Since we started Lightning Lap in 2006, the LL3 price range has always been the sweet spot of performance, the best value for money. LL2 often has more participants, but it doesn’t quite have the firepower of LL3: German, Japanese and American cars that seat two, four or five. Coupes. SUVs. Sedans. LL3 has it all. And LL3 now has a new highlight in the form of the Chevrolet Corvette Z06 and its 2:38.6 lap.
We say best bang for the buck because European and Japanese cars have to compete with the American metal that almost always undercuts the overseas competition. Corvettes compete with Camaros, Ford Mustang GT500s, Cadillac Vs, some AMG 63s, BMW Me, and more. We adjusted the class breaks this year, so LL3 now covers cars with a base price between $75,000 and $139,999. And no, we didn’t set that upper limit based on the Z06’s pricing. (Remember, when we discuss the base price in Lightning Lap stories, that price includes performance-enhancing options.)
An American has always held the crown of LL3 champion. A C6 Z06 was the first (2006 model) and second (2007 model) LL3 champion, with times at Lightning rounds 1 and 2 of 3:01.1 and 2:58.6 respectively. Next to hold the belt was a Dodge Viper SRT10 in a one-off test where it dropped the LL3 time by 1.2 seconds.
But then came the third Lightning Bolt installment. If you are not familiar, check it out. There were some heavy hitters at that one, including the Nissan GT-R (LL3), Ferrari 430 Scuderia (LL5), Mosler MT900S (LL5), and the second-generation Cadillac CTS-V (LL2). Also in the group was the Dodge Viper SRT10 ACR (LL3) that turned a 2:48.6, a 10.0 second improvement in LL3 cars. A sub 2:50 at that time was pretty nuts and the only thing faster was the Mosler (2:45.9).
Partly because it was such a big jump, the ACR remained the LL3 target until the lightning ninth lap, where the 650-hp Corvette Z06 (a C7) turned a 2:44.6. At Lightning Lap 14, a Mustang Shelby GT500 will match exactly that.
Which brings us back to the incredible lap laid down by the new Corvette Z06. The Corvette went to a mid-engine layout so it could perform better on racetracks. His 2:38.6 is not only a new LL3 record, it is the fastest lap by a naturally aspirated car and the fifth fastest in Lightning Lap history. Everything else faster is in the LL5 class and costs at least twice as much. That alone is enough for celebration.