Engineering Velocity: WannaGOFAST in Ocala
Picture this, a private airport nestled in what used to be rich horse country somewhere in central Florida. It’s February and in the low 80’s out. All you can hear is the noise coming from the Corvette rolling past with an open BOV at idle. Wait a second… I thought this was the tranquil countryside? These events are something wholly different from any other. They bring together some of the most powerful and fastest street cars (and plenty of trailer queens) in off-the-map locations for one purpose; to go fast.
We decided to make the trip down and check out the sights and sounds unique to this event not really sure what we were walking into. I knew that there would be fast cars, I knew there would be plenty of eye candy, but what I didn’t know was the sheer scale of the operation. This event had hundreds of cars running over two days with thousands of spectators. It was more akin to a #GRIDLIFE event or one of the Formula D stops than drag racing.
After 24+ hours awake, with only a short nap in the car, we prepared ourselves as best we could for getting in the mix to catch the action through our cameras over the next two days. I would recommend against the lack of sleep before covering an event, but maybe you’re into that kinda thing. From the time we stepped out of the car it was apparent that there would be enough going on to keep us awake through the day. After sorting out gear and assigning some jobs we trekked out into the paddock area towards the crowd engulfing the starting area.
It’s difficult to put into words just how powerful these cars are. Most cars don’t launch like you’d expect at a drag race, there are no lofted wheels or wrinkled tires. Not because these cars can’t do that, but because there goal is maximum velocity, not time slips. What really drove it home was seeing one of the fast cars wiggle its rear end in a small poof of tire smoke well past the 1/8 mile mark. These cars are launching from a roll because they have to. Even the fast AWD R35 GT-R’s don’t have traction with how much power they are putting down.
It is so easy to miss the action at a 1/2 mile drag event. The exciting part when they leave the line is quickly contrasted by the rear end of a car disappearing into the distance, only when you see the trap speeds displayed on the boards do you realize you just witnessed a car going 3 times the highway speed limit in under 1/2 mile. No matter how many times you see a 200+ MPH speed pop up, it never gets any less impressive.
Speaking of GT-R’s, they definitely have an edge when it comes to this kind of racing. Their heft doesn’t hold them back much when the limiting factor is power and grip for most of the grid. With all wheel drive and an already amazing power rating it doesn’t take a whole lot of modification to get these beasts to competitive speeds. Even in stock form they can put down respectable speeds. I am pretty sure a good portion of all the R35’s in Florida were in attendance. You couldn’t walk 5ft without running into another one.
Along with the huge GT-R crowd, there were an unusually high number of Lamborghini’s in attendance, mostly Gallardo’s but with a few Huracan’s thrown in the mix. Seeing these cars get pushed to their limits is something everyone should witness. It’s easy to see one rolling by in the city and exclaim, “It’s a shame that thing never gets really driven!” Well, these ones get driven harder than the designers of the Alcantara adorned interiors ever envisioned. With great engines comes great noises, too. The V12’s and V10’s make a noise that no LS can imitate.
With the vast diversity displayed at this event, there were quite a few oddball cars putting down surprisingly decent numbers. Among them was Volvo 242 that was a smattering of late 70’s and early 80’s parts thrown together around a turbocharged LS motor. Seeing a fast Volvo definitely made me a bit giddy, even if it has the wrong engine in it. Talking with the owner revealed that it was more stock than you would expect… the chassis and suspension was not altered in any far-fetched sort of ways, the rear end was still the stock unit Volvo gave it even.
One of the coolest aspects of this type of racing is the accessibility that it gives the grassroots guys. Of course there are quite a few big names in tuning and racing that are fielding teams of cars but it’s not uncommon to see them lined up next to some car that represents someone’s dream and was built over years with their friends and beers. There really needs to be more events that allow the little guy to have the same chances as the big dogs.
With the exponential growth this group has experienced over the last few years it will be exciting to see where it goes from here. Drag racing for top speeds and not time slips allows a much larger group of people to get involved. Not needing to run huge tires and launch at full boost means less wear and tear on the drive lines and getting to build and use a car with some ridiculous dyno numbers is very appealing to what we all want deep down; a fast car we can drive to and from the track and an outlet to push it to its limits. This recipe for success is nothing new in the automotive world but this latest resurgence could not have come at a better time.
I wouldn’t be doing the event justice if I didn’t talk about the other all-too-common car that was always within arms reach, the Corvette. The sheer number of Corvettes in attendance were staggering. Everything from mostly stock Z06 C7’s to fully built C5’s. I do not use the term fully built loosely there. A record was set during the weekend by one of the C5’s in attendance. It went the fastest in the 1/2 mile that any N/A LS powered vehicle ever has. 186.87 MPH in an all motor Corvette. Along with that record there were ones set for the fastest RWD pass at 227.96 in a Dodge Viper, fastest manual transmission pass at 222.3 in a Lamborghini Gallardo, the American Corvette record at 207.56 in well… a C6, and the fastest CTS-V pass at 190.35.
Even more impressive than watching these machines do what they do best is hearing them. Personally the whine of the supercharger on a car going through 4 gears before out of earshot is a sound that I wish I could narrate my life with. Big turbo Supra’s hitting their rev limiter while spinning tire off the line is a close second. If you find yourself at one of these events I highly recommend closing your eyes for a few seconds, just stand there and take it all in. It’s much akin to waiting in line to get through the gate at a road course event, or unloading your track car in the paddock while another run group is thundering around the track, it embodies all of the excitement and anticipation that reminds me why I enjoy the motorsports world so much.
If you want a taste of what this event had in store check out the rest of the photos below or watch, and listen to, some cars screaming down the runway in PART ONE of our video coverage of the WannaGOFAST event in Ocala.