For years now we’ve wanted to run the drag event last so teams could turn up the boost and really go for broke rather than playing it safe knowing the Time Attack was still to come. This year, Tage and his NASA AZ team were able to massage the schedule of their biggest and busiest weekend of the year to allow us to do exactly that, which meant the Time Attack was now sandwiched between the autocross and drag events.
The other curveball we threw at the teams was moving the Time Attack from the Main Circuit, where we’ve run in the past, to the more technical West Circuit. Although some of the teams would have preferred to run on Main, both because it’s more familiar and because it has a hugely long front straight where high-horsepower cars gain a big advantage, we felt West’s layout would provide us with a more balanced test of overall performance.
Having posted the biggest number on the dyno and placing Second at the autocross, Full-Race’s R14 was looking like a strong contender for the Overall title. But that engine misfire we heard during the autocross was getting worse, so Geoff and his crew entered into the racer’s hell known as “diagnose and fix the problem before the race starts.” To Full-Race’s credit, their team hustled like a NASCAR pit crew in an effort to solve the misfire, going so far as stripping parts off a donor car. But unfortunately it was a bad R33 ignition coil, a part Geoff and the crew believed to be unique to the engine and therefore impossible to replace on short notice. Sadly, this ended Full-Race’s Shootout prematurely, and, in one of those cruel twists of racing fate, Geoff later learned that Infiniti Q45 coil packs are the same ones his R33 GT-R engine uses and were in stock at nearby dealerships. D’oh!
Alex Peng posted a very respectable 1:06.672-second lap in Novak’s S2000, good for Fourth overall in the event. And yet by the end of the three-lap session, Ryan Gates’ Evo was glued to the S2000’s bumper. We could tell from the fist pumps that Ryan was stoked after the Time Attack session, and with a 1:04.530-second lap he had good reason to celebrate as he was 1.5 seconds quicker than anyone else. This gave Ryan back-to-back wins and a real shot at the Overall and AWD class trophies if things went well during the drag event.
To Full-Race’s credit, their team hustled like a NASCAR pit crew in an effort to solve the misfire, going so far as stripping parts off a donor car.
Owner/driver Chris Willson also positioned his ScienceOfSpeed turbo NSX very strongly, taking Second in the Time Attack with a time of 1:06.021. The SoS NSX looked utterly composed and in control during its attack on the West Circuit, that is until Mr. Willson decided to do a little drifting on his last lap. According to Chris, he’d overheated the tires on the first couple of laps so he decided to have some fun on the last lap. This showed a lot of confidence in the reliability of his NSX’s engine and drivetrain, but Chris had good reason to be confident because they were now leading the Overall standings going into the final event.
Taylor Wilson in his FAT/Snail Performance WRX hatchback once again put on a rock-solid performance, finishing Third in the Time Attack with a best lap of 1:06.628. This after a Fifth in the autocross and a Fourth on the dyno meant the FAT/Snail WRX was right on Ryan Gates’ Voltex-garnished wing in the Overall and AWD class standings. With a win during the drag event, Taylor and FAT/Snail ECU maestro Travis “Sauce Bauce” Barnes might even test the strength of the top step of the podium.
Renzo Marsano, owner/driver of the Sportcar Motion/Mar Financial Honda Civic Si sedan, threw on his “special” driving shirt featuring hand-drawn male genitalia and backed up this bold fashion statement with the fastest lap time among the FWD group (1:07.340), good for Fifth overall. Renzo reported that his super-duper reverse-staggered tire setup worked extremely well, the 285-wide front tires requiring some rather sexy and beautifully integrated fender flares.
The Hasport crew replaced the front subframe bolt and reclaimed their manhood by beating Michele in the Gruppe-S Scion tC by a few tenths (1:08.699 to 1:08.828), and with a history of strong performances on the dragstrip, the classic yellow CRX was positioned well for a comeback within the FWD class.
