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 |   |  2002 Toyota Celica GT-S - Onward Christian Soldier
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2002 Toyota Celica GT-S - Onward Christian Soldier

Rado's Newest Weapon in his War Against Time is This 1,000 hp Celica

John C. Naderi
Sep 1, 2002
Photographer: Wes Allison

At first sight this brilliant, wheeled work looks like some kind of post-modernist kinetic sculpture you would find at the MoMA. From the deep, flawless luster of the paint layered over the carbon fiber bodywork to the complex artistic geometry of the chassis contained within, it should be enshrined in some sort of closely guarded, temperature-controlled gallery surrounded by an elegant network of stanchions and black velvet ropes. And people in black turtlenecks and matching berets should be making insightful comments about how this piece symbolizes our struggle for individualism in a society overrun with complacent conformity. All the while, the artist will be standing proudly next to his creation citing irony as his primary inspiration. But this is not your ordinary object d'art. Instead it is a very serious vehicle and its creator is not a Warhol wannabe but a man with a very serious intent and purpose.

Christian Rado and his World Electronics team are the artists responsible for this 2002 Celica GT-S. But Rado doesn't really care about the time, effort, and considerable resources that have been invested into the Celica. He has no intentions of displaying the car for it is but a tool, the main weapon in Rado's formidable arsenal allowing him to wage his war against time-more precisely the amount of time it takes to cover one quarter of a mile from a standing start. The only things that matter to Rado are his goals, which include a 200mph trap speed. This would place him in the low 7-second range. These are lofty goals for a four-cylinder FWD but the Celica looks like it has the right mojo to make it happen for Rado.

250 hp From Each Slug

One thousand horsepower. That's an intimidating number. It's even more frightening when you consider that this car generates that number from only four cylinders. Rado knew exactly where to find a tuner capable of creating this kind of power-Toyota Racing Development. TRD is responsible for all of Toyota's factory motorsports efforts here in the U.S. and Rado has nothing but good things to say about the partnership.

"Between Larry Slutter and Sheldon Andry at TRD there is just a continuous improvement process in the engines to make more horsepower with increased reliability," said Christian. "At every race TRD has been able to supply us with two or three race engines just in case the unexpected happens. But we haven't been able to hurt any of these engines yet."

When Christian refers to "these engines" he is not talking about the Celica's factory 1.8L 2ZZ-GE inline four. "Originally we were using the Celica 2ZZ engine, which TRD was building for us. Well, after seeing the direction the whole front drive scene was going we knew we wanted to go 7s at almost 200 mph, that's our goal-along with winning championships. So we asked TRD if they would build us a 3RZ-FE engine (from the Tacoma) instead. Obvious reasons include the fact that the 3RZ has nearly one liter of displacement on the 2ZZ and it also has a steel block compared to aluminum block found on the latter. We felt that we could make at least 200 more horsepower along with gobs of torque. The 2ZZ equals 1.8L and the 3RZ equals 2.7L-do the math. The 2ZZ is more of a high-tech lightweight powerplant and I'm sure TRD could have easily made 700-800 horsepower from it but it's not the super nasty truck motor we have in the car now. This engine is awesome. Even the early version of our race engine that we have now is making over a thousand horsepower and 800 lb-ft of torque at only 27 pounds of boost-now that's power. And [TRD] hasn't even scratched the surface yet. What's great is that the 3RZ engine is the perfect powerplant for any serious compact drag racer. It's strong and it makes tons of power-kind of like a four-cylinder version of the Supra's 2JZ inline six-cylinder. I wouldn't be surprised to see some new rear drive cars sporting this powerplant soon."

In order to realize the 850 horsepower gain over the stock 3RZ, TRD had to graft on a set of Supra taillights. Ha! Just kidding. Thank you folks, I'll be here all night. Don't forget to tip your waitress. (That wasn't funny.-JW; Jonny, you're an idiot.-JN) In order to handle more than 2 bar of boost, a set of custom JE pistons and rings have been dished out to create a boost-friendly 9.1:1 compression ratio. TRD's custom titanium connecting rods hang from-amazingly enough-the stock 3RZ crankshaft. On the top end TRD performed the headwork and added some of its custom valves, springs, retainers, and camshafts with LC Engineering cam gears. The voluminous intake manifold is also a TRD custom job and on the other side of the air/fuel equation are two giant Weldon pumps and a TRD fuel rail feeding no less than eight Bosch 1600cc injectors. None of those cute faucet metaphors will work here. This is fire hose territory.

The Turbo

The engine's reduced compression and gluttonous ingestion of air and fuel are all needed to satiate the turbo. The snail is a Turbonetics Y2K unit. I feel very inferior looking at it, much like when I stand next to Ricky at the urinal. But Rado says the Y2K is an off-the-shelf turbo with a compressor wheel diameter of more than 82 mm. With the right package it is capable of making over 1,300 hp. Christian also tells us that TRD is working on some sort of new black magic technology that will keep the cylinder head nailed down in order to allow for more boost to take advantage of the Y2K's high horsepower capabilities. Mo' Control With World and MoTeC World Racing is actually a subsidiary of World Electronics. You probably have no idea what World Electronics does, because most of it is super hush-hush government contract work. What this does mean is that World builds its stuff to the highest of tolerances. As the head honcho at World Racing, Christian is passing on all of this techno wizardry to the tuning community. He gave us the breakdown on World Racing's first new product.

