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NHRA Sport Compact Nationals & Other News - Spinout

All the News Without Fear or Favor

Sep 1, 2003
0309_sccp_03_z+drag_racing_car+burnout Photo 1/1   |   NHRA Sport Compact Nationals & Other News - Spinout

Continuing sport compact drag racing's rapid descent in e.t., at May's NHRA Sport Compact Nationals at Old Bridge Township Raceway Park in New Jersey, George Ioannou took his purple Bullish Motor Racing Toyota Solara to the first run in the 6.70s for the series. Setting a new Pro RWD record at what is his home track, Ioannou ran a 6.786 at 205 mph during the first round of eliminations, and then went on to sweep the event.

Ioannou's screaming pass actually wasn't the quickest of the weekend, as Matt Scranton blasted a 6.745 e.t. in his Turbonetics Celica. Considering that performance, expect Pro RWD to hit the 6.60s by mid-season and, we're going out on a limb here, the 6.50s by the end of the year.

The e.t. record in the "old" NHRA's Pro-Stock (pushrod V8) class is currently 6.670, set by Greg Anderson in a Pontiac Grand Am at Englishtown two weeks after Ioannou and Scranton hit the 6.70s. We're betting by the end of this year, the e.t. record in the NHRA Sport Compact Series' Pro RWD class will be lower than that in Pro Stock.

You read it here first.

Inside Saturn's Blown EcotecSaturn is on the verge of selling the very first vehicle in its history that could plausibly be called "exciting." As surprising as that is in itself, the comprehensive reworking of the Ecotec engine that will be powering the ION Red Line is maybe even more so.

It was already known that the blown Ecotec would feature a displacement drop from 2.2 to 2.0 liters, but we didn't know it was achieved by dropping the stroke from 94.6mm to 86.0mm to match the 86.0-mm bore. The blower, it turns out, is the 62-ci Eaton Roots-style vaned air pusher with an integral bypass valve and a water-to-air intercooler crammed in just below it. Driven at 1.85 times engine speed, the supercharger huffs in up to 12 pounds of boost up to the point when the fuel is shut off at 6500 rpm. Other elements to the package include a 68-mm throttle body, a forged steel crankshaft, oil-cooled pistons with an oil cooler, and an engine computer calibrated to slurp only premium grade hydrocarbons.

Saturn still hasn't determined final output numbers, but it's predicting 200 hp at 6200 rpm and 200 lb-ft of peak torque at 4400 rpm when the car goes on sale this fall. That's a thick 63 hp better than the naturally aspirated 2.2-liter version of the engine in the regular ION, but will it be enough to take on the turbocharged Dodge Neon R/T?

Now TestifyinG Against You:One at the trial debated that Edwin Matos' 2002 Trans Am rammed into a car driven by Jamie Maier, 16, last August in Pembroke Pines, Fla., as it backed out of a driveway. And no one was contending that Maier and her passenger Paige Kupperman, 17, weren't dead after their car subsequently slammed into a tree. The question was, what exactly was the Trans Am doing when it hit Maier's car? And would knowing what the Trans Am was doing aid in convicting Matos of vehicular homicide?

Like many new cars, Matos' Trans Am (similar to the one in the photo) was equipped with an "event data recorder" that put everything from the car's speed to the throttle position, brake pedal pressure and whether or not the driver's seatbelt was latched into memory stretching back to five seconds just before the airbags deployed.

These days, most people whose cars have event data recorders aboard don't realize they're there. GM and Ford have been on the leading edge of getting the devices into cars as a way of monitoring real world accidents and then using the data to design future cars that deal with those conditions. Though technically the data in each recorder belongs to the owner of the car, under subpoena the data can also be used as evidence in a civil or criminal proceeding.

"This is going to be a common tool in prosecuting traffic homicide cases now," says Broward County prosecutor Michael Horowitz, who pressed the Matos case, to the "Miami Herald."

