Threats of thunderstorms and hot steamy weather were not about to deter thousands of import race enthusiasts as they descended on Englishtown, New Jersey. The annual IDRC Summer Slam event has earned a reputation for drawing the fastest racers from around the country, and this year was no disappointment to those that attended. For those that took a break from the hot racing action and ventured outside the grandstands, they realized there was much more to this event than just fast cars. Summer Slam provides a venue for some of the slickest and sharpest show cars and low-riders in the country.
Sport Compact Street Class
With DOT-approved drag radials for tires, eight contestants, some from as far away as Texas, came to do battle in the highly competitive Street Class. This day, Mazda and Mitsubishi filled the top four qualifying positions. Having won in the quarterfinal round, John Shepherd was looking to move into the finals. He would have to put Steven Kan, who beat Bert Tongue in the quarterfinals, down for the count if he wanted to see final round action. As the light turned green Steven showed John just how ready he was, blasting off the line with a .466 reaction time. But it would be John's all-wheel drive and brute Diamond Star power that clinched the win as he just walked by Steven at mid-track. The next two players had a much closer match. Ari Yallon, the 2000 Street Class champion, and Jeff Hill met in the semis, as it was Mazda against Mitsubishi. Both had equal reaction times and what looked like equal power in this neck-and-neck battle. But it is the one that crosses the finish line first that really matters, and Ari, in his rotary powered Mazda RX-7, proved that to be true as he put himself into the final round to duke it out with John Shepherd.
Had you been in the staging lanes before the final round you could have watched John and Ari trying to psyche each other out as they both took joking pop shots at each other. "You sure that wastegate hose is on tight Ari?" "It wouldn't matter, I only need half the boost I normally run to beat you John." But again, it would be the one first to the finish that would win the big money. Both racers dropped the clutch at the same time, however John's AWD launched his Mitsu just ahead of Ari. As Ari tried to make back distance lost, he found himself fighting second gear. When second finally popped in, John was already several car lengths ahead and pulling. John made the slam and stopped the clock in 10.197 at 141 mph, clinching the Summer Slam win for 2001
Import Tuner's All-Motor Class
Number one and two qualifiers Scott Mohler and Fred Ellis were the ones to watch as they easily defeated their opponents in the quarterfinal round. In the semi-final round, Scott was matched against Brian Mosholder, who had a close victory battling with Jose Bermudez in the quarter final round. Scott unfortunately would have to give it up to Brian in the semi as he broke just past the 60-foot, pushing Brian into the final. Fred Ellis was matched against Jeff Taylor for the other semi-final round. As the light turned green, both racers dumped the clutch and launched for the finish, but by the 60-foot it was all over. Fred just had more power and easily crushed any dreams of Jeff making it to the winner's circle.
In the final, Brian Mosholder would have his work cut out for him as his best run at this point was not good enough to beat Fred Ellis' worst. As the tree fell both left the start at virtually the same time, but again, this race would come down to horsepower and Fred easily pulled away finishing with an 11.828 at 113 mph pass to Brian's 12.809 at 105 mph.
Nitto Tires/Turbo Magazine Quick Class
At most events the Quick Class is the most competitive and this year's Summer Slam was no exception as there were four qualifiers in the "9s", 11 in the "10s" and one in the "11s." One badge people weren't expecting to see was that of Mike Crawford who was driving the turbo-powered Dodge Neon (Turbo, September 2001). He was the number two qualifier and definitely not one to bat an eye at as he eagerly showed his ability to catch racers with their pants down.
By the end of the quarterfinal round fans would not see another Honda racing in the Quick class again. Gary Gardella with his Ecko-sponsored Civic (who had just ran his first nine-second pass in the first round) would have to give it up to James Farrer and his turbocharged Nissan Sentra. Brent Rau and his Diamond Star put the smackdown on Rafael Estevez and his Honda by crossing the finish over a second sooner. Mike Crawford and his Dodge Neon just squeaked in his win, beating Sardis Campodonico and his '91 Honda.
The last pair to run was Jimmy O'Connor and Dan Cokic with his Pruven Eclipse. As the light turned green, Jimmy toasted his tires with a touch too much of turbo boost, allowing the AWD of Dan's Eclipse to get the advantage. When Jimmy finally got the car to settle down, he charged hard trying to catch Dan, but this proved to be too little, too late. However, Dan made a crucial mistake after his pass. IDRC requires each racer to weigh their cars after each run to verify weight. One rule for this is they must make the scales under their own power, or they must be towed while supervised by an IDRC official. Dan failed to comply. This bumped Jimmy into the semi- finals. But when the semi-finals started Jimmy was nowhere to be found in the staging lanes and that would give the easy bye run to James Farrer. This left Brent Rau and Mike Crawford to face off in the semi-finals.
