There was a time when the Pro Class of import drag racing was the redheaded stepchild of the scene. In many cases there were barely enough cars to fill a field. The overall cost of building such a complex, technically advanced race car and the lack of financial support in a young industry like import drag racing are some of the hurdles the Pro Class has encountered. Because the import scene is a performance-oriented, technology driven phenomenon, racers in other classes would inevitably want to "move up." As the sport grew, chassis builders took note and saw an opportunity. Today, filling an eight-car field isn't a challenge. In fact, 16-car fields may soon become the norm.
The Pro Class is the leading edge period--the most-advanced cars, tube chassis and quickest e.t.s are its calling card. With such quick e.t.s, making a splash in the Pro Class doesn't happen--low 7-second performers don't come out of nowhere. This was true until the inaugural 2001 NHRA Mazda Import World Finals at Pomona, Calif., when the Escort Drag Racing Service twin-turbo 300ZX rocked the world of Pro Class drag racing. The mighty 300ZX was shipped from Japan and barely made it to the show. Only two days prior to Saturday's qualifying round, the Nissan was released from U.S. customs. The car was dusted off and fired to life, then loaded for the trip to the strip.
With no engine tuning and pass-to-pass suspension tweaking, the Escort crew literally stole the show at the event by breaking off many of the top Pro Class racers and winning the season finale event with an awe-inspiring 7.45 in the finals. Although Escort Drag Racing Service isn't well known stateside, the team is very well known overseas. Before coming to the States, the 300ZX had a distinguished career--previously setting Pro-Stock records in Japan and capturing Japan's RRC series championship in 1994-'95.
The Pro Class 300ZX started life in America as a Willie Rells Sr. tube-framed chassis built 10 years ago. Rells is a name synonymous with Pro-Stock racing, having built cars for the likes of Warren Johnson and Bob Glidden, just to name a few. Escort Racing supplied the 300ZX shell and Rells went to work, providing the foundation for the 300ZX in a mere three months.
The tube-frame chassis was built around a VG30DETT powerplant and a Lenco air-shifted transmission. Escort Drag Racing Service head engineer Shinichi Miyano built the powerplant. The block features 3mm overbored cylinders stuffed with 93mm 8.3:1 low-compression Escort Racing forged pistons. The VG30 utilizes Howard forged aluminum connecting rods that swing on an Escort Racing prepped stock crankshaft to keep rotating mass at a minimum. To prevent oil starvation during hard launches and its 1.0g acceleration potential, Escort incorporated a Webber dry sump oiling system with a custom oil pan that sports baffles and a special windage tray.
On the top-end, Miyano performed a precision port and polish and stuffed the heads with Escort Racing double valve springs and titanium retainers to prevent high-rpm valve float. A high-lift Escort Racing camshaft with 10.5 mm of maximum valve lift and 264-degree duration orchestrates valvetrain events.
The fortified VG30 is pressurized by a pair of KKK turbochargers situated on both ends on the V6. To extract maximum horsepower from the hot charge air, a custom Escort Racing front-mount air-to-air intercooler chills the air to increase oxygen density before it enters the V6's big-bore throttle bodies. A custom sheetmetal intake was fabricated by Escort to equally distribute the pressurized air into the six large runners where high-octane juice is added to the mix by 1,000cc injectors.
A Motec M4-8 stand-alone engine management system, tuned by Miyano, controls all aspects of timing and injection. Although there are no horsepower numbers given, our guess is the VG30 is making in the neighborhood of 1,000 hp at the flywheel. To put all the power to the ground, a five-speed Lenco transmission transfers kinetic energy to the Mark Williams rear end and axles. Monocoque drag wheels wrapped with Goodyear gumballs provide the contact patch to drive deep into the 7s.
In 2001, the Escort Racing team won all four events it participated in. However, 2002 should be a little more difficult with Blast Racing bringing in a twin-turbo V8-powered SC400 from Japan, Pro Class record holder Mike Hartford and the Hoyos Racing Focus and other Pro Class racers stepping up their games.
Escort Drag Racing Service
Toda City, Saitama, 335-0034
Lenco Equipment Co.
Dept. THP, 6470 Federal Blvd.
Lemon Grove, CA 91945
Dept. THP, 10652 Bloomfield Ave.
Santa Fe Springs, CA 90670