GM Hydra-Matic Transmission Driving Ladwig's Pontiac Sunfire - GM Racing NHRA Sport Compact/Englishtown ENGLISHTOWN, N.J., April 28, 2004 - Marty Ladwig knew his 2004 Pontiac Sunfire was going to be a fast racecar. He just didn't expect it to...
GM Hydra-Matic Transmission Driving Ladwig's Pontiac Sunfire - GM Racing NHRA Sport Compact/Englishtown
ENGLISHTOWN, N.J., April 28, 2004 - Marty Ladwig knew his 2004 Pontiac Sunfire was going to be a fast racecar. He just didn't expect it to be this fast so early in the season. In just two events this year on the NHRA Sport Compact tour, Ladwig's Ecotec-powered Pontiac has managed to lower the elapsed-time national record in the HOT ROD class to 8.082 seconds, an incredible .37 (hundredths) of a second quicker than the category benchmark heading into the start of the '04 campaign. And Ladwig feels his Sunfire can go even quicker.
"We still think there's something left in the racecar," said Ladwig. "Our goal is to keep pushing the engine, the transmission and the racecar as far as we can - to the limit and beyond so to speak. The other teams competing aren't going to sit still and concede anything, and by pushing this racecar beyond where we are now is the only way we're going to be able to stay ahead.
"Running as quick as we did at West Palm Beach (Fla.) has always been a goal of ours, but to be where we are, with a brand-new team, and a brand-new car just two races into the season, is quite an accomplishment for everyone involved with the program. The quick, consistent numbers demonstrate that the entire package, the Ecotec engine, the GM Hydra-Matic automatic transmission and the Pontiac Sunfire, is a winning combination that's going to be tough to beat."
A primary reason for the dramatic increase in the performance of Ladwig's Pontiac can be attributed to the improvement and reliability of the Sunfire's production-based GM Hydra-Matic automatic transmission. With only a few minor modifications, Ladwig's Hydra-Matic system is the same transmission used in the Pontiac Grand Prix and Bonneville.
"GM Racing engineers have done a fabulous job getting this production-based design to where it's the state-of-the-art drivetrain in the series," said Ladwig. "We're successfully competing against other teams that are using aftermarket pieces which are much more expensive to produce and not nearly as reliable. We're showing that it is possible to run record numbers with a transmission that can be found at your local Pontiac dealership, and in the long run that will make it more affordable for all teams to compete.
"The Ecotec has always been very reliable and given us plenty of horsepower to get the job done. We've also made some improvements with the transmission that has helped us get all of that that power to the ground, but you also have to remember that our 2004 Sunfire is a better racecar. It's safer with a stronger cage, it's very rigid, it handles great and it goes down the track straight and smooth."
The next test for Ladwig and his GM Racing teammates will be this weekend at the NHRA Sport Compact Nationals at Old Bridge Township Raceway Park, where they return as defending champions.
"We definitely enjoy racing in Englishtown," said Ladwig. "The track personnel and the NHRA do a tremendous job preparing the track and the area has some of the best drag racing fans around. The atmospheric conditions are also outstanding and conducive to record times and speeds. It's one of those events you look forward to and we're fortunate in our series that we get to race there twice."
Nelson Hoyos will be looking to get his Pro FWD Chevy Cavalier back on the winning track. At the series' last race in West Palm Beach, Hoyos posted a career-best elapsed time of 7.997 seconds en route to his second runner-up finish of the year. He currently sits in second place in the NHRA Pro FWD points standings behind Lisa Kubo.
"We've done some engine work since our last meet in Florida and fixed one of the minor issues that kept us down on horsepower," said Hoyos. "The car's been responding beautifully from the starting line to about the middle of the racetrack. Our issues have come at the top end of the track where the car loses a little bit of power in fourth and fifth gear. That was caused by a lean condition and the motor was actually running out of fuel. We tested at Milan Dragway (Mich.) to confirm our results and we're now confident our Chevy Cavalier will run like a rocket when we get to Englishtown.
"As a team, the preparation of the racecar has just been tremendous. They've done a fabulous job preparing the car, our performance numbers have been extremely consistent and I've been able to do my part putting the car in a position to win. At Moroso we ran back-to-back 8.13s at 175 and 176 mph. We topped that with that 7.99 run, but stumbled a little bit with the 8.20 pass in the finals, so you can see the consistency we've been able to display. If we can step up with the power a little bit we're going to be very, very good. We were hoping for a big win for the team at Moroso, to push the momentum forward and to solidify what we've been able to accomplish so far as a team. But everyone's done a tremendous job getting us to the last two finals."
Since the start of the race season in 2003, Hoyos' Ecotec-powered Chevrolet has advanced to the money round at every event, a total of 12 consecutive races. Hoyos first win last season was at the Sport Compact Spring Nationals. He then went on to win seven of the next eight eliminators and claimed his first NHRA Pro FWD Summit Sport Compact championship. Hoyos is looking forward to his return to the fabled Englishtown quarter-mile.
"I think these two races at Englishtown are the Super Bowl and World Series of the NHRA Sport Compact Drag Racing series," said Hoyos. "Each time we go there it's just a thrill to see the great car count and the standing-room-only crowd in the stands. The weather also helps us tremendously from a performance standpoint and they also prep the racetrack really well. Records generally fall at Englishtown and I'm looking forward to getting back. We had our first victory in NHRA Sport Compact Drag Racing there in 2003 and we're hoping to our first 'Wally' there again this year. Last season, we got on a roll at Englishtown and never looked back."
Hoyos also feels the budding rivalry with Lisa Kubo will bring even more fans to the sport. The two have battled in an all Ecotec-powered final round at five consecutive races going back to last season with Kubo winning three and Hoyos two. Hoyos is hoping to even the score this weekend.
"The rivalry is good for the sport and we're hoping to run side-by-side in the sevens," said Hoyos. "We both have a lot of great, loyal fans that are enjoying the match ups that they're seeing. I'm hoping to see Christian Rado and Shaun Carlson come out also because that will continue the friendly give and take that makes the series fun to watch. And in the end, it doesn't matter who wins as long as those fans are there watching along the fence and in the stands. In the long run that's what will make our sport grow.
"We targeted 200 mph toward the end of last season and we definitely have the horsepower to do it, no question. That's something will be looking to nail down as soon as we can because that's pure, raw horsepower from our Ecotec engine."
Television coverage of the NHRA Sport Compact Spring Nationals can be seen on ESPN2 on Sunday, May 9, starting at 12:00 p.m. Eastern.