Our first Lightning Lap Track Day is in the books
On Tuesday March 15, we hosted our first Lightning Lap track day, in conjunction with Kaizen Autosport. It was held at our favorite track, Virginia International Raceway, in the same Grand Course setup we use for our annual Top Car of the Year race. Around 40 entries showed up in a wide range of performance and price, filling all of our price-based LL1 through LL5 categories for street cars and all but the most expensive race car class. Each class winner received a $1,000 prize, a trophy, membership in our Track Club, and the satisfaction of beating everyone else vying for that top spot.
It was sunny and cool, perfect when you go there. Or even when they haven’t, like when we took a few less-than-committed laps in our long-term Chevrolet Corvette C8s, BMW M3s, and Ram TRXs so they could earn a Grand Course sticker to wear proudly for the rest of their 40,000 miles in our fleet. It was great to hear from participants – even some VIR regulars – that this was their first time on the 4.1 mile Grand Course. That was one of the reasons we wanted to do this: to give people the ability to experience the experience like we do, which is a rarely used setup for track days.
Plans are already in motion for the next Track Day. Stay tuned.
LL1 (less than $35,000)
Michael Congelosi is the original owner of his 2005 Dodge SRT4 ACR, and he drove it with the skill that comes from a decades-long bond with a vehicle. Congelosi’s daily job is also to push the tires to their limits for Yokohama. The SRT4 is old enough that we’ve never raced one in our 15 years of Lightning Lap, but we know its lap time of 3:08.6 is seriously impressive, beating a Mazda Miata and a Hyundai Veloster N, and putting it in the neighborhood of the Veloster N that we ran in 2019. For reference, we did a 3:20.8 in the hot Neon’s successor, a 2008 Dodge Caliber SRT4.
LL2 ($35,000 to $64,999)
LL2 was the largest of the streetcar classes, consisting mostly of Camaros and Mustangs, along with a Cayman and a BMW M2. After two afternoon sessions, the car with the fastest time was an all-new 2021 Ford Mustang Mach 1 driven by Jeff Quesenberry. Although Quesenberry had thousands of laps at the VIR, it was his first time on the Grand Course, and our very own David Beard, who drove a Ford Mustang Mach 1 at 2:51.4 on the last Lightning Lap, was giving some directions. Although the winning time of 2:56.9 was a little off Beard’s pace, his Mach 1 also lacked the Handling package and adjustable front camber plates and Michelin Pilot Sport Cup 2 tires that ours had.
LL3 ($65,000 to $124,999)
The 2017 Chevrolet Corvette Grand Sport driven by Cody Hunt posted the fastest time in LL3, beating three other legendary performance brands: a Dodge Viper, Nissan GT-R and BMW M4. Hunt’s best lap of 2:46.6 just beat our 2:47.1 in this car in 2016, although its new R compound tires were probably an advantage over the Michelin Cup 2s of five years ago years that the C6 Grand Sport wore from the factory.
LL4 ($125,000 to $249,999)
Nothing could match Corey Radcliff in a 2017 Dodge Viper ACR Extreme in LL4, where his very impressive 2:40.9 beat a trio of 991 Porsche 911s: a GT3 RS, a GT3 and a GT3 Touring. Radcliff’s victory is well deserved, as his time is significantly better than the 2:44.2 we recorded in 2016 – rider KC Colwell recalls the oppressive heat that day – and closes in on the flat of 2:40 from Dodge development driver Chris Winkler. Impressive. The other news to come out of the LL4 class is that a Tesla Model S Plaid ran in 2:50.7, 4.5 seconds faster than the Porsche Taycan Turbo S we ran in 2021, which is it as surprising; and the supremely lucky tank slammed the esses during that fastest lap that somehow didn’t end in disaster.
At the controls of a beautiful 2018 Porsche 911 GT2 RS, Randy Copeland took top honors in the best LL5 street class with a lap time of 2:48.6. Although our KC Colwell went much faster with a 2:37.8 in a GT2RS in 2018 – beating a Corvette ZR1 and a McLaren 720S for the fastest time that year and, at the time, the lap fastest ever – kudos to Copeland for being the rare owner who exercises his car the way Porsche’s GT team intended.
LLR1 (less than $65,000)
This cheapest class of race car was the most hotly contested, with an all-new Subaru BRZ ahead of a trio of BMWs – E30, E36, E46 – a Nissan 350Z, Porsche Boxster, Mustang and Miata. We loved the new BRZ when we ran a 3:12.4 at this year’s Lightning Lap, which is almost two seconds faster than the previous generation’s best BRZ, a tS model. But the fully race-prepared TC America Subie built by TechSport Racing and driven by Devin Anderson shows the true potential of this excellent lightweight rear-wheel-drive sports coupe, with its best time of 2:56.5.
LLR2 ($65,000 to $124,999)
The gap between Eric Magnussen’s E46 M3 and the rest of the LLR2 field was nearly nine seconds, proving that the fire-breathing and insanely loud yellow BMW was more than pump. Magnussen’s best time of 2:39.3 puts him in the top five fastest street cars we’ve raced, between a McLaren 765LT and a Corvette ZR1.
Convincingly proving our point that VIR’s Grand is not a power track, Jonathan Finstrom clocked an epic 2:27.2 lap – a new Grand Course record – in his Staudacher racing prototype S08 P1 light and lightly propelled. The 1.0-liter Suzuki GSX-R engine produces just 152 hp and 75 lb-ft at the wheels, and Finstrom’s top speed down the straight was just 137 mph, about the same as the BMW M240i from our latest Lightning Lap. Still, the 782-pound machine went 7.7 seconds faster than the McLaren Senna that currently sits atop our Lightning Lap all-time leader board, and almost as far ahead of the next-fastest contender. fast too.
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