2015 Chevrolet Camaro Z/28 Track Retest
The Wonder of Wicker
For as much as Randy Pobst typically has to say about a car, he doesn't use walkie-talkies very often. We always stick one in the car before he goes out in case of emergency, but he rarely uses it. So you can imagine our surprise when, during his cool-down lap, Pobst's voice suddenly came crackling over the radio, gushing about the Z/28.
"Oh my God, you fixed it!" came the voice. "This is so much better. It's back. This is how it should perform. We were so right to name this car Best Driver's Car."
You can also imagine Pobst's surprise when we told him how little we'd changed. A new set of tires (he'd burned off the previous set during the last test), a double-check of the alignment, and oh yeah, that little wickerbill now bolted to the spoiler.
"That little thing?" Pobst said. "I can't believe it's doing that much."
"That much," quantified, is 1.32 seconds. Racers and racing enthusiasts will tell you it's a big difference on a 2.42-mile track. Our long-term Z/28, which has been in our possession since well before it squared off against the Porsche 911 GT3, improved its lap time at Willow Springs International Raceway's "Big Track" from 1:29.72 to 1:28.40 thanks almost entirely to a composite flap literally screwed to the back of the rear spoiler.
Just to be sure, we asked Chevrolet test driver Jim Mero. "Oh, absolutely," he said." It makes a big difference. It affects everything down to 40 mph."
"It’s the difference between a really good Camaro and a BDC champion."
The difference was easy to spot in the data. With the wickerbill (as Chevy calls it, or Gurney flap, if you prefer) affixed and the rear end tamped down, Pobst was back on the power earlier and harder exiting Turns 2, 4, 6, and 9. Additionally, he carried higher speeds through the long and tricky Turns 8 and 9.
You can feel the improvement. Up until this point, I'd believed I could feel a difference in how the Z/28 rode and handled just going around a freeway cloverleaf ramp with the wickerbill installed, but I couldn't be absolutely certain. The rear end simply felt more planted, less jittery with that little flap on there. Pobst agreed, emphatically.
"It's funny -- it was loose and sucky last time," he said. "Now, it's so hooked up. It's back to the car we chose for Best Driver's Car. It is so well-balanced and hooked up. It's predictable. What a pleasure to drive. I could just attack Turn 8, I was in the power way in there, forget about the brakes. It just felt so fast. It handles so well. The grip is so high. It's the car we love again. Last time, it was loose. It wouldn't put power down. It was just kind of nervous. This time, it was just so fantastic in every way. It was balanced all the way around Turn 2 sweeper, maybe just a wee bit of understeer. At the end of the corner, I could just roll into the power, drive right off that corner. I kept getting on the power sooner and sooner and sooner. I'm pissed I can't go faster, 'cause I think the tires just don't have it in 'em. After a couple laps, they're just not as good as they are when they're fresh. The car is so well-balanced. The car is nicely behaved on bumps. Over the jump over here -- no problem. I was shifting right in the air, and when it landed, it just hooked and kept going. It was just an absolute pleasure. It's one of the best-handling factory cars I've ever driven. I wouldn't change the car a lick if I was going to go racing right now. I would leave it exactly as it is. I would just tie the crew's hands up, like 'Don't you touch this car!' It's perfect."
Well, that explains why he did five hot laps instead of his customary two or three.
Just for context, here's what he said last time, sans wickerbill: "This one is loose. It doesn't have the confidence-inspiring balance I've experienced in other Z/28s."
It should also be noted that although the wickerbill would've made it a closer fight, it wouldn't have necessarily changed the outcome of the comparison test. The GT3 still put down a 1:27.22 lap time, 1.18 seconds better than the fully equipped Z/28, and still did it with less power and torque. As we said last time, Chevy's still got a few tricks to learn, and they're still working from a less ideal platform than the Porsche team.
At $395 for a piece of composite plastic plus installation ($117 at our local dealer), the wickerbill is a rather expensive dealer-installed accessory in some regards (though you could drill and tap the holes yourself if you're confident in your abilities). When viewed in terms of the proven added performance, though, it's a steal. Any racing team would kill for more than a second per lap, especially a second so easily and cheaply acquired. If you're paying $75,000 for a Camaro Z/28 anyway, you really can't afford not to buy the wickerbill, too. It's the difference between a really good Camaro and a Best Driver's Car champion.