Burnout Super Test, Part 7: 2012 Chevy Corvette ZR1 vs. 2013 SRT Viper

Burnout Super Test, Part 7: 2012 Chevy Corvette ZR1 vs. 2013 SRT Viper

America's Most Powerful Supercars Battle It Out


Imagine a world without logic or common sense or personal responsibility or any environmental concern. A world where spectacle trumps achievement and the only mark one can leave is made of burnt rubber. A world where the sole currency is self-satisfied idiocy. That's the world of the legendary Burnout Super Test. Welcome.

This is it, the seventh Burnout Super Test and it features two of the greatest, most technologically advanced tire-incineration systems ever devised. The first is the redesigned, if not entirely all-new, don't-call-it-a-Dodge 2013 SRT Viper GTS. And the second is that legendary badass, soon-to-be-no-more 2012 Chevrolet Corvette ZR1. Chaos ensues.

The rules are as before — eternal and never-changing.

1. Traction control is off.
2. Start each car in 1st gear.
3. Pop each car's clutch while throwing a brick at the accelerator pedal.
4. Hold on.
5. Each car gets three runs.
6. Measure resulting stripe on pavement.
7. Whichever car lays down the longest black stripe on the pavement wins.

Driving for this subtle, complex event is Big Daddy Josh Jacquot, who also occasionally writes things.

The Contenders
Under the Viper's reincarnated clamshell hood is a burly blunt instrument: an 8.4-liter, overhead-valve V10 slamming out 640 horsepower and a stupefying 600 pound-feet of peak torque at 5,000 rpm. Hooked directly to a six-speed Tremec manual transmission, all that power is ultimately channeled to a pair of P355/30ZR19 Pirelli P Zero Corsa rear tires.

The new Viper's rear tires are the widest yet seen in a Burnout Super Test. And so new that they weren't even listed on The Tire Rack when we went looking. But a phone call to sources at that tire retailer revealed that they'd be going for $900. Each. That's $1,800 for the pair. It was an honor to liquefy them.

Yeah, the ZR1 as we know it has only months to live. But here it still is, a glowering linebacker of a car. It's burly, slightly demonic and swollen with power. The clear plastic window atop the hood is silly, but under it is the most powerful V8 General Motors has ever installed in a production car. It's the supercharged, 6.2-liter 638-hp LS9 small-block. It's an engine that growls at idle like a lion looking out over a water buffalo buffet.

And while the ZR1's LS9 may trail the Viper V10 by 2 whole rated peak horsepower, it hoofs out a thunderous 604 lb-ft of peak torque at 3,800 rpm. Do the math. That's 4 more than the Viper, down 1,200 rpm lower in the rev range. Ferocious. Connected by a torque tube to its rear-mounted Tremec six-speed manual transmission, the ZR1's LS9 churns the optional, track-ready P335/25ZR20 Michelin Pilot Sport Cup run-flat rear tires. At $539 each through The Tire Rack, they're almost cheap. You know, relatively speaking. Almost.

In the context of the Burnout Super Test, everything else about these cars doesn't matter. Which is quicker, which is easier to live with and which looks better parked at a restaurant is meaningless. Carbon-fiber fenders? Who cares? Fancy nav system? Meh. Burning rubber? Awesome!

The Day
The Streets of Willow is a familiar venue. And while there's plenty of love for the track, that familiarity has bred contempt for the weather of California's high desert. When it's not broiling at Willow Springs, it's freezing. According to the thermometer in a Lexus LS 460 it was 52 degrees that Wednesday. But the wind chill factor brought that down to the point where it felt as if we were breathing in liquid nitrogen.

It was, by far, the coldest day ever for any Burnout Super Test. Speculate as you want about how it affected performance.

Here's what happened:

2nd Place: 2013 SRT Viper
First Run: 416 feet, 5 inches
Second Run: 265 feet, 9 inches
Third Run: 294 feet, 3 inches

With slightly less peak torque and slightly wider rear tires than the ZR1, that the Viper finished 2nd is logical. But it's nonetheless surprising. This car looks as if it's eager to destroy its tires.

The Viper makes an unholy, banshee wail. Revved up just before its first run, spitting through its side exhausts, it sounds like a high-speed, 30-millimeter Gatling gun spraying out lead from the nose of an A-10 Warthog. Then Big Daddy dropped the clutch, the exhaust note dropped a couple octaves and the Viper struck forward.

Back on its haunches, the Viper's rear tires gripped for a moment, then broke traction and began producing blue-gray smoke that seemed to glaze over them like honey on a ham. A moment later, the tires still spinning, the tail slewed over and the car sort of crabbed forward as Big Daddy countersteered to correct. Finally the tires found traction, the Viper steadied itself and roared away.

"That was epic," one of the photographers gasped. "That was absolutely pornographic," someone else remarked as the measuring crew scrambled out to lay down the 300-foot tape to put a number to the Viper's glory. And 300 feet wasn't enough. At 416 feet, 5 inches the Viper had just become the second greatest burnout performer in Burnout Super Test history — behind only the Ford Shelby GT500's incredible 472-feet, 5-inch performance last July. Suddenly it seemed the GT500's record wasn't so safe.

But the 2013 SRT Viper's next two runs proved disappointing. Maybe it was the cold pavement, or that the expensive Pirellis have some secret self-preservation technology built in. But on the next two runs, the Viper hooked up relatively early. You know, just the way it was engineered to launch.

1st Place: 2013 Chevrolet Corvette ZR1
First run: 490 feet, 4 inches
Second run: 514 feet, 2 inches
Third run: 436 feet, 8 inches

After the Viper's spectacular performance, we were ready for the ZR1's runs to be anticlimactic. "My record is safe," asserted Mike "Mongoose" Monticello, who had piloted the GT500 during its Super Test record run. How wrong he would be.

With Big Daddy blipping its throttle in anticipation of launch, it was as if determination was being added to the ZR1's exhaust note. The deep tone and raspy vibrato of that exhaust sound grew more urgent and more confident every time he tapped the pedal. In the cold air, there was a wisp of condensation from each tailpipe that suggested the atmosphere itself was being consumed by this monster. Then Big Daddy dumped the clutch and the Corvette broke forward as if it were digging furrows into the pavement. Smoke poured forth from the big rear Michelins as if they were 1920s Pittsburgh steel mills.

On the first run the steel gray Vette spun its tires so hard it was approaching the rev limiter in 1st. So Big Daddy grabbed 2nd and the lunacy continued. The ZR1 was screaming like it was trying to ingest all of California and spitting the state back out its exhausts one county at a time. At 490 feet and 4 inches, the first run obliterated the GT500's record by almost 18 feet. "Damn!" Mongoose exclaimed through gritted teeth while stomping his Nikes into the pavement. "It has to be a fluke!"

Then on the second run, Big Daddy more than repeated the first as he extended the Corvette's tire fry all the way out to 514 feet, 2 inches. Irving Berlin will have to come back from the dead just to write a ballad about this blistering performance. We're lucky that NORAD's early warning radar didn't mistake the ZR1's contrails for an unauthorized missile launch and order a full-scale retaliatory strike.

By the third run the ZR1's tires were greasy and the last number was disappointing. But our minds were blown, even if the ZR1's tires weren't.

All hail the King of Kombustion! The 2013 Chevy Corvette ZR1 goes out victorious.

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