There are two draws in the pony-car competition bracket: brawn-über-alles pits the 580-horsepower Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 against the 650-hp Ford Mustang Shelby GT500, while the track-day killers set the 426-hp Camaro 1LE against the 444-hp Mustang Boss 302. And all of them are eventually tested in anger at Virginia International Raceway, which could one day become our own Nürburgring based on the cars that have set times there.

Answering that challenge, the Camaro 1LE has just come from posting a 2:58.34 around VIR. According to the list at FastestLaps.com, that puts the Camaro 1LE exactly midway between the 2005 lap time of a Chevrolet Corvette Z06 at 2:58.20 and the 550-horsepower 2011 GT500 which did 2:58.48. For better comparison, the 1LE is 6.1 seconds behind the Camaro ZL1, 4.46 seconds ahead of the Boss 302 Laguna Seca, and within two seconds of serious handlers like the Porsche 911 Turbo S, Ariel Atom 3 and Mercedes-Benz SLS AMG, all run in the last two years (although we don't know who the Porsche and Mercedes drivers were). FastestLaps lists a time of 2:58.00 for a "659-hp" GT500, but the year tested is "0" and we aren't sure what the story is there.

Not a bad day's work for the $37,035 Camaro, which starts at a price nearly $13,000 less than the Boss 302 Laguna Seca. Don't take our word for it, check out the whole lap below.



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    • 1 Second Ago
  • 76 Comments
      oRenj9
      • 2 Years Ago
      The Camaro is surprisingly well composed on the track. Most of the times when you're watching a pro hammer a production car around a track, it is obvious that they are keeping the car at the edge the entire time. With this Camaro though, there seems to be minimal fuss keeping the car planted. This beast glides in and out of each corner so smoothly that it looks effortless. There were a few sections that got hairy under hard breaking, but that is to be expected at VIR. In the interest of fairness, I don't think it is a good idea to compare Lightning Lap numbers with those produced by a professional with factory backing. While I trust that the C&D journalists are quite skilled, they don't have a team of engineerings armed with an array of sensors and telemetry systems providing constant feedback to the drivers.
      Street King
      • 2 Years Ago
      Seriously gotta wonder why they didn't call it Z28. Foe those that don't know the Z28 was the direct competitor to the Boss 302 (and Challenger T/A & AAR Cuda & Mark Donohue Javelin & Pontiac Trans AM) for SCCA Trans Am racing homoligation. I bet they build a real Zedder like the Boss 302 when the new - lighter - Camaro drops in a couple more years.
        EXP Jawa
        • 2 Years Ago
        @Street King
        I still think that a Z28 is pending, once the 1LE is launched and in full production. Or, at least within the next model year or so. I could be wrong, but I think we'll see it before the Alpha platform car debuts, and it'll complete in price with the Leguna Seca.
          kcroc10077
          • 2 Years Ago
          @EXP Jawa
          I think you'll see it after the Alpha platform car debuts and it should be a monster. The ATS weighs around 3300 lbs. Hopefully the Alpha Camaro (and new Mustang & SVT Barracuda) will come in at around 3200 lbs.
      Dreez28
      • 2 Years Ago
      Nice! This is definitely the Camaro to buy for me. I could care less about fancy this and that, I just want a fast car that's fun to drive through the twists and straights without having to sacrifice my retirement to afford it. It's what Mustangs and Camaro's have always been about.
      roy
      • 2 Years Ago
      Looks like Chevy has found there calling, all the Camaro's are more tune to road courses less hp,more weight with bigger blocks and the Mustangs are more tune to drag racing more hp,less weight and smaller blocks.The city I live in has 6 drag strips/ 0 road courses, I'd rather be fast at the track / then quick on the course. Not to mention better looks inside and out,plus fuel mileage
      wooootles
      • 2 Years Ago
      Car and Driver needs to lap all of those cars mentioned in their next Lightning Lap issue. So same day, same drivers, no 'ringers' (hopefully) and no excuses. I'm imagining 3:03 +/- 1 when they run it.
