The Aloha Nationals was a success on many fronts. According to track officials the event ran very smooth and the attendance was outstanding. Furthermore the action was feverish. The draw of the tropical atmosphere may entice more racers to island jump next year. Already Turbo's entire staff is lining up to cover the Aloha Nats 2001.
The Turbo Magazine TouchOne thing you might not be aware of is the fact that every Turbo staffer has, or used to have, some behind-the-wheel experience in import drag racing. Ask any of us to give up the camera and keyboard for a chance to pilot a race-car and there would a scramble for the keys. Whether the car is a 15-second bracket racer or a full race-spec 9-second screamer, rest assured someone would answer the call.
At this event, I noticed one of the cars shipped out from California was on display and not racing at the Nats. The car was a 240SX with a V-spec S-15 conversion motivated by a fairly stock SR20DET. Why? I asked IDRC director Wayne Kiang what the deal was. "The intercooler pipe blows off at 9 psi and the engine is tuned to 22 psi. Phi Phung (Dynamic Autosports technician) spent the week prior to the event trying to resolve the problem but decided to give up." After hearing that, I wanted a crack at the problem for a chance to drive and compete the vehicle in the Toyo Tires Street VIII. Wayne paid the $45 racer fee, giving me the green light to run the car if I could revive it. I set up camp in Nitto's tent.
Right off, I noticed the intercooler pipe had a very harsh bend right into the throttle body and the silicone connector was double clamped at both ends to keep it from coming off. I figured the only way to fix the problem would be to wire the intercooler pipe to a secure part of the engine to keep it from coming off. The closest thing I could find to resemble safety wire was a coat hanger from the IDRC booth; I wrapped it around the blow-off valve flange and a steel coolant hose. I was able to twist it like a trash bag tie until the hanger was tight enough to keep the pipe from falling off.
My next mission was to find a helmet and some race gas. Kazu Yamaguchi let me borrow his helmet and I was able to scrounge up enough C-16 by borrowing about a quart from each racer to make a little over a gallon. By the way, thanks to Lanny Higa, Donnell Branch, Kazu Yamaguchi and Toshi Hayama for lending enough fuel to make the competition. My job. How could I shoot the race while driving? The best thing I could do would be to switch off driving the car with another person; that happened to be Sean Holloway from APEXi. Both of us took our shot at driving the turbo 240SX.
Much to my amazement, the trick worked and the engine held 22 psi; however, there was now an over-boost problem. Thankfully, the over-boost protection mode on the car's HKS boost controller was set at 23 psi. The over-boost mode reverts boost back to stock when activated. While over-boosting in every gear, the car ran a 14.9 so I knew it was capable of running faster if I could fix the boost problem. I played with the boost controller and made it to the first qualifying round, running a quicker 14.5 but the 240 was still hitting over-boost protection.