Tough to imagine anything other than drag racing as the method for solving automotive shoe-size contests, but sanctioned top speed charges were once the only legal method of proving your horsepower muscle. For decades, the Bonneville salt flats and the El Mirage dry lake bed (in Utah and California respectively) were the hot spots and competitors didn't just sprint through quarter-mile spurts. No, they screamed flat out for miles-miles!;to reach the proper top end speed.
Sometime in the late '70s, the top speed bug found its way over to Japan, and the place hasn't been right since. The Japanese are crazy for it. Forget about Elvis haircuts, robotic dogs, and crazy game shows;top speed is the be-all-and-end-all (and everything in- between) over there. You think Skylines pulling 8-second quarters at Palmdale are cool? Just imagine doing near-200mph speeds in a 6km stretch on a wet country road in New Zealand. That's apples to watermelons, baby, and that's exactly what this Top Secret GT-300 Supra did last year.
The Top Secret GT-300 Supra is one of a small cadre of top-end monsters that have become legends in Japan, one that includes the JUN Impreza WRX and the VeilSide Street Drag R-34 Skyline GT-R. The recipe is simple: make it low, mean, and purposeful; boost it till its within whizzing distance of blowing a gasket; and run it like the Mummy is tailing you. And, of course, paint it gold. Easy, right? Sure, you try it. A quarter-mile compared to three (or six) miles of your right foot trying to stomp a hole in the floorboard while trying not to die? Suddenly drag racing seems quaint by comparison.
Top-end racing, as you may imagine, takes a whole different car setup than drag racing. Drag racing values low-end torque;pulling yourself to a screaming blur from a standing start in less time than it takes to tell. Torque helps to get you moving, but horsepower takes over once you're underway, and this is where a Top Secret car comes into play. The transplanted 3G-STE has been punched out to 2.2L and breathes deep via a Trust T-8834D turbine unit (see sidebar). Wind things out to 9,000 rpm, a rev range in which even hearty super-bike riders lose their nerves, and you're flying. How about 190-plus mph at 8,000 rpm in Fourth gear, still another grand to go on the clock, and two more gears in the double overdrive box? You can gear it to the moon, but if you don't have the sheer fortitude to break through the air, it don't matter. Considering this beast sports a wide body kit and 245-wide tires, increasing frontal area and aerodynamic drag, there's grunt to spare.
Balance is another difference between draggers and top-enders. In a rear-drive drag-oriented Supra, you want weight to transfer over the rear wheels for maximum traction from the fat slicks; this includes skinny tires up front and 90/10 front shocks to keep as much weight on the rear wheels for as long as possible. Additionally, all but the hairiest strip stars derive little benefit from aero add-ons. In a top-ender, you want even weight distribution all around, and what the factory and weight jacking won't provide, you can make up for with aerodynamic downforce (check the bi-level carbon-fiber wing to keep the arse end from floating away at speed).
Even the hoods serve different functions. On drag cars, you want to cram as much air into the engine as possible, usually by means of a scoop. With top-end cars, a solid hood means the engine bay becomes a high pressure area, trapping hot air around the engine. Unable to escape underneath the car, this hot air lifts the nose of the car up-making steering a vague approximation of its low-speed self. (Not the most confidence-inspiring feeling you'll encounter at 150-plus, I assure you.) Those hood vents aren't there for sheer good looks or even aerodynamics; they let the hot engine bay air out of the car, and help keep the nose planted.
For American racers of an older generation, top-end-charge racing (whether it's on salt flats or pavement or a dry lake bed) is the only kind of racing there is. In Japan, this is still the case. For once, in this regard, maybe the Top Speed isnt such a different animal.