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Learning Launch Control....How any Writer can be a Great Drag Racer

Hib Halverson

Technical Writer for Internet & Print Media
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71 04 12 19
Labor Day weekend, 2011. I was at the National Corvette Museum's "Anniversary" event after a six-day road-trip during which my Wife, the Fairest Sandra the Red, and I scouted the route the Southern California/Southern Nevada Section of the 2014 National Corvette Caravan will take three years from now.

At NCM Anniversary weekends, Harlan Charles, Chevrolet's Corvette Product Manager, hosts a seminar on the next model year's Corvette. The second part of this seminar is outdoors around several new Vettes, in this case, 2012 Grand Sports and Z06es. After the walk-around concluded and the crowd thinned, I caught-up to Tom Hill, the Engineering Manager at Bowling Green Assembly.

"Hey Tom, uh…how 'bout a drive in your Z06?"

Hill's car is a spanking-new, loaded, Z which is part of GM's Captured Test Fleet. After consulting with Charles, who may have assured Hill it was unlikely I'd stick his company car into a farmer's field somewhere in the boonies outside Bowling Green, off Tom and I went in this arrest-me-red, '12 Z06. While the car had all the whistles and bells, the important stuff was its nasty, 7-liter, 7100 rpm LS7 (better living through displacement and titanium engine parts), F55 Magnaride shocks and the big-assed, J57 carbon-ceramic brakes which come with the "RPO Z07" Z06 Ultimate Performance Package.

First thing I found, on a twisty, ten-mile run southeast on Route 1402 (locals know it as "Porter Pike") is the 2012 Z06, driven near its limits, is a more refined car than were earlier versions (an '06 media fleet car and a privately-owned '07 belonging to a fellow member my Corvette Club) I'd driven before. As we sped along 1402, Hill explained that the combination of: revised rear spring rate, Magnaride and handing tweaks have tamed the early C6Z's sometimes unpredictability and oversteering behavior at the limit.

Where 1402 ends at Route 101, we u-turned and headed back to the Museum. I pushed the car even harder in a few places. The Z06 has phenomenal lateral grip–GM claims 1.18g if the car is ordered with Z07. It's startlingly responsive and incredibly posed in transitions. And, brakes? OMFG does this car have some brakes! I never even got them warm at the slow speeds we were going–not much over 80–but, for sure, the car stops on a proverbial dime. To date, tests by the mainstream road test press demonstrate that the Z06 of the last couple model years are one of the finest performance sports cars in the world. It outperforms "exotic" or "super" cars costing three times the price. Plus…it rides nicely if F55 is in its "tour" mode and, if you can resist driving the car in a sporting manner, that big 427 delivers astonishingly good fuel mileage.

And then…there's "Launch Control".

Actually, this system is not new, having been introduced on ZR1 and Z06 in '10. In short, Launch Control combines computer control of throttle opening with driver control of the clutch and gear shift to produce standing starts which boggle the mind with their consistency. Here's how to use it...

Come to a full stop. Push the "Performance Traction Management" button on the center console twice. Confirm "performance mode" appears on the IP display. Straighten the front wheels, select first gear, push the clutch in, then floor the throttle–electronic throttle control (ETC) will hold 4000 rpm. Quickly release the clutch and keep your foot planted on the floor. As the engine goes by 6000 rpm, keep your foot on the floor, pump the clutch and grab second gear. You can keep doing that for each hear or untii, as Tom Hill suggested in a email a day or so after our drive, "....until speed exceeds comfort".
:chuckle
During the standing start, the car's engine computer controls the throttle for you, balancing wheel spin and torque output, making you look like Kurt Johnson or Jeg Coughlin Jr. every time. Using Launch Control is easy except that, in the first times you use it, it may be hard to break the habit lifting to control wheel spin once you pop the clutch. I did that the first time I tried and the car bogged. As soon as you lift, Launch Control is disabled. "Don't lift! Keep your foot on the floor," Tom Hill instructed as I lined-up for a second try on a another straight stretch of 1402-west.

Wheels straight, first gear, floor the throttle, ECM holds 4000 rpm then, I dumped the clutch. The ECM balanced throttle opening and wheel spin. I steered a bit as the rear end drifted right. As soon as the car hooked, the throttle was WFO and RPMs were headed towards the 7100 rpm rev limiter. My foot flat on the floor, I stabbed the clutch and flicked the shifter to second. RPM was headed toward the rev limiter again. Because we were on a public road, I stayed in it only to the top of second gear, but on the drag strip you can use the launch control through the entire pass. It was so much fun, I jumped on those big carbon brakes and came to a full stop to try it a third time.
:happyanim:
With the tires warm, the car left harder. Between 6000 and 7000, I power-shifted to second. As the LS7 pulled towards 7000, again, I decided: what-the-heck, and banged third gear. I stayed in it for a second or so. Ok. Maybe a bit fast on a two-lane, country road. But, it wasn't my fault. Really....I couldn't help it.

I'd like my 2012 Z06/Z07 in Carlisle Blue with a White Stripe, please.:thumb
 

froggy47

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Black 1996 LT4 Coupe/ 2004 Z06/Z16
My friend has a 2011 GS with the aformentioned launch control. He said that the "problem" with launch control is that, if your intention is to drive the car in anything other than a straight line, and you want ALL the nannies OFF you can't use launch control to start off. For example on an autox course competition run.

I guess once the WOT is lifted the car reverts to Competion Mode? Or does it revert to the default "all nannies on"?

What is your understanding, has GM refined the system for 2012?

It would be really useful info to know what mode the 2012 is in once launch control is "cancelled".

:thumb
 

catbert

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Hib Halverson

Technical Writer for Internet & Print Media
Joined
Jan 10, 2001
Messages
13,453
Location
CenCoast CA
Corvette
71 04 12 19
My friend has a 2011 GS with the aformentioned launch control. He said that the "problem" with launch control is that, if your intention is to drive the car in anything other than a straight line, and you want ALL the nannies OFF you can't use launch control to start off. For example on an autox course competition run.

I guess once the WOT is lifted the car reverts to Competion Mode? Or does it revert to the default "all nannies on"?

What is your understanding, has GM refined the system for 2012?

It would be really useful info to know what mode the 2012 is in once launch control is "cancelled".

:thumb

No doubt, Launch Control would be great in some autocross starts but, it is true, the system will not enable is the front wheels are not straight.

As to which mode the system defaults if you lift....I don't know if GM has changed the system in the manner you suggest, but I'll inquire.

I do know that very few drivers...even many who are reasonably competent autoXers or road racers can drive "better" with the system off. The only people I've observed who are quicker with the system off are championship-quality or record-holding drivers...such as John Heinricy or Jim Mero.
 

Hib Halverson

Technical Writer for Internet & Print Media
Joined
Jan 10, 2001
Messages
13,453
Location
CenCoast CA
Corvette
71 04 12 19
GM tells me if you start out with Launch Control then lift, the system defaults to Competition Mode.
 

froggy47

Well-known member
Joined
Oct 24, 2002
Messages
1,000
Location
CA
Corvette
Black 1996 LT4 Coupe/ 2004 Z06/Z16
Thanks Hib.

:)
 

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