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 |  Mar 27 2012, 10:40 AM

As if there weren’t enough possibilities for the Chevrolet Camaro already, the automaker announced today that it will introduce a new 1LE performance package to further augment the already-muscular Camaro SS coupe.

“With the 2013 model year, Camaro offers something for almost every driver, including: the 323-horsepower, 30-mpg 2LS; the all-new, 580-horsepower supercharged ZL1 convertible; the COPO Camaro for drag-racing; and the new 1LE for amateur track days,” said John Fitzpatrick, Camaro marketing manager. “We expect the range of choices, and enhancements for 2013, will help Camaro remain America’s most-popular sports car.”

Popular it is, given the recent announcement that between the Camaro and Corvette, Chevrolet sports cars control a third of the U.S. market segment. As Fitzpatrick said, the automaker hopes to continue boosting that control by offering a growing line of specialized cars.

That’s where the 1LE comes in: it’s a Camaro SS coupe with unique gearing, suspension tuning, and tires that make the car track-ready to the tune of more than 1 g in lateral acceleration. Chevrolet says the latest iteration of its pony car ran a sub three-minute lap at Virginia International Raceway, where we recently tested the new ZL1 Camaro.

“The Camaro 1LE combines the best elements of the SS and ZL1 to take road-racing performance to a whole new level,” said Al Oppenheiser, Camaro chief engineer. “That the 1LE breaks the three-minute lap at VIR puts it in the upper echelon of performance cars. That it starts under $40,000 makes the Camaro 1LE one of the most affordable, most capable track-day cars offered by any manufacturer.”

Perhaps more interesting than performance specifications alone, Chevrolet is taking preemptive measures to ensure customers have the chance to actually enjoy their purchase. The trouble with buying a high-power pony car is that owners seldom have legal outlets for all that power. Thankfully, the automaker thought of that and is already working on Touring Class competition approval from the SCCA with the 1LE package. Once accomplished, that classification will mean the new package is a race-ready track car form the factory, and for a bargain price.

Aside from the modifications listed above, the 1LE comes with a litany of ZL1-spec parts including a stronger fuel pump, 20×10-inch aluminum wheels and improved suspension components. For the most part, modifications that make the 1LE are in place to improve traction, so Chevrolet also packaged higher-capacity rear-axle half shafts to cope with the stress that comes with added grip.

Originally introduced in 1988, the 1LE package returns this fall with the 2013 Camaro release.

GALLERY: 2012 ZL1 Camaro

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 |  Feb 27 2012, 5:01 PM

Chevrolet is laying claim to sports car bragging rights this year after accounting for more than a third of total U.S. sports car sales with their Camaro and Corvette.

“We challenge any company to bring two cars to compete with the Corvette ZR1 and Camaro ZL1, dollar for dollar,” General Motors North America president Mark Reuss said. “They will discover what enthusiasts already know – that Chevrolet Camaro and Corvette are the world’s best performance cars for the money.”

The Camaro outsold its closest competition, the Ford Mustang, by almost 18,000 cars last year with a total 88,249 units.

According to the company, that figure is expected to grow when the ZL1 Camaro goes on sale this month. The ZL1 is the fastest production Camaro ever built: It sports a 6.2-liter supercharged LSA V8 that makes a road-ripping 580 hp. We’ll have our own verdict on the ZL1 soon — we’re out taking our first drive today.

Chevrolet recorded a 2:52.4 lap time in the ZL1 Camaro around the Grand Course at the Virginia International Raceway, which they say is more than six seconds faster than Ford’s Shelby GT500.

Similarly, the ZR1 Corvette is the fastest production car to come from Chevrolet. Its 6.2-liter LS9 V8 makes 638 hp and 604 lb-ft of torque, allowing for a  2:45.6 lap time.

While it’s sometimes difficult to believe statistics and figures released by a company when they did the testing, we can say a few things with authority.

First, the ZR-1 Corvette and ZL-1 Camaro are both stupid-quick machines that compete in the top level of their segment. Second, they’re both a hell of a lot of fun to drive. Third, given their excellent price-to-power ratio, you’re probably not going to care that the sale numbers suggest you’re likely to see someone else driving “your car” on the road.

You can watch the footage of both the ZL1 Camaro and the ZR1 Corvette taking on the Grand Course below.

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