Ah, San Antonio; home of world class Tex-Mex cuisine, the famous Riverwalk, and of course, "The Alamo." On November 10 and 11, 2001 the IDRC put on a show attendees will also never forget-and the hot racing action brought more tears to our eyes than spicy bean burritos ever did. Series points were accumulated, records were shattered, and a car even caught fire.
Looking to increase his IDRC points lead, John Shepherd made the trek to Texas from his home in Ohio, but if there was anybody that had a say about who was going to win in "ole San Antone" it was Ari Yallon of RX7.com fame. Driving his Eagle Talon AWD, Shepherd was hot on his game as he made his way through the field. In the semis, Shepherd laid down the law, blasting a personal record time on radials-a 9.898 at 147 mph, putting the pressure on Yallon.
Yallon took down a Supra in the first round, but a semi-final match against Djuric's Supra put Ari and his RX-7 to the test. As the tree turned green, the cars left as one and stayed with each other for the entire quarter mile. As Ari himself put it, " I saw Djuric's Supra beside me the whole way; I wasn't sure who won." As it turns out, Yallon finished just a few thousandths ahead of Djuric, setting the stage for the final round between the number one and number two IDRC points leaders.
This was the match the crowd was waiting for: Yallon had been beaten by Shepherd in Bandimere, Colo., which catapulted Shepherd into first place. If Yallon could turn the tables on Shepherd, it would just heighten the tension for the IDRC finals. When the tree fell, Yallon was first out of the hole and charging, but Shepherd was close behind. What was supposed to be Yallon's insurance turned out to be his demise: While getting ready for the event, Yallon made the decision to replace the transmission with a new one thinking his old "slop box" had seen its time. If you are familiar with how a new transmission feels you would know what went wrong. Toward the top end of the track, Yallon mis-shifted and it was all over. Shepherd walked by and took the win, sealing his IDRC points championship.
What has sometimes been a rather barren class with few competitors was the most popular and most competitive class in San Antonio with the top eight qualifiers all within 0.8 seconds of each other. And cars ranged from "old school" air-cooled VW power using carburetors to fuel-injected, high-revving four-bangers like that of Scott Mohler's Neon-two different schools of thought with one simple goal in mind. Scott Kelley, driving his air-cooled VW was out to show the crowd that it doesn't take the latest "do-dad" to post a fast number. In fact, Scott had one goal, which he achieved in the semi-final round. Scott was able to successfully launch the car into the 10s and put himself into the final round. Not bad for a car that is older than most readers of Turbo magazine.
Also looking to make it to the final was Scott Mohler driving the CNNP Racing Dodge Neon. But to do that he would have to beat Cotorres Gee in the semi-final round. Cotorres has been very successful this season, attending most IDRC events and proving that it doesn't take all the money in the world to be competitive in the All Motor Class. Having heated the tires in the burnout box, both competitors slowly crept into the staging beams. When the light turned green, both cars left at the same time, but it came down to power and Mohler was the one that had it. Hoping the Neon might break, Gee and the Hocus Pocus Honda held in 'til the very end, but Scott Mohler would be the one to face Scott Kelly's VW in the final round.
The final round turned out to be old school vs. new; VW vs. Dodge; air-cooled vs. water-cooled, carb vs. injector, Scott vs. Scott, inline four vs. Boxer four-you get the idea; it was a showdown at high noon. There was anticipation amongst the crowd, but what might have been a very close race was over just as it had begun. When the light turned green, both competitors dumped their clutches at the same time, but Kelley just barely got past the 60-foot marker. His engine let loose and Kelley smartly turned the car towards the wall so as to not get oil on the track. Mohler finished in 11.063 sec at 122 mph, clinching the IDRC All Motor win.
