Battle of the Imports invaded Orlando Speed World Dragway on April 12 and 13. The event marks the season opener for the racing series. Frank Choi and his boys worked hard over the winter to generate a much higher contingency payout for all of his racers so that this year they could have a year-end championship purse for his pro racers to chase after. Don't worry they didn't forget the spectators. This year racing fans from around the world could watch the action live via the Internet. That's right you can watch streaming video of the on-track action from the comfort of your living room. It seems Frank isn't content on being named the inventor of organized sport compact racing, he's still trying to think up new and innovative things to improve his invention.
Not only were there new things coming from Battle of the Imports, the racers have also been conjuring up new things over the off-season. One of the most notable new cars this year is Luis Fererre Jr.'s Modified Scion tC. It's a piece of art. The engine bay is completely color coordinated with purple anodized billet parts and blue paint throughout. Not only does this car look really nice, but it bones the hell out too. Straight out of the box, this car is running 7.7s. Luis stuck with the older Toyota 3SGT motor he's familiar with instead of opting with a new Scion motor. Also, many of the racers have tweaked their engine setups and found more power. This year, the Orlando pits were filled with all kinds of technology. You have Pro class racers like Marty Ladwig in his super-clean and high-tech Chevy Cobalt to the more conventional Sportsman class cars using carburetors and antiquated distributor setups.
The racing was action packed on Sunday. Unfortunately, there was a six-hour rain delay. Nevertheless, all of the racing was completed. Hundreds of Sportsman cars from all over came to battle it out. One of the most notable Street Tuner cars was Jessica Barton's '94 Toyota Supra. Jessica has to be the perfect example of "run what you brung." She drove her car onto the track on the very same tires she was pulling 9.6s on-not to mention she had a bye run in her final round and still ran her fastest time of the day on a cool, dew-dampened track at 11 p.m. The coolest part of the Sportsman classes was the amount of tubbed old-school cars. Being that the majority of the old-school cars had a very short wheelbase with mega power, this made for some very exciting on-track racing.
Only two competitors were in the Pro FWD class. It was the familiar Chevy versus Mazda matchup. Marty Ladwig in his Lucas Oil Cobalt was pitted against the Bergenholtz brothers in their Nitto/Mazdaspeed Mazda6. Marty had the upper hand this weekend when he became the top qualifier on Saturday and he felt the faltering Mazda at the line for the win. It seems the Bergenholtz brothers have some cobwebs to shake out and they should come back much more competitive at their next race.
Kenny Tran in his Nitto/Jotech Racing Scion tC took the top qualifier slot from Bryan Jimenez's Everyone's Mortgage Chevy Cobalt. In the final round, it was Bryan's reaction time that made him victorious. Bryan took the win with a slower 8:332 at 166.72 mph over Kenny's faster 8:232 at 174.77 mph.
The top three qualifiers in the Modified class were within a couple of hundredths of a second from each other. Luis Fererre Jr. claimed the number qualifier spot in his Scion tC with a 7.747-second pass. Jose Capestany was hot on his heels in his '93 Mazda RX-7 with a 7.754-second pass. Carlos Perez claimed the third spot in his 7.793-second, stereo-booming '85 Mazda RX-7. In the final round it was the No. 1 qualifier Luis' Scion tC against the No. 3 qualifier Carlos' RX-7. Unfortunately for Luis he experienced an intake manifold failure during the final round and Carlos claimed the victory.
The Pro Stock class involved a battle between Honda power and Toyota power. The top four contenders in this class were all in the 9-second range and it was the two Honda-powered cars from Clutch Masters against Leslie Durst in her Toyota/Scion-powered Scion Racing tC and her Toyota teammate Scott Kelly in his Toyo Tires Toyota Corolla. In the first elimination round Scott's Corolla took out Jason Yerby in his Clutch Master's Acura Integra, and Norris Prayoonto and Leslie got bye runs. In the second elimination round Scott took out Leslie, and Norris got a bye run. Which get us to the finals. It was Scott's Toyota against Norris' Honda Insight. Scott took the hole shot, but it was Norris who reeled Scott in to take the win.
Even with the rain delay, the event was action packed. Onstage events kept everyone entertained while the racetrack crew was drying the track. There were numerous events including onstage contests, go-go dancers, DJs mixing the latest music, and a very entertaining bikini contest. Stay tuned for more Battle of the Imports as this event marks the beginning of the season.