Lesson learned: Always bring your tuning laptop to the event | Project C5 Corvette Z06

Update by J.G. Pasterjak to the Chevrolet Corvette Z06 project car
Mar 9, 2022

Photography by J.G. Pasterjak

As we kick off what will likely be a farewell tour for our C5 Corvette Z06 project, we’re opening the season with back-to-back, top-level SCCA autocross events.

The plan was to kick off the season at the Florida International Rally and Motorsports Park–a facility we’re no stranger to as that’s where we do all our official testing–with the SCCA’s Pro Solo opener. Then, a few weeks later, we’d run the annual launching pad for the national Solo Season, the Tire Rack Red Hills Tour in South Georgia.

Practice day at the ProSolo went swimmingly. The only substantial change we’ve made to the Corvette since last year, aside from various small sorting and tuning tweaks, is a set of Yokohama Advan A052 tires in 315/30R18 size mounted on our Momo RF wheels.

[Ultimate track tire guide | 200tw, 100tw, street-legal track and R-comps]

After a somewhat surprisingly high seventh-place trophy at the 2021 SCCA Solo Nationals on a set of borrowed A052s, we figured that if they could cover up our rusty driving well enough to earn a trophy at the country’s largest autocross event, then they should probably earn a place on the car for regular autocross duty.

After a static heat cycle in our Chicken Hawk Racing tire heaters, we figured that a dynamic scrub via some practice runs on Saturday would put our new tires in peak readiness for Sunday’s competition.

We were one of the fastest cars on the practice course Saturday, but sadly we’d never get to find out how things would go in actual competition.

Sunday morning, we fired the car up when we got the call to grid in order to let the engine warm up a bit. We sorted out a few things in our pit area and then prepared to make the trek to grid. But without warning, the Corvette suddenly switched to a 2000 rpm idle and lost all throttle response.

We shut it off, attempted to restart, and after a LOT of cranking it finally fired again–and ran at 2000 rpm with no throttle response.

Now, here’s the part where we actively invite your emails and social media posts to chide and mock us, because we absolutely deserve it.

We left the tuning laptop at home.

Look, can you blame us? Out Holley Dominator EFI system has been 100% reliable, and that lulled us into a comfortable sense of security. But now we were stuck at the FIRM, with the grid marshal waiting for our car, with no throttle actuation.

[How to make the move to an aftermarket ECU]

Furiously unplugging the throttle connector, disconnecting the battery, and inventing new swear words did nothing, and finally we leaned over the fence and hollered at the grid guy to start without us. At least we could still pull it on the trailer under its own power, albeit at 2000 rpm, no more and no less.

Cutting to the chase, once we got home, we plugged in the laptop, synced the tune, tried to fire the car and–it started right up. With full throttle control.

Notice we didn’t say “reload the tune.”

No, we simply synced the tune with the laptop, confirming that the tune on the laptop was the same one that was in the car, and that handle jiggle seems to have solved our issues.

So what happened? Well, neither we nor our tuner can come up with any definitive answers. Maybe the throttle control signal was momentarily interrupted, and the ECU “learned” that condition and switched off the throttle signal?

Maybe the moon aligned with the Himalayas a certain way and threw off the cosmic energies. We don’t know.

What we 100% absolutely DO know, though, is ALWAYS take the laptop and ALWAYS record datalogs. Sadly, we had to learn that lesson the hard way.

As for the ProSolo itself, a few minutes after we told the grid we’d be spending the heat sulking, the grid chief leaned over the fence and hollered, “We found you a ride!!”

So we grabbed a helmet, sprinted to grid, and plopped into Deric Dymerski’s C5 Corvette Z06 that he had graciously volunteered for the event.

Still on its original leaf springs, with the factory LS6 engine fitted with some mild power upgrades and a set of 315/30R18 Falken Azenis RT660s, Deric’s car was a throwback to the early days of our own project.

The sticky Falkens were right in their prime, though, and made for an easy-to-drive car that we managed to bring home in third place, competing in a tough combined CAM class against a very steep index. Big thanks to Deric for offering a last-second ride to a fellow Corvette guy who was dumb enough to show up unprepared.

That leaves us with the second part of the bigtime autocross season openers–the Tire Rack Red Hills National Tour–this weekend at South Georgia Motorsports Park.

Now with a running car that’s been fully heat cycled, cold started and tested as good as we can going up and down the driveway, we had little to do in the way of preparation besides a good nut-and-bolt and some cleaning.

So we decided to throw some love to Yokohama and lean in to the JDM culture by cutting up some ADVAN vinyl on our plotter. Our Tokyo Drift-style signage in place, the car will now head onto the trailer for the short trip to Georgia and hopefully another successful autocross weekend, but this time in our actual vehicle.

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