On paper, the mid-1980s IROC-Z looked tailor-made for emerging low-level professional road racing. It seemed particularly good for the Canadian Players Challenge series, whose rules mandated showroom-stock specs. The IROC-Z included GM's stiff F41 suspension, a limited-slip diff, four-wheel disc brakes, an oil cooler, and a five-speed manual. With tuning, the Camaro's 305-inch, small-block V-8 made up to 400 hp.
But the Players series was all sprints, and Camaro brakes were giving up at half-distance. GM's back-door racing boys fitted the Caprice's bigger front rotors, two-piston aluminum Corvette front calipers, and a new proportioning valve. They also addressed fuel pickup problems with a new gas tank, threw in a shorter fifth gear, and added an aluminum driveshaft.
Driven today, the 1988 1LE package feels Neolithic, with the suspension compliance of a pool table and a rock crusher of a shift lever. But there's power, and unmistakable race-car soul. There's also no denying the benefits aspiring pros saw from the factory fixes. The 1LE Camaros became the hot setup, not only for the Players Challenge and Firehawk championships, but the SCCA's Showroom Stock GT class as well.