This C5 Corvette Z06 Is Putting Professionals On Alert In The Gridlife Touring Cup

12/09/2022

This C5 Corvette Z06 Is Putting Professionals On Alert In The Gridlife Touring Cup

12/09/2022

By 2006, Jeremy Swenson of Fargo, North Dakota had decided he’d had enough of his clapped-out Honda Civic. His early interests in performance had mainly centered on motorcycles because of their affordability, but by then he was an adult with the means to get his hands on some four-wheeled fun. That led him to the then-new S197 Mustang GT and a steady succession of mods before he moved on to a 2012 Mustang GT a few years later. “It was right before we had our first child,” he recalls. “And I somehow convinced my wife that another Mustang would be a good family car.”


Now armed with five-liter Coyote power and a thoroughly updated platform, Swenson did a few suspension and powertrain mods and then decided to give autocross a try at a local event. “I took to it very quickly,” he says. “It wasn’t long before I was running with the top guys, and then the focus became, ‘OK – how do I get faster from here?’ I wanted to win every event.”


Swenson C5 low front right


And that in turn led to a stint in a Pontiac G8 GXP not long after. While a big sedan like the G8 is an unlikely choice for a competitive autocross machine, Swenson enjoyed the challenge of running down the nimble sportscars he was up against. “We started doing some regional events and I discovered that I was pretty fast at those, too,” he says. “It was blowing peoples’ minds that I was winning events with a 4000-pound car.”


Then, in 2015, he competed to an autocross event that was held at a police training facility. Unlike a typical parking lot autocross course, the location offered the race organizers enough room to create a track configuration that was more like a traditional road course, replete with near-triple-digit speeds. Swenson was instantly hooked.


Swenson C5 wheel close


“That shifted my focus toward track events,” he says. “But I wanted to go out and win at those events, and I knew that a G8 GXP wasn’t going to get me there.” After toying with the idea of switching to a BMW platform, a friend convinced him to take a closer look at Chevrolet’s sportscar. “He said, ‘Dude, just buy a C6 Corvette ZR1 – you’d barely have to do anything to it to be really fast.” Swenson took his advice and bought a 2011 ZR1, which he says he also “ruined” in his pursuit of performance. “The ZR1 is a rare car, and I took that one from showroom-fresh to a full-on gutted race car.” It proved to be worth the sacrifice; he would go on to rack up a series of wins in regional time attack events in 2016, along with a win in the Optima Street Car Challenge, the latter of which earned him an invite to Ultimate Street Car Invitational at the annual SEMA show in Las Vegas. “I loved the Optima series because in order to do well, you have to perform in several different criteria. Along with autocross, you’ve also got the road course competition, the Speed Stop competition, and Design and Engineering.”


In light of not being able to hold a traditional Ultimate Street Car Invitational in 2020 due to the cancelation of the SEMA show that year, Optima organizers instead held an autocross championship event at Circuit of Americas in Austin, Texas. The winner-take-all event awarded $25,000 to the fastest lap of the day, and Swenson won that event as well.


Swenson C5 Rear shot


Despite his success with the series, Swenson’s focus was beginning to shift away from Optima events and toward Gridlife. At that point he had already collected several Gridlife time attack championships in the Track Mod class, and he was eager to make the jump to wheel-to-wheel racing in Gridlife’s Touring Cup series. The ZR1’s hardcore setup didn’t jive with GLTC’s rule set, though, so he decided to purchase a 2001 Corvette Z06 and use the winnings from the Optima autocross championship to build out the C5 specifically for Touring Cup racing – a process which he documented on his YouTube channel. “We took the car down to the bare chassis and went through just about everything,” he tells us.


The C5’s motivation comes from the original 5.7-liter LS6 V8, which was perked up with some go-fast goodies like a Comp camshaft, LS7 lifters, Comp BSR shaft rockers, and a FAST intake. The combination makes about 430 horsepower at the wheels, but per Touring Cup rules, it is de-tuned to about 240 horsepower when racing with the series. “That’s all adjusted by the throttle body, which we control using a Holley Terminator X Max,” he explains.


Swenson C5 IRS shot


“I’m no tuning whiz, but it’s about as easy to use as aftermarket standalone stuff can be. We go into the throttle table and we can select how much to limit the throttle opening at each RPM. It is actually only open about 46% at maximum.” Power is sent to the rear wheels by way of a Tremec T-56 six-speed manual transmission that’s been strengthened by the folks at Liberty’s Gears.


And as you’d expect of a championship-winning sports car, the suspension and chassis have seen quite a bit of attention as well. Triple-adjustable coilovers from Viking Performance are outfitted at all four corners, and spherical control arm bearings from GSpeed are also on board to minimize deflection in the suspension system. The C5’s tie rods and bump steer kit are supplied by After Dark Speed, while the necessary stopping power is provided by motorsport-spec Alcon calipers and rotors with Hawk Performance DTC-60 pads. Apex Wheels with an ever-changing roster of 200 treadwear tires complete the package.


Swenson C5 Interior


Meanwhile the C5’s gutted interior is all business: A 7-inch Holley digital display offers the car’s real-time vitals while a six-point roll cage bolsters structural rigidity and keeps things safe. “I’m currently using a Kirkey racing seat, but I’m going to be putting a Sabelt containment seat in it soon,” Swenson says. “Nobody’s forcing me to that, I just think that safety is pretty important.”


The C5 made its racing debut in early 2021, and after some early teething issues, Swenson quickly found his groove. “The car was showing some pretty good speed right from the get-go, but we had some rough luck initially,” he says. “In one race we were in second place and spun on the last lap, and we got a flat tire in another. But we ended up winning the Touring Cup championship in our rookie year anyway.”


Swenson C5 engine bay


It's an even more impressive feat when you consider the fact that the GLTC grid consists of both grassroots and professional race car drivers. “At the front of any given race you’ve got guys like [Pirelli World Challenge racers] Tom O’Gorman and Bryan Heitkotter,” Swenson points out. While he managed to rack up a number of podium finishes this year and placed third overall despite some formidable competition, Swenson says he feels like there’s some unfinished business that he would like to address in the 2023 season.


“The goal will always be the GLTC championship. It’s really challenging, but it’s achievable, and that’s what I love about competing in this series. Tom O’Gorman has been talking about not running with us next year, but I really hope he comes back. I don’t want to win just because he’s not there.”


Swenson C5 on-track drone


author

246 Posts

author

15 Posts