      Avinash Machado
      • 2 Years Ago
      They should have the same driver to drive both cars back to back.
      k_m94
      • 2 Years Ago
      Comparing factory testing and Lightning Lap really only demonstrates the difference between the better than average Joe who's given half a dozen laps to get to know the car, and the pro who knows the car inside out (because they helped make it) with a whole, conditions optimized day to make a miracle lap. Doesn't matter if it's a VIR time, Laguna Seca, or even Nordschleife. Chevy's factory time of the ZL1 on VIR is around what Car and Driver journalists achieved in the Corvette ZR1 with Sport Cup semi slicks. And there is no way the top Camaro can hang with the top Corvette on equal footing. I'd also like to point out that the 2011 GT500 that ran 2:58 under Ford testing ran 3:04 on the LL. A six second difference. Seeing that the Boss 302 Laguna Seca achieved an ironic 3:02 at LL, a 6 second improvement with a pro would land it at 2:56ish. Clearly, the 1LE has what it takes to be a true Boss rival, even with upgrades limited to suspension and wheels. Whether it beats the Boss outright depends on the driver. I bet 95% of the owners of any of these cars that hit VIR would fail to beat the results of the journalists, but it would be a more realistic measure than the fairyland 110% perfect runs of the test drivers at either camp. Really, unless you are a racecar driver in a full blown racecar where a 1/100th of a second determines how many zeroes to write after a digit on the winning paycheque, ultimate laptimes matter absolutely nothing. In fact, the ultimate lap in a racecar (qualifying) isn't at all indicative of the actual race results and performance, just a few feet up or down the starting grid. It's the driver that matters. If you get beat at a trackday by someone in a similar class car that should be slower, don't go sending angry calls to the manufacturer or spend tens of thousands of dollars lining the pockets of the aftermarket. If that laptime matters so much, make sure your own head(er) is bolted on just right, stop spewing excuses from your exhaust, firm up your effort, and reprogram your driving skills first. If you just love your car and the sense of speed and fun it gives you in the safe and legal confines of a track (or a really, really good piece of road) then forget about laptimes altogether. I think the only practical purposes of looking into published lap results of stock street cars are subjective, not objective. Does the 1LE or Boss 302 pile on more smiles with less irritations when approaching the lofty limits and also well below them at saner speeds?
        Dean Hammond
        • 2 Years Ago
        @k_m94
        great post, then again, arent we all Alonzo's when it comes to driving skills?...........
        nvedamuthu
        • 2 Years Ago
        @k_m94
        Just to clarify, the driver can't be considered a "pro", as he is a GM engineer, but your point is still very valid. Really all that matters is which car is more fun to drive.
          David Donovan
          • 2 Years Ago
          @nvedamuthu
          So engineers can't be considered a pro driver nvedamuthu? Well if that's the case I don't know how Patrick Dempsey, who is just an actor, can be considered a pro driver then. But on top of it your argument is invalid. If you actually watch the video it says right on it "Professional Driver. Closed Course. Do Not Attempt"
        SoulRebel
        • 2 Years Ago
        @k_m94
        Get out of here with your logic and good reasoning. We don't need any of this over here!!!
      EcoBooster
      • 2 Years Ago
      lol I love how they pit the 7 - 8 - 9 on the RPM Tach...and it can barely go past 6000 rpm! And those DAMN ORANGE TACH NEEDLES! Yuck.
        Jay Olaszek
        • 2 Years Ago
        @EcoBooster
        For real? Nah, you must be a Ford fanboi trolling. It's all in the name. (in case you're not getting my point here, those are NOT the actual Camaro's gauges.)
        k_m94
        • 2 Years Ago
        @EcoBooster
        So if someone had a Boss 302 with a non stock gague that go up to 14,000 rpm, would it be pathetic that it can't even get near 8000?