Mike was definitely on his game with his Dodge Neon as he pulled past Brent, who was dealing with his own set of problems. So it would be James Farrer and Mike in the final round. But this would never come to pass; the dark clouds that loomed in the sky most of the afternoon started getting darker. And as the rain was dumping and lightning crashing, people were scrambling for shelter. And racers were left to do nothing but pack up for the weekend. James and Mike would split the points and winning purse.
Apex Integration Outlaw Class
At the top of the eight-car qualifying field was the infamous Vinny Ten and his "so close to the sevens" Supra. Four racers from Puerto Rico also made the field in the top five.
First round action drew fans from the pit area to the stands so they could watch Vinny Ten put the hurt on Juan Lopez as he cut a brilliant light (.411). You don't get much closer than that. Unfortunately Vinny had driveline problems afterward and would not be able to make it into the semis. Christian Rado, who just recently broke into the 8's with his Honda Integra, was matched against Gary Moysouret who was driving a first-gen Mazda RX-7. Christian also left the start with a great reaction time, especially considering his opponent had dropped the clutch a half second after him. Christian had problems mid track and Gary was able to run him down by the end. In the semi-fina,l Carlos Perez, who had just beaten his Puerto Rican teammate in the first round, was supposed to race Vinny Ten who had broken in the first round. Vinny was unable to make the necessary repairs and was actually praying for the rain to come early, but this was not the case. Carlos Perez was bumped to the final. Gary Moysouret also got bumped to the final when Carlos Montano (Pepe Loco) broke by the end of his first round but still was able to beat Jose Perez (who also broke). In the last run of the afternoon (it poured right after their run) Gary would earn his victory as he left Perez at the line and just pulled away finishing with an 8.155 at 166 mph to Perez' 8.664 at 152 mph
Toyo Tires Pro Class
Seven was the number for the day. "Why is that?", you ask. Because if you weren't running a seven, or at least close to it, in the Pro Class, you were on the trailer. Six out of eight qualifiers all posted a seven. On Saturday, the Siguel Racing RX-7 made history by becoming the quickest import drag racer by blasting a 7.440 at 179.90 mph. Unfortunately, this landmark acheivemeent would stand for mere hours. About 17 hours later, the Hoyos-sponsored Ford Focus, driven by Matt Hartford, was the car to catch as they set the new record for import drag racing by running a 7.411 at 184 mph. That's right, had you watched qualifying on Saturday and Sunday you could have seen history in the making... twice!.
Round one put Matt Hartford and his twin turbo V6-powered Focus against Jimmy O'Connor and the Venom Racing Toyota Tacoma. While Jimmy posted a respectable reaction time and extremely quick low-eight-second pass (8.051 at 169 mph) it was just not enough to catch Matt, who probably had his helmet off and seatbelt undone by the time Jimmy hit the chute. In what might have been the comical relief run of the day, Rafael Rivera (Rafealito) and Orlando Torres showed fans that it's not necessarily who's the fastest but who's first. As the light turned green both rotary powered cars fell flat on their face sputtering and coughing, barely rolling past the 60-foot marker. Orlando was able to get his car somewhat working and managed to limp his car towards the finish traveling at around 40 mph. By the time Orlando hit the 1/8-mile, Rafael finally figured out his motor's problems and came roaring towards the finish. I am sure Orlando felt the 100+ mph breeze created by Rafael, but it was too late as Orlando crossed the finish first moving himself into the semi-final. Unfortunately for Orlando, this meant going against Matt Hartford and the Hoyos Focus. Had Orlando sorted out his problems from the previous round he might have had a fighting chance racing Matt as the Focus pitched toward center track until Matt was forced to lift. It was not to be and Matt moved himself into the final.
Jose Torres and the Siguel Racing RX-7 would have to give up ideas of making the final as he red-lit in the semi against Jorge Lazcano. Unfortunately Jorge and Matt would never see the final round as they too fell victim to the impending rain that eventually drenched the day. Purse and points were split.
Despite the blazing heat of Saturday qualifying and the torrential rain that killed that last few rounds of competition Sunday, this was an event to remember and to brag to your friends that decided not to go. If you missed it this year, you need to mark your calendars for next year as this is undoubtedly the largest import drag event of the racing season: the annual IDRC Summer Slam.