Video: Slithering Camaro ZL1 Hunts Porsche GT3 RS At Thunderhill

In this intense battle between two friends in focused but fairly different track toys, we’re given a clear demonstration of why weight plays such a big part on the road course, how to compensate for worn tires, and when to take it easy. The Porsche GT3 RS ahead ought to cover Thunderhill a couple seconds faster than the Camaro ZL1 in pursuit, but a talented driver in the ZL1 employs a few tricks to remain in contention.

With a blown 6.2-liter V8 making 650 horsepower and 650 lb-ft of torque, the Camaro ZL1 is tough to match in a straight line. Unfortunately for Jeffrey Cook, the talented shoe in the Chevy, his tires are one session away from cording. As a result, he can’t exit corners as quickly as the Porsche ahead, and he spends most of his pursuit dialing in a few degrees of opposite lock.

It’s sliding everywhere—under power, over crests and cambers, and even mildly under braking. Having to shift manually further complicates Cook’s frenetic laps. To add to the palpable energy in the cockpit, he’s chasing a PDK-equipped Porsche, which rockets out of corners in a way the Camaro cannot match. Cook elaborates: “It is much more challenging to get a fast time in the Camaro. I run with all nannies off, but with them on, it is hard to get as fast of a time too. Fast lap times in the Porsche are much more attainable from my experience driving both.”

Squat on the pavement, the 3,800-pound Camaro ZL1 corners with an agility it shouldn’t have. Photo credit: Speed District

That hare on the horizon pushes Cook to carry corner speeds he didn’t think possible—which is why it’s always a great motivator to follow a slightly quicker car/driver. With a bit of drifting, and maybe even some drafting, he’s able to carry four miles per hour more than ever before down the front straight. Nipping at the Porsche’s rear bumper before he hits the binders for Thunderhill’s Turn 1, he’s able to release the brakes in a way that helps him stay in touch through the corner.

“The GT3 RS should out-brake and out-handle the Camaro due simply to the difference in weight,” Cook starts. However, by being more progressive with brake release, he’s able to roll a few extra miles per hour into the corner. “We both do the same initial hard braking, but I am able to come off the brake linearly as I go into the corner a little better, which allowed me to make up some time,” he adds. It’s one way he—a professional—is able to close the gap to a talented amateur in a faster car.

“The GT3 RS is faster in the straights because of the tight gearing and quick shifting,” Cook adds. Photo credit: Speed District

The long Turn 2 is where the weight of the Camaro shows, and the Porsche gets to edge away by a few lengths. It is the weight that makes the mid-corner difference, though with a delicate right foot and the good sense to short shift when needed, Cook can occasionally keep up at slower corner exits. However, when Cook tries to match the Porsche exiting the crested Turn 9 (2:50), his Camaro steps out in a big way—the way that often causes lesser drivers to crash. Fortunately, he possesses a pair of quick hands, and catches a snap that would send most off on an agricultural excursion. Dramatic, but not too fast, and wisely, something he doesn’t try that again on the next lap.

After a big moment at 2:50, Cook wisely dials back the gusto over the crests.

Cook’s courage is what helps him hold on to the slithering Camaro exiting the bumpy Turn 11 with his foot to the floor; he didn’t want to lose a lot of ground. Even with the countersteering and the Camaro’s sashaying rear, Cook has to give a few car lengths to the Porsche, its better gearing, and its enviable traction. You can’t win ’em all.

However, on the following lap, he’s able to take advantage of traffic, straighten the Camaro sooner, and get the power down without much fuss. It gives him the chance to close down on the Porsche’s neon green bumper and show his confidence running in such close proximity. Both being experienced racers familiar with one another’s driving habits, they’re able to do this—but it is a bit close for a track day without a prize on the line—and part of why this video is so exciting. It’s about as hard as anyone should push at any HPDE, and a masterclass in car control at the same time.

 

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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