Steven Kronemberger showed us recently how to keep a Honda Civic Type R in contention with a Corvette Z06 at Laguna Seca. Even though the famous circuit is renowned for the way it favors powerful cars, a well-driven Civic with 330 whp has enough to stick with a Z06—so the slower bends and the downhill section are still very important. So, what happens when Kronemberger gets to enjoy the V8 power that gave his competitor such a straightline advantage?
Big Power and Brakes to Match
Recently, Kronemberger added a C6 Grand Sport to his collection. Sporting many of the go-fast goodies available in that generation of the Z06, the Grand Sport was made for the racetrack. However, that didn’t stop Kronemberger from upgrading the GS with Hawk Performance DTC 70 pads, Nitto NT01 tires, and a supportive Recaro Pole Position seat. It may only be lightly modified, but with 440 horsepower, the 3,350-pound Corvette sprints down Laguna’s straights with gusto the Civic could never have managed, but still brakes and corners well. Though, is this factory performance monster with minor upgrades enough to keep Kronemberger in touch with a more focused track-day car?
A Slightly Sharper Car
In the blue corner: Chris Lee and his track-tuned BMW Z4M brings firepower and more focus to the fight. The potent Z4M came from the factory with a 338-horsepower S54 motor, and Lee modified the coupe extensively to take full advantage of that grunt on the sand-swept surface of Laguna Seca. JRZ RS2 coilovers and Bridgestone RE71R tires generate incremental grip, while big Brembo brakes housing G-LOC R12 pads and filled with Castrol SRF fluid bring the roughly 3,300-pound Bimmer to a halt quickly and without fear of fade. So, while the Chevrolet in undoubtedly quicker in the straights, the BMW weighs slightly less, and stops harder and faster.
That’s evident in Turn 3, where Lee brakes somewhat later, and turns in later on the typically sandy surface. This helps him in the middle and the exit, and even though the BMW’s inline-six displaces only about half of the Corvette’s V8, its low end-torque is respectable. In contrast, the Corvette needs a bit of room to flex its muscle.
Climbing the Hill
From Turns 4 to 6, the V8 grunt is obvious. Half of Laguna Seca is a hillclimb and the booming LS3 helps. However, commitment still counts on the uphill section, and Lee’s bold entry into the near-blind Turn 6 is commendable. Entering with quite a bit of slip angle, he’s able to negate the V8’s advantage. The two share a thumbs-up afterwards—communication between two friends clearly reveling in the challenge.
Lee, after tracing a slightly tighter line and not struggling with wheelspin, rockets out of The Corkscrew and leaves Kronemberger behind. Unfortunately, his one opportunity for a break is wrecked by driver GT3 RS learning the line around the course. Had they had a clear run through the flowing downhill, the Corvette’s power advantage would have been negated—but not that day.
A Fair Match
In Kronemberger’s defense, this was his first outing in the Grand Sport: a more analog car than his Civic. The need to rev-match—not something necessary in the auto-blipping CTR—complicated the entry phase, and nearly twice the torque made exiting corners a challenge. With little experience in the C6, he wasn’t quite familiar with the dimensions of the girthier car, while Lee used the full width of the road comfortably.
Given a little more time, Kronemberger probably could’ve shown the BMW his heels—but not that day. The two drove beautifully, and showed that some comfort in the car, willingness to use the exit curbs, and late braking can compensate for a marked power advantage. Now that he can slide the car beautifully, it’d be interesting to see these two hotshoes face off again.