Last year, Lawson Aschenbach finished third in points in Pirelli World Challenge’s GTS Class with an older-spec Chevrolet Camaro Z/28.R. While he did take home four victories, the races were quite difficult for the heavy Camaro.
“Last year, we had no straight line speed,” Aschenbach told Frontstretch in Lime Rock Park’s paddock. “We were not very good in braking and had really high tire wear. We had no advantage.”
“We would have had to luck into [the championship] last year,” Aschenbach continued. “We were off the pace and didn’t get the help to make that happen on the rules side.”
For 2017, the old Camaro has been retired. In its place is the brand new Chevrolet Camaro GT4.R, a car that is technically still in the testing phase. The ultimate plan is to for the Camaro GT4.R to be sold to customers around the world in time for the start of the 2018 racing season.
The other two belong to Blackdog Speed Shop in Pirelli World Challenge. Aschenbach races the No. 10 seen above while team owner Tony Gaples races the No. 11 in the GTSA class.
The new car is 80 kilograms (196 pounds) lighter than the old car, which provides immediate benefits in regards to tire wear. Less mass results in less pressure on the rubber.
That said, the new Camaro GT4.R is not perfect by any means.
“This year, we seem to be struggling with front grip,” Aschenbach stated. “That is due to the ride height; we’re creating lift in the front of the car right now because of how high we have to run it. Its very difficult from the middle to the end of the race to keep the front tires on the car.”
In all forms of racing today, Balance of Performance (meaning quite simply, the car-specific rules from the sanctioning body) does play a big role in how well a car can run. For example, the performance of the Cadillac DPi-V.R. has been worrying to IMSA officials. Since January, the Cadillac has been slowed four separate times through rule changes. That hasn’t stopped Wayne Taylor Racing from sweeping the first four races.
Issues with handling aside, being in a GT4-spec Camaro does change things quite a bit for Aschenbach. Races are a bit less predictable, and perhaps, more fun.
“I think the playing field has been leveled for us,” Aschenbach said. “The [new car] gives us the chance to fight for wins, whereas last year, we were hanging on for dear life every lap.”
Entering Lime Rock, Aschenbach had not won a race all season. Regardless, consistent strong finishes gave him a 39-point lead in the standings over Mantella Autosport’s Martin Barkey. In the new Pirelli World Challenge points system instituted for 2017, a 39-point lead equates to nearly a race and a half.
In GTS Race No. 1 at Lime Rock Park, Aschenbach ran as high as third before dropping back to a fifth-place finish. The early portion of the race was tricky since the track was quite moist and most of the field (including Aschenbach) started on slick tires. The No. 10 began to charge forward once a clear dry line formed in the second half of the race.
To this point, the fifth-place finish has been the worst finish of the season for the No. 10. Race No. 2 was quite a bit better. Aschenbach brought his Camaro GT4.R home in second, nine seconds behind Rodrigo Baptista. Through eight races, Aschenbach holds a 46-point lead on Mantella Autosport’s Barkey. That is nearly two full races’ worth of points.
About the author
Phil Allaway has three primary roles at Frontstretch. He's the manager of the site's FREE e-mail newsletter that publishes Monday-Friday and occasionally on weekends. He keeps TV broadcasters honest with weekly editions of Couch Potato Tuesday and serves as the site's Sports Car racing editor.
Outside of Frontstretch, Phil is the press officer for Lebanon Valley Speedway in West Lebanon, N.Y. He covers all the action on the high-banked dirt track from regular DIRTcar Modified racing to occasional visits from touring series such as the Super DIRTcar Series.
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