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Ultimate Street Car Challenge - Road Course

Josh Jacquot
Feb 28, 2007
0403_sccp_01_z+uscc_roadcourse+toyota_supra Photo 1/12   |   Ultimate Street Car Challenge - Road Course

Major upsets were rare at this year's USCC, so it was surprising to find the most unexpected on the road course. This, the most prestigious event in the competition, was again held on the 1.45-mile in-field course at California Speedway.

By now, many competitors resigned themselves to their finishing position-accepting the Skyline's inevitable victory with only minor struggles for one or two other positions. Expectations were that Jay Esterer's Ultima would clean up. After all, it was the most focused car in the field when measured in this arena.

Expectations don't matter.

One at a time, the cars trickled to the starting line. Paolo Castellano played mind games, waiting until everyone else made their runs to unleash his Viper's massive power.

Scot Gray's Eclipse was among the first cars out. Gray's car nuked its turbo in practice and the crew struggled to swap an identical turbo from a street car in about 40 minutes. Unfortunately, they didn't realize the root of the problem was a clogged oil supply line. This killed the second turbo in as many hours and relegated the car to running normally aspirated for part of the road course and the rest of the contest.

Matt Andrews' green Supra was next. Andrews is a local hot lapper and knows his way around a racetrack. Even with what engineering editor Coleman calls "violent oversteer on left turns" and stock turbos, Andrews managed a 79.82-second run. Ultimately, good enough for fourth fastest. Simply good driving.

0403_sccp_02_z+uscc_roadcourse+nissan_350z Photo 2/12   |   Ultimate Street Car Challenge - Road Course

The Ultima headed out for its hot laps without its rear bodywork. A lean-run condition in practice melted one of the V12's mufflers which would have easily melted the bodywork had it been in place for the timed laps. Esterer drove the car himself and managed a 100-mph spin on his first lap. He recovered to turn in one clean lap at 77.51 seconds and third place.

Rich Eager's Supra wasn't a threat on the road course. This drag racing/car show machine lacked the sticky tires necessary to make it quick here. Significant turbo lag didn't help either. Eager wheeled it to an 87.17-second run.

The AWE Tuning Audi S4 was down almost 100 hp, thanks to an engine fire earlier in the week. It was also suffering from a leaking air-to-water intercooler, so AWE employees, Mike Romano and Todd Sager, didn't have high expectations on the road course. Even so, Sager blasted the S4 skillfully around the track to produce an 80.51-second time, which put the wounded Teuton in fifth.

Then the big guns rolled out. Nick Wong's Skyline was driven by Steve Mitchell, who piloted the second-place GT-R in last year's contest. The Skyline boys were well on their way to a USCC win and they certainly weren't going to let victory on the road course go to anyone else. Mitchell came out of the hot pit, hell bent on laying down a screaming lap and the Skyline was delivering-until just before the finish line. With about 700 feet to go, the boosted RB26 ventilated its crankcase in spectacular fashion, leaving a trail of oil, vapor and shrapnel in its wake. Mitchell coasted the rest of the track to record an 80.75-second time, which was still fast enough for sixth place. The failure? A pair of rod bearings that suffered oil starvation during hard cornering. But, most importantly, the car that dominated the contest thus far was finished.

James Chen enlisted the help of hotshoe John Hotchkis to set up and drive his 350Z on the road course, and it paid off. The mildly boosted Z cruised effortlessly to a 76.94-second time, which looked good for the win.

0403_sccp_03_z+uscc_roadcourse+audi_s4 Photo 3/12   |   Ultimate Street Car Challenge - Road Course

Then John Mueller showed up in Roy Narvaez's Eclipse and changed everything. Mueller, who was in a wheelchair when he wasn't driving, shocked everyone by wheeling Narvaez's overheating Eclipse to a 76.14-second run, the quickest so far and a complete upset for what everyone, including Narvaez, considered a drag car. And with only one big unknown left, the Viper, it might just be good enough.

Now it was up to the Viper, and Paolo Castellano, to seal the Eclipse's fate. But, we suspect by this point Castellano had gotten a good, close look at the concrete walls surrounding much of the track and thought better of an all-out assault on the quick time. He drove a conservative pace and turned in an 84.89-second run. Eclipse wins. 350Z is second. Skyline is out. Viper disappoints.

Over All
This is the last time you'll read about the Skyline's lead. Honestly, even a DNF would have left the Skyline tied for first, but as it is, the big Nissan retired with a strong lead. Tied for second were the Viper and come-from-behind 350Z. Get ready for a shakeup on the dragstrip.

RANK CAR TIME (SECS.) POINTS PEANUT GALLERY
1 Mitsu Eclipse (silver) 76.14 110 Drag car wins road course!
2 {{{Nissan 350Z}}} 76.94 103 Good driver, good setup
3 Ultima GTR 77.51 98 Should have won
4 {{{Toyota Supra}}} (green) 79.82 77 Good driving
5 {{{Audi}}} S4 80.51 70 Wounded, but still works
6 Nissan Skyline 80.75 68 Kaboom!
7 Mitsu Eclipse(black) 83.71 41 No boost
8 {{{Dodge Viper}}} 84.89 31 Brains over brawn (this time)
9 {{{Toyota}}} Supra (red) 87.17 10 Too many TVs?
10 {{{Toyota MR2}}} DNS 0 Blown head gasket
By Josh Jacquot
18 Articles

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