TESTING DESIGNED TO RETAIN
The autocross portion of the testing includes 250 miles on an autocross course. It takes about five fuel tank loads to complete the 250 miles, with a total vehicle inspection at every fuel stop. Instrumentation monitors everything, from oil pressure to transmission temperature. This test is a precursor to the 24 hours on a race track.
Hours on the Racetrack
After the autocross test, Corvette spends 24 hours at competition speeds on a road course.
"It's really the equivalent of 24 individual sprint races, each lasting one hour," explains Mike Neal, Corvette ride and handling chassis development. "It takes about an hour at track speed to consume a tank of fuel. The car then comes in; we check and top off fluids, replace brakes and tires, download our instrumentation and send the car out again. We do this until the car has completed 24 hours on the track."
The 2.2-mile road course used to validate the '02 Z06 consists of a 120-mph straightaway, 90-mph sweeping curves and 40-mph hairpins. The drivers make 12 shifts per lap and brake 10 times per lap. "Compared to the 2001 Z06, the 2002 model is half a second faster around our test track," adds Neal.
Throughout the testing, equipment monitors and records 30 channels of thermal information from critical components and fluids. In addition to the temperature readings, other pertinent data is collected and analyzed, including, oil pressure, engine rpm, vehicle speed, lateral acceleration, as well as fore and aft acceleration.
"For the Corvette, this additional testing is essential in validating the robustness of the vehicle for racing application," explains Neal. "In the case of the 2002 Z06, the track-testing phase was key in helping us determine that a new clutch design was needed."
The clutch of the 2001 Z06 had already been enhanced to deal with the increased power of the LS6 (over the LS1); with the additional power of the 2002 LS6, a new clutch design was developed to ensure long life and good performance.
"Our 24 hours of at racing speeds is an invaluable complement to our normal durability testing," says Dave Hill, Performance Cars vehicle line executive and Corvette chief engineer. "It's one test that is severe enough to give Corvette the robustness our owners expect. It's what makes Corvette stand out among the competition."
Speed Wide-Open Throttle
To simulate high-speed, autobahn conditions, Corvette is subjected to a wide-open throttle test on our five-mile circle track at the Milford Proving Grounds in Milford, Michigan. Starting with a full tank of gas, the car is driven flat-out at its 171-mph top speed until the fuel tank is empty - approximately 30 minutes. The test validates the car's ability to withstand extreme thermal loads reliably.
"It's important to keep in mind that with Corvette - and especially with the Z06 - buyers are purchasing a vehicle that has been thoroughly tested under all conditions, "emphasizes Dave Hill. "Our rigorous testing ensures that the Corvette can be put through its paces on the race track and still serve as reliable transportation in everyday situations. This testing further adds to Corvette's legend as America's favorite sports car."