Russell Whelan in his RHD R32 Nissan Skyline GT-R put on another solid performance, finishing Sixth overall in the Time Attack after placing Fifth on the dyno and Ninth in the autocross. This meant Russell’s 20-year-old Godzilla was hanging tough against much newer machinery in both the Overall and AWD class standings, and with a good launch down the dragstrip, this underdog-privateer just might sneak onto the podium.
Meanwhile over in the rotary camp, the mysterious fuel pump problem continued to plague the MazdaManiac RX-8’s performance. According to owner/driver Jeff Abrams, “I did my entire Time Attack session at part-throttle and with the engine completely off at the lefthander at the top of the straight and the entire turn 9-10-11 complex. I had to try to make up time in turn 1, which was exciting. I was over 4 seconds off my fastest laps on street tires on that course in the ‘8.”
|5||SCM Si Sedan||1:07.340||95.83|
|11||Mann Type-25 CS||1:11.436||90.33|
At the end of what was a grueling test of motorized performance in the desert heat, it was NSX and S2000 tuning specialist ScienceOfSpeed and their understated silver test mule that emerged as the king of the street cars. Claiming 295.85 points out of an available 310, SoS’s turbocharged mid-engine Honda sealed the deal on the dragstrip but laid the foundation for its dominating Overall and RWD class championships on the dyno and during the emissions test.
The fact that Chris and his team (and Chris is first to emphasize that it was a team effort)–including Tony from UMS Tuning, who pulled a late-night tuning session just before the Shootout to dial in the SoS-developed Series 2 AEM EMS after a fuel pump set the team back–built a six-cylinder motor capable of producing 665 whp while releasing almost no hydrocarbons into the atmosphere is an absolutely world-class achievement and a testament to the level of engineering this company is known for.
Ryan Gates had to feel vindicated after taking the AWD class championship and placing Second in the overall standings. Last year, Ryan’s famous blue Time Attack Evo lost its motor on the dyno, so to run his street-tuned 311RS Evo against much more powerful machines and come away with the AWD trophy and top dog honors in both the autocross and time attack events is exactly the kind of result he must have been hoping for. Being the fierce competitor that he is, we could tell he was a little disappointed not to take the overall win, but we’re guessing we might just see a 311RS-R next year with a few extra ponies under the hood.
Our highest-finishing privateer, Russell Whelan and his R32 GT-R, kind of flew under the radar for much of the event, if it’s possible to maintain a low profile in an RHD
FAT/Snail Performance has been climbing the Shootout rankings every year, finishing Fifth overall in 2010 and Fourth overall in 2011, so it was only fitting that Taylor and Travis squeezed a little extra performance out of Taylor’s WRX and got to bro-hug on the podium this year, claiming the Third Overall trophy at this year’s event. As Travis joked, “Give us two more years and we’ll be the Overall winner!”
Our highest-finishing privateer, Russell Whelan and his R32 GT-R, kind of flew under the radar for much of the event, if it’s possible to maintain a low profile in an RHD JDM import. With consistent mid-pack results in every event, Russell’s GT-R proved to be a solid performer in every way and as a result finished a very impressive Fourth overall. Ryan Novak and Alex Peng in the Novak S2000 had to feel pretty good about their privateer effort, too, having finished Fifth overall and Second in the RWD group, just one point ahead of fellow privateer Mike Bonanni and his 370Z.
Competition in the FWD class was extremely tight throughout the Shootout this year, with the Gruppe-S Scion tC looking like the early favorite after a great performance in the autocross, but then Renzo and his Sportcar Motion Civic took the Time Attack win and looked to be in good position going into the drag event. Meanwhile, Brian Gillespie from Hasport knew the competition would be tight and that the e-test and dB test could very well be the deciding factor within the FWD class. Turns out this Honda hoarder (you should see the yard behind Hasport’s shop) was spot on. His CRX’s super-clean performance during the e-test (not to mention the quietest exhaust) and a strong performance on the drag strip allowed this ageless competitor and his equally ageless Honda to leapfrog into First Place in class.