The 2019 Chevrolet Corvette ZR1 arrives this spring as the most powerful Corvette in history. The LT5 6.2-liter supercharged V8, complete with 755 horsepower and 715 lb-ft. of torque, boasts an intercooled supercharger system with 52 percent more displacement than the Z06’s LT4 supercharger. The aerodynamic features, including two different rear wings, help the ZR1 achieve tremendous downforce and a top speed in excess of 210 mph.
The 2019 Corvette ZR1 is lightning quick and getting it moving isn’t an issue, but what about controlling it? That’s where Brembo comes in with a uniquely designed “hybrid” braking system.
Many of today’s performance and muscle cars are equipped with Brembo brakes: The Ford GT, Dodge Challenger and Charger Scat Packs, Chevy Camaro ZL1 1LE, Subaru WRX STI Type RA, and the Mazda MX-5 Miata all utilize a Brembo setup to amplify their individual performance attributes. And now the 2019 Corvette ZR1.
“Consumers have very high expectations for modern performance cars, not only for straight line speed, but for all driving attributes – including braking,” explained Dan Sandberg, Brembo North America President and Chief Executive Officer. “All of the work Chevrolet did to maximize the acceleration and cornering potential of the ZR1 would be useless if the car didn’t also have a brake system that could perform equally as well, lap after lap.”
Front six-piston monobloc calipers with carbon ceramic discs (394mm x 36mm), and rear four-piston monobloc calipers (390mm x 32mm) with two-piece, carbon ceramic discs comprise the ZR1’s Brembo system. The front and rear brake pads include new formulations from Brembo’s R&D Center for better stopping power and pad wear. The size of the fixed aluminum calipers hasn’t changed from the Corvette Z07, but the brake rotors and friction materials are enhanced to handle higher thermomechanical loads. This attribute is vitally important and separates the ZR1 from the rest of Brembo’s portfolio.
“While Brembo carbon discs are also found on other supercars, the ZR1 discs have a specialized heat treatment for improved energy and thermal management,” Sandberg said. “These specialized brake discs are paired with Brembo monoblock aluminum calipers and a unique Brembo-developed friction material found only on the ZR1.”
The ultimate challenge was designing the ZR1’s braking system to handle both the track and the street. Each environment presents its own individual demands for a performance car. Brembo has long held the “from racing to the road” mantra, and Brembo’s engineers were again tasked with putting that belief into the ZR1’s braking components. The maxim stems from the idea that what is accomplished on the track can be transitioned to the street. In the case of the Corvette ZR1, it’s most wonderfully seen in the actual substance used to construct the brakes.
“Internally, our engineers like to call the new brake pad material our “hybrid” material, meaning it is a hybrid between traditional road materials and our racing friction materials,” Sandberg revealed. “While the pads on the Z07 are a great performer, these Brembo hybrid pads offer a higher level of friction output and can operate in a higher temperature range, giving the driver confidence in the brakes lap after lap.”
Dedication & Innovation
The beginnings of Brembo’s story are humble enough. Emilio Bombassei, father of the group’s current president, put together a small mechanical workshop near Bergamo, Italy in 1961. They conducted business with vehicle and motorcycle manufacturers in Europe, but in 1975, were approached by Enzo Ferrari. He needed a braking solution for his Formula 1 racers. As the old adage goes, the rest is history. Yet, that “do-it-yourself” mindset is still prevalent at Brembo’s facilities today, just like it was in 1961 at Bombassei’s shop.
“The pads mentioned earlier are a good example of where Brembo’s desire to remain at the forefront of technology forced us to try something new,” Sandberg said. “When we started developing the ZR1, the global marketplace didn’t offer a friction material that matched our performance targets, so we set out to develop our own.”
Staying Ahead of The Trends
Brembo operates in 15 countries on three continents, with 24 production and business sites, and about 9,000 employees, 10 percent of whom are engineers and product specialists active in R&D. As the automotive industry moves toward electrification and autonomy, the entire scope of how cars are designed, engineered, and manufactured are changing. According to Sandberg, innovation will be the key in addressing those challenges successfully.
“Today’s cars are evolving dramatically from product cycle to product cycle, and customers want to see advancements in safety, performance, efficiency, and sustainability with each successive model,” he said. “We continue to look for technologies that will complement the car of the future, all while retaining the unique character and brand identity of Brembo.”
Carl Anthony studies mechanical engineering at Wayne State University, serves on the Board of Directors for the Ally Jolie Baldwin Foundation, and is a loyal Detroit Lions fan. Before going back to school, he simultaneously held product development and experiential marketing roles in the automotive industry.
Source: Brembo North America. Cover Photo: Chevrolet.