"Of course our car is the first vehicle to use our World TBC-1 (Total Boost Control Version 1), which we feel is the first real high end boost controller. This unit has been one of the main focuses of World Racing and has been in development for almost two years. But the controller, which should be for sale by the time this issue hits the stands, has worked flawlessly since we started testing. This unit allows for extremely accurate proportional control of boost up to 100 psi for race cars or street cars-it doesn't matter. (So can I get one?-RC) We are able to control boost over gear, time, or rpm with no complicated calculation necessary. All you do is allow the controller to measure your car's actual gear ratios along with your car's actual tire size so you have accurate control for when you want to go fast on the street or strip. The TBC-1 also features built-in drag modes, ignition retard based on boost, a turbo timer, touch screen, and actual aircraft quality sensors and valves. This unit gives you accurate control all the time-that's the key-without the level of user complexity you'll find in competitors' products. (Right. But can I get one?-RC) But on the Celica I just use it to accurately control boost while I'm going down the track and it seems to be working great." For engine management Christian relies on a MoTeC M880 system. "Tons of control and all the flexibility in the world coupled with excellent quality proved to be too valuable for us to pass up," said Christian about the M880. "George Ioannou from Bullish Motor Racing (who is also one of the Solara drivers) did the pristine install job on our car using mil-spec connectors and all the finest components to get the job done right."

Converting Torque to Timeslips

Putting 800 lb-ft of torque to the tarmac via the front wheels is never a pretty thing and the Celica accomplishes this feat via a Fortin gearbox. "The Fortin has been working pretty well for us and it has proven to take an ungodly amount of abuse from not only me but that nasty TRD engine as well," Christian told us. "We are getting ready to switch to a sequential unit that Doug Fortin has been working on for us. We feel that this is going to be one of the keys to running the number. We have both a four- and five-speed version of the tranny so we can play with some different combinations. Also, we feel that the addition of a Long Shifter from Mike Long at G-Force Engineering will possibly take 2-4 tenths off our e.t., which is huge."

Mark Williams Enterprises provided the custom axles and hubs while the actual spindle was designed and machined by Kerry Kissinger out at Ken's Kustom Chassis. Christian tells us that the spindles are constructed of a super high tech material called Aeromet 100, which was designed for fighter jet tailhooks making for a strong, light and durable piece that can take a tremendous amount of abuse.

Totally Tubular

The chassis on the Celica looks like some sort of jungle gym for the children of the obscenely wealthy. The fabrication and welds have an aerospace appearance and feel and the whole package looks like something Ferrari's F1 boss Jean Todt would commission for one of his cars. Christian told us that the Picassos of pipework responsible for this are the same people who made the spindles. "Kenny and Kerry Kissinger from Ken's Kustom Chassis are probably the single most key component to World Racing's ability to get to the track quickly and safely. They are responsible for fabricating 90 percent of what goes on or into our race cars. Kenny is a mountain of knowledge and was going over 200 mph in the quarter-mile before I was born. I'm extremely confident that with Kenny behind me guiding my team we will not only be the fastest but I feel we will be the safest."

Safety is further addressed with an Indy-style seat custom-molded to Christian's body with a Nomex-covered custom carbon kevlar shell. A MOMO steering wheel, shift knob, and pedal set serve as the reins for Christian's thoroughbred.


Controlling wheelhop is also a big issue with a FWD racer and Christian was instrumental in bringing Penske Racing Shocks into sport compact drag racing. "The Penske shocks on the car are an off-the-shelf 8100 series shock but thanks to our experience with these front drivers we were able to develop a very trick valving setup which allows us to do things with our suspension that haven't been possible before on cars like this. Bruce Kleckner from Penske has been integral in the shock development for our cars and all the sport compacts running fast out there." That list includes such heavy hitters as JoJo Callos, Shaun Carlson, Lisa Kubo, Bruce Mortensen, and Stephan Papadakis. The Penskes are wound with Eibach springs. All of this connects to Weld Racing wheels wrapped with massive 30-inch Goodyear meats up front.

Body Rockin'

Frank Isgro of Frank's Custom Fiberglass performed all the of the carbon fiber work on the Celica. "Frank is a fiberglass master who took to making carbon fiber pieces like a duck to water," according to Christian. "He actually built three completely different front ends for us for various shows and appearances before we actually debuted the final design at the Englishtown Race last May. Frank has built everything from the battery box, carbon floors, to the integrated TRD side skirts that he found a way to blend in seamlessly."

When Gary Gardella Jr. isn't campaigning his Ecko/DC Sports Drag Civic he runs County Line Auto Body with his father, Gary Sr., and they applied the blue, green, and white paint scheme. And since is the title sponsor of the car CG Airworks splashed that logo prominently across the flanks. Out back the World team went with a pro-mod style wing that offers greater straight-line stability and easy downforce corrections with an adjustable spill plate. Will this car be the first FWD into the 7-second/200mph club? Did it already hit the mark? Did someone else beat it to the punch? Why am I wearing a leopard skin thong? I can't really explain any of this with the exception of the thong and that's another story altogether. Suffice to say that the DriverFX/World Racing Celica represents a huge leap forward in FWD drag race technology while I am prevented from making any kind of leaps with my thong on.

By John C. Naderi
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