Gary Sheehan was invited to be the test driver for Road & Track SPEED magazine’s article titled “Track Monsters”. The focus of the article was to determine the which of the following make the best track vehicle: a kit car, a tuner car or a production car. The cars chosen to compete would make any enthusiast take notice. The kit car was a Noble M12 GTO 3R, the tuner car was an Infiniti G35 Coupe twin turbo and the production car was the brand new Corvette Z06. Potent machines that go fast in their own unique ways.
Sheehan was chosen to pilot these track monsters due to his proven ability to jump into very different cars and get them up to their limit quickly. Sheehan’s extensive professional racing experience in a multitude of platforms (FWD, RWD, AWD, turbo, SC, sedan, sports racers, formula cars, etc.) as well as his testing for other magazine shoot-outs and hired-gun outings for time attack events made him the perfect candidate to flog these cars to their limit.
Gary spent the morning becoming familiar with the character of each of the hotrods. Time was limited, so familiarization was kept fairly short. Once comfortable in each of the cars, the official times sessions began. After a single warm-up lap, the cars were driven hard for several laps. The fastest lap of each car was taken for comparison.
“Getting the most out of these cars in such a short time was tricky”, said Sheehan. “The weather was pretty hot and the turbo cars were getting heat soaked really fast. They would only get a lap and a half at full power before overheating. So I had to turn up the cabin heat and cool the car off for a lap or so before getting after it again.”
At the end of the day, the production Corvette Z06 turned in the fastest lap time, with the Noble in 2nd and the Infiniti G35 taking 3rd place. Here are some of Sheehan’s insights about the competitors:
“The Infiniti is very fast while the intake charge stays cool. The power comes on hard and really kicks you in the butt! I think the G35 would have done much better had there been time to make some suspension tuning changes. This car was originally set-up as a drift car and it was obvious that it hadn’t been tuned too far away from its beginnings. The car oversteered everywhere, and while it was a lot of fun, it wasn’t very fast. And the overheating engine made the fun end too early.”
“The Noble was pure magic in the corners. The car rotates so sweetly under trail braking that I was literally grinning inside my helmet. Of the three cars, it was the only one that let me use all three inputs to control attitude; steering, throttle and brakes. The short wheelbase and peaky power delivery made corner exit tricky. The overheating in this car is an issue as well. This car could definitely be a bit quicker with some softening of the rear suspension and better engine cooling.”
“Wow! This Z06 was a monster constricted by its technology! The power was fantastic all the time, regardless of temperature and altitude. It just kept pounding out the laps with no change in pull. This car was by far the most luxurious and comfortable of the three. The one thing that frustrated me about this car was the intervention of ABS and stability control. No matter what setting I had it on, the car wouldn’t allow me to drive it the way I wanted to. I’d try to get a little yaw going into the corners and the stability control would actuate the ABS system and straighten the car right out. This car tried to do too much for me. Although it had amazing power and incredible cornering grip, there was still more on the table that the computer wouldn’t let me have.”
Click here to read the Road & Track SPEED magazine “Track Monsters” article in it’s entirety.