If you've taken a look at our front cover and noticed the giant words 'Ultimate Speed' plastered all over it, then you're probably wondering what the hell is going on. Isn't this Sport Compact Car, not Aviation Enthusiasts Monthly?
Fear not, we've haven't lost our minds or changed the focus of this magazine. We still love tinkering with our cars and there are no plans for a Project MiG. At least none that I'm aware of (although the former Soviet Union has been sending me invoices of late).
The opportunity presented itself to have a test session with Rhys Millen's Formula Drift Pontiac Solstice and Travis Pastrana's Rally America Subaru Impreza WRX STI. Luckily for us, both are sponsored by energy drink giant, Red Bull.
It was with the gracious help of Stephanie 'Sam' Haber at Red Bull, who leveraged quite the sponsor muscle, that we were able to get both cars together on the same day to carry out comparison testing. But it wasn't easy. The crew from Vermont SportsCar trailered the STI out to California with a set-up that had just been put through its paces at Rally Colorado and was ready to run in the season finale, Lake Superior Rally, mere days after our test. Millen's hectic schedule meant the Solstice came straight from the Formula D season-ender at Irwindale Speedway without any changes to speak of.
And then, lo and behold, Haber let it slip that Red Bull also had on hand a MiG-15 fighter plane and an ace pilot, Bill Reesman, who could join in the testing. Red Bull founder, Dietrich Mateschitz, is apparently an eclectic mechanical collector, best exemplified by his ownership of not one, but two Formula One teams. It's because of his tastes that Red Bull has become the owner or sponsor of such varied machinery, although no Flugtag machines came up in conversation.
Why not test a plane with our two cars? It makes perfect sense. Many racing car parts, like aerodynamics, hardware grades, carbon fiber composites and fluid fittings, are derived directly from the aerospace industry. The trickle-down effect from the racing world into the performance aftermarket means that a hopped-up Civic has a little bit of aeroplane DNA in it. But a jet can do banking maneuvers at g-levels that would make your 1g skidpad-loving head spin. So we lined up all three machines on asphalt, dirt and air, and let 'em loose in front of our radar gun. Then we figured out how much each one costs and what kind of experience that kind of cash can buy. We hope the story will open a few eyes about racing, performance numbers and being locked away in any variant of mechanical creation.
And you won't have to just read about it. You can also hear it and see it move as well. Speed Channel's Redline TV show made an appearance at our test day, interested in seeing how the most in-depth compact performance magazine carries out its testing. So check out how we put this story together and catch a clip of Millen and Pastrana doing what they both do best: driving fast cars perfectly sideways and under complete control. The Redline TV episodes should be airing on Speed Channel at just about the same time as this issue ends up in your hands.
There are lots of ways to get your kicks and building a car that can spank a jet fighter is not easy. But it sure is fun to try. Red Bull gave us wings and helped us fly away with this test. And you know what? That's a good thing.