DETROIT - The 2013 road-racing inspired Chevrolet Camaro 1LE, with Camaro engineer Aaron Link behind the wheel, lapped the famed Virginia International Raceway (VIR) "Grand Course" in 2:58.34 - a time previously accomplished by only the upper echelon of performance cars.
The $3,500 1LE package is available on Camaro 1SS and 2 SS coupes, with a manual transmission. A Camaro 1SS with the 1LE package starts at $37,035, including destination, making it one of the most affordable, most capable performance cars offered by any manufacturer.
"The Camaro 1LE combines the best elements of the SS and the ZL1 with a focus on handling," said Al Oppenheiser, Camaro chief engineer. "We optimized every part of the SS for improved track driving, including gear ratios, suspension tuning, and chassis mounts. The result really brings the Camaro SS alive at every turn - whether you're carving through your favorite backroads or working on lap times on the track.
"Best of all, the Camaro 1LE is $10,000 less than its nearest competitor," Oppenheiser said. "For drivers looking for an affordable way to get on the track, what they save with the 1LE will the cover a lot of days at the track."
According to Oppenheiser, the VIR Grand Course configuration is a challenge for production cars because recording a fast lap requires prodigious power, precise handling and tenacious grip.
"To break a three-minute lap on the four-mile Grand Course is an incredible accomplishment for any car," he said. "Like the Nurburgring, at VIR there's never a moment when the car rests at steady state. Each lap tests every aspect of a car, including power, brakes, steering, tire grip and chassis balance.
Earlier this year, Link drove a 2012 Camaro ZL1 Coupe around the Grand Course in 2:52.4. Link's 2:58.37 lap time in the 1LE further demonstrates the Camaro's capabilities on a road course.
The car Link drove was a production-spec Camaro SS with the 1LE package, modified with only a race seat and roll cage for safety. The 1LE proved to be track-capable, even with temperatures approaching 90 degrees in the early-morning test session.
"Like the ZL1, the 1LE is very easy to drive fast, and its performance is very consistent," said Link. "Even in the hot, humid conditions through a tank of fuel, there were no issues with brake fade, changes in grip, or powertrain performance.
"One of the best sections in the 1LE is the Climbing Esses," Link said. "They are a series of four quick turns, as the track climbs uphill, that tend to upset the balance of most production cars. The 1LE offers such neutral balance, and tenacious grip, that I could charge into the Esses at nearly 125 mph and steer the car with the throttle to carry a tremendous amount of speed through the Esses. That would not be possible in a car that wasn't as confidence-inspiring as the 1LE."
A heritage of handling
The Camaro 1LE package was introduced in 1988, inspired by Camaro's involvement in Pro-Am road racing.
For 2013, the 1LE package is offered only on 1SS and 2SS coupe models, featuring a 6.2L LS3 V-8, which is rated at 426 horsepower (318 kW) and 420 lb-ft of torque (569 Nm). In addition, 1LE is only available with a six-speed manual transmission.
While the Camaro SS features a Tremec TR6060-M10 for all-around performance, the Camaro 1LE features an exclusive Tremec TR6060-MM6. Paired with a numerically higher 3.91 final-drive ratio, the close-ratio gearing of the transmission is tuned for road-racing performance. As with the ZL1, the 1LE transmission features a standard liquid-to-liquid cooling system for track use.
The 1LE also features exclusive, monotube rear dampers instead of the twin-tube dampers on SS models. The new hardware allowed engineers to tune the 1LE suspension to focus on optimal body-motion control while preserving much of the ride quality and wheel-motion control of the Camaro SS.
Other changes to optimize the 1LE for track-day use include:
Larger, 27-mm solid front stabilizer bar, and 28-mm solid rear stabilizer bar for improved body control
Strut tower brace for improved steering feel and response
ZL1-based 20 x 10-inch front and 20 x 11-inch aluminum wheels
285/35ZR20 Goodyear Eagle Supercar G:2 tires front and rear (identical to the front tires for ZL1)
ZL1 wheel bearings, toe links and rear shock mounts for improved on-track performance
ZL1 high-capacity fuel pump and additional fuel pickups for improved fuel delivery during high-cornering
Visually, the 1LE package for 2013 is distinguished by its matte-black hood, front splitter and rear spoiler - as well as the 10-spoke ZL1-based wheels, which are finished in black. The functional front splitter and rear spoiler contribute to the car's on-track performance by helping to reduce aerodynamic lift at high speeds.
Inside, the 1LE package incorporates the ZL1's flat-bottom steering wheel, trimmed in sueded microfiber and designed for easier heel-and-toe driving on the racetrack. The quick-acting, short-throw shifter from the ZL1 is also trimmed in sueded microfiber.
Founded in 1911 in Detroit, Chevrolet is now one of the world's largest car brands, doing business in more than 140 countries and selling more than 4 million cars and trucks a year. Chevrolet provides customers with fuel-efficient vehicles that feature spirited performance, expressive design and high quality. More information on Chevrolet models can be found at www.chevrolet.com.