Undoubtedly, the man of the moment when it comes to going fast at time attack racing, is Chris Rado. In just a few years of jumping into the sport after a long and successful career in drag racing, he set the bar extremely high when his Scion tC broke records (a lot of them), and is currently preparing his next car to make its grand debut to take on the world's best at Superlap Australia's World Time Attack Challenge (which will be taking place shortly after you read this, most likely). It's a labor of love that comes with its share of struggles but nobody deserves the success more than Chris. We sat with one of the most equally loved and hated racers of our generation to talk about the past, present and the possible future to see how he's going to continue killing the FWD Unlimited classes at your favorite time attack series, including ours.
My start with FWD cars? Well, I have two older sisters and after each one went off to college, I'd take their car. Both of them had '88 Acura Integras that I'd take out and have fun with. I drove them like I stole the shit out of them. I was always doing crazy stunts whenever I could. I don't know how I got away with the things I was doing, but I did. Those cars never went that fast and I always wanted to go faster. But hey, what can you do with a 100hp motor?
My sisters' Integras taught me a lot about what I know about FWD cars today.
The summer of '93, Acura started selling the '94 Integra GS-R, the one with the best VTEC engine. I bought that car July 23, 1993, a week before my 18th birthday, and the second I got it, it was on.
Funny thing is, I was also deciding between a '93 Prelude VTEC and a Mustang Cobra. Good thing insurance on those two was high, plus I thought keeping it in the family would be a better idea. Imagine where I would've gone if I bought the Cobra?
At first I drove the Integra around to look cool; we didn't really have a scene, not on the East Coast at least. Then I started reading Turbo magazine and saw all these guys - Myles Bautista, Tony Fuchs, Dave Shih - I knew I had to be a part of that somehow. It was my dream.
I realized at tech school that all the stereo stuff I was installing was slowing me down. I needed performance. I wanted to go faster. I spent the summer of '94 in Maryland at Metro Motorworks learning how to piece my own turbo kit together. After I blew the motor at a local street race, I decided it was time to get serious. Remember all those guys I was reading about? I had to build the motor and I needed to do it right.
After collecting parts for a year and a half, I felt like I had to pack up my shit and get out to California. That's where all the action was - the heart and soul, you know? I didn't know anyone when I got here. My first stop was at RPS and I took it upon myself to learn from the best: Rob Smith.
When I finished my Integra and brought it out to the track, people were like "Who the hell is this guy?" Nobody ran 9s yet and there I was with a 9.98 dial-in. A lot of people were clowning me, and righteously so.
Rob wouldn't let me drive my own car because he thought I wasn't up-to-par with the best. I cut better lights consistently against some of his best guys and to this day, let's just say I've never been left at the lights. In my 12 years of drag racing, never - unless something happened to the car.
I desperately wanted to dominate FWD [drag racing]. I wanted to be the guy who would be remembered for doing it. The fastest my Integra went was 8.91 at 161mph. Sorry to say, the car is long gone; I chopped it up last year. I'm still drag racing a few times a year but for now, I'm just having so much fun doing time attack.
I'm building projectiles. I have a drag car that turns and brakes. My current FWD car has the drivetrain of a drag car and twice the ignition of a Top Fuel funny car. It's drag race inspired speed combined with the best ingenuity I can think of - except it can drive around a track.
It's not about the prestige of a motorsport that I'm involved in. I'm about innovation and having fun. Showing people what technology can do and has done for us. I love the challenge of doing something new and cool that's grassroots - that's what I'm all about.
I'd be lying if I said I came up with the idea for my front wing but I didn't. I give all the credit to Ron Mathis, who crew-chiefed on many teams over the years, including the Super Touring series back in the 90s. I told him I wanted to get serious about time attack and asked what we could do to make the car better, especially being a FWD car that's struggling to do what it needs to do.
He told me in his heavy British accent, "I think we need to add a great big wing off the front of the car." I'm thinking low to the ground, like a splitter; he said, "No, higher up in the clean air - otherwise it's just a splitter." Having a front-end wing plus a splitter meant more downforce, the kind I'd need to get the power I was making down to the ground. There was no other way.
I knew the wing was going to look ridiculous but you know, I've been looking ridiculous my whole life. What's the difference? I'm here to go fast and do what it takes to go fast. I read the rules and they were wide open so the wing went on there.
Our FWD car is meant to haul ass. It gets at speed fast and can stay there. We don't have the cornering or exiting grip like some but she's the fastest when it comes to sheer speed. It easily has another three more seconds it can do at its current setup.
Am I the guy that people either love or love to hate? Sure. Any time you're on top of your game at anything, you're the target. I've pretty much had a bull's eye painted on my back. Whether it gets bigger every year, that's cool with me. I love what we're doing and I'm working with the best group of guys in this scene. I don't think there's a team who has or can do what our team has done and I'm very proud of that.
Just wait until you see the new car for 2010. It's AWD and I'll be debuting it at the Superlap Australia event. It's going to blow your mind away.