      LBJ's Love Child
      • 2 Years Ago
      Is this like the Camaro ZL-1's stock sub 12 second 1/4 mile time that only Chevy has been able to produce?
      Thipps
      • 2 Years Ago
      Oh SNAP,,,,ford fanboys won't know what to do with themselves....they...they must have cheated!
      Andre Neves
      • 2 Years Ago
      Hope these "taunts" from Chevrolet trigger a response from Ford. I'm sure the GT500 will wipe the floor with the ZL1 in any track given the chance.
        vince
        • 2 Years Ago
        @Andre Neves
        There are already a lot of comparisons tests out there for you to read Andre, I don't think you will be so sure about the GT500 wiping the floor with the ZL1 on any track if you bother to read them.
          k_m94
          • 2 Years Ago
          @vince
          Good thing these arent muscle cars. They are pony cars, and historically, do in fact value track times and handling over their muscle bretherin.
          ngiotta
          • 2 Years Ago
          @vince
          if the track is straight (where muscle cars belong), then yes- the GT500 destroys the ZL1.
          Justin
          • 2 Years Ago
          @vince
          Let's just stop beating around the bush and call them muscle cars.
          Justin
          • 2 Years Ago
          @vince
          What separates a "pony car" from a "muscle car" in this case? Today it's just a word game.
          David Donovan
          • 2 Years Ago
          @vince
          Out of the three comparison tests between the GT500 and ZL1 the GT500 beat it twice and they tied on the third. So yeah........reality says that the GT500 will wipe the floor with the ZL1.
        wooootles
        • 2 Years Ago
        @Andre Neves
        In Chevy's defense, both ZL1 and 1LE run at least $10,000 cheaper than their Ford counterparts... But it shouldn't even be close. Biases aside, Chevy is running fatter, less powerful, less expensive models and can still keep up. Ford needs to get their chassis game up as Chevy steps up their weight loss program (Alpha)
          XT6Wagon
          • 2 Years Ago
          @wooootles
          yah, not so much. The GT500 is cheaper than the ZL1 unless you start putting options on it. Most if not all of which are not avalible on the ZL1.
          montoym
          • 2 Years Ago
          @wooootles
          @ XT6Wagon: What crack are you smoking? The ZL1 has a base price of $54095 and the GT500 starts at $54,200. Then consider that the ZL1 comes with the Magnetic Ride Control and Limited Slip diff standard while you need to option up the GT500 to get the upgraded Bilstein shocks and Torsen diff ($3,495). Where are you getting your numbers?
      That Guy
      • 2 Years Ago
      Almost 4 and a half seconds FASTER than the Boss??? Bwhahahahahahahaha!!!!!!!!!!! See Ford, A gaudy paint job is not enough to make a car handle well. Time to take your weak GT500 with shoody brakes and limp wristed "Boss" back to the drawing board. Maybe give GM a call on how to do a proper handling car.
        kcroc10077
        • 2 Years Ago
        @That Guy
        Don't be alarmed people. He hasn't has his medication yet.
        k_m94
        • 2 Years Ago
        @That Guy
        Because there is no difference in seat time and talent between an automotive journalist and a factory test driver who helped actually develop the car. How about I go to VIR in a 1LE (such an ugly model name/package code, sounds like the strippo option on a Chevy Aveo) and set a time of 4:02 just so I can gloat that the Boss is a minute quicker.
          Macvicar24
          • 2 Years Ago
          @k_m94
          Don't cry. It's cheaper, heavier, faster & just better.
          XT6Wagon
          • 2 Years Ago
          @k_m94
          And we don't know how much "prep" the camaro got. To run 11's in a ZL1 they put down enough VHT that drag radials barely affected the 60ft. If you've ever driven anything with even 1/2 the power of a ZL1, you know getting drag radials is a pretty massive advantage normaly. In this case right there in the video is a guy using a 5gallon sprayer using enough VHT that you couldn't step onto the launch area without losing your shoes.
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