The autocross has traditionally been the first timed event of the Shootout, and this year was no different. But rather than setting up a traditional autocross course in one of the large parking lots at Firebird Raceway, we decided to mix things up a bit by setting up the course on the back section of Firebird’s Main Circuit. Pylon-defined gates were still used to control speeds and add some of the usual challenges associated with autocrossing, so we were still testing typical autocross parameters like turn-in response, slow- to mid-speed grip and balance, and transitional response, not to mention driver skill.
Typically small, lightweight cars with razor-sharp throttle response excel in an autocross environment, so it was a bit of a surprise to see Full-Race’s 700-plus-whp R14 blitz the course in just 45.557 seconds. With the addition of an R33 GT-R engine and an AWD system, Full-Race’s S14 240SX isn’t exactly a lightweight, and with that much power on tap, we expected local autocrossing ace Brian Peters to have his hands full. But to Brian’s and Full-Race’s credit, the R14 was dancing around the cones like Mohammed Ali, even going into a controlled four-wheel drift through the final gate leading into the stop box. It sounded like the engine may have been fighting a bit of a misfire, though, or maybe it was an antilag system working its magic. Time would tell.
Full-Race was looking like a lock for the autocross win until Ryan Gates threw down a shockingly quick 45.005-second run, a half second clear of the R14. Clearly Ryan knows how to hustle a Mitsubishi Evolution X as well as anyone in the country, and the 311RS was built as his version of the ultimate street-going Evo X, so it should come as no surprise that it made extremely good use of the Continental ExtremeContact DW street tires. Mitsubishi’s highly advanced torque vectoring and AMS’s expert ECU tuning no doubt helped Ryan put all of the engine’s power to the ground, too.
Typically small, lightweight cars with razor-sharp throttle response excel in an autocross environment, so it was a bit of a surprise to see Full-Race’s 700-plus-whp R14
Rounding out the top three was privateer Mike Bonanni in his spotless Nissan 370Z. Mike and his wife drove the Z from their home in Las Vegas to Phoenix the night before the Shootout, so this is as legit a street car as we had in the event. No big power-adders here, either, just a superb sports car chassis and a simple yet highly effective approach to tuning that included BC Racing coilovers, Whiteline sway bars, and a homemade front splitter. Stopping the timer in 45.797 seconds not only put Mike Third in the event, but it also placed him ahead of RWD rivals ScienceOfSpeed’s NSX and Novak’s S2000.
Sixth overall and fastest among the FWD crowd was Michele Abbate in the Gruppe-S Scion tC with a time of 47.004 seconds. We have to thank Michele for her impressive performance here because it allowed us to abuse Hasport and Sportcar Motion with the classic schoolyard taunt, “You got beat by a girl!” But we also have to give Michele due credit because she not only beat the other FWD teams but she also outranked heavy hitters like SoS’s NSX and Mann Engineering’s torque-monster STI.
Hasport’s a team that normally does extremely well in the autocross event, so it was surprising to see them finish Tenth overall and last among the FWD teams. Watching the CRX navigate the course, it was clearly suffering from terminal understeer, something we assumed was the result of a big V6 engine hanging out over its front tires. Turns out it was actually a loose front crossmember. According to Brian Gillespie from Hasport, one of the bolts that pull double duty stabilizing the subframe and holding the brake ducting was missing. This allowed the subframe to rock back and forth under braking and acceleration, resulting in the front wheels moving as much as 2 inches. Yikes!
MazdaManiac’s RX-8 was a machine we expected to do very well in the autocross, both because of owner Jeff Abrams’ experience setting up his car for this type of competition and because he put local autocross hot shoe Gosha “George” Sklyarevsky in the driver seat. But as we could hear as Jeff’s RX-8 coasted around the big 180-degree turn at the top of the course, something wasn’t right.
Turns out the fuel pump was cutting out, completely cutting power in every left turn. George figured this was costing him at least 2 seconds, which would have put him right up there with Gates and Full-Race.
|8||SCM Si Sedan||47.223||95.30|
|12||Mann Type-25 CS||48.527||92.74|