March 1 & 2, 1990: 1990 ZR-1 Corvette Shatters 50-Year Speed Record!!!

Dateline: 7.20.11
Try to imagine driving a loaded for bear, 1990 ZR-1 Corvette for 24-hours at an AVERAGE speed of 175.885-mph!

Racing Corvettes used to have a long history of durability issues. There are many accounts of Corvette racers setting track records and winning pole positions, only to have parts breakage put their cars out of the race. The success of the Showroom Stock and the Corvette Challenge cars proved that the new C4s had what it took to win long races. So it was only a matter of time before someone tested the new ZR-1 under racing conditions. Enter Morrison Motorsports.

On March 1 and 2, 1990, the Morrison Motorsports prepared ZR-1 Corvette shattered the 50-year old, 24-hour speed record with an astonishing average speed of 175.885-mph with a “near-stock” ZR-1 Corvette! The details of the ZR-1 speed machine are a genuine testimonial to the quality of the new ZR-1.

In 1940, David, “Ab” Jenkins set the 24-hour speed record with his “Mormon Meteor III” racer. The huge 5,000-pound machine was designed by Augie Duesenberg and used a 850-hp, 27.5-litre aircraft engine! In 1940 Ab nailed the record with an average 24-hour speed of 161.18-mph. The record stood for 50 years. Many attempted to break the record, and all failed… until the ZR-1 arrived.

The ZR-1 speed record attempt was the idea of Pete Mills, a west coast automotive writer. Mills saw potential in the new ZR-1 and pitched the idea to Corvette racer Stu Hayner. Corporate connections can be helpful. Hayner talked with Chevy’s John Heinricy who pitched the idea to the right people inside GM. Tommy Morrison was also brought on board with the plan and the project was approved by the GM brass. The other team members included Corvette Challenge driver, Scott Lagasse, Corvette Group Engineers Jim Minneker and Scott Allman; Showroom Stock racers Don Knowles and Kim Baker. The only change to the plan was to also run a stock L98 Coupe.

The FIA rules mandated that a speed record car must carry “non-consumable” spare parts in the event of a breakdown and the driver wasn’t able to get back to the pits for repairs. Consequently, the ZR-1 had to carry an additional 300-pounds of spare parts in two suit cases lashed to the rear roll bar supports of the full roll cage! Drivers were expected to be able to fix the car if something broke.

The ZR-1 was essentially stock, with the exception of racing wheels and slicks, an EDS telemetry system, a 45-gallon fuel cell, and other assorted racing and safety parts. The suspension was stock, minus the anti-roll bars and the rear used a 3.07:1 gear set. Extra oil coolers and differential coolers were added and the headlights were replaced with racing lights. The stock L98 Coupe was similarly prepared.

The 7.71-mile Bridgestone test track near Fort Stockton, Texas was chosen for the speed record assault. The track had 1.5-mile long straights and 2.35-mile curves that allowed the car to be driven nearly flat-out. There were three lanes to the track and no guard rails, making driving at high speed a concentration challenge. The L98 coupe ran for 6 hours before it was pulled so that it could be shipped to a car show in Geneva.

The ZR-1 ran nearly flawlessly for 24 hours with only one minor repair. At the end of the day, the 8-driver team broke 3 world records and set 4 FIA records. After breaking the records, Tommy Morrison took a 2-lap victory run at full-throttle! The ZR-1 Corvette was proven to be a solid performer. How sweet it was!


PS – For more information on the above Illustrated Corvette Series No. 91 11″ x 17″ parchment paper art print, CLICK HERE.

PSS – For more info about C4 ZR-1 Corvettes, visit, . And specifically, this story by Hib Halverson, HERE.