Palmdale hosted the first sport compact drag racing event of the 2002 season-the IDRC Advanced Clutch Technology West Coast Nationals. Business was booming as more than 16,000 spectators crowded the stands and some of the wildest cars kept them on their feet. Mazda had a field day as the Wankel ruled the Pro, Outlaw and Street classes, GM made a big splash in its debut and the Japanese invasion was still in effect.
Toyo Tires Pro IV
The Japanese invasion was playing out again at the ACT West Coast Nats as the number one and two qualifiers hailed from the Land Of The Rising Sun. Tatatoshi Wakita and his Blast Racing SC400 set the benchmark with a 7.64-second qualifying effort. The Escort Drag Racing Service 300ZX, piloted by Hiroshi Shiohara, was in second with a 7.77. The field was rounded out by Adam Saruwatari and his twin-turbo NSX at 8.29 and Efren Vazques and the K&N Engineering R100 from Abel Ibarra's stable at 8.60.
The K&N Engineering Mazda upset the top qualifier in the first round as a 1.3-second reaction time killed the Lexus' chances. It should be noted that when the SC400 finally got going it posted an 8.16 to the R100's 8.62. In the other showdown Hiroshi and his Z dropped Adam and his X 7.98 to 8.45. In the finals, the R100 again proved to be an Upset Special as the 300ZX had mechanical problems opening the door to the K&N Mazda which went through that door and took the victory with an 8.41.
Apex Integration Outlaw VIII
The big news here was GM Racing's FWD Cavalier piloted by Stephanie Reaves. We thought is was poignant that GM elected to kick off its FWD drag racing effort at Palmdale's LACR because the phenomenon that is sport compact drag racing was born on this strip of pavement in the high desert. In fact, the first tube-frame front drive also debut in Palmdale. The Cavalier represented The General well qualifying in the number two slot with a 9.29. The turbocharged air-cooled-engined New Beetle of Ron Lummus was head of the class with an 8.95. The rest of the field consisted of Ray Lochhead (9.37), Ed Bergenholtz (9.67), Rene Franco (10.19), Jose Vidal (10.52), Rick Stiles and Dante Villasenor.
In the first round the number seven and eight qualifiers were no shows. This did not subdue the adrenaline of Lummus or Reaves. Lummus generated a 9.04 while Reaves ripped off an 8.895 at 167 mph. This definitely puts GM on the map.
In the semis Lummus continued his winning ways while Reaves squared off with Lochhead and his RX-7. These two were not strangers as they faced one another during qualifications in what was one of the more entertaining contests on Saturday. At the flash of the green both cars lurched and quit running. As the two mighty racers coasted toward the traps the crowd grew louder and louder. When Lochhead's win light flashed with a 22.7 to Reaves' 23.3 the crowd went nuts. The stakes were much higher on Sunday and both cars were on top of their games. Reaves got squirrely and crossed the centerline as Lochhead and his SR Motorsport/ACT Mazda marched into the finals with 9.11. So it was a Lummus versus Lochhead final and both cars were tuned for the showdown. In one of the better contests of the weekend Ray Lochhead got there first with an 8.72 at 153 mph compared to Lummus' 8.98.
Turbo Magazine Quick XVI
The Turbo Magazine Quick XVI was filled with turbocharged fury. The field was dominated by the H as 14 of the 16 cars that contested the class were Hondas. The oddballs were Elino Pavia's RX-3 and Sean Halloway's Skyline; both which lost in the first round. The top qualifier in the class was Bruce Mortensen and the Venom Civic with an impressive 9.28. Second in line was Jojo Callos with a 9.46 followed by Jensen Oda with a 9.84. Oda works at A'pexi and was at the controls of the company's EK Civic test vehicle that he helped build. Working in R&D has its perks. Tony Fuchs, a West Coast founding father, was fourth with a 10.02 and Saverio Leone from Pennsylvania rounded out the top five. We were surprised to see Dominic Conti, a co-worker who runs the Primedia Tech Center, at the race. We were even more surprised (and happy) to see him run a 10.52 and nab the sixth spot on the ladder.
As the competition unfolded the top two qualifiers motored their way into the finals. Bruce Mortensen motivated the Venom Civic to a 9.29 at 155 mph and a 9.17 at 154 mph to gain entrance to the money race. Jojo ran a pair of 9.28s. In the finals the Venom Civic broke and Callos ran a bit off pace-his 10.36 with a 150-mph trap speeds show some traction problems in the early stages but plenty of thrust at the big end. The effort was good enough for $3,500 in cash.
BFGoodrich Street VIII
The BFG Street Class was dominated by the "7" as six of the eight qualifiers were RX-7s. The two odd balls here were an old school Celica and Sean Morris' Skyline GTR. The top half of the field was solidly in the 10s led by Steven Kan in his Rotary Performance/RX7.com Mazda at 10.78. In second was newcomer Peter "Fei Lo" Yeung and his RX-7 street car. At his first race ever Fei Lo put down some impressive numbers running a 10.81 at 133 mph in qualifying and a 10.81 at 131 mph in the semis. He was living a Cinderella story as his semifinal effort was bettered by Sean Morris and his Skyline which ran 10.71. But the Skyline toasted its clutch and couldn't weigh out at the scales so Fei Lo moved on. In the finals the Cinderella story ended as Ari Yallon played the role of the evil step mother in more ways than one. It was a close contest until Fei Lo missed third gear; his 11.85 at 118 mph was not nearly enough for Ari's 10.91 at 127 mph.
Import Tuner All Motor XVI
In All Motor it was five Volkswagens against 11 Hondas. By the semis it was four VWs and a lone Honda. The finals pitted the top two qualifiers against each other in a German-bred showdown. In this battle of the Bugs Shawn Geers and his '67 overpowered Danny Cerny and his '69 10.61 to 10.98 to take the money.
Well, the 2002 season broke from the gate with a good pace. The IDRC Advanced Clutch Technology West Coast Nationals had a good mix of new faces and familiar names and most of all there were plenty of butts in the seats. The racing was good, GM made a successful debut, and there was a good vibe in the air- 2002 should be huge and Turbo magazine will be there all the way.