The Raging Bull of Sant’Agata Bolognese, Lamborghini, revolutionized the world of supercars with the introduction of the stunningly beautiful Miura in the 1960s. While General Motors also dabbled with mid-engined designs in the 1970s and 1980s, it’s safe to say that the Pontiac Fiero cannot be considered a supercar by any stretch of the imagination.
Porsche, on the other hand, has become famous for its ability to enhance and refine the 911 without deviating from its tried-and-true formula. However, it was actually General Motors that beat Porsche at its own game with the Chevrolet Corvette. One notable example is Zora Arkus-Duntov, a Belgian-born American engineer who played a crucial role in the Corvette’s development. In fact, he convinced the higher-ups at General Motors to fit a 265-ci small-block engine into the C1 Corvette for the 1955 model year.
Zora’s passion for racing led him to participate in the prestigious 24 Hours of Le Mans race four times, where he achieved class wins in 1954 and 1955. He was also a big advocate for mid-engined cars and was the first to propose moving the Corvette’s engine behind the driver.
Unfortunately, Zora’s dream of a mid-engined Corvette did not come to fruition with the 1976 Chevrolet Aerovette, which was supposed to evolve into a mid-engined C4 for the 1980 model year. Corvette chief engineer Dave McLellan, who succeeded Zora, decided to stick with the classic front-engine setup instead. It was a missed opportunity, but destiny had other plans for the mid-engined Corvette.
General Motors finally took Zora’s proposal seriously when they began working on the C8 Corvette. By pushing the limits of the front-engine Corvette with up to 755 horsepower and 715 pound-feet of torque, they realized that any further improvements would require a radical change in design. And thus, the C8’s mid-engined configuration was born.
In combination with an advanced launch control system, the weight distribution over the rear axle gives the Z06 Corvette a significant advantage in terms of traction during acceleration. In a drag race against a red Italian supercar, presumably a Lamborghini Huracan, the Z06 launches much better than its competitor. This is not surprising considering that the C8 Corvette is the newer car and its engine is derived from the high-performance C8.R racecar.
While the 5.5-liter V8 engine in the Z06 Corvette offers more torque than the Lamborghini’s 5.2-liter V10, it is weighed down by extra mass, preventing it from achieving a quarter-mile time in the 10.7-second range. The Huracan driver managed to complete the quarter-mile in 10.746 seconds, while the Corvette driver achieved a best time of 10.850 seconds. Nonetheless, it is an impressive performance from the Corvette.
Looking ahead, the 2025 Chevrolet Corvette ZR1, expected to be equipped with a twin-turbo version of the Z06’s high-revving engine, is projected to have over 800 horsepower. This means the C8 Corvette will become even faster in the future.
Interestingly, the final version of the C8 series is rumored to pay homage to Zora Arkus-Duntov, often referred to as the “Father of the Corvette.” It is believed that the upcoming model, possibly called the Zora, will combine elements from the ZR1 and the E-Ray, featuring over 1,000 horsepower and all-wheel drive with the help of a front-mounted electric drive unit.
In conclusion, General Motors and the Chevrolet Corvette have made significant strides in the world of supercars by embracing the mid-engined layout. What started as a dream for Zora Arkus-Duntov has now become a reality, with the C8 Corvette showcasing its impressive performance and setting the stage for even more exciting developments in the future.