This past weekend, with fears of rain and potential snow up in the high desert at Willow Springs International Raceway, Spec Corvette ran their second round of the year in conjunction with Speed Ventures. The rain held off for the most part and racers were able to take advantage of the cool ambient temperatures, to the point of setting a new Big Willow lap record!
While we’ve been posting a ton of content and footage covering this weekend’s 2020 Rolex 24 At Daytona, we haven’t forgotten about the form of racing we truly cherish the most: club racing.
Ride along with us as Viper engineer Chris Winkler shows us what the newest hardcore track version of Dodge’s sports car is capable of on a hot lap around Big Willow.
Every year the Motor Press Guild holds their Track Days event, gathering both journalists and auto makers in one spot with the goal of giving both parties the opportunity to connect and allow members of the press a chance to evaluate the latest from the brands that participate. This year had a particularly good turnout, giving us a chance to check out vehicles we haven’t had any seat time in as of yet, as well as one’s we’ve reviewed previously but haven’t had on track yet, like the all-new 2015 Ford Mustang GT.
We’ve spent some quality time with the convertible version of the Jaguar F-Type over the past year or so, and while that car in both V6 and V8 flavors delivered some pretty divine open-top motoring and, in the case of the V8 model, offered one of the most compelling exhaust notes we’d ever heard in a production car, we were anxious to get behind the wheel of a hard top F-Type and see if the coupe’s added rigidity would translate to a substantially more capable F-Type.
After completing Driver School and a race the following day, we set our sights on the next local SCCA race: a two day divisional event at Willow Springs International Raceway. With class in the rear view and racing season in full swing, the training wheels were coming off and it was time to build upon what was learned thus far and expand from there.
When we traveled to Willow Springs, California and drove the Chrysler Group’s 2012 SRT8 lineup (including a lengthy drive in the Jeep Grand Cherokee SRT8), the tires on the cars, understandably, underwent a lot of wear and tear on the track. At one point, the tires on a Dodge Challenger SRT8 392 were slated for replacement in just a few minutes, and of brand representatives decided the rubber should go out in style (i.e., in a huge cloud of smoke).
The Angeles Crest Highway was a beautiful way to get from Los Angeles to Willow Springs raceway, and a great venue to display the handling prowess of the all-new 2012 Jeep Grand Cherokee SRT8. The scenic mountain curves tested the grip of the P295 Pirellis, and no matter how hard we pushed it, the rubber never broke loose at any corner. Tossing the wheel back and forth, the Jeep responded quickly, with easy transitions and amazingly little body roll. Having those comfortable bolstered seats to hold our torso in place didn’t hurt either. In the tighter corners (and, later, navigating the paddock area of the big track at Willow), the Grand Cherokee felt a lot smaller than expected, thanks to a decent 37.1-foot turning circle. On top of all this, the steering wheel (shared across the 2012 SRT lineup) is thick and nicely shaped for aggressive driving, and wrapped in nice leather—the cherry on top of a good steering experience.