Weight and aerodynamics are also key considerations when attempting to maximize the performance of a car. Weight savings were realized in part by removing the passenger seat, replacing the hood with a carbon-fiber piece from Motor City Molds, and swapping the stock wheels for a big-n-little combination of Bogart D-10s. The Z06's inherent lightness, combined with some intelligent choices in equipment selection, have brought the car's race weight to just 3,188 pounds, with driver.
Despite its age, the C5 is a very aerodynamically efficient car, with a coefficient of drag of just 0.29 cd. Even though the Z06's hardtop body design is slightly less aerodynamic than the coupe's, that fundamental efficiency is still present, and it lessens the workload as the car approaches the top end of the track, helping make those eye-popping trap speeds possible.
Bogart Racing wheels are attractive and extremely light-perfect for the strip.
Driving is another area that is frequently overlooked when seeking maximum dragstrip performance. For the past four years or so, Zona has coached many fellow Corvette drivers both on Internet forums and at the track, helping them to better their own performances. "The person who gave me the most help and advice when I first started out was John Armstrong (a.k.a. Ranger on the forums), who has helped hundreds of Corvette drivers over the years. I typically launch the car between 5,500 and 6,500 rpm, depending on conditions. The two-step makes the car more consistent on the launch, but it does take away some of the feel and driver input that could result in a slightly better 60-foot time."
Zona is enthusiastic about helping others maximize their driving and offers the following advice: "I always tell people to do a full burnout. With drag radials, I am able to run the tire pressure at around 20 psi, which makes the car very stable, especially on the big end. I shift the car over 7,000 rpm and power shift when the conditions are right, or if I want to maximize e.t. on a good air day."
Not content to rest on their laurels, Zona and the AMR crew plan to continue improving the combination. "We can see this car running 9.7s at 140 mph with some more minor tweaks and modifications." Naturally, the plan is to accomplish this with the same little 346-and no power adders.
And since the car still handles as well as most Corvettes, Zona has an eye on the twisties for the future. "With some minor changes, I plan to get involved in some road racing." And when he does, the competition had best be on their toes, because given Rob Zona's knack for meticulous preparation, this Z is likely to dominate the corners, too.
Editor's note: Since this story was written, Zona has replaced the LS6 with a 388ci stroker engine and run a best e.t. of 9.3 seconds-still with no power adder.