Leslie Durst's attack on the NHRA record book is a family affair

In this era of corporate sponsorship-driven success it's refreshing to see All-Motor maverick Leslie Durst make it to the top. Her success has been a family effort. Leslie's father Michael owns Long Beach, Calif.-based Horizon Motorsports, mom Lyn serves as team statistician, boyfriend Carlos "Bubba" Ocegueda is crew chief and tuner and friend Chris Cook is the lone crew member.

Leslie, 27, got into the scene with a show-built '96 Civic Coupe but found her taste in cars did not jive with those of the judges. Unwilling to create an undriveable show winner, Leslie needed an outlet. In 1997 she bought an '89 CRX and, on a whim, took it to a Street Legal Drags event at Pomona and the instant gratification of drag racing offset the frustration of the show scene.

Leslie wanted to do a power swap but the $6,000 price quotes were too much. So her dad bought the motor and the two of them performed the swap in the family garage. Then a house call from a friend who worked at Place Racing got her on the go. In 1998, the car's first foray into drag racing netted 14.5-second timeslips and this was just in her driver development phase.

In October 1998, Horizon Motorsports was created solely to step up Leslie's budding career. The car was off to the chassis shop and Leslie was off to school--Frank Hawley drag racing school. Ocegueda came on board and fortified the 1.8-liter GS-R powerplant for high-level all-motor competition. The car was on cinder blocks for nearly three years. In 2002, with a purpose-built chassis and Bubba-built 2.0-liter LS/VTEC engine, the CRX blasted 10.70s at 127 mph on the NDRA circuit and earned several podium finishes.

In the off-season, Ocegueda worked the Bubba magic on a new 2.2-liter engine, a stroked 1.8 liter that uses a custom crankshaft and rods to pump up the displacement. Since the plan was to compete in the NHRA, which has different minimum weight requirements than the NDRA, the car went to Steen chassis for a revamping.

The previous chassis was a six-point proposition that had bars added over time. The new setup would be a one-shot deal that would back-half the Honda from the B-pillar rearward. Horizon also wisely grafted in a Nuformz rear suspension setup, which has been a proven performer in FWD competition.

The Horizon team made its 2003/NHRA debut at the July Las Vegas event, where Leslie qualified fourth with a 10.85. She advanced to the semifinals but lost a heartbreaker to eventual winner Scot Mohler. Her time was a 10.52 to his 10.50, but her car was quicker than ever. In Dallas on August 8-9, Leslie picked up where she left off in Sin City with a 10.52, which positioned her as top qualifier. She sizzled a 10.35 in the finals to beat class leader Ken Scheepers and tally her first-ever win. Rear drive has been dominating the NHRA All-Motor ranks and Leslie developed a big following flying the flag for the Honda camp. In fact, she was a tenth off the e.t. record, a 10.25 held by Scheepers.

What impresses us about this car is its consistency. The team tears down the engine after every race because it has no spare motor to fall back on. Despite all the wrenching, the CRX doesn't miss a beat. For instance, in Woodburn, Ore., on August 23 the Purple Haze Honda rolled off the trailer and posted a 10.32 at first asking after running a 10.35 in the Dallas final. Beyond that, the CRX has improved its e.t. on every pass in 2003.

At Woodburn, Team Horizon had its first backup engine. Leslie's 10.32 at 129 mph gave her another top-qualifier honor. In eliminations, the CRX body-slammed the all-motor record with a blistering 10.13-second lap. In the finals, a come-from-behind 10.15 at 130 mph put the finishing touches on a dream weekend; another Wally and the NHRA record.

Being the first female record holder in the NHRA sport compact series means there are sure to be Lisa Kubo comparisons on the way. Rivalry? No, not only are they in different classes, but the Kubos and Dursts are long-time friends.

Weighty Issues
All-Motor Minimum Weights By Sanctioning Body
NHRA 1,650
IDRC B Series1,525
NDRA 1,500/1,540
IDRA1,500/1,550
The NHRA's All-Motor minimum weight for a FWD Uni-body car is 1,650 pounds. The IDRC bases its weight on engine type. For a B-series engine like Leslie's the minimum is 1,525 pounds. The NDRA uses a .70-lb-per-cc displacement formula, which means any FWD four-banger under 2.0 liters of displacement receives a minimum weight of 1,500 pounds and a 2.2 liter gets 1,540. At IDRA Battle of the Import events, All-Motor racers with a B-series FWD combination are allowed 1,500 pounds with the full O.E. chassis, or 1,550 pounds for "backhalved" cars.

"We had met once in 1999 when were just testing with the Honda, " says Lisa Kubo. "In 2000 Lyn would bring us food and cookies and stuff at the races so we wouldn't starve. We had a chance to win the IDRC championship that year; we had a car and a trailer but no truck. Michael lent us their truck and we barely knew them. We have come a long way since then and it's cool now they come to our pit and eat. Seriously, Gary and I have never forgotten their kindness and we would not hesitate to help them out."

So far, as is customary for imports in general, Team Horizon has gotten a lot out of a little. In fact, there is plenty left on the table as the Honda spun its tires hard; we saw four quick revolutions off the line on its 10.15-second pass.

The kind of help they do need is sponsorship. Sponsorship will allow them to participate in more races and go faster than they're already going.

Is there a 9 in the cards? We think so. Could the Horizon Motorsports CRX be the quickest All-Motor FWD? We think that would be one hell of a race.

The first 9-second All-Motor car and current world record holder is Erick Aguilar's Civic, which turned a 9.991 at 133.95 mph at an NDRA race in June. Aguilar was running a minimum weight of 1,500 or 1,540 pounds while Leslie tipped the scales at 1,660 pounds at Woodburn. Check the Weighty Issues chart for more on that.

With what Leslie has left in the car it would be a race of pay-per-view proportions.

Horizon Motorsports CRX

MoTeC M4 engine management
MoTeC instrument display
MSD ignition system
NGK spark plugs and ignition wires
TWM individual throttle bodies
Bosch fuel injectors
Weldon high-performance fuel pump
Custom headers by Elite Motorsports
Custom head work by JG Engine Dynamics
JG Engine Dynamics sleeved block
JG Engine Dynamics cams
AEM cam gears
AEBS head studs
Cosmetic head gaskets
Cunningham connecting rods
Moroso Motorsport oil pan
Nuformz rear spindle kit
Drive Shaft Shop performance axles
Dyno tuned at Trackmasters in Santa Clarita, Calif.
Paint by Starbucks