Q And A
With Turbo magazine's 15th anniversary still in full swing, we are introducing a back-page feature dubbed "Backpressure," where we look back at a past issue of Turbo. This page will run until next July when we enter our 16th year of publication. Looking back at the history of the magazine in the last few months, we realized that the Battle of the Imports is also celebrating a substantial anniversary-10 years. That's right, Frank Choi and the International Drag Race Association have been leading imports to the burnout box for an entire decade. To mark the occasion, I sat down with Frank for a quick Q&A and would like to share the interview in this month's column. Q
Turbo: The first Battle was held July 8, 1990 right?
Turbo: Do you remember the numbers as far as spectators and cars?
Frank: Yes, we had 60 cars and right around 500 people.
Turbo: What was your mindset going into the race?
Frank: It was more of a personal thing at first. I personally had been denied participation at a race because it was an all-domestic event and I had an import back then. So I had a meeting with officials at the track to see if I could rent the track and put on an event specifically for imports. I wanted the satisfaction of turning away a V8. Which I did, two or three times that first race.
Turbo: After an event with 60 cars and 500 people, what was your mindset then?Frank: It was a relief that the event went off as smoothly as it did. That event started at 11 a.m. and was over by 2:30 p.m., so we were only racing for three or four hours. That was pushing it, because we gave the guys unlimited runs. Out of the 60 cars, I probably knew 40 of them from the local street races. Out of the 500 people, I probably knew more than half of them because they were all friends of the racers. So I really didn't make any money, it was sort of like a gathering of friends-like having a weekend barbecue.
Turbo: What has changed since the beginning?
Frank: Back then, out of the 60 cars, there might have only been four front-wheel drives. The majority of the cars were pre-1985; they were either all rotaries or Datsun/Nissan L-Series-powered cars. If you look at it today, it's practically 99.9-percent front drive.
Turbo: What have been some of the constants throughout the years?
Frank: Probably the age of the people. It seems that when I look back over the last 10 years, the only thing that's really gotten older is me. Other than that, the attitude and dedication to working hard and trying to win has pretty much stayed constant.
Turbo: What was the biggest event you ever had at Palmdale?
Frank: March 1995, the last of the single-day events. That race basically forced us to go to a two-day format. We had 800 cars and attendance close to 15,000. In fact, we had to turn people away because of the Fire Department regulations.
Turbo: Battle went national last season, correct?
Turbo: What were the venues?
Frank: We had two East Coast events, one at Virginia Motorsports Park and one at Route 66 in Joliet, Ill-along with our regular Palmdale dates.
Turbo: What about 2000?
Frank: Well, we have those two venues and we have added Atco, N.J.
Turbo: Which venue has the biggest turnout?
Frank: Last year, it was definitely Route 66. There are many contributing factors but I think the main one is the facilities. It's a $24 million racetrack, a multi-faceted venue. It's brand-new. That Midwest area is a thriving market, but no one had the confidence to put on an import event. Prior to our Route 66 race, there was one other import race at that track. It was an event we were supposed to do, but weren't given enough time to put it together right. So we waited for the following year. But that market is big, so we took a chance and the first time we went out there, it was successful.
Turbo: What are the differences between an East Coast racer and a West Coast racer?
Frank: Well, I think the West Coast racers are the ones who try many different combinations. I mean these guys are the pioneers of performance. They are the ones trying different engine combinations, bigger turbos, using exotic materials and so on.