GM Racing Sport Compact Team Ready For Moroso Challenge WEST PALM BEACH, Fla., March 28, 2005 - There's nothing like a late-March visit to a warmer climate to take the brutal bite out of a long, cold winter, and that's why the South Florida...
GM Racing Sport Compact Team Ready For Moroso Challenge
WEST PALM BEACH, Fla., March 28, 2005 - There's nothing like a late-March visit to a warmer climate to take the brutal bite out of a long, cold winter, and that's why the South Florida venue at Moroso Motorsports Park makes the perfect next stop for the GM Racing Sport Compact team. After a runner-up performance with the Pro FWD Ecotec-powered Chevy Cobalt in Phoenix on March 20, the GM Racing team is ready to capitalize on its strong performance as the season heats up and hits high gear.
So is it any wonder why Pro FWD Chevy Cobalt driver Marty Ladwig has a particular fondness for the West Palm Beach quarter-mile? Not when you consider that Moroso Motorsports Park was the site of Ladwig's first victory as a professional, and as a member of the GM Racing team in 2003 and where he captured the first of his five victories last season en route to a second straight NHRA HOT ROD championship.
"It was an awesome feeling to be named the driver of the new GM Racing Pro FWD Chevy Cobalt entry this year," said Ladwig. "It's a big responsibility, but I'm looking forward to competing with the new Ecotec-powered Cobalt. We have a great opportunity to reach some new drag racing milestones including the first Pro FWD car to run in the sixes and over 200 mph, and that's what we'll be shooting for at Moroso Motorsports Park. I thoroughly enjoy racing there.
"When you look at the success we've experienced there over the last couple of race seasons, not only for myself but the entire GM Racing Sport Compact program, and the great race fans that always turn out, Moroso Motorsports Park certainly ranks up there as one of our favorite places to race."
With a runner-up finish from Phoenix already deposited into the 2005 race bank account, Ladwig has managed to make a rather seamless transition from the HOT ROD car in which he won back-to-back titles in 2003-04 to the Pro FWD Chevrolet.
"There was a little bit of concern, but I was pretty confident in my ability to drive the car," said Ladwig. "Since it was something I'd never done before I wondered how well I would do. Once I got in the car and drove it, I felt right at home, figured things out pretty quickly and away we went. It's just another step toward going faster. A lot of the things I've learned drag racing motorcycles reduced my learning curve considerably. The race team was concerned about my ability to catch that first shift which comes in about seven-tenths of a second after the launch. To me, that's typical stuff you do on a motorcycle and it was no problem. The transmission is also set up the same way as a motorcycle transmission - a sequential transmission, and I caught on to that pretty quick.
"The HOT ROD car was an automatic and was a little bit easier to drive in that sense. At the same time it was more difficult to drive on the top end because we used smaller tires and our traction was limited. With the new Cobalt, it's a manual transmission with a clutch and there are a few more things I have to do on the starting line as far as staging, getting the car in reverse, so there's definitely more to do in that sense and you have to put more thought into it."
Looking at the success of the GM Racing team at Moroso Motorsports Park during the last two years (two runners-up with Nelson Hoyos in 2003-04), it's understandable why there's a high level of confidence for Ladwig and the entire GM Racing sport-compact program. And when you add in the overall success of the GM Racing program since they entered Pro FWD competition in 2003, you see a record that is unmatched by any manufacturer in the series. A record that