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- 31-03-2011, 11:30 PM #1
Streetwise Motorsports on Podium at Global RallyCross opener*
Team, Driver Lauchlin O’Sullivan and “Two-Week Wonder”
Project Car Overcome Adversity at IrwindaleRancho Santa Margarita, CA (March 30, 2011) – Streetwise Motorsports principal Doug Nagy admitted that he’d think twice next time before deciding to build a racecar in just two weeks. But the sprint that he started in his rally-prep shop earlier this month and continued through a race day engine change at the Global RallyCross Championship event at Irwindale Speedway March 25-26 ended with a champagne-soaked podium celebration, so he may still not have learned his lesson.
“I took on this project to showcase the abilities of Streetwise Motorsports,” said Nagy, a veteran team manager and crew chief who has led professional sports car efforts at Le Mans, Daytona, and Sebring, among many others. “The idea was to prove that a low-cost program could be competitive. But we only had two weeks to put it all together – and that was a busy two weeks!”
Nagy and his crew started with a 1987 Toyota Corolla FX-16 that had been built as a road racer in the ‘80s, competed periodically during the ‘90s and then been parked for the last decade. The car was stripped and painted. A new roll cage was built and installed, as well as new suspension, brake system, engine and transmission, and rally-style skid plates. And the effort came down to the wire.
“We just made it to Tech Inspection on Thursday night before the event,” said Nagy. “Other than making sure the engine started, the transmission shifted and the car turned and stopped, we had no time for testing.”
Fortunately, Nagy had engaged the services of champion rally driver Lauchlin O’Sullivan, a San Francisco native whose vast experience behind the wheel – including time spent as a Mitsubishi factory driver – would be invaluable as the team attempted to compress a full testing program into the first two Global RallyCross practice sessions.
With the two veterans doing what they do best, the “Two-Week Wonder” was fastest among the two-wheel-drive “Limited” cars and third overall in 2WD during practice. In qualifying, they remained quickest of the 2WD-Limited cars but slipped to fourth overall.
The next step was head-to-head “Elimination” rounds as part of the Super Rally event, but their promising start ended with the Corolla running on three cylinders as first the car lost oil pressure and then a spark plug wire came loose.
Day Two brought more bad news: with all plug wires in place, the car was still down on power at the start of morning practice, the oil warning light was still flickering and the car was blowing blue-white smoke. After only two laps, the trouble that started the day before came to a head, and the car spun to a smoky stop with a rod through the side of the block.
“We had two choices at that point: quit or send someone back to the shop to pick up the original engine that had been sitting in the car for ten years,” explained Nagy. “We just had to hope that we could get it changed in time to make the race – and that it would last long enough to finish.”
Despite the odds, nobody wanted to quit. Two members of the crew lit out for the Streetwise shop, while Nagy and three others set about removing the damaged engine and readying the car to receive the transplant.
From the time that the new/old engine arrived, it took Nagy and his team – with a crowd gathering to watch the show – less than two hours to perform the installation and get the car running again. And if they hadn’t had to troubleshoot and replace the fuel system, which had become gummed up after years of disuse, Nagy maintains they would have done it in less than 90 minutes.
During the repairs, the team missed a practice session and the first of two points-paying heat races, but the car returned to the grid for Heat #3, and O’Sullivan made the most of the Streetwise crew’s efforts, earning a second-place finish and qualifying for the B-Main.
O’Sullivan proceeded to win the B-Main, racing his way into the 2WD A-Main. And after an eventful six-lap drive, he claimed third overall, first in 2WD-Limited.
“I couldn’t be happier with the results,” said Nagy. “I’m grateful to Lauchlin and all of my guys for a truly heroic effort. We started out attempting to show our skill, but in the end it wasn’t just about ability. It was about spirit and teamwork. And that’s what makes this team successful.”
Streetwise Motorsports is hoping to secure sponsorship to contest the remainder of the 2011 Global RallyCross Championship, starting with round two at Snoqualmie, Wash., April 15-16. Video of the team’s exploits at Irwindale can be found on YouTube by searching “Global RallyCross Championship.”
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