Lastly, we come to the main event. As usual, the time attack portion of the Modified Tuner Shootout is held on the main course at Firebird International Raceway. A thin and oblong-shaped track, Firebird’s 14-turn main course isn’t the most forgiving of places. Utilizing a variety of surface changes, an inexperienced or fatigued driver has plenty of opportunities to make costly mistakes, including the area after turn 14 onto the front straight (which doubles as the launch pad of the dragstrip), where excessive tire buildup and marbling can cause unpredictable traction conditions. Despite the difficult nature of Firebird Raceway, our competitors were eager to get on with it — after all, the time attack is the most highly anticipated and sought-after portion of our Shootout, offering a maximum 100 points to whoever turns the fastest lap. Each team is sent out in groups for a 20-minute practice session, then the drivers are allowed one warm-up lap, three hot laps to clock the fastest single lap time possible, and one cool-down lap.
As the first group of drivers headed out for the practice session, we could tell the competition would be close. The AWD cars looked like they would be the fastest of the day, utilizing the extremely long front straightaway to gain ground on cars with less power and taking full advantage of the added traction of extra drive-wheels by maintaining the lead throughout the cornered section of the track as well. All said and done, JC Meynet clocked the quickest lap of the day, a 1:01.983 that was enough to score his team another 100 points. In close second was Thomas Smith in the Zenkai Motorsports STI, turning a cool 1:03.090, just over 1 second off JC’s intense pace. Tony of UMS put on a heck of a showing as well, managing a 1:04.431, the quickest time we’ve seen from this car since it has been participating in our event. Tony’s friendly local rival team, Snail Performance, clocked in next with a 1:05.083, followed closely by a time of 1:05.130 by Mike Speck in the ScienceofSpeed NSX. All top-five finishers in the time attack portion of the Shootout scored over 95 points — again, very close!
Jeremy Renshaw came in sixth with a respectable time of 1:05.546 in the AFI Turbo S2000, which was enough to earn the team 94.56 points in the final standings. Tage pulled in next, clocking a 1:06.905 — just over 1 second slower than his time last year. Oscar Jackson Jr. pulled off a 1:07.213 in the Sportcar Motion Type-R, with KSport again closing up the rear of the pack with a 1:10.095.
One of the biggest problems with this course is that it gives a definite advantage to high-horsepower cars. With its over half-mile front straight, the course gives powerful cars a lot of time to gain ground on the smaller, less-heavily-equipped cars. Not to downplay any cars that do well on the main course, but in the interest of leveling the playing field, there have been rumors and water cooler talk around the office of running our time attack on Firebird’s East Track next year, which is a shorter and more technical course.
Tony of UMS put on a heck of a showing as well, managing a 1:04.431, the quickest time we’ve seen from this car since it has been participating in our event.