Evan J. Smith
August 22, 2006
Contributers: Jim Campisano Photos By: Campy and Smitty

On-Track Excitement
Both cars made similar power. The question was, could the Roush's extra horsepower overcome the Corvette's 396-pound weight advantage? For a while, the answer was yes. The cars traded victories at Raceway Park on the quarter: Vette 13.04 at 110.67 vs. 13.05/106.36, then 12.85/107.58 for the Roush vs. 13.19/ 110.85 for the Bow Tie.

Once Evan got comfortable in the Chevy, though, it was all over. A 12.71 at 112.31 bested the Roush's 12.90 at 107.39, then, finally, a 12.59 at 112.77 cemented the Bow Tie's victory to the Roush's final effort of 12.93 at 107.56. (Note: We did return with the Roush under slightly better conditions, and busted off a 12.63 at 109 mph. The Vette was unavailable for this second outing.)

Next we were off to the road course, and the Roush was right at home on our 1.3-mile track. It was remarkably consistent--1:23.47, 1:23.61, 1:23.82 were the lap times. Only the Roush shifter gave us trouble. While it worked fine at the dragstrip, it was problematic when it came to shifting on the open track. Evan twice missed gears--one of those saw him grab First instead of Third, which resulted in the car spinning and going off the track in a rather unpleasant, backwards manner. Fortunately, there was no damage to car or driver, save for the ego. "I found the shifter to be vague and a bit notchy," Evan says. "It looks so cool, but doesn't flow nicely."

Having not driven a stick-shift C6 Corvette before this day, Evan worked up to the big moment on the road track carefully, first experiencing the car with its traction controls/ track assists fully functional. Once he was comfortable, he switched them off and began clicking off times similar to those of the Roush. "The traction control will keep you out of trouble, but it doesn't allow the car to slide enough. When the car starts to oversteer, you turn in to countersteer, but the computer takes over and cuts the power. Then you find yourself turning the wheel the opposite way, but by then you're off line and you've lost your momentum." A 1:23.45 put Evan to within a whisker of the Stage 3's best; then a 1:22.55 made him almost a full second quicker. These were followed by a 1:23.84 and 1:23.47 before he got a little too aggressive and lap times fell off. Except for the lone 1:22, the times of the two cars were amazingly similar--darn near identical.

"Once the car was in my hands, it was a different story," he says. A badly worn rear tire limited traction, but the Vette was super tight and very predictable. Steering input and feel through-out the car was awesome, but that's what one would expect from a Corvette.

So the Vette won the strip test handily and the road course competition by a whisker. Had we more time with the Roush, we could have swapped on a different pulley for more boost and added a different set of rear gears. This would have put us ahead of the Z51 on the strip, and probably turned the tide on the road course, as well. Naturally, the Chevy faithful would cry foul and say if we used a Lingenfelter or Callaway Corvette, the contest would have been more a sure victory. But these are the facts, and we're telling the story as it went down.

Truth be told, few people are actually cross-shopping these automobiles. You are either a Ford guy or a Corvette guy, and you probably wouldn't be caught dead buying one from the other camp. We know Ford guys who wouldn't drive a Vette if it was free, and that goes for some Bow Tie boys as well. The Mustang has many features, like a back seat, and it's much cheaper to modify than a Vette--especially if you start with a stock GT. With the Stage 3, you get to own a piece of Jack Roush's heritage, and to some folks that's a big deal. We're just happy that the Ford vs. Chevy battle rages on, and to be living in a time when supercar performance is available to mere mortals, regardless of their brand loyalty.

Mmfp_0610_shoot_13_z 2006_roush_mustang_vs_2005_z51_corvette On_the_road_course
Both the Chevrolet and the Ford proved to be road rockets on our closed road course. Despite the worn tires on our yellow tester, there was plenty of lateral grip. Steering was deadly accurate, with great feedback being its best asset. Add power in the turns and you can kick the tail around quite easily.
Mmfp_0610_shoot_19_z 2006_roush_mustang_vs_2005_z51_corvette Roush_mustang_on_the_road_course
The Roush, being much heavier than the Vette, was a bit slower on track, but not by much. Big BFG rubber and big brakes helped us push the Stage 3 really hard. Roush engineers eliminated the "push" found in factory Stangs, and this model, with 415 hp, was more neutral. Induced oversteer was helpful in some of the tight turns.
Mmfp_0610_shoot_18_z 2006_roush_mustang_vs_2005_z51_corvette Vette_on_the_road_courseMmfp_0610_shoot_25_z 2006_roush_mustang_vs_2005_z51_corvette Taking_a_hard_turn_in_the_C6_corvetteMmfp_0610_shoot_26_z 2006_roush_mustang_vs_2005_z51_corvette Getting_down_on_the_road_course_in_the_roushMmfp_0610_shoot_34_z 2006_roush_mustang_vs_2005_z51_corvette Battle_on_the_road_course