We passed BFE on our way to the airport in Trona, CA, which is in the middle of a prehistoric lakebed. We were out here to watch high-speed half-mile runs down the runway.
When we arrived, the airport hangars were bustling with activity. There were cars ranging from high-horsepower Corvettes, Dodge Vipers, Ford GTs and Porsche 911s to BMW M3s, 335i, Nissan GTRs and an Audi S4 filling up on race gas.
The event, organized by Shift S3ctor, was the first of its kind. The company originally started as a way to get their buddies more track time. But in the last six months, Shift S3ctor co-founders Ryan Fisher and Jason Haung had grown curious to see how different cars would compare to one another in a straight line. So they initiated a search for a test facility.
“We literally went through a list, one county at a time, of every piece of land registered as an airstrip south of the San Francisco bay area.” Ryan Fisher stated. “After finding hundreds of airports, and contacting 50 of them, this airstrip was the recommendation of a recommendation…”
The event was simple; owners were placed into two groups: blue group was for everybody under 700hp; while red group was 700hp or more.
Drivers were free to pick their battles before lining up in the pre-grid area. This task was simplified by each car having its horsepower penned on the rear window, allowing close match-ups to be made. Once they’d settled on a rolling start speed, the competitors would cruise one-tenth of a mile to reach that speed, then mash the pedal for a half-mile acceleration run.
While salivating over all the cars, we needed to pick some favorites to follow more closely. The 690hp fire orange ’10 BMW M3 (from et 3/12) with Arkym bodywork and ESS VT2-650 supercharger caught our attention first. It was followed by a 460hp ’11 Audi S4 with GIAC software, AWE intake and exhaust. We also connected with an E46 M3 with Horsepower Freaks turbo, Pro EFI traction control and software – these would be our heroes for the day.
Drew Johnson ran the Arkym E92 M3 and was recording consistent times, ticking off a win against a Porsche 911 with software, exhaust, and PDK tranny. He then edged out a Corvette by one car’s length, and smoked a GTR with full bolt-ons.
The E92 was running strong until the final battle against Stephanie Cemo in her HG Motorsports ’09 Corvette ZR1. Drew fluffed the start, hitting the rev limiter and giving Stephanie a lead he was unable to claw back. As a result, he was awarded second place in the lower HP Tuner Shootout category with a top speed of 160mph.
Meanwhile, Tyson Toeller and Austin Wyly were having fun, picking more powerful cars to run against in the Audi S4. The first was a twin-turbo BMW 335i running 19psi boost. Leaving the Audi in auto Sport mode, the transmission hesitated before downshifting when they punched it, giving the win to the BMW by a few car lengths. Being more prepared, they chose a supercharged Infinity G35 and won by manually shifting the S4.
We had some fun with Ray Salcedo, owner of the E46 M3 turbo, who was grinning ear-to-ear after beating the ae Performance’s R35 GTR.
In the next race, Tyson in the Audi planned to jump Ray at the start. It seemed to work until about halfway down the runway, when Ray caught the S4. Ray’s reaction was classic in our online video – it’s definitely worth checking out!
It looked as if a 1000hp Mitsubishi Evo 8 belonging to Tristan Smith, was set to take the unlimited class trophy. It had been destroying every car it competed against, but his reign ended in smoke to Chris Napolitano’s Switzer Performance Nissan GTR that boasted 900hp. In their race, Tristan’s Evo had the GTR until the fifth gear, when he dramatically blew the head gasket.
The same GTR lined up against the BBi Autosport Porsche 911 Turbo belonging to Tito Hernandez. The 996 won first place in the high HP Tuner Shootout category. Tito was looking like a solid competitor and came very close to winning the overall high HP trophy, but it went to the more powerful GTR by a whisker.
Overall, everybody in attendance had a blast, with the audience oohing and ahhing at some late passes at the top end of the runway. This appears to be an interesting alternative to standing-mile or conventional drag races, where the rolling start is easier on the car. It’s easy to enter, provided you can compete in the horsepower categories. But even if you can’t, it’s interesting to watch how these cars fare against one another in old-fashioned head-to-head races.
Following the success of Airport Attack, Shift S3ctor is planning more events this year, including a track day, rolling start quarter-mile, and another Airstrip Attack. To catch up with the full calendar, checkout their website listed below.