Scion Performance Challenge 2004
My first time at the Scion Performance Challenge at Pomona Raceway this week was undoubtedly one of the most fun automotive events that I went to this year.
|Click above to see a larger photo of the racetrack
Scion and Scion dealers have been committed to hosting interesting events for journalists, tuners, and the general public since the first xA's and xB's started arriving at the dealers. I hadn't heard of the Scion Performance Challenge before but when I received the invitation from Scion's PR Agency I knew right away this was an event I would want to attend. I skipped out of work early on Tuesday to fly down to Ontario airport in Los Angeles to see what Scion had in store for us.
Meeting up at the airport with some other journalists and our driver, we cruised on over to Fairplex, the site of the Los Angeles County Fair. Within walking distance of the Sheraton is the Wally Parks NHRA Motorsports Museum, a 28,500 square foot museum whose mission is "to preserve, protect, and perpetuate the sport of drag racing." Within the museum are dozens of vintage drag racers from all disciplines of the sport, from a small belly tank racer built in 1948 out of a Lockheed P-38 fighter plane fuel tank to a 32 cylinder, four engine dragster, along with tons of other memorabilia such as vintage helmets, go-karts, and photographs. Drinks and appetizers were followed by a talk by Scion's PR frontman on the west coast, Michael Dobrin, and then a talk by Scion staff and by the drag race legend himself, Wally Parks, on the state of Scion and sport compact racing today. Scion told us that in the coming year the company will be committing even more of its resources to motorsports, and that it is currently negotiating sponsorship deals with NHRA drivers and hopes to have an announcement before the end of the year. After dinner we returned to the hotel (read: the hotel bar for a nightcap) and then to get ready for the race the next day.
Six-thirty in the morning doesn't usually see me at the top of my game but I woke up itching to get the day started at the track. A quick breakfast at the hotel was followed by a shuttle ride to the 1,320 foot long (that's 1/4 mile for those of you counting) Pomona Raceway on the other side of the fairgrounds. Stepping into the arena, I noticed that Scion had brought in more than a dozen tuner cars from around southern California for this event. Five Axis Models, along with president Troy Sumitomo, was touching up the Limo xB, DJ xB, and blinding neon green tC that had all made an appearance at 2004 SEMA in November. Troy showed off the features of the DJ xB, which includes a remote control button that opens the doors, deploys the speakers, extends the DJ's platform, and lifts up the turntables, and within minutes beats from the xB filled the raceway.
|Click above to see more photos of the track|
The Performance Challenge was a little different than other events Scion has invited me to recently. Whereas in Seattle all of the guests were journalists, in Pomona there was a mix of journalists, shop owners, product manufacturers, and Scion personnel. On hand were several people from Injen, Scion Evolution, and Five Axis. The more the merrier, and there were plenty of people there with drag racing experience, but most didn't know what to expect.
We received a short orientation from representatives of NHRA's sport compact division and track staff, and then were shown to the cars. The good: this was the real deal, we were going to race down 1/8 mile of the Pomona Raceway dragstrip, complete with the dragstrip christmas tree. There were official timers and everyone would receive actual scoring slips. The really good: The grand prize for Top Eliminator was a certificate for a set of wheels from Motegi Racing! Scion had definitely lined up a great sponsor to provide the prize. The not-so-good: the Scion tC's were almost completely stock, and all of them were automatic! The game came down to who had the best reaction time, because once you were behind, you weren't gonna catch up. Of course everyone noticed the tiny differences between each of the ten tC's there, such as a spoiler here, a body kit there, although ultimately it was the driver's quickness of the line that decided most of the races.
Each participant got two practice runs down the track. With 1/8 mile times of 10.69 seconds and 10.494 seconds, I wouldn't be breaking any land speed records. That said, the experience — my first time on an actual track — was an absolute blast. The tension as you approach the starting lights, the eternity between the lighting of the pre-stage and stage lights, and then the determination of getting the absolute best time off the blocks, really has to be experienced.
I won my first race of actual competition by 0.2158 seconds, which works out to about 21 feet. Reaction times for most of the drivers were between 0.1 and 0.3 seconds, and so your ability to react exactly right to the lighting of the final green on the christmas tree would pretty much make or break your race. With the automatics of course, most drivers chose to hit the brakes and the gas at the same time as the yellow lights lit up in sequence. A few tried shifting through the L-2-3-D pattern but that didn't seem to provide much benefit.
|With the grand prize of a set of wheels from Motegi Racing, the Top Eliminator could have chosen these Motegi MRM Painted/Machined 18" wheels.|
I got a little confused at the beginning of my second race because I thought I wasn't lined up properly, resulting in a horrible reaction time but actually my fastest top speed: 69.86 mph. But I was edged out by almost 0.3 seconds by competitor Jacob L. of HCI Magazine, who eventually went on to be the Top Eliminator. Jacob drove his tC 69.91 mph over the 1/8 mile track in 10.384 seconds during our race. Drat!
After the race Scion provided lunch and an awards ceremony, then we packed it back into the vans to head out to the airport. A fun day at the track and a great chance to see how fast the stock tC can go.
An event like this is great in many ways. It exposes people to the thrill of drag racing who haven't been there before (me). Many tracks around the country allow you to bring in any vehicle off the street and race them on a 1/4 mile track for a small fee (Redding Drag Strip charges $35-$55 to participate in bracketed racing, and just $10 for a timed run on the track). Also it lets us get a good sense of what a stock tC is capable of (just under 70mph on the 1/8 mile), so you can know what you're starting with when shopping for a tuner car. And of course the drivers get bragging rights — after having been eliminated on my second race, I know I'll be practicing for next year!
Last, but not least, I did spy a Scion tC with a TRD supercharger. Get some more info.
View the ScionZone.Com Scion Performance Challenge 2004 Gallery
Special thanks to Michael and Catherine Dobrin of MDPR, and all our friends at Scion.