Racing runs in our blood. It's a national pastime, a cult following, and practically a religion as automotive forums have become more common and popular than basketball and boxing Web sites. Almost every little town in Puerto Rico has at least one tuning shop, and more than four racetracks are on an island that's no bigger than 100 by 35 miles, with more being built as you read this.
Dealing with such energy and demand, Puerto Rico has at least two sanctioned tracks running special programs to take racing off the streets. Every Monday both tracks are packed with young car enthusiasts -who'd otherwise most likely run illegally on public roads-asking around "Where are you going tonight?" More than likely the answer is "Pa' la pista de Carolina" (to the Carolina racetrack). Some tracks are even open three or four days a week.
The action is also intense in cyberspace as www.carrito.net, one of the premier tuning sites in Puerto Rico, usually has more than 4,000 users talking about their cars and helping each other out every night.So next time you think about Puerto Rico, forget about Ricky Martin because the real "vida loca" is going down at local dragstrips. The real stars have less flamboyant names: La Rata (9-second WRX), Gibo STI (10.6-second STI with stock internals), Predator (10.5 et. daily driver), Raceman (10.8-second stock turbo Evo), Procco (9.2 e.t. pizza delivery Evo), and Chuco (153mph trap speed). These are only a few of the local scene heroes, and their accomplishments don't require them to shake their hips. Rather, they attain their stardom by running single-digit e.t.'s with grocery-getters.
Is there anywhere on the planet that calls a low 11-second car slow? Puerto Rico is such a place. I'm not trying to be funny here, having an all-boost car with 600-plus- whp is no longer something to brag about or get respect for-unless that car can do 9s at the strip.
Puerto Rico has always been known for its ability to build small cars with incredible power-to-weight ratios and taking the least common platforms down that same efficient path to performance. Browse through magazines in Puerto Rico and you'll find hYdra ECUs, owner-tuned cars doing 10s, and unpopular cars like PT Cruisers, Hyundai Elantras, and Mitsubishi Mirages blasting 11s or 10s at the strip, then driving home to go to work or school the next day.
Tuning and fabrication is something Puerto Ricans do well. We have to be since most of our endeavors aren't common and the expected results are beyond common bolt-ons. Think about this, who has an intake manifold capable of handling 30-plus-psi nitrous for a PT Cruiser or a 100 percent plug-and-play standalone for a supercharged Hyundai Tiburon? Nobody, but they exist now thanks to Puerto Rican ingenuity. The local magicians have humble and curious names, SUC (speed unit crew), Team NASA (Nerds Applying Science to Automobiles), RRT (Rata Racing Team), GP (Georgie Performance), and Red Star are only a few of the local heroes.
Puerto Rico serves up the ultimate combination plate for serious performance enthusiasts, and I hope to bring some of that flavor home to you in this column. Until next time,adios.-Johnny
Editor's Note: Johnny Fargas is neck deep in the Puerto Rican tuning scene with his Web site, carrito.net, and his own Mitsubishi Evo, which was featured in Turbo a few issues back. His enthusiasm for turbos and tuning and the long-standing respect Turbo has had for Puerto Rico led us to create this Puerto Rico Connection column. Stay tuned as Johnny continues to tap the pulse of Puerto Rico, bringing the island's enthusiasm and innovation to our readers.