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Carbon fiber parts were used to reduce weight on the 2009 Corvette ZR1. See more sports car pictures.

Photo courtesy General Motors

For the nearly 55 years that Chevrolet has been building the Corvette, it has stood out as an American icon: a sports car that can compete with high-priced imports at a fraction of their cost. Throughout their history, Corvette coupes and roadsters have pushed the limits of automotive technology and innovation. The Corvette was one of the first production cars to use a lightweight fiberglass body and four-wheel disc brakes. There are six generations of the Corvette, and each one has meant a leap forward in exterior design and performance technology. But with the 2009 Corvette ZR1, which is set to go on sale in fall 2008, the Corvette may have made its biggest jump yet. The ZR1 has been developed not just to compete with other sports cars, but to take on supercars made by Ferrari, Lamborghini and Porsche.

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The ZR1 is joining an impressive family. The sixth-generation Corvette, or C6, is currently on the market, and the base model produces 430 horsepower and 400 foot-pounds of torque. The C6 is also available as a Z06 performance model, which generates 505 horsepower and 470 foot-pounds of torque. While those are impressive numbers, the ZR1 needs to do even better to lure buyers out of import dealerships.

­So, the question isn't just how well the ZR1 will stack up against the best that Italy and Germany have to offer, but how it's going to lure buyers away from those cars. General Motors, Chevrolet's parent company, is betting that the technology under the ZR1's hood -- as well as what's under its paint -- will generate enough raw power to overcome import prestige. Keep reading to learn how the Ferrari-chasing technology in the 2009 Chevrolet Corvette ZR1 works.