We’ve been following the drag racing at the Spring Show & Go event for several years now, but it’s never a good feeling when you wake on race day to ominous grey clouds. The temptation to stay in bed rather than risk a rained-out day at the track can be overwhelming. Of course, we wouldn’t let the threat of precipitation keep us from the first all-VW/Audi East Coast drag race of 2011.
As we pulled into Raceway Park in Englishtown, NJ, we merged into a horde of shiny, waxed, slammed Euros. These guys were taking part in the “show” section of the 13th annual Spring Show & Go and, although we were there for the “go”, we were glad the depressing forecast didn’t keep us away.
As one of the few remaining air- and water-cooled events, S&G always has a great mix of old and new, both on the track and in the parking lots. And while the grey sky may have kept some would-be racers away, there was a strong mix of VWs and Audis on-hand to try their luck on the quarter-mile.
We found many familiar faces from the East Coast drag scene, but sadly the air-cooled contingent had largely stayed away. The smattering of Bugs was outnumbered by Audi S4 2.7Ts alone!
As always, the most popular classes were the Trophy and the Buck$ class both of which are bracket races with drivers dialing in an ET and aiming to get as close to it as they can, without going under. With staggered starting lights to account for the dial-in, theoretically the cars in both lanes should cross the line together. So despite some seemingly mismatched pairings, it made for some exciting races.
The Trophy class was an all-Audi extravaganza, with B5 A4 and S4 cars dominating the lanes.
In round one, Jeffrey Shrimp was fastest in his show-ready ’99 Audi A4 2.0L 20v. It was dialed-in at 12.39sec and advanced to round two after running a 12.7sec quarter-mile at 103.23mph.
Stephen O’Brien put an end to Jeffrey’s day in round two with his ’01 S4. He ran 13.45sec at 90.61mph on a 13.0sec dial time.
In the semifinals, Michael Figueroa got a bye in his ’00 S4, while Stephen ran against S&G regular Wayne Farquhar in his ’00 Jetta – Stephen emerged victorious running insanely close to his 13sec dial time with a run of 13.004sec at 103.63mph!
This meant it was an all-S4 final and Stephen took the win from Michael by running 13.14sec at 95.21mph versus Michael’s 13.88sec at 100.44 mph on a 13.50sec dial-in.
These cars might be some of the mildest in terms of tuning, but the racing is superbly close thanks to the expert racing techniques shown by these drivers.
The Buck$ class had the highest number of participants, including the father/son entries of Wayne and Jesse Farquhar, plus Pete, Anthony and Pete Manger Jr.
Both the Mangers and Farquhars were forces to be reckoned with, and all advanced into round two with the exception of Anthony Manger, who lost fourth gear in round one against Pete Jr!
S&G regular, Steven Pocaro in his ’69 Beetle (‘Deutsche Vergaser’) had advanced to round two, but a mechanical problem handed the win to Agron Coma in his ’01 K04’d Audi S4 – he ran 12.08sec at 116.74mph on his 11.50sec dial time.
The semifinals saw Pete Jr’s Corrado 1.8T go against Pete Sr in his ’81 Rabbit turbo. It looked to be an exceptionally close race, but Sr fouled and handed the win to Jr, who ran 11.92sec at 111.47mph on an 11.60sec dial-in.
Jesse Farquhar also had the misfortune to foul out in his Mk3 Jetta, allowing Agron’s Audi to advance to the finals.
With the two turboed cars on the line, Pete Jr cut a better reaction time at the light, posting 0.599sec to Argon’s 0.645sec. This was enough to give him the win (and the cash) in the hotly contested Buck$ class.
Street Mod is a heads-up class for cars with a full interior and DOT tires. It’s winner-takes-all, with no dial times and no breaking out: First across the line advances to the next round.
Unfortunately, there were only five entries but Nolan Whyte was the fastest qualifier with an impressive 11.50sec at 131.20mph in his ’97 A4 1.8T. Sadly, he was a no-show because of a badly slipping clutch, despite having a bye run.
