Today's car culture owes a debt of gratitude to street racing. Not the phony sort of street racing that Hollywood and its MoTeC Systems exhausts thinks it understands, but the gritty and often underhanded sort of street racing that canvased the back roads of industrial Los Angeles throughout the '80s and '90s. Illegal street racing cultivated an entire industry, along with many of its key players, and after a while it was no longer just a Southern Californian rite of passage.
By the century's turn, street racing was also no longer a ticket-earning offense; Nissans and Hondas were being impounded, their drivers tossed in jail, and their winnings confiscated. It was officially an epidemic that stretched from the seaside docks of Long Beach to places like Toronto, Canada, which is exactly where Sasha Anis terrorized his own roads and ultimately lost his license evading authorities.
But Sasha learned his lesson—and not by parking the S14 that got him into trouble for good and going off and taking up something like watercoloring, but by repurposing that 240SX as a full-time track car and, later on, starting up his own performance and tuning business. "Having my license pulled for a year meant that any driving I wanted to do would have to be at the track," he says. "So I bought a trailer and a truck and turned the street car S14 into a ragged drift car."
A ragged drift car that culminated into a road race car, and that earned Sasha a Canadian Touring Car Championship GT class win. It also led to him reassessing this whole racing thing. "I set my sights a bit higher," he says about where his head was at following the win, "and parted out the S14 at the end of that season, bought this ex-Koni Challenge 350Z, and started to make it mine." And by "make it mine," Sasha is talking about the overhauled VQ35HR engine he'd bolted into place along with the individual throttle bodies, dry-sump oiling system, and sequential transmission.
According to Sasha, the Z was built well to begin with, and he'd gotten it for what he says was "a steal of a price," but being built well wasn't necessarily good enough. "I really just wanted to buy a race car to enter into the Koni Challenge," he says, "and the Z was the cheapest option for me, despite its being the least competitive car in the field." That last part, as it turns out, Sasha would change.
Today, that ex-Koni Challenge backup car is the fastest Unlimited RWD Time Attack vehicle in Canada and, per Sasha, is almost always one of the fastest on the track, period. And when it's not circuit racing, the Z's repurposed for sprint car events, where it's just as formidable. But it didn't get that way overnight. "We've had a ton of struggles over the years racing," Sasha says. Those included a cracked flywheel that chewed up crank angle sensors, a sequential gearbox that never worked right of which the manufacturer had gone out of business, and a cam sensor issue that is the latest in a string of challenges that he'll have resolved by the time you read this.
Despite the car's success, Sasha's Z wasn't always the class-leading Time Attack car you think it was and it most certainly never gave that illusion. After initially prepping the car for its first Koni Challenge in '08, its new owner and driver emerged with a pickup truck and a flatbed trailer when most guys had 53-foot haulers. Sasha explains with a modest laugh, "[We raced] professionally with a budget 1/20th the size of the other guys."
By '09, Sasha and crew had found their groove, though, winning a three-hour endurance race alongside legendary co-driver and Yuke's video game developer, Yukinori Taniguchi. From there, the whole operation commenced in earnest with the more reputable VQ35HR engine being swapped into place along with extensive aero mods, including carbon-fiber doors and custom, carbon-fiber airboxes. Soon, this'll all be good for as much as 460 hp, provided the appropriate modifications to the cylinder heads are made.
For Sasha, all of this was a giant stride forward from his first serious car, an SR20DET-swapped S13 that introduced him to all of this—and, initially to street racing—some 14 years ago. Today, his head is screwed on a bit more tightly than it was, and any street-racing tendencies are long gone. He's since founded OnPoint Dyno, a Dynapack-tuning provider that also specializes in race car electronics, track-side team management, driver coaching, and vehicle development. It's a far cry from doing burnouts in an old 240 at two o'clock in the morning on Toronto's back roads.
Ask Sasha how exactly you ought to set up your 240's front suspension or what you can do to eek another 5 hp out of that SR engine and he'll probably tell you. But for now, he's got just one piece of advice: Don't be an idiot. "Could be nice to tell the new generation of kids to not be jackasses on the street," he says, "and to make an effort to do something of substance. It's paid off pretty well for me."