The International Drag Racing Circuit (IDRC) kicked off the 2001 import drag racing season this past February with a wet-and-wild West Coast Nationals held in Palmdale, Calif. With weather forecasts changing minute by minute, no one knew what to expect for the race weekend. Despite scattered showers, which delayed the start of Sunday eliminations until 1:30 p.m., a couple thousand die-hard import enthusiasts battled the weather during the weekend to witness the start of the 2001 racing season.
A few teams, including Venom Racing and Kubo Racing, thought it best to call it an early day on Sunday; the weather-challenged track conditions could prove the notoriously slippery Palmdale track wouldn't be able to hold the cars' power. However, the teams that remained, put on an incredible show for the performance-hungry crowd.
DC Sports All-Motor Class presented by Import TunerThe DC Sports All-Motor class featured the first-ever 16-car field. Ten in the field qualified in the 11s. Some of the top-name racers included Jeremy Lookofsky, Bisi Ezerioha, Scott Kelley, Aaron Schley, Teren King and Joel Mandol.
The DC all-motor division is often dominated by Honda-powered racers, but we were surprised to see a couple of old-school RX-7s and a pair of VWs stepping up to the plate. There were no upsets in the first couple of rounds, with all the heavy hitters winning their respective heat races. In semis, the long shots made a mark when No. five qualifier Bisi Ezerioha got the best of class favorite, number two qualifier, Jeremy Lookofsky. Trying to cut a good light, L'Natural red lit, giving Ezerioha the go-ahead win into the finals. In the end, Scott Kelley's VW "Bugpack" qualified in the number one position and never looked back. Kelley demolished his competition by running consistent low-11s all day, with a best of 11.072. Kelley defeated Ezerioha's SOHC Honda CRX in the finals by running a 11.182 vs. Ezerioha's 11.795.
Importdrag.com Street VIII Presented BySport Compact CarIn the Street class, the favorite was Ari Yallon, and for good reason. Yallon, last season's IDRC Street VIII champ, qualified in the number one spot with a 10.631, nearly a full second faster than his second closest qualifier.
In the first round, the top four qualifiers won their heats, which set-up the semi-final round. Yallon was scheduled to face off against the number three qualifier Robert Lives Jr. and number two qualifier Ryan Carwin squared off against Roy Narvaez. Lives pulled off an amazing upset, cutting a killer light and sent Yallon packing his bags. Narvaez also pulled off an upset by beating the quicker qualifier, Carwin. Narvaez cut a better light and was able to beat Carwin with a 12.516 to his 12.514. Reaction time was the difference.
This set-up the finals between Robert Lives Jr. and Roy Narvaez. Lives proved too much for Narvaez to handle and took the easy win in the Street Class.
Nitto Tires Quick Class Presented Byturbo MagazineStill the crowd favorite is the Nitto Tires/Turbo magazine Quick class. The Quick Class is also another class dominated by Honda-powered racers. Of the 16 car field, 15 of the racers were Honda-powered. To ruin all the fun, Joel Tanzman's Supra claimed the number one qualifying position by blazing the only 9-second time in qualifying with a 9.895 at 137.01 mph. With early morning showers, track conditions were far from ideal and two of the top five qualifiers decided to call it a day. Lisa Kubo in the Nitto Tires Civic and Jimmy O'Connor in the Venom Civic decided to pack up and head home. With two potential 9-second racers already out, the door was wide open for the rest of the qualifying field. The surprise of the day was number 12 qualifier Heather Zender, who made it all the way to the finals to face off against Kosuke Kida and the Signal Chop Top No. 2 racer. The two battled side-by-side with both screaming to low-10-second times, but Kida was able to edge out Zender for the win 10.377 to 10.496.
APEXi Outlaw VIIIThe APEXi Outlaw VIII was filled with an armory of top-class racers. Racers included were Stephan Papadakis, Ray Lochhead, Craig Paisley, Christian Rado and Minoyama Takeshi. The quickest and fastest qualifier of the day was Minoyama Takeshi in the Signal Auto Nissan Skyline. Takeshi scorched a sub-9-second run with an 8.911 at 158.15 mph.
The top four of the qualifiers advanced to semis. Papadakis took on Craig Paisley, while Takeshi battled against Lochhead. Paisley experienced mechanical problems, giving Papadakis the easy win, while Lochhead pulled a wheel-standing 8.915, taking out number one qualifier Takeshi. In the finals, Papadakis and the AEM Civic pulled a rabbit out of the hat and tore off an 8.987 wonder, beating Lochhead, who was only able to manage a 10.601.
Toyo Tires Pro ClassIn the Toyo Tires Pro Class, the crowd got a sneak preview of three teams to watch in 2001. The Area 51 racing team campaigning a Lexus SC300 powered by a twin-turbo 2JZ powerplant and the Venom Racing team's Toyota Tacoma also powered by a turbocharged Toyota 2JZ engine. Ron Lummus, a legend in the ranks of VW enthusiasts, also brought his 2001 VW bug. This trio faced the pair of rotaries from the Toyo Tire Racing team.
The semis were scary; Abel Ibarra's Toyo Tire RX-7 lost a driveshaft and hit the retaining wall. Ibarra had to be airlifted to the hospital from the track. He suffered a cracked rib and punctured a lung, but we've been told that he is doing fine. We wish him a speedy recovery. We are sure Ibarra will have his car fixed in no time and will be out racing again. On the brighter side, Abel's R-100, driven by Efren Vazques, took the win in the Toyo Tires Pro Class.
Although the IDRC West Coast Nationals was a wet-n-wild affair, the racing was top-notch and spectator turnout was impressive, considering the event was nearly canceled. If the West Coast Nationals served as a preview, the 2001 season is shaping up.
Quick class favorite Lisa Kubo qualified high on the grid, but left early on Sunday before elimination rounds started.
Is it a curse for the number one qualifiers? Signal Auto, Ari Yallon and Joel Tanzman all qualified in the number one position in their respective class, but all lost in the semis to slower vehicles.
The traveling man, Craig Paisley, made the trek from New York to wage war in the Outlaw class, but lost the battle to winner Stephan Papadakis in the semis.
Jeremy Lookofsky and Joel Mandol were hot on the tail of Scott Kelley's Bugpack, but the VW was too much for either to handle.
Signal Auto was campaigning three racers, two chop-top Civics and a Skyline.
Is that a Civic or is it an Integra? Our May cover car was sporting a new front-end, which made for double takes from spectators and racers alike.
Adrian Sabori started the 2001 season with a clean slate and a pristine white paint scheme.
Last year's IDRC runner-up in the Quick Class, Leevon Eisle, was also sporting new colors. Leevon has joined the Rev Hard team and has painted his Civic to match the Integra and the Civic coupe.