Video: Snarling, 600-HP ‘Vette Battles Screaming, 3-Rotor RX-7!

There are times when club racers go to outrageous lengths they rival those of professional drivers in top-flight categories. These two beasts could probably, with a little tinkering, make a mark in ADAC Masters or Pirelli World Challenge, but instead they’re being raced by men with day jobs and a serious need for motorsport.

With what was once the kids’ college tuition put into the preparation of these SCCA GT-2 beasts, their drivers still give each other no quarter as they fight at the iconic Road Atlanta. It’s a track that rewards big power, but a technical circuit at the same time. With both of these cars making somewhere in the vicinity of 600 horsepower, they’re certainly quick enough down the straights, but how does the Corvette’s torque stack up against the incisive handling of the peripheral-port, 20B-powered Mazda which held pole position for this race?

Dernehl's RX-7 is clearly the faster machine.

Dernehl’s RX-7 is clearly the faster machine over one lap, but its lack of torque limits its options wheel-to-wheel.

Both cars’ high-speed handling is similar, and both drivers show similar commitment. There’s no denying the Mazda, whether its chassis or its driver, is more capable at corner entry and in the middle of the corner. However, the big Chevy’s brakes match the ferocious V8 under the hood, and can stretch the lead in the faster parts of the track. Where it gets technical, the RX-7 is sharper, and its driver makes better use of traffic. However, as we get to see, that racecraft and clever positioning sometimes trump outright pace.

It must be frustrating when, despite a great run through traffic and leaving the braking very late, the Corvette still manages to nip up the inside of the Mazda. To retain the lead, there’s a trick the Corvette driver consistently employs: killing his opponent’s momentum. With great braking and good entry speed, it doesn’t matter much that the Mazda is much faster mid-corner and and at the exit as well, since the Chevrolet, being in front, can dictate the pace to a certain extent. Even if the RX-7 gets a fantastic run out of the corner, the torque of the Corvette is enough to carry it along down any reasonably long straightaway.

Mayer's big Chevy has the braking advantage, and can stay ahead with clever positioning.

Mayer’s big Chevy has the braking advantage, and can stay ahead with clever positioning.

Both drivers show courtesy, but fight incredibly hard for position. Even on the last lap, the nudging and bumping from the RX-7 aren’t enough to faze the Corvette wheelspinning effortlessly to maintain position. That might be referred to as “tactical drift.”

What’s important to remember is that both of these drivers are enthusiastic weekend racers, albeit capable and experienced ones, but neither of them are receiving the big bucks if they stand on the podium at the end of the day. Without any prize money or limelight on the line, all they have is their pride – and a sense of mortality – establishing just how far they’ll push. Thankfully for us, they both seem to have plenty of the former.

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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