At any car show, you're bound to see track-inspired builds with race suspension, wide (often stretched) tires, and rollcages. But if you ask around, it's apparent a lot of these owners have never been on a track-much less driven their cars on one. How ironic is it that these cars are so poised and so prepared, yet they're marooned between pieces of tape on a convention floor instead of being pushed to the limits on a road course?
Some owners simply refuse to take their cars anywhere but from the trailer to a parking spot to be judged, then back to the trailer. But the rest of the builders who are curious about the other side of this way of life might be willing to dip their toes in the waters. We invited nine of these curious folk and put them on the track...and so became Super Street's Show Car Shootout.
Now in its fifth year, Show Car Shootout is an event we host at the Streets of Willow alongside FF Battle. It's intended for enthusiasts with little-to-no track experience; but a few years ago, we added a twist: sending them around the track with a pro driver to help them find ways to improve. By the end of the day, we'd see who shaved the most time and threw down the fastest lap.
Our instructors, Formula DRIFT champion Dai Yoshihara and Global RallyCross driver Steve Arpin, returned for their second year to guide our nine Padawans by giving them ride-alongs and sitting shotgun with each competitor to give the highest level of one-on-one instruction. Let's just say everyone learned a thing or two and the lap times became pretty damn fast by the end of the day.
To continue to evolve Show Car Shootout, we added a new element to the itinerary: SpoCom, one of SoCal's biggest and most popular events. Our contestants were lined up in a row, put on display, and judged at one of the most competitive car shows in the nation. With more than 400 show cars, needless to say, only a couple of cars took home any hardware. However, the main event would still come two days later, during which contestants would submit their builds to stresses most of had never before experienced.
1991 MITSUBISHI GALANT
OWNER: BRETT ADAMS
HOMETOWN: SAN DIEGO, CA
TOP MODS: Forced Performance 3052 turbo; ECMlink V3 engine management; JIC Magic FLT-A2 coilovers; Work Meister S1R wheels
PRIOR EXPERIENCE: Never been on a road course
FASTEST LAP: 1:33.606 (4th)
It's not every day you see a Galant VR-4, especially one put together the way Brett Adams has built his. The car was built for the street and he had no track experience other than a couple of quarter-mile runs at his local dragstrip. Driving one of the only cars with little-to-no weight reduction, Brett was at a slight disadvantage, yet he surprised everyone with some quick laps and the biggest improvement in lap times throughout the day.
What's on your mind for the shootout? [asked at SpoCom]
It'll be interesting to see if the car holds up under the heat and the continued abuse. The DSM platform, with which the car shares the powertrain, has never been known for being super reliable, but it's really how you build and maintain it.
How'd the Galant do? (after Show Car Shootout)
There were some very track-prepped cars here and I think I finished fourth overall, which, for me, is awesome because my car is not geared for the track-it's set up for the street. To be able to compete with some really fast cars is mind-blowing and feels awesome.
How'd Mr. Aprin do giving you pointers?
Steve is absolutely amazing. He's professional, and it shows in everything he does. We started with a ride along; he gave me tips out on the track. Literally, he can drive the car one handed from the passenger seat better than I can from the driver seat. We came back in, he hopped out, and I shaved 3seconds off my lap time.
2013 SCION FR-S
OWNER: EDDIE ALFARO
HOMETOWN: CUDAHY, CA
TOP MODS: Jackson Racing C38 supercharger kit, engine oil cooler; GReddy Evo3 cat-back exhaust; TEIN Flex Z coilovers; Volk Racing TE37 Mark II wheels in Gunmetal Gray; Rocket Bunny V1 front and rear flares
PRIOR EXPERIENCE: Two track days
FASTEST LAP: 1:39.489 (8th)
This built-to-the-bone show car was definitely that-a show car. Yet when Eddie got it out on the track, you could really see its potential. His driving stayed quick and consistent throughout the day and he put down some respectable lap times. Eddie had a couple of track events under his belt but still learned a lot from his instructor, Dai.
How was your Show Car Shootout?
