We had seen this car before but were ecstatic to learn that it had been de-stroked and turbocharged to go after the H/BFALT record. And at 119 mph we knew the record was in dire straights indeed. We caught up with the man of the moment, John Romero, in the pits after his first pass and decided to let him do all the talking.
"It was a shakedown run for the car. It was the first pass with the turbo. We were on the short course and wanted to be real careful because the fastest we'd been before is 160 and the car felt great. We knew we'd be pushing 200 mph so there is some unexplored territory at work. We heard the track was very, very, very, bumpy, a lot of undulations and the turbo hits real hard. You'll get no boost until about 6000 rpm then you'll get a lot of boost in a hurry. There is no traction control devices allowed so when the boost decides to hit you just have to deal with it.
"It was all I could do to keep it pointed straight. When I have run the car before you could guide it with a finger... this was not that [laughs]. This was actually frightening. The car had to be driven. You're going straight and you'd think straight is easy but I never had to steer so much to go straight in my life. The general rule is to let the car wander where it wants and just give a little pressure on the steering wheel to guide it down the salt. I was moving the steering with full input. With the LSD, when one tire would loose traction the car would react and it was darting all over the track. The lane is a good 150 feet wide and I went from one side to the other. I was trying to smooth it out and it was getting ridiculous and I considered aborting the run. But there were enough moments of traction to stick with it.
"I never really got going until 5th gear. The first mile and a quarter was essentially junk as the engine would come into boost at 6000 rpm, spin the wheels and spike at 9500 rpm causing me to downshift and try again. That's a lot of time with no boost. I was maybe doing 130 after the first mile and a quarter, which will not get it done. In 5th gear I still had some wheelspin but I was able to hold the boost at 18 psi by the 2-1/4-mile mark I was up to 180 to 185 mph. The car really got busy. From (mile) 2-3 I averaged 186 and from there I was able to average 195.5 mph and the thing was still accelerating wildly. If I would have had that extra timed mile it would have been way faster. Looking at the data logging I was at 204 at the end of the run but the problems earlier cost me in the average speed. The data supports a 208-mph top speed in that extra mile you get on the long course.
"The G/BFALT record is 119 mph and I have pretty much done that one in. So if I can post any kind of speed tomorrow my average will break the record. The record is not indicative of the potential of this class and this discrepancy is one of the reasons I came out here. You come out here and you see a lot of streamliners, roadsters, tanks, flathead Fords, big V8s, mechanical fuel injection; definitely stuff the import guys are going to call old school.
"There is very little EFI but its been getting a little bigger every year. When you see the small motor classes; the H-class which 1.5-liters, the G at two liters and even the F at three liters these aren't the DOHC B-series Hondas or 2JZ Supra motors, they are Pinto 2.3-liter overhead cam motors from 1973 or VW aircooled powerplants. So bringing a modern import motor out here you can really open some eyes. They don't see these little cars as something that should go that fast. When they see a commuter car like my Civic do 200 mph from less than 1.5-liters their minds freeze, they scratch their heads and say 'holy cow.'