Updated: Nov 3, 2019
The smell of race fuel, burning rubber, the thunderous roar of a highly tuned engine, this is what fans were in store for as they attended a weekend of fast thrills at Orlando Speed World Dragway... and some record breaking quarter mile passes.
Drag racing in the import scene has seemingly taken a back seat to the various sub genres of car culture, the shows, the meets, drifting, and time attack; all being the igniter to many car builds featured on the internet. However, drag racing has and still does play an integral part of import tuning; the saying still rings true "Win on Sunday, sell on Monday."
For what seems like a boring sport to the naysayers, the host and their sponsor FuelTech had little to no issues fitting thousands in and around the stands to see some high powered drag racing. With vendors piled on to each other selling everything from turbos, billet engines, shirts, stickers, and even food; drag racing is alive today just as much as it was years ago with generations growing up within the sport.
Innovation has always been key for the import scene, to think of drag racing we look at legends like John Force and funny cars that multiply the horsepower output of a million dollar super car, import drag racing has been about closing the gap. The underdog mentality of a lot of racers and perhaps budgets, have created a thriving sub genre. There were still a few Toyota Corollas from the late 70's and early 80's running race-prepped 3TCs, while others chose the mightiest of weapons...the 2JZ.
Personally I have been out of the loop for a few years, the last time I was at a drag strip cars were just getting in to the 6-second range, but today's audience has been witnessing some epic 5-second runs that have rivaled the American V8 drag cars we have watched early mornings on ESPN for years. With the venerable 2JZ powering these beats pushing out sometimes 10 times as much of the original power output, it makes you wonder how anyone can engineer or control these drag cars down the strip safely.
While I could get lost in dividing the types and classes of every drag car in attendance, the story remained the same as teams from all over the world; Australia, Puerto Rico, Trinidad, and the U.S., were choosing between rotaries and pistons. With Toyota either being the chassis of choice or the engine of choice, the amount of respect given to these vehicles were akin to that of our major sports heroes.
The Toyota Corolla KE, TE, and AE series cars are all highly sought after for drag racing, it's perhaps the lightweight chassis, the look, or a nostalgic attachment; the same could be said for the variety of KP61 Starlets that made pass after pass down the strip. While the Scion TC, Toyota Solara, and last generation Toyota Celica did not come rear wheel drive; it did not stop race teams from designing bodies to look like cars from their favorite brand.
I can't say I stood around for much of the results, those have passed all realms of the internet and word of mouth since the event, but what is important to take away is the enthusiasm of the fans, race teams, sponsors, and organizers that are continuously keeping the old school alive, and the import scene thriving...in their own fast way.