It was pretty tough. Getting grip and hitting the apexes was pretty difficult. Right as I was finally getting the hang of it, the car started having trouble.
Did the FR-S hold up?
The power was there, but we need to work on handling a bit. You don't think about it when you're putting it all together, but once you start putting it to use you have to start checking your suspension, tires—all of that matters.
What type of things did Dai teach you?
He showed me to brake more before the apex and then gun it right after. I was doing more of the opposite, so I was gunning it while I was in the apex. He showed me that and said, "Try doing it like this; this is the right way." He was patient and showed me my errors.
2013 SUBARU IMPREZA WRX
OWNER: JUSTIN CHAN
HOMETOWN: WEST COVINA, CA
TOP MODS: Air Lift Performance 3P system; Whiteline sway bars, toe arms, control arms; Work Meister S1 wheels; Varis Type A Widebody kit A, rear diffuser, rear wing; carbon-fiber hood
PRIOR EXPERIENCE: Never been on a road course
FASTEST LAP: 1:43.209 (9th)
Justin came to the show with confidence in his car and excitement to learn the technique required to get it around the track, as he had no prior experience. He did most of the work himself, so he knew the ins and outs of each part of his WRX. To make things even more interesting, this is Justin's daily-and it's on air ride. Though he had some cooling problems at the track, he called his experience a success and is excited to get his car ready for more laps.
So you didn't have quite the Show Car Shootout you expected...
It was fun, but unfortunately, I was having car problems the whole day. The first lap was good, but one of my hoses kept popping off, so I had to deal with that. The things I was expecting to break didn't break. The things I thought would be pretty good, broke. The throttle-body-to-intercooler coupler kept popping off, so I need new clamps for that. Other than that, the car was pretty happy.
Did Dai do a good job showing you the ropes?
Dai was super chill. He made me feel really comfortable on the track. I learned a lot from him and he knows what he's talking about. I felt like he was slowly building up layers for me, getting me more and more comfortable.
What's more fun? Track or show?
Track is a lot more fun. At a show, you park your car and half the time people just leave and then come back for the awards. I feel like track days are more exciting-especially today, because I had to actually work on my car.
1991 MAZDA MIATA
OWNER: ARIK CROWE
HOMETOWN: LEXINGTON, KY
TOP MODS: Jackson Racing M45 supercharger; Track Dog Racing crank and supercharger drive pulleys; Fujitsubo headers; MegaSquirt PnP Gen2 ECU; Supermiata Xida coilovers; Zerek Fabrication custom rollcage; Goodwin Racing front and rear big brake kits with Wilwood four-piston front calipers; Work CR01 wheels; Herm?s Performance rear spoiler
PRIOR EXPERIENCE: Multiple track days; most experienced on the field
FASTEST LAP: 1:27.564 (2nd)
When watching the roll-in to SpoCom, Arik's Miata immediately stood out. It was obviously track prepped, which matched Arik's experience: more than 10 track days. With a single-exit exhaust placed square in the middle of his rear bumper and a huge ducktail spoiler, this car looked mean. Nobody was surprised by Arik's times around the track, but he too learned from the pros before spinning a rod bearing and ending his day.
What are you lookin' forward to at the Shootout? [asked at SpoCom]
Well, the last time I went to Willow, I lost a turn signal! As far as the track goes, that's the track I've been to most, where I have the most experience. I'm really excited to get some instruction and ride along and to see if they have insight to what I'm doing wrong and what I can do better. I've never had any formal instruction before.
How was the mighty Miata?
The first session, I was getting used to the track and the car. The second session was hotter, but I was more comfortable so I was able to get my personal best. The third session I got some instruction from Steve and stayed very close to my times after that. I was driving my car very hard and aggressive. When you do that, it feels fast, but he coached me to relax a little. I felt a little slower but still ran similar times, hit the right lines, and felt smoother.
