It's over. Ultimate Street Car Challenge, that is-Sport Compact Car's homage to automotive anguish and a contest that's so multi-dimensional that predicting a winner beforehand is all but impossible. Of course, you'll have to wait until next month to read about the contenders. Now, however, I'll give you a quick preview of the people-the personalities behind the ultimate automotive showdown.
USCC is always a last-minute endeavor, with the official vote-in entries dropping out days before the contest, leaving the SCC staff struggling to bring 10 cars to the line. We always manage and it's always a pain in the ass. And when the bulk of the entries are professional car geeks culled from a nationwide fabric of horsepower loonies, trying to pull off an organized car contest is a fantasy at best.
Still, every year they show up. Ten of them, usually with more horsepower than brains. And they're ready to let it all hang out. Some of them have been here before and know every last detail about USCC's complex scoring system.
Those with experience, like Sean Morris and Nick Wong, understand that every last point matters and nitpick every single detail. Morris has been involved in one way or another with every single Skyline GT-R to ever compete in SCC's automotive world series. This year, Morris and Wong were whining before the contest trying to make us ban the Hoosiers, which would eventually adorn four of the top five cars. They're frustratingly annoying, but they play the game better than anyone.
Then there's James Chen, who has also been around the USCC block more than once. Chen returns this year for his third time, hoping to take home a second win. His approach, although slightly less eager than the Skyline boys, is equally comprehensive. Chen's mantra: consistency wins.
On the American iron side of the car world this year is horsepower nut and burnout master Paolo Castellano. Castellano's more-is-better philosophy is obvious in his Viper GTS's claimed 1,000 hp. First impressions last and he made a serious one when, in our maiden phone conversation, he said, "This thing is a bad mother f--ker. It just ran 192 mph in the standing mile." Enough said.
Scott Gray is a lot more subtle about his Eclipse. With a subdued appearance but serious underhood hardware, it's an automotive manifestation of Gray's low-key personality. From north of the border came Canadian Jay Esterer. Here we have all manner of car guy wrapped into one. Esterer has owned everything, from ex-Can Am cars, to a current Subaru WRX STi, to the BMW-powered Ultima GTR he brought to USCC. He re-engineered his Ultima's chassis by building a chassis jig to measure rigidity. True car geeks like this are always welcome at USCC.
Matt Andrews had 48 hours to prepare his Supra for USCC and still managed to look rested and act gentlemanly. Andrews is smart and took the time to carefully spread his effort in the places that matter-a little bit everywhere.
Troy Truglio blasted his way into the USCC the smart way-he petitioned people to vote for him on the Internet. Then he assembled his car in darkness when Hurricane Isabel caused power outages across the East Coast. Then he drove 2,000 miles across the country and was the first entrant to pull into the parking lot and the only one to arrive on time. Thanks, Troy. We like guys like you.
Rich Eager also came from very, very far away to compete in USCC 2003. The Pennsylvania-based owner of Fuzion Autostyling and Performance had to drop out of last year's contest but had the car together in time to be an alternate this year. His brand of performance comes with lots of flare. And about 650 hp. Nice.
Roy Narvaez needed to be voted into the USCC or his car would never have been finished. Luckily, he was and his insane Eclipse was buttoned up by his cronies at Road/Race Engineering. All that matters to Roy is power.
Mike Romano and Todd Sager from AWE Tuning epitomize the spirit of USCC. These guys know how to work hard, spending about 50 of the 72 hours of USCC under Mark Quigley's wicked Audi S4. Their dedication to serious performance is as impressive as the car itself.