Nobody loves old-school imports more than Puerto Ricans. Their motto, "If it's not an older body import, then it's not worth building." Most of these Puerto Rican powerhouses are packin' a rotary, 3TC or 2TC, and are going faster than the laws of physics say they should. The Pan American Nationals is an ongoing battle of piston vs. rotary; Puerto Rico vs. USA and, as usual, all bets are settled at Atco Raceway.
USA And, As Usual, All Bets Are Settled At Atco Raceway.The new millennium saw the Nats get off to a record-breaking start, with more spectators and racers than ever. This predominately Puerto Rican event has been on going strong for nine years and each year, Puerto Rico's top racers are invited out for some awesome drag race action on U.S. soil.
A close call with Mother Nature put this year's show in jeopardy. The word was out the event would most likely be rained on, and sure enough, the rain came pouring down. After a two-hour rain delay, the track officials spent another two hours drying and prepping the track. Now a four-hour delay is a long time for anybody, but this crowd was pumped and blood-thirsty for burnouts. Personally, we wouldn't be too surprised if no one left the track, because even after the downpour, it was still a standing-room-only event.
The much-talked-about Sakura was a headliner for Team Puerto Rico. Days before the event, driver Erik Torres and crew decided to do a few last minute dyno pulls before hitting the track. They discovered the car was down on power and they were using every trick in the book to get the Mitsubishi to run correctly. By day's end, it was obvious the Mirage's low mph was not up to par. Torres was able to turn a day's best of 7.89, but with a 158 mph trap speed. This car can normally break into the 7.5 range while attaining more than 170 mph in the traps. Only Team Sakura can be disappointed with a 7.89.
No stranger to the tube-chassis market was Kike Shields out of Puerto Rico. Every tube-chassis car representing Puerto Rico at this event was built out of Kike's Chassis shop. Kike (pronounced "Key Kay") was not suspension tuning PR's race cars as one would expect, he was on hand to pilot one of his creations owned by Julio Portela. His date for the day was a '72 Datsun powered by a 13B rotary. With Kike behind the wheel, the car ran consistent 9.2s in competition and one 18.35 in the semis due to a bye-run. Since PR vs. USA is run bracket-style, the edge goes to the consistent driver/car. In the end, Kike's hours of labor building the car paid off, as the Datsun won the event and Kike's wallet was $10,000 heavier.
Brendon Alvarez out of Miami is a familiar face at the Nats, as he is one of America's Top Guns. This year he was a little harder to recognize, because of his new car. Brendon's 8-second, PSI-sponsored, piston-powered Toyota Corolla has been replaced by a pistonless '93 tube-chassis RX-7. The new car did not miss a beat, and qualified number one for Team USA with an 8.6. Kike Shields eliminated Brendon in the second round due to a break out time. The RX-7 dialed in an 8.95 and ran an 8.94, ouch.
Almost missing the last round qualifier was Marcos Acosta. The team made a late arrival on Saturday and just as they were getting ready to make a pass, rain came pouring down. Due to the rain on Saturday, Marcos had to make a qualifying pass Sunday morning to lock in the number two spot for Team USA. Since the car only had one qualifying pass, Marcos was unable to figure out a correct dial-in on the MX-3, which is why his slower-than-normal 8.9 dial in was shattered in the first round with an 8.69.