2016 SUBARU STI
OWNER: NANCY GARCILAZO
HOMETOWN: FONTANA, CA
TOP MODS: Tomei Ti exhaust; Fortune Auto coilovers; Brembo brakes; Advan RZ-F2 wheels, Varis body kit
PRIOR EXPERIENCE: A couple of track days in previous cars
FASTEST LAP: 1:34.618 (6th)
Nancy was the only lady in the group and was extremely excited to see how her car would do and simply to be part of this event. With her car having mostly appearance mods, one might not assume it would hold up against a more track-prepped vehicle, but Nancy proved us wrong, doing well with a handful of basic power add-ons.
What's on your mind for the upcoming shootout? [asked at SpoCom]
I am concerned about everything right now! I'm concerned about my body kit, my bumper, my splitter, my handling. As of right now, I'm pretty much stock, so I'm kind of relying on my car being stock, because stock cars are already reliable. I have a lot of faith in my handling. I'm really excited! I'm excited to take this car on the track and see what it can do.
How was your Show Car Shootout?
Overall, the racing was intense-everything went really well. I did struggle a little bit by not being smooth enough and turning a little too late, but, at some point, I found my middle ground, which allowed me to be a lot smoother through the corners. I'm definitely going to come back.
How was the car?
The car was great to begin with. It was really sticky, the coilovers worked in my favor the whole time. The only thing that kept me from pushing harder and longer was overheating. Other than that, I felt really good out there. I was able to get a lot of good feedback from Dai Yoshihara as well as Arpin; they were really great. After they gave me a couple pointers, I felt really confident, more stable.
2006 SUBARU STI
OWNER: KENDRICK GRAY
HOMETOWN: SEATTLE, WA
TOP MODS: Forged pistons, crank, and rods; ported heads; titanium valves; GSC cams; Garrett GT35R turbo with TiAL housing; six-speed manual transmission; JRZ coilovers; Brembo 355mm six-piston front GT big brake kit with integrated coolers; Gram Lights 57 Optimise wheels in Gun Blue; Wasp carbon-fiber splitter; Aerosim Research carbon-fiber roof; Kognition carbon-fiber wing
PRIOR EXPERIENCE: Autocross only; a few track days on a motorcycle
FASTEST LAP: 1:28.124 (3rd)
Kendrick had arguably the most track-prepped car of the lot. Being an engineer, he was extremely anal about every detail of his car and even made perfect 1:1 models of the parts he wanted to take the guesswork out of the manufacturing process. He won Third Place Subaru class at SpoCom.
How's the show going for you? [asked at SpoCom]
Man, this show is unbelievable. It is so big and such a wide variety, I'm just in awe. This is the car Mecca, right? I mean Southern California, like coming to the car-modifying world headquarters and to be a part of that is an honor. This in itself is its own experience. But I'm really excited to get the car out on the track on Monday and see what it does on a closed course, exploit the physical grip, the aero. I'm excited to see how it's going to act, ya know cars act different in different situations, and that'll be really cool. This car is a big go-kart to me, the way it handles. I think it's got a lot of possibilities.
It was amazing. It was harder than I ever thought. The amount of concentration and the work it took to be out on the track and to learn the track at the same time as trying to go fast? That was a lot of pressure. As a new track day driver, it was important to just work on things a little bit at a time.
The car looked good out there. How do you think it did?
I can't say enough things about the car; it simply worked. You can't ask for any more than that. We had one small leak, and we were able to tighten up a fitting in the matter of a minute. Other than that, my oil temperatures were hot just like everybody else's, but they stayed in check. Everything I initially designed the car to do out on the track it really did. We spent a lot of money on the suspension, and it showed-even Arpin was impressed.
Feedback for Steve Arpin?
He is a blessing in disguise. He's sharp, easy to talk to, intelligent, and disciplined. As an instructor he was great, because he would just take the wheel and pull me over to the right line and help me see where the car needed to be. That truly helped me pick up time and see the line—that was the game changer.
So track or show? What's it gonna be?
Not even close. Even the best car show that I've won doesn't compare to how proud I am of the car and the work, because car shows are based on people's subjectivity about what you built. You come out here on the track and you have your timer, and it don't lie. It's a great equalizer.