Second fastest qualifier, Dominic Puma, advanced to the finals in his ’95 VW GTI VR6 turbo, running 12.97sec at 107.86mph to beat Benjamin Kim in his ’08 Audi S5.
Local man, Tim Leahy in his ’09 GTI 2.0T went up against Dominic in the final. It was a close race, but Dominic edged the newer GTI with a 13.71sec quarter at 104.15mph to Tim’s 14.19 at 102.33.
Quick 8 Qualifying
The big show is always Quick 8. These are the high horsepower, purpose-built drag cars promising fast times and lots of noise. In fact, several cars in the field were aiming for 9sec runs, but many were working on set-up after the long winter and none were able to crack that barrier. Traction off the line – either too much or not enough – was the phrase of the day, with teams and drivers struggling to find a happy medium on the track.
“Turbo” Tim Vinkuns emerged as the fastest qualifier with a lightning-fast 10.53sec at 126.01mph in his home-built ’74 Bug. This earned him a bye run in round one because there were only seven cars in the class – Marc Hubert’s AutoXtrëm Mk3 Golf is usually the one to beat, but a broken ring gear kept him up in Canada.
Round one saw Justin Ivan’s ’99 Mk3 Jetta VR6 turbo eliminate Philip Lopes’ similarly powered Mk2 Jetta coupe. It was the first time out for Philip’s new project, which didn’t have enough development time for the chassis set up.
The second fastest qualifier, Tim Mullen from Annapolis, MD, advanced to the semi-finals with an 11.50sec run at 129.99mph in his stock-block E85-fueled, LugTronic-managed VR6 turbo. He knocked out Mike Paucivilo in his ’03 GTI. Mike’s bored and stroked 1.8T bogged off the line and couldn’t make a clean pass.
Finally, Todd Pavic’s Mk3 Golf 16v turbo (also running E85 ethanol and LugTronic) knocked out Chris Palumbo’s newly-built Mk2 Golf VR6 turbo.
The tragedy here was the Chris was very fast indeed. In fact, he set the second fastest qualifying time with a 10.88sec run. However, the time was disallowed because he didn’t have a rollcage. Chris had to visit the tower and promise not to run under 11.5sec for the rest of the day, so in round one he hit the brakes and Todd took the win. Look out for the Palumbo Mk2 for the rest of the season, though.
Quick 8 Finals
In the semis, Tim Mullen handily beat Justin Ivan with 11.06sec to a 14.45sec after the latter lost a gear on the pass.
The other match-up was Tim’s Beetle against Todd’s GTI, which was a very close race. Yet the outcome seemed inevitable after Tim had launched hard in qualifying, bending his wheelie bars and breaking second gear. This meant he had to baby it off the line, jumping from first to third gear. Inevitably, Tim cut a better time, recording a highly impressive 10.79sec at 130.39mph but he barely edged out Todd, who came up fast at the stripe with an astonishing time of 10.87sec at 146.78mph!
The finals also had all the makings of a great race. The top two qualifiers were squaring off, with the experienced air-cooled Turbo Tim from Binghamton, NY against water-cooled pilot Tim Mullen; the young crabcake lover from the shores of Chesapeake Bay.
Vinkuns knew he had the speed to win, but was throwing caution to the wind by running without wheelie bars in his short wheelbase Bug on hot slicks. As a result, he couldn’t risk launching too hard and going skyward. Conversely, Mullen had to get the hole-shot in order to beat the faster Bug, no question.
With the weather having held off all day, it was down to one run. The Christmas tree counted down to green and Vinkuns got the jump on Mullen. He also got way too much traction and launched his Beetle into one of the most impressive wheelies we’ve ever seen!
Perhaps predictably, the front-end crashed back down to earth hard, knocking out the ignition to ensure Mullen emerged victorious in the Quick 8 final.
This was the second time in as many years that Turbo Tim had lost out in the finals to a water-cooled VW at Spring Show & Go. Fortunately, the veteran racer was in good humor despite the loss and must have rued the decision for forgo the wheelie bars.
As everybody packed up under grey skies, spirits were high in the paddock. With the first race of 2011 successfully under their belts, many were already thinking about what it would take to come out on top at the next event. See you at Waterfest…