We first met Gary Bowler at Katech's semi-annual Track Attack high- performance driving event (see related story), where his serious-looking C6 impressed everyone with its prowess on the Joliet, Illinois–based Autobahn road course. It didn't have the warp-speed-inducing horsepower of some of the Z06s in attendance, but it slithered through the turns with nary an ounce of drama and just plain hauled butt on the straights.
Driving skill unquestionably comes into play, too, and Bowler is a veteran of many high- performance driving events, or HPDEs. He's also one of a growing breed of enthusiasts who regularly run their Corvettes on the track, but don't have an interest in competing in SCCA- or NASA-type races.
"Full-on racing is just not what I want to do," says Bowler. "I want to go out, push my car and myself on the track. That's the experience I want, and that's exactly what high-performance driving events deliver."
Aside from an MGW shifter, the '05's red-on-black passenger compartment is minimally modde
More stick—and stop. StopTech/Hoosier combo bites like an arrester hook in the turns.
Pfadt rollbar contributes to chassis rigidity—and on-track peace of mind.
Indeed, with its large rear wing, Bowler's dual-purpose '05 coupe—which he's dubbed the C6 Raptor—certainly looks as if it spends all of its time on the track, but it's also a regular sight on the roads in and around its owner's Rochester, New York, stomping grounds. That duality is especially important to Bowler, who has neither the time nor the desire to participate in a dedicated racing program. There's no need for a competition license, either.
"Corvettes are designed and built to be driven hard, and running them on a track is a natural extension of the ownership experience," Bowler says. "High-performance driving events are perfect for me, because they allow me to exercise my car and explore its limits, without the expense and commitment required for racing. And besides, this is still a car I can drive on the street—and that's exactly what I want to do."
Bowler bought the car new and drove it off the Bowling Green assembly line in December 2004. It was the first step in an unending journey to improve the car for HPDE use. The original 6.0-liter LS2 engine, which was originally rated at 400 horsepower, delivers noticeably more grunt, thanks to a set of Lingenfelter-supplied ported cylinder heads and a higher-lifter GT11 camshaft, which delivers 0.631/0.644-inch lift and 215/231 degrees of duration on a 118-degree centerline. New Era Performance in Rochester, New York, did the tuning on the warmed-over small-block. Tested on the shop's dyno, the Corvette put down 456 rear-wheel hp and 427 lb-ft of torque—about 540 horses and 500 lb-ft at the crankshaft.
"It doesn't have the sheer horsepower of some other cars, but the engine feels great and delivers great power on the track," says Bowler. "The Lingenfelter cam is fairly mild, but has a nice lope to it and the idle quality is very smooth, which is great for street driving."
Complementing components for the head-and-cam package include Yella Terra shaft-mount aluminum roller rocker arms, Morel 4708 hydraulic lifers, Comp Cams pushrods, an ATI SuperDamper balancer, an Edelbrock Victor high-performance water pump, a Halltech cold-air intake, LG Motorsports 17⁄8-inch ceramic-coated long-tube headers—blowing into a Corsa exhaust system—and an ARE dry-sump oiling system. As on a production Z06, the dry-sump tank is mounted in the engine compartment, and the battery (a lightweight racing unit) is relocated to the cargo area. An Exedy flywheel and twin-disc clutch setup transfer the engine's torque via an LG Motorsports carbon-fiber driveshaft to one of Quaife's bulletproof torque-biasing differentials.
Of course, horsepower is a valuable attribute for transporting a car between the turns, but the suspension is what enables it to negotiate them, either with the precision of a surgeon's scalpel or the haphazard stabs of a six-year-old playing Pin the Tail on the Donkey. Bowler's street/track C6 is definitely "board certified" when it comes to carving corners, supported not only by a who's-who roster of suspension parts suppliers, but countless hours of track time that helped dial in and refine its performance.
"You can't just bolt on the parts and expect to go cut a few seconds off your lap times," says Bowler. "It's a trial-and-error process that takes time, but that's also part of the fun of doing it all in the first place. You make the changes, see the results immediately, and adapt to them."