In fact, the Matos case isn't the first time the event data recorder has shown up in court. According to "USA Today," the black boxes have previously been used in clearing one driver in another Florida criminal case and in April, a police officer in Arlington Heights, Ill., won a $10 million judgment in compensation for severe injuries he incurred in 2000 when his cruiser was struck by a hearse. The hearse's driver had claimed he had blacked out just before the accident, but the recorder instead showed that he had accelerated to 63 mph just seconds before he reached the intersection where the collision occurred, and then slammed on his brakes just before hitting the officer's vehicle.

"USA Today" even cited the 1992 case of Jerome Brown, a professional football player whose survivors had claimed in a $30 million suit that the airbags in his Corvette deployed after he hit a pothole, causing him to hit a tree. The recorder indicated the bags had been triggered when the car hit the tree, just as they had been designed to do, and the relatives lost their suit.

In the Matos case, a blood test after the accident allegedly showed he was drunk at the time, but the judge threw out that evidence because Matos hadn't consented to taking the test. According to the "Associated Press," the subpoenaed recorder data from his Pontiac indicated the car was going 114 mph just 5 seconds before the accident with the accelerator pedal at 99 percent of its full travel. A second before the crash, the car was still going 103 mph.

Matos' jury believed the black box and convicted him of manslaughter and vehicular homicide. While sentencing was pending as this is written, he faces up to 30 years in prison. "I don't think [the box] should have been admitted in this case," Matos' defense attorney Robert Stanziale said to the South Florida "Sun-Sentinel." "There is absolutely no safeguard in place to determine what that [box] read was the actual speed the car was traveling. If you don't tell the car that you made the adjustments, the [box] will read the wrong speeds." An appeal is planned.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) did do a study of automotive event recorders and found that in nearly 700 cases, according to "USA Today," there were problems in recovering data from 40 percent of them. That's the sort of failure rate that's sure to come into play with defense attorneys and constitutional rights advocates as the profile of event recorders increases over the next few years.

Rumors&Lies* Smart, the tiny subsidiary of Mercedes that builds tiny cars, has shown its "forfour" prototype that's rumored headed for America.

* In April, Ford built its 100 millionth V8 engine. Talk about a major distraction.

* The Canadian province of Ontario is talking about banning nitrous oxide use in automobiles.

* GM's German Opel division is supposedly plotting a return to the United States.

* The Honda Accord has been named the "Most Washable Car of 2003" at the 2003 Car Care World Expo in Las Vegas. When you start looking forward to hitting up Vegas for the Car Care World Expo, life isn't worth living any more.

* Exactly one year after meeting at a Subaru owners' club "group drive," Kristi M. Powell and Jerry Hagan, a business manager for Prestige Subaru in Asheville, N.C., were married on Saturday, May 17, 2003. The wedding was in front of more than 150 friends, family and fellow Subaru car owners at the place where they met, Fontana Village in Fontana, N.C. Our bet is they'll name the first kid "Impreza." Or maybe they'll name the kid "Imprezo" if it's a boy. If they name the kid WRX, that's just sick...

* A new state law in California provides for the confiscation of vehicles that participate in "sideshows" doing donuts or other stunts in parking lots illegally. There go our summer travel plans.

For more Rumors & Lies, go to the web at.sportcompactcarweb.com

Just Driven:2004 Subaru Forester 2.5 XT and Baja TurboThere's no such thing as too many turbocharged Subarus in the world. So the world will be a sunnier, brighter, hip-hap-happier place this fall when the new turbocharged Forester 2.5 XT small sport ute and Baja Turbo four-door trucklet go on sale.

The addition of a turbocharger system to the 2.5-liter, DOHC, 16-valve flat-four they share makes both the Forester and Baja more powerful vehicles. And the functional scoops added to their hoods to feed the intercoolers make them look tougher. Otherwise, the Forester and Baja don't differ much from their atmosphere-breathing forebearers. So their all-independent suspension systems (struts on front or both, more struts out back for the Forester, and a multi-link system in back for the Baja), their all-wheel-drive systems and their four-wheel disc brakes with ABS all pretty much carry over. The one exception is the Baja has been raised a little higher on its springs to make it appear more off-roady.

