The original Mobil 1 World Import Challenge was shaping up to be the best-ever import drag race, period. Everybody who was anybody was on hand to grab some glory and a huge payoff. Houston Raceway Park was a buzz Friday as competitors made their final adjustments at an open test-'n'-tune session that had more action than some of the races we have covered; everybody had the A-game on.
Then an ominous onslaught of clouds rolled in and by nightfall, rains of epic proportion were falling in Houston. The World Import Challenge was no match for tropical storm Allison and Houston was so flooded FEMA was brought in on disaster relief duty.
Fast forward to 2002 and on Friday, March 9, Trek 2 Texas 2 was completed when our caravan rolled into Houston Raceway Park. As the euphoria of conquering 2,100 miles in SP Engineering's wicked Supra 7 wore off, it became apparent that the potential of the 2001 WIC wasn't in effect.
The Trek went smoothly, the weather was great, but the cast of characters was way short of 2001 specs, even with the major sponsorship exposure provided by six-that's right, six-magazines, Turbo, Import Tuner, SCC, Honda Tuning, Car Audio and Auto Sound & Security. There was big money up for grabs and fewer racers made the odds better for those that elected to attend.
In Pro Comp, Team Bergenholtz, who joined us on our pilgrimage to Houston, tapped into the luck o' the Trek and won the class. Stephan Papadakis, who was heavily favored with his crazy 8.34-second qualifying pass, fell in the first round with shifter problems, which opened the door for Ed Bergenholtz. Next time, party with the Trek, Steph.
The best race of the weekend was the FWD Unibody final, which pitted two big-time Quick Class racers Texan Kenny Tran and Cali invader Bruce Mortensen against one another.
Tran, who has a pretty long streak of runner-up finishes, came through in the clutch. He won the final with a 9.19 against a 9.12 from the Venom Civic. This victory was settled at the flash of the green when Tran's 0.568 reaction time was too quick for the Mortensen's 0.890.
On Saturday, we shot Cotorres Gee's all-motor Civic for a feature and maybe the luck of the Trek was still in effect, because the budget-built racer sliced through the field like a hot knife through butter on Sunday. Cotorres ran a best in class 11.28 at 115 mph in the finals to take the top prize money.
In RWD/AWD Unibody, Ari Yallon and the Rotary Performance RX-7 continued their winning ways, making it a two-win day for Garland, Texas as Rotary Performance and Tran's Jotech both hail from the small town. This was no cakewalk for the Mazda, as Russ Matusevich and his old-school Supra had the top spot on the ladder with 9.53. In the finals, Matusevich broke something and Yallon motored to victory lane with a 10.33.
The action on the track was good, but there were no full fields in any of the classes. Why? Did the weather scare off competitors? With the realignment of sanctioning bodies is there no room for a single, one-off event? Was it too early in the season? Perhaps something in the rulebook? We think the one race concept is good, especially when paired with a big payoff. The really big media exposure of the event was an opportunity missed by many.
The consensus is many teams weren't ready to race because they had been waiting for rules updates from the NHRA to decide where to concentrate their efforts. Perhaps they just weren't prepared for competition. Also memories of flooding that would make Noah himself run for the life raft may have played a role in the racer turnout. The event was well run, attendance was good on Sunday and we hope WIC3 has the weather of WIC2 and the field of WIC1.
|WORLD IMPORT CHALLENGE FINAL RESULTS |
| FWD Unibody |
|Winner ||Kenny Tran ||Garland, TX ||9.190 ||150.78 mph ||(.568) |
|R/U ||Bruce Mortensen ||Fontana, CA ||9.121 ||160.79 mph ||(.890) |
|Pro Comp |
|Winner ||Ed Bergenholtz ||Santa Ana, CA ||9.44 ||149.15 mph |
|R/U ||Henry Young ||Houston, TX ||10.08 ||145.80 mph |
|RWD/AWD Unibody |
|Winner ||Ari Yallon ||Garland, TX ||10.33 ||132.10 mph |
|R/U ||Russ Matusevich ||Northridge, CA ||16.77 ||53.43 mph |
|All Motor |
|Winner ||Cotorres Gee ||Houston, TX ||11.28 ||115.09 mph |
|R/U ||Phillip Wong ||Houston TX ||11.98 ||109.64 mph |
|Power 4 |
|Winner ||Song Hoang ||Baton Rouge, LA ||12.20 ||109.87 mph ||(.622) |
|R/U ||George Crawford ||Houston, TX ||11.96 ||111.36 mph ||(.809) |
|Comp 4 |
|Winner ||Pisarn Kamya ||Houston, TX ||12.37 ||109.93 mph |
|R/U ||John Nguyen ||Houston, TX ||13.05 ||101.41 mph |
|ET1 Bracket |
|Winner ||Bryan Sandlin |
|ET2 Bracket |
|Winner ||Adam Martinez |