While we always appreciate the classics, the truth of the matter is today’s cars are faster and better than ever. Thanks to the engineering efforts and tech advances of carmakers around the world, speed has never been easier to come by. Of course if the impressive factory specs aren’t enough to satisfy you, tuners are there to make them even better. These are good times we’re living in.
It’s truly fascinating if you think about it. Just a couple decades ago, a car with 500 or 600 horsepower was a finicky beast. They may have been fast on a race track or at a late night street race, but most of these cars weren’t too happy in the “real world”. They drove more like, well, race cars. The faster you wanted your car to go, the more sacrifices you had to make. A 1,000 horsepower street car? It was damn near unheard of – even for those with very deep pockets.
Today though, you can head to your nearest car dealer and choose from any number of or 400, 500, or even 600 horsepower plus performance cars. Even better is that many of them are pretty affordable, relatively speaking of course. They also offer great reliability, creature comforts, and all the other good stuff we’ve come to expect from modern cars.
From there you can take your new car and head off to the aftermarket in search of more speed. I’m constantly amazed by both the power and the streetability of these modern tuner cars. In 2012 it’s not unrealistic at all to have a 1,000 horsepower street machine that you can easily cruise to the local Starbucks or take out for a long road trip.
There is a problem though. Where exactly do you use all of this amazing horsepower? Cars have gotten exponentially faster in recent years, but it seems there are fewer and fewer opportunities to really stretch them out. You could head to the dragstrip, but often times a quarter mile doesn’t seem like enough for these cars, especially without drag slicks and a perfect light. You could do an open track day, but it still won’t have the same effect as a old school grudge match.
Then there’s the street of course. I’m sure you’ve seen those videos of high horsepower cars battling it out from a roll on highways late at night. Exciting yes, but also highly illegal and incredibly dangerous.
If there was a way to provide those same thrills in a legal, safe environment it would be a thing of beauty. Enter the folks at Shift S3ctor.
This past weekend the group held their second “Airstrip Attack” event and they invited to Speedhunters to come and check out this unique race gathering. The concept sounded very cool, and once I glanced at the entry list and saw the types of machines that’d be coming out, I was completely sold.
The setting for the event would be the runway of the Coalinga Municipal Airport, located in the small town off Interstate 5 on the west side of California’s Central Valley.
As it turns out, getting permission from the FAA to close down an airport for a weekend of auto racing is not an easy thing to do. The Shift S3ctor team inquired with nearly every airport from the San Francisco Bay Area south to San Diego, and Coalinga was the only one open to the idea. It also turns out their runway is wide and in good shape. So it was settled.
The weekend’s weather could not have been better for racing -partly cloudy, dry, and cool. All the things drivers of high horsepower cars are looking for.
At a glance this all may sound similar to speed trial events like the Texas Mile or the Mojave Mile, which are also held on airport runways. In actuality, this is much different.
Those events are designed specifically to see exactly how fast a particular vehicle can go during single car runs on a standing a mile. This, as I found was essentially side by side highway style racing – done legally.
In fact, for this event there was no timing whatsoever. This is all about fun and bragging rights more than anything else.
Just like street racing, the rules are simple. There are no regulations based on things like engine type or tire size.
The race sessions would begin with a large group of cars heading from the pits down the taxiway to the end of the runway for staging.
There they sit beside their opponent, waiting their turn on the track.
When it was go time, the cars would turn onto the runway just as an aircraft does during take off. Many would heat the tires with a quick rolling burnout.
Once on the runway, the two cars would cruise side by side at a pre-determined speed – usually 50 or 60 miles per hour.
A short distance later, they would reach the first marker cone. This is the “go” point for the race.
The drivers nail the loud pedal and the cars squat down and roar off, many of them still fighting to get traction at these highway like speeds.
From there it’s approximately one half mile to the second traffic cone, which marks the end of the battle. Once they cross the last cone there’s still plenty of room left to safely slow down and return to the pits.
Again, there are no trap lights or timeslips, but the drivers and the crowd are quite aware of which car is ahead when the race is through. Again, just like street racing.
While there were no official time slips, I asked a few of the drivers what sort of speeds they were reaching at the top of the track. It seems the fastest cars were hitting over 190 miles per hour, with a few getting up near 200 eventually.
Since there were no classes or official “competition”, all of the matchmaking was done by the drivers themselves. It was as simple as finding someone with an equally powerful machine and lining up next to them when it was time to go out next.
This task was made a little easier by the fact that each car had its horsepower figure written in shoe polish on its windows.
As I mentioned earlier, the car entry list for this event was impressive. If you dig late model performance cars, this was the place to be.
Several high profile cars came out to run, including this Gallardo that’s been caressed by the maniacs at Underground Racing.
The R’s Tuning Ben Sopra GT-R was also came out for some shakedown runs after appearing at SEMA the previous week.
Of course there was also a big American Muscle presence as well. Something for everyone really.
All in all, it seems like Shift S3ctor has found the right formula here. They’ve given the owners of today’s amazing performance cars to put their stuff up against each other in a safe and legal environment.
I’ll be back tomorrow with more from Airstrip Attack, including a closer look at some of the day’s machinery.
i remember when people used to race flat out on the road not gving a fuck about the cops.those days were lengendary.
This could potentially be a HUGE business. "Airstrip Attacks". Seems to me like we have a case of people not knowing where to throw their money and not being able to do it fast enough! The community should come together and make more happen Nationwide! How do you think Drifting started? Hello! Airstrips. Let's do this! and keep the Horsepower-on-the-window thing! It reminds me of the Forza/GT5 rating system.
Reminds me of those days where you race what you brought.
not oh your too fast, here race this guy he has 300 more hp than you.
That red corvette in the second to last photo looks like Matt Farah's from the Smoking Tire.
Or at least similar anyways
Very cool idea! There needs to be more of this type of racing. Highway-style but completely legal. It's game over if you're up against a UGR TT Lambo, though ;-)
Wow, this is the future of street racing indeed. All I want to know is who's coming with me. kidding, but seriously where is the next event? Also, I think some of the industry big wigs should get together and get a few events for next year lined up.
there are quite a few events like that in europe, as we have only a handfull of dragstrips, but dozens of old unused airstrips from cold war days.
Oh man I could've gone to this!!! Need to figure out how to be notified of this sort of thing...
happy to see that Underground actually remembered the rear bumper they probably just threw behind them after they removed it without any care to show everyone a maze of piping
I think that the Underground Racing TT Gallardo can beat them all. It has like 1500 hp? Seen more then a few video's of their Lambo's, they are amazing!
Wannagofast.com does it on the East Coast already! Holding events in Carabelle, FL and Clayton, GA. Come on out! it is a great time! They even document the speed and give you a slip with yours and the opponents speed.
Wow awesome idea, we definitely need something like this in NZ! Even a standing mile event would be new and worth going to.
I guess Olive Drab Green really does look good on ANY car! That Camaro looked amazing...
inspector_exacto Agreed. One of the coolest looking fourth gens I've seen in a long time!
Awesome coverage Mike. That matte blue M3 looks sexy. I would love to attend one of these with my car.
For all you Skyline GTR fans out there (me being the biggest :)) check out the GTR challenge at cootamundra (Australia) airstrip on youtube. 1000hp GTR's lauching down a runway... its amazing.. annual event now... "Dreamcrusher" R32 will blow your minds!!
Yea, we need more events like this. This is the best (and legal) way to flex out your high horsepower whip.
This looks like it would be a blast. Wish there were more events like this where having fun and going fast is all that matters.