To be competitive in the Quick Class, you have to be a member of the 9-second club, and it seems like more and more racers are joining. The top six out of eight racers all qualified in the 9-second range, making for fierce competition each round. In the semi-final round, Brent Rau and his Osofast Racing Diamond Star was looking to take down Gary Gardella and his Ecko Function-sponsored Honda Civic. There has been a rivalry brewing between these two competitors all season as this was not the first time they have faced off at the starting line. Both Rau and Gardella cut good lights, leaving the start at the same time, but by half-track Gardella had a slight edge on Rau. It was looking like it could have been close and then it was all over for Brent Rau. His engine gave way and Gardella crossed the finish first, moving him into the finals.
Also in the semi-final round, Mike Crawford and the Forward Motion Dodge Neon were matched against Texas local Phong Tran driving a Honda Civic. Phong had actually been eliminated in the first round by Sean Glazar and his Extreme Racing Talon; however, Sean's fuel rail mount broke just as he was crossing the finish line, which spewed race fuel into the engine bay. This immediately lit the car on fire, torching the front end of the vehicle and extinguishing any hopes of a first-place finish for Sean. Phong would have his work cut out for him trying to beat the turbo-powered Neon that has seen low 9-second passes. Mike Crawford was first off the line and was pulling hard away from Phong. It was a valiant effort on Phong Tran's behalf, but horsepower is king when it comes to drag racing and the Forward Motion Neon had it in spades. Mike Crawford finished with a 9.266 at 153 mph to Phong Tran's 11.738 at 125 mph.
Gary Gardella was looking for a win in the finals and only Mike Crawford was in his way. Both competitors were equally matched so it was any ones game. But when the hammer was dropped Gardella was able to get a slight lead on Crawford. That was only for a moment though, as the automatic transmission of Crawford's Neon made up the distance lost when Gardella had to shift. Just when it looked like Crawford was coming back, the little gremlins decided to rain on his parade. Crawford's transmission started giving way and Gardella powered to the winner's circle. Gardella finished 9.396 at 150 mph to Crawford's 10.182 at 142 mph.
Outlaw and Pro
It is rather unconventional that we should group these two classes together, but most of the people that were destined for Texas could not make the trip for one reason or another. Between the two classes there were only four racers, meaning the one run for each class would be the final. In Outlaw Stephan Papadakis was matched against Carlos Montano aka: Pepe Loco. Montano previously posted low 8-second passes; if he wanted to beat Stephan he had to pull a number like that again. When the light turned green, the rear-wheel drive of Montano' s RX-3 launched him ahead of Papadakis. But RWD and a short wheelbase can make for a hairy ride as Montano found out when his car moved out of the groove. Montano had to let off the gas to keep the car in line; that was enough for Papadakis to drive by and cross the finish first in 8.233 seconds at 178 mph to Montano's 10.0236 seconds at 99 mph.
In the Pro class, Matt Hartford and the Hoyos Racing Focus had it a little easier. Hartford's competitor never made it to the burnout box and was stranded in the staging lanes trying to get his engine started. Even though it was a "bye" run to take the win, Hartford put on a show for the crowd making a full pass. Hartford did set a new record that run posting 7.087 at 194 mph, but that was nothing to what happened next.
It would be the race the fans would tell their children about. Someone somewhere had the brilliant idea of letting Papadakis and Hartford go at it. The rules were simple: Papadakis would have a one-second head start, then Hartford would give chase. First out of the gate was Papadakis. He managed to get past the 60-foot marker by the time Hartford left the line.
While it looked as if this would be a walk in the park for Hartford, by the time the two hit the 1/8 th mile, Papadakis' car started picking up speed. As they approached the finish line, it was up for grabs; Hartford would prevail, but the margin was narrow. How narrow? Hartford won by just a few hundredths of a second. To give you an idea of how close that is, imagine the diameter of wheel just past a front bumper traveling at three times the speed limit. While it was a close race finishing, what truly made this run monumental was the fact that both cars posted new personal records at virtually the same exact moment. Papadakis finished in 8.120 seconds at 180 mph, while Hartford finished in 7.070 seconds at 195 mph. Shouts of "do it again" echoed from the stands. While it would have been nice to watch it happen again, fans would just have to savor the memories of history being made.