although substantially more buttoned down, with far less pitch and roll after its 2010 overhaul, the GT500 still feels rather obstinate about working out on a track. READ MORE >>From the numbers, and if you don’t count the new independent rear suspension, the reborn Mustang GT doesn’t appear to be much different than its predecessor. Twenty-three horsepower separates the two, and while both ride on 19-inch Pirelli P Zero tires, the new Stang has a 255/275 stagger to the old car’s square 255 fitment. Despite the new car’s 196-pound weight gain, the two Mustangs are separated by just 1.1 mph on the front straight. So, where did the new car lop off 3.4 seconds? READ MORE >>Shelby GT500s have never fared well in this test. The old iron-block engine repeatedly suffered from heat soak—sapping power—and the car’s tires wouldn’t last more than one lap. The 2011 updates—including a retuned suspension, new tires, an aluminum engine block, and a more efficient intercooler—have paid major dividends here, lopping nearly two seconds from the GT500’s 2007 record of 3:05.9. At 3824 pounds, the 2011 car is also lighter than that one by 84. It’s still a portly beast, but it handles like a coupe that is closer to the 3500-pound mark. There is some body roll but not a lot. And despite its solid rear axle, the GT500 brews confidence by the gallon. It excels in sectors three and five, where it keeps pace with pricier LL4 participants. If the seats did a better job of keeping the upper and lower body in place, times in sectors two and four would shrink drastically. A certain amount of steering-wheel control is sacrificed when your arms have to work harder to keep you in place than the seat does. READ MORE >>The 2006 Nissan 350Z Track lasted nine Lightning Laps and withstood 38 challengers before its LL1 class-record 3:12.5 lap fell. A Ford Mustang V-6 matched the Nissan’s time in 2011, but it’s the Chevy pony car that finally dethrones them both. The Camaro V-6 1LE does not merely claim the fastest LL1 time in the 10-year existence of Lightning Lap, it blasts the old record with eight sticks of dynamite. READ MORE >>Forget the numbers for a moment. The Boss 302 Laguna Seca (the raciest of racy factory Mustangs) fires so many of the right neurons that it could be the one car we’d drive forever. Ford excelled by focusing on the full high-performance experience, not just this 444-hp Mustang’s acceleration or lap times. Sometimes the feel, the sounds, and, yes, the smells can overshadow what a car achieves on the track. READ MORE >>Without a complete redesign, Chevrolet couldn't change the fact that the Camaro is huge, heavy, and struck blind by its poor outward visibility. But Chevy could change the chassis, and—fortunately—it did. Some serious suspension magic (option code 1LE) has transformed the Camaro SS into a track delight. READ MORE >>At 662 horsepower, the Ford Mustang Shelby GT500 is the most powerful car we've tested at VIR. So why couldn't it put down a sub-three-minute lap? Why didn't it beat the heavier and less potent Camaro ZL1? It comes down to two related reasons: balance and traction. READ MORE >>Is the Camaro ZL1 a more powerful SS 1LE? Or is the 1LE a slower ZL1? We pondered that philosophical matter while pounding both Camaros at VIR. We still don't know the answer, but we do know that the ZL1 provides the same spectacular ­stability, predictability, and control of the 1LE, it's just that the experience is sped up. READ MORE >>There’s nothing apparently exotic about a Chevy Camaro SS 1LE. It weighs 3743 pounds. It lacks carbon-ceramic brakes and a dual-clutch transmission. Carbon fiber? Not a strand. Turbos? Nope. A mid-engine V-8 that revs like a dentist drill? Not here. So what is this Camaro doing lapping right behind the Porsche Cayman GT4 and ahead of the Audi R8 V10 Plus? READ MORE >>So close. The Ford Mustang Shelby GT350R is less than a second slower than the Chevy Camaro Z/28 we lapped two years ago. But while the times are nearly identical, the experiences couldn’t be more different. READ MORE >>Please stop writing in to tell us that a $75,000 Camaro is as ridiculous as a solid-gold snowplow. Get this: In Turn One, the Z/28 matched the Porsche 918 by posting 1.16 g’s, the highest grip we’ve ever recorded in that corner. Another unfunny fact, at least to Porschephiles: In the uphill esses, a Camaro topped the 918’s average and exit speeds. READ MORE >>2017 Chevrolet Camaro ZL1, 2:50.1 - Lightning Lap 112018 Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 1LE, 2:45.7 - Lightning Lap 11 “”


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