I got an early morning wakeup call from a friend, Howard Hutchinson, and before I could clear the crust from my eyeballs he grunted, "You're going to make it to the Supra Meet on Saturday, right Johnny boy?" That was how Hutchinson, organizer of this year's Northeast Toyota Supra and Lexus Meet, reconfirmed my attending.
Having owned an '88 Supra Turbo for some time, this was a no-brainer. The chance to get out and run the car (and not to mention get paid to chronicle an event I'd be at anyway)-hey, it doesn't get any better than this.
As I pulled up to Englishtown Raceway around 10:30 a.m., I could see I was a little late: the pits were packed with Supras of all generations. Damon Saul even brought his 1980 1st-gen Supra, which had a 7M turbo motor in it. This motor (sporting 230 hp stock) was originally in the 1987-1992 models, but throw one into a car almost 1000 pounds lighter and the road starts to go by a lot quicker. Watching from the stands I saw Damon beat up on quite a few 4th-gen Supras. He experienced bad axle hop off the line, but after he hit third gear he gained speed quickly and was able to pass most newer Supras by the traps.
Sporting a new VPC chip from HKS (thanks to Gabe Armijo) I was eager to see what my car could actually do running about 20 psi. One borrowed helmet later and I was pulling into the staging beams waiting for the tree to drop. With a damn good start I was racing through the gears and winding out towards the finish. Unfortunately my boost controller was acting up, but 16 psi was able to net a 12.6 at 113 mph. Not bad for a 3400-pound car on street tires. What was even more entertaining was the fact that I did this racing a newer Supra, which I beat.
After a few track runs I decided to walk the pits to check out some of the slick Supras parked about. I was definitely up to my ears in performance. Some Supras were bone stock but a big majority had modifications of some sort, ranging from wild body kits to aftermarket rims, high horsepower bolt-ons, and fully decked out interiors. It was obvious Supra owners were there to show their pride and joy.
Toyota of Morristown, NJ had a booth selling aftermarket parts as well as Urbanracer.com, which displayed a new project, Matrix, that it will be working on in the future. I ran into Ara Arslanian of Bullish Motor Racing while visiting the Urbanracer.com booth. The company was lending the Matrix to Ara to test over on the other side of the pits where the SCCA had an autocross course. Well, the ballsy side of me had to throw it out on the table: "Hey Ara, 20 bucks says I'll beat you; best of two runs." He snapped back "How 'bout you take three runs to my one!" How I do love those quick retorts!
So off to the auto-x course we went. Ara took the first run in the Matrix, posting 29.6 seconds. It was a very short course with just a few high-speed turns and it was obvious that keeping your speed up was critical. It was then my turn in the Matrix. I took one run at a good pace just to get used to the car and the track finishing a few seconds slower, but you should have heard the smack flying. "I thought you said you did this before, John," he taunted. "Go back to taking pictures!" Giving it a second try I was a half second off his pace. Again I was up to my ears with what was flying around. I just replied simply, "You know what I'm focused on Ara? The picture of you in Turbo magazine handing me a 20-dollar bill!" Third time's the charm and I made a 29.4-second pass. Disgruntled, Ara decided he would strap on the helmet and give it one more try, with which I had no problem. It was looking good for Ara until right at the end. Then I saw it; the rear got just a little wide and on the next corner it was "cone city," which automatically adds two seconds to your time. It was done and I was $20 richer. I now have that bill framed and hanging in my office. Thanks Ara!