Truth be told, we’ve wanted to host our own event for quite some time now, but we wanted something different, something far better than the typical cookie-cutter challenges. It took a little forethought, but in the end the solution seemed pretty obvious to us, and it was worth the wait.
We wanted a pretty aggressive autocross course that would allow us to see how a chassis would react to a variety of situations, including tight turns, decent-sized sweepers, along with a slalom section and a number of difficult transitions. The autocross was just one portion of our challenge; we also wanted to showcase real-world situations, such as 60-to-0 braking, and the one component that we know the majority of you take into heart—running cars that are technically labeled corner-carvers and seeing how they performed on the dragstrip. Yes, we went there. We invited several well-known manufacturers, including Church Brothers Racing, Detroit Speed, Fatman Fabrications, Hotchkis, and RideTech.
To execute our plans, we decided the best way to meet up with everyone was to immediately follow the Columbus Goodguys event. If you don’t already know it, then we need to point out that this is a big show, where many folks lobby for the Goodguys Street Machine of the Year award. We chose to host our event at National Trail Raceway in Hebron, Ohio; it’s a short 26 miles away and the facility could easily accommodate all our needs.
When it came to the rules, there was only one: All vehicles were required to run on tires with a minimum treadwear rating of 180. This would open up the doors for most brands and, more importantly, it would prevent anyone from showing up wearing race-inspired rubber—stickies if you prefer. That’s it.
To test the cars through our autocross course, we had Danny Popp, our course designer and a seasoned veteran, who has earned five NASA National Championships and seven SCCA Solo/ProSolo National Championships, including 10 Divisional SCCA Championships, 18 Regional Championships, and a NASA Regional Championship. To say that list is pretty impressive would be a complete understatement. For the dragstrip portion, Editor H got behind the wheel.
Here’s where the fun really began. Rather than having the owners sitting idle, we wanted them to join in on the fun, too. We started with the dragstrip, and once we had the opportunity to run each car, those rides were placed in a separate lane, where the owners were given a chance to make a few shakedown runs for themselves. Interestingly, a few had never been down the dragstrip before with their rides, but it didn’t stop them from trying it out and having some fun! Editor H made two runs, the owners made two runs, and the best of the four runs were listed as the final results.
Once the quarter-miles passes were complete, we moved onto the autocross course. Popp started off the session and the owners were later allowed to do the same. Only we had one major problem: Mother Nature unleashed a fury that some of us have never seen before. We could see the gray sky rolling and when it let loose it was absolutely brutal. Unfortunately, it was about this time our friends at Fatman Fabrications had to begin the long trek home and we lost the opportunity to finish our testing with their ’57 Chevy.
It became a waiting game. We stood our ground, and as the rain left, we ran all the cars to the top end of the dragstrip, where we made hot laps in an effort to dry off the track for our 60-to-0 braking. It took awhile, but we managed to dry the track to proceed with the braking session.
Now before you think all hope was lost for the autocross, we planned for a rain date and returned the next day, then we spent the better part of the morning putting the course back together and drying off the track. In the end, we were able to get our numbers, making our inaugural Street Machine Challenge a complete success.