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What Would The C8 Corvette Be Like As A Drag Racer?

Author: Bryan McTaggart | 12/28/2020 < Back to Motor Life Home
c8_drag_rear.jpg

Can the C8 Corvette make a good drag car? It's an interesting question to have but it is one worth asking. Chevrolet's two-seater has always been considered a sports car from birth and is usually touted as America's Sports Car...even if the Dodge Viper, Shelby Cobra and to a degree, the Ford Mustang would make better claims at the title. While the early cars with the Blue Flame Six and Powerglide transmission were panned early on, the introduction of the legendary Small-Block Chevrolet V8 is what made the Corvette into what it is today. You can look around at YouTube and find several straight-line machines that have earned their place, like the 2001 Corvette C5 fixed-roof known as the "Unicorn" that is owned by 1320Video founder Kyle Loftis and the red C6 Corvette known as "Ruby" that is often seen on YouTube star Cleetus McFarland's channel. But the history of Corvettes at the drag strip goes back to the C1 Corvette. When the small-block Chevrolet hit the scene, gearheads took to the light little two-seater and made them radical. One of the most notorious from that era was "Big" John Mazmanian's 1961 M/SP racer that was pushing somewhere around 600 horsepower and was running low eleven-second times at nearly 130 miles an hour with just 316 cubic inches. Pick any generation, you will find an iconic shape to go with it: a C2 Stingray wearing wrinkle-wall slicks that is sitting at a stoplight near Woodward Avenue in Detroit, a big-block thunder emanating from the side pipes, ready to pick a fight with whoever lined up, be it Challenger or Mustang II. You could imagine Bruce Larson's "USA-1" C3 Funny Car on the line in front of packed grandstands at Indy, or a B2K Callaway Twin-Turbo spooling up next to a driver who didn't connect the dots between the NACA ducts on the hood and the danger they were in. Pick your poison, but the Corvette's ballistic grunt has always been it's calling card, even in the darkest years of the Malaise Era. It might be a sports car at heart, best suited for road courses and open roads, but Chevrolet's pride and joy has been able to handle itself well on any track.


C8 Corvette drag rendering


But with the arrival of the rear-mid engine C8 chassis, could that still be said? And, if so, how would one go about making the new flagship track-weaponized, ready to take on anything that dares to square off with it at the Christmas tree? With the Z51 Performance Package or the performance exhaust option, the C8 is officially rated for 495 horsepower and 470 ft/lb of torque. That might pale compared to the ratings of the wilder Dodge Challenger and Charger models, but the C8 is significantly lighter. The 6.2L LT2 V8 is also naturally aspirated in its current form, and we know that even GM themselves will be bringing out hotter variations in the future, with rumors alluding to one with a flat-plane crank V8 and another with twin-turbocharging. Power is not a problem, even before modifications come into play. Traction shouldn't be that big of an issue, either, with the benefits of an rear-mid engine's weight closer to the rear tires. And with minimal modifications, mostly to meet current safety standards, the C8's exoskeleton chassis is more than adequate structurally.


The only two areas that are left to consider would be the transaxle and the drive shafts. The M1L/TR-9080 eight-speed dual-clutch transaxle is sourced from Tremec and is rated to 590 ft/lb of torque and shifts at up to 7,500 RPM. For a street transmission, that's fantastic, but improvements will need to be made in order to have a DCT transmission live under the kind of grunt that racers will inevitably get out of the LT2...or even better, if the rumored flat-plane crankshaft V8 appears, the 9,000 RPM redline it supposedly will be bringing. If the transaxle is up to the task, then there are the drive axles to contend with. It's been a joke with modern Hemi racers that the stock axles are more like fuses, and twisted up axle shafts aren't a great way to end an evening at the track. Unfortunately, the classic engineering form of drag racing...you know, "build-break-rebuild"...will probably be how stronger axles get developed for the C8 in a drag racing application, as new as the model line is.

C8 Corvette Drag side profile rendering


But take the cautions just as they are. In testing, a stock C8 will spank an equally-powerful C7 by about a second in a 0-60 MPH sprint. With equal power, that shouldn't happen. But it does, and it comes down to the C8's traction and it's deeper gearing in the transmission's first few selections. Now imagine that same benefit with a lot of tuning and some impressive parts backing it up. The base C8 Stingray is good for low eleven second quarters, much like Mazmanian's absolutely mental, supercharged gasser was able to do back in the day after he threw thousands of dollars (in 1950s money!) at it. What's the potential for a C8 build that will take the staging beams? We don't know yet. But we can't wait to see what goes down when it does.

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