Since the advent of the Chevrolet Camaro, it has been taken to the track, run hard, and earned trophies worldwide. From amateur drag racing to professional road racing, Camaros win races. The first year the Camaro was introduced was 1967, and that year team owner Roger Penske, with driver Mark Donahue, won a Trans-Am race in the brand new car. The following year, 1968, they earned the Trans Am Championship. The tradition of Camaros and racing still lives on today, and for a cool $259,000, you too can own a brand new modern racing factory Camaro. No, it isn’t a Z28; now it is called GT4.R.
Pratt & Miller Engineering hand builds each of the Camaro GT4.R’s, which come with a 6.2-liter LT1 V-8, dry sump, 480 horsepower engine. The GT4.R is based on a Camaro ZL1 and then adds wider front fenders, lightweight carbon-fiber doors, and a GT4 carbon-fiber front splitter. The car sits on 18-inch Forgeline one-piece forged alloy wheels and comes with Brembo Motorsports six-piston calipers and Ohlin’s two-way adjustable struts. One team that snatched up the opportunity to purchase a GT4.R from the factory was Ted Giovanis Motorsports, known as Team TGM. In fact, the Florida-based team liked the car so much, they purchased two GT4.Rs. Yes, folks, if you are doing the math at home, that is half a million dollars worth of Camaro.
Ted Giovanis is the man behind Team TGM — when he isn’t running the race team or driving the number 64 Camaro GT4.R with fury, he works in the medical industry, specifically in cancer research. Ted has a foundation called the JKTG Foundation that focuses on health policy and healthcare. The foundation works with researchers on a number of large projects focused on answering questions through research at the basic biology level to solve problems. According to Giovanis, the work formula his foundation does has similarities to being at the racetrack. “Racing is like cancer research: you have to try something to find out what works or doesn’t. It is a quest to find out what to do. You have to take some wrong turns, be prepared that it might not work, and don’t be disappointed,” Ted days. He and his team use the same concepts in getting the Camaro GT4.R to be as fast as possible around the racetrack: they come up with an idea, get feedback from the car, come up with solutions to fix an issue and then send a driver back out on the track after making a change. If it’s fixed, great. If it isn’t, then they have to come up with something else. The nature of scientific research is the same.
The factory racecar comes ready to hit the track, but every track wants something a little different with the setup. The Camaro GT4.R has adjustability built into it, like the Ohlin’s two-way adjustable struts with 20 various clicks of adjustment. The ABS and traction control also have adjustments available. Joe Varde, the Competition Director of Team TGM, said engineers from Pratt & Miller come to each event and help with car setup.
“Pratt & Miller is very engaged,” Joe says. “We have a high-level meeting every two weeks to share information on the reliability aspect of the platform, like what went right, how we can improve, develop or fix the problem at hand. I have never worked with a manufacturer so closely before, and give Chevrolet props for their support. This is a very complex car. It requires input, and luckily, Chevrolet and Pratt & Miller are willing to provide it.”
Team TGM has the number 64 car driven by Ted Giovanis and Owen Trinkler, and they have the 46 car driven by brothers Hugh and Matt Plumb. When asked what the Camaro GT4.R is like to muscle around a racetrack, Hugh stepped up to answer the question.
“The car is pretty forgiving. It is a high-tech piece of equipment. How you sit in the cockpit, the way you sit in the car, you are really in a racecar. You sit very low in the seat. The paddle-shift controls are all very centralized. Everything is good. Once you hit the track, it is a big torquey beast. It takes time to get the tire temperatures up, but after that, the car is super consistent with great brakes and comes off a corner well. The guys would say it is easy to work on, and the motor is very reliable.” Joe Varde seconded the reliability of the engine, adding “Drop a motor in it and forget it.”
Another aspect the team hasn’t had to worry about with the Camaro is the Forgeline wheels that come on the car from the factory.
“We knock the hell out of them, and they are fine,” Joe shares. “They’re a great product and easy to change.” Steve Schardt of Forgeline Wheels explained why it is crucial that teams running the big cars in the Michelin Pilot Challenge Grand Sport (GS) class need a good wheel. Schardt said, “When you’re racing for a championship, one race can make or break a season. Our wheels are strong, and they win races because they don’t break.”
What is so impressive about the Camaro GT4.R isn’t just its performance numbers (3,131-pounds, 480 horsepower, speeds over 160 miles per hour) but the world-class cars it races against and leads in the Grand Sport (GS) class, like the McLaren 570S GT4, Porsche 718 Cayman GT4 Clubsport, and Audi R8 GT4. These are all mid-engined European supercars, and the American-made V-8, front-engine, rear-wheel-drive Camaro still competes. In fact, it competes so well that IMSA recently used its Balance of Power (BOP) rules to hinder the Camaro a bit to even up the competition. According to Joe, for the 2021 season, the Camaros had to add 66 pounds and restrict the air intake by 6-millimeters.
The racing format for the IMSA Michelin Pilot Challenge series is multi-class, endurance, road racing at tracks all across North America. The two classes are Touring Car (TC) which are vehicles like the Honda Civic Type-R’s and Hyundai Veloster N’s, and the faster class, Grand Sport (GS), where the Camaro GT4.R lives. Because the races have a long format, like the recent 4-hour race at Watkins Glen, each car has two drivers. The Camaro has a 19.5-gallon fuel tank and can last on track for up to 50 minutes. Team TGM practices its pit stops to ensure the driver swaps are done in around 26-seconds. Pit stops allow the teams to fill with fuel, swap out for four new fresh Michelin S8M race tires, and replace the driver. Each driver must drive at a minimum of 40 minutes in each race before swapping drivers.
Team TGM are no strangers to winning in the Grand Sport class — they earned the championship in 2018, driving a Mercedes. They’re now hoping to match that feat in 2021 with the Camaro GT4.R. Ted Giovanis has been racing for 30 years, starting in 1991 with a Corvette, and went pro in 2006. “Personal improvement is what drives me,” Ted says. “Our team thinks about the long game, and we want to win the championship again.”
With two Chevrolet Camaro GT4.R’s in their stable, the technical support of Chevrolet and Pratt & Miller behind them, strong Forgeline wheels, and the solution-based mindset that Ted Giovanis brings to the team from his cancer research experience, we’d say Team TGM has a great chance this season.