This isn't the WRX engine slammed into other cars. It's a low-key single turbo system producing a maximum 11.6 psi of boost that thickens the 2.5's output from 165 to 210 hp at 5600 rpm and a hearty 235 lb-ft of torque at 3600 rpm. It's one of the least peaky, least temperamental turbo engines yet conceived, with torque from off idle up to the point when redline police arrive to arrest you. The only downside to the turbo engine is it requires high-octane fuel.

The Forester 2.5 XT is simply the most engaging small SUV to drive yet. The power delivery with the five-speed manual transmission and its "continuous all-wheel-drive" system (which uses a viscous-coupling limited slip center differential) is so friendly, you expect it to ask you to buy Amway products. Set low to the ground and with precise steering response and 215/60HR-16 Yokohama Geolander tires, the XT 2.5 dives into corners like an Impreza. That shouldn't be a surprise since the Forester is an Impreza underneath anyhow.

The Baja is larger than the Forester so the boost in horsepower to 210 really only means it's adequately powerful now instead of underpowered as it was originally. Also, it's available only with a four-speed automatic transmission and the electronically controlled all-wheel-drive system. The Baja Turbo and Forester 2.5 XT will be on sale late this summer, with prices around the mid-$20K range for the Forester and a bit more than that for the Baja.

Cunningham Moves to NissanPeter Cunningham and his RealTime Racing (www.realtimerl.com) team have been knocking Acuras around America's road racing circuits for more than a decade. But while RealTime will continue campaigning Integras, RSXs and NSXs, Cunningham himself is now planted in a Nissan Sentra SE-R Spec V in the Speed Touring Car Championship.

Cunningham isn't just the driver of the Nissan, he's also listed as the owner of the new team formed to campaign it, TeamRTR (www.team-rtr.com). But six-time SCCA champion Cunningham still owns RealTime and... and... and... this is all so confusing.

Entering its first race at Mosport in May, TeamRTR's Sentra qualified sixth and then broke a half-shaft during the race's standing start. That's what happens when the torque of the big 2.5-liter race-prepared four is applied all at once through the six-speed transmission. It's also the sort of teething pain which all new cars and teams go through, and with backing from Nissan and a full complement of Nismo components around, it's probably not going to take long before the Sentra is SE-Riously kicking some heinie.

MG Goes To BonnevilleMost of SCC's readers weren't even born when MG crept out of the U.S. market in humiliation back in 1980. But that doesn't mean MG has completely forgotten about us.

By the way, do you know that MG is British? Well, it is.

Anyhow, MG hooked up with SO-CAL Speed Shop here in the United States to put together an assault on some land speed records. The vehicle for such an effort turned out to be the MG X15 Bonneville wagon with a Roush-built, 765-hp Ford V8 under its hood and shakedown runs at about 164 mph on California's Lake Mirage dry lakebed. The MG is scheduled to compete this June at El Mirage before heading to Bonneville to make some record attempts. The car was built to celebrate production of the MG ZT XPower 385 sportswagon, which is powered by a supercharged 4.6-liter Ford V8.

The eclectic SO-CAL Speed Shop has been around-off and on-for 50 years and the MG is typical of the wild ideas that become reality over there. For more info, hit them up at www.so-calspeedshop.com. MG itself is on the Web at www.mg-rover.com.

Question Of The MonthEveryone loves power. But what power is the best is open to debate. So our question this month is:

"If you could only have one power adder on your engine, what would it be?"

Pick your poison: turbo, supercharger, nitrous or some top-secret technology .

Make your argument for whatever technology it is you prefer and do it eloquently and amusingly. Then send it to SCCNews@Primedia.com. E-mail only please, we've been finger-painting around here and don't want to mess up any paper you send us.

Spied: Lotus Elise for AmericaOf all the cars that aren't available here, none are more delectably enticing than Lotus' Elise sportster. Built with minimal mass in mind, the Elise has the reflexes of a glue-sniffing gazelle and the tenacious grip of a starving falcon on a fat rat. It's elemental car building at its most elementally attractive. And now it's on the verge of coming here.

In order to get the Elise here, the prototypes on display here are powered by 190-hp versions of Toyota's 2.2-liter VVTi powerplant mated to a Toyota manual transaxle. Subtle changes from the normal Elise include a relocated exhaust (it's now in the center, allowing air diffusers on either side of the undertray) and five-lug hubs in back (up from four).