2008 LEXUS IS F
OWNER: JAIME HURTADO
HOMETOWN: ESCONIDO, CA
TOP MODS: ISC coilovers; RR RACING lower control arm bushings; HRE FlowForm FF15 wheels; Avery Dennison Satin black wrap; Seibon carbon-fiber hood; Alpheyga GTS rear Wing
PRIOR EXPERIENCE: One track day
FASTEST LAP: 1:35.451 (7th)
Jaime had only done one track day in his IS F before our Show Car Shootout. Yet after a day of instruction, he was one of the most improved, shaving multiple seconds off his lap time with the help of Dai, and he had an amazing experience.
What's on your mind for the upcoming shootout at Willow? [asked at SpoCom]
Mainly, the weather. It's going to be more than 100 degrees, so the car on the track, it's already hot as it is. So when its 100 degrees, your oil starts getting hot, your tires start getting hot, your transmission gets hot, and everything is affected. I should be fine; I just have to watch those oil temps closely. I'm really excited to get some driving time with a professional driver, someone who knows what he's doing.
How'd it all go down?
It was a great experience. It started off a little slow with the car, but as the sessions went on, I was able to learn more and more, so it ended up really well for me.
Did the car have any heating issues?
A lot! The oil temps, the cooling temps were getting really hot, so I only got about three hot laps per session up until the last one when I looked at my radiator and one of the fans wasn't working, so I was only running on one out of the two fans!"
We saw you had a lot of one-on-one time with Dai.
He was really great. He was the one who really helped me when I took him out during a session in the car. He was able to guide me specifically to my car because, like he said, every car is different. He was able to tell me exactly what I needed to do. He taught me a lot that I'm able to carry on.
1993 Mazda RX-7
OWNER: HENRY LAM
HOMETOWN: LOS ANGELES, CA
TOP MODS: Lucky 7 Racing rebuilt two-rotor 13B-REW; street port; EFR 7670 single turbo; Stance SS coilovers; Banzai Racing transmission and differential braces; Fikse FM10 wheels; Built 2 Apex front splitter; RE Amemiya H11 Sleek lights, GT2 rear wing
PRIOR EXPERIENCE: Multiple track days; second-most experienced in the field
FASTEST LAP: 1:26.593 (1st)
Henry had the fastest lap of the day, really pushing the limit of grip in his RX-7. Sliding around corners, his car looked like art toying with speed. A guy of few words, Henry let his car and his driving do the talking for him.
How was your instructor, Steve?
He's really instructive, informative. He tells you everything and he taught me a lot.
So, a good Show Car Shootout?
It was really hot, so I wasn't able to get the time that I wanted, but it was pretty fun. I had a blast.
You had the fastest time, though!
OWNER: STEVEN NADASKAI
HOMETOWN: MISSION VIEJO, CA
TOP MODS: Stratified Stage 2 tuned; six-speed manual transmission; Air Lift Performance suspension system; Brakenetic rotors; VMR V810 wheels; Ingo Noak widebody kit; self-made front bumper and grilles
PRIOR EXPERIENCE:: Never been on a road course
FASTEST LAP: 1:34.618 (5th)
Steven was the youngest driver in the group and the only one with a Euro. Previously built as a strict show car and a daily driver, Steven's VW was on bags, running 10 degrees of negative camber just a couple weeks prior to the race, and he scrambled to get it ready. On the straights, Steven was flying and was very consistent—impressive for someone with no track experience.
Your thoughts on Show Car Shootout...go!
It was awesome. I really got to see how the car handled the track. I talked a lot to Steve after session three, and he told me to go full-out through the chicane section and then don't brake until the car was straight, so I just sent it, scared shitless going through it as fast as possible. I felt so much faster and was stoked I got to apply what he told me and it made a difference. It was really cool just going fast.
So, how'd the bagged VW do?
It actually did pretty well. I didn't expect it to handle the way it did with bags and I was always monitoring engine temps so I was making sure I fit in some cool-down laps here and there before I did another hot lap. The past two weeks, I've been stressing a lot and making sure the car didn't fall apart on the track, and it didn't, so that's the big thing.