With a Toyota drivetrain and a tweaked structure to pass U.S. requirements, the Elise should be here by 2005.

Castrol Engine GiveawayThe Castrol Syntec "Build Your Dream Engine" is premised on the idea that the powerful engine you've been imagining in your head deserves to be in your car. Castrol's contest is designed to "tap the knowledge of automotive enthusiasts and lovers of high-performance vehicles" with two grand prize winners taking $5,000 home to buy aftermarket parts to make their dream engine a reality. One winner will win in the category for domestic performance V8s and the other winner will imagine a great import-style engine.

Buy four quarts or more of Castrol Syntec motor oil from any participating Castrol retailer and you're eligible to enter the contest. All you do is describe how you would use the $5,000 to build your "dream engine" and correctly answer five short-answer questions testing your knowledge about domestic or import engines. The entry form is also up on the Web at www.dreamengine.castrolusa.com. The grand prize winners in the domestic and import divisions will be determined by a panel of experts, including members of the automotive media, who will judge automotive knowledge, accuracy and originality.

Not everyone will get the first prize, but the first 20,000 Build Your Dream Engine contest entrants who send in eligible entries will receive a CD that includes music, videos, screen savers, profiles of Castrol drag racers, NHRA Powerade and Sport Compact Series race information, and Castrol Syntec savings.

Burnout of the MonthDavid Burkhardt , 2001 Acura CL Type-SOverland Park, KS

Have you destroyed your fair share of tires this summer?

What? You haven't even driven a single set off the rims? Then hurry and destroy a couple while there's still some summer left. Take pictures of the blue haze consuming them and send the photos to SCCNews@Primedia.com as digital attachments. Or go for the slow, Luddite alternative and ship them to us here at Burnouts, Sport Compact Car Magazine, 774 Placentia Ave., Placentia, CA 92870.

Turbocharged Ecotec Race EngineTheoretically, you can build this 1,000-hp turbocharged Ecotec for yourself using the GM Performance Parts catalog and a humongous turbocharger system.

Showcased at SEMA's International Auto Salon, the turbocharged racing Ecotec is already running in sport compact drag racing and, as in Nelson Hoyos' NHRA victory at Englishtown, winning. The actual turbo isn't available through GM, but race-prepared blocks, ported DOHC cylinder heads, steel billet cranks, connecting rods, pistons, copper head gaskets, aluminum intake manifolds, cams, countershafts, and intake and exhaust manifold flanges are available.

Most of the castings used in building an Eco Turbo (Turbo Eco? EcoCharger? TurboTec? Pick one.) are production pieces, including the block and head. "With the GM Ecotec global powerplant, we're making over 1,000 hp," says GM Racing sport compact program manager Josh Peterson, "and the majority of the engine components are production parts. We're using a production block, production main bearing girdle, production cylinder head, and a production drive chain. It's simply amazing what we can do with this basic engine package. We believe we will ultimately reach more than 1,150 hp before we exceed the limits of the production parts."

Back in the '50s, GM committed itself to making the Chevrolet small-block V8 the high-performance standard in both racing and on the street. And for nearly 50 years, it has been-at least on Planet Hot Rod. Don't underestimate the ability of a committed, determined and well-financed GM to dominate a market.

SRTforumswww.srtforums.comAfter we pronounced the Dodge Neon SRT-4 the meanest sport compact in the land, you knew it was only a matter of time before the inevitable forums site dedicated to it appeared. Well, here it is-the first SRT-4 site that we know about.

"Thought you guys would like to check out our site," writes Jeff "el_jefe" Gibbons. "We are the premier Web site for the SRT-4, with a growing population of auto enthusiasts who are actively modifying their cars. We also have several representatives from the companies providing the leading edge performance products for this new car. We tend to be a little loose as far as our structure, which seems to attract a wide range of people to this site. (One of our moderators drives a MkIV Supra, and several WRX drivers are prominent contributors, and provide the occasional reality check to some of our more enthusiastic members.) Oh yeah, we also have porn."

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