Was Mr. Arpin the man?
Having Steve be my instructor was awesome because he really helped me improve throughout the day. After each session, I went to him and explained my laps, explained how I was feeling. I was frustrated with losing grip in corners and he told me do this, do that, do that, and I applied it to the next session, and it worked. I was like, Oh, I see an improvement in my lap times. He really helped me learn the track feel, how to track my car.
Your opinion now on show vs. track?
Oh, man. It's night and day. The people in the track scene are more genuine and more caring about other people by helping them. Helping improve times, giving tips, helping them out if something happens with the car, versus the stance scene, which is just this big ego contest to see who can build the sickest car. Here, you're just enjoying going fast with a bunch of buddies.
How'd they do this year, Dai?
This is my second time doing the Show Car Shootout, and it's great. Watching people getting used to the track and having a good time. The same as last year: a successful day. For a lot of guys, this was the first time getting on the track.
As far as driving, a lot of people were trying too hard. Instead, the key is to let the car drive. So, kind of back off, don't grip the steering wheel so hard. That's always the case for the first-time drivers, but I think they got it. As they were more relaxed, they were going faster. Car-wise, today was extremely hard, with most people having overheating issues.
Did the drivers loosen up when you told them they were trying too hard?
I think, but it's hard for them to get it right away. But I think it got better. I think the biggest thing was the line. It's a very difficult track with a lot of little turns. A couple of guys were way off line in the morning; off line and over driving at the same time. Like Jaime, he actually did really well in the last session. We talked and I explained what he was doing wrong and he was quick enough to get it-and really did it. He cut like 4 or 5 seconds!
Second year in the books, Steve. How'd it go?
It was a blast! It was awesome being part of it and seeing the thrill on these guys' faces, taking what they've created and putting it on the track. Just being part of that is incredible and special. Thanks to ENEOS for giving those guys the opportunity to do that. It's a once-in-a-lifetime thing.
What were some difficulties you saw?
I think the biggest thing is they're all so passionate about what they're doing that they're trying so hard. And you could tell they all wanted it so bad, they wanted that fast time, they wanted that low number. So the biggest thing was just calming those guys down and telling them to be smoother and less aggressive.
Obviously, there was progression, but the coolest part of my day was just seeing the effort and how into it all the guys were between sessions. The biggest improvement was guys learning how to link corners together, which usually takes a lot of time. These guys have every right to go home and talk smack to their buddies about how they have show cars-not track cars. And I think each and every one of them today proved they have track cars.
And the Winners Are...
At the end of the day, the drivers and their coaches gathered indoors for the award ceremony. Each driver was evaluated on lap times, overall consistency, and how much they improved. Both Steve and Dai got to pick one winner, but the two winners weren't the only two recognized. Steve spoke for both Dai and the rest of the crew when he said he had an absolute blast and felt each and every driver was a winner, pushing both their cars and skills to the limit.
Dai began by saying he looked for the most improved driving, because each car was so different and each driver had differing amounts of track experience. In the end, Jaime Hurtado in the IS F was named as Dai's overall winner. Jaime didn't just improve his lap times but was also able to understand Dai's instruction then effectively apply that to his driving, which resulted in shaving 5 seconds in his last session.
After the applause died down, Steve began describing his pick as the person who put the most effort in, watched video between sessions, and tried to find out how to lose time on every part of the track. After that, we all knew Steve's pick: Kendrick Gray and his STI. He was flat-out the entire day and wasn't afraid of dropping a wheel and wasn't letting off the throttle in more challenging sections of the track.
Hearing from Dai and Steve affirmed this year was without a doubt a huge success. Everybody went home having learned something-whether they had a lot of track experience or a little. Seeing how many of our drivers had problems with their cars and even went off track a couple of times, it's safe to say they are no longer custodians of a build, but a driver of one. Pushing a car to its limits until it breaks takes nerves and the willingness to fix what you've done in the name of fun. And, as Dai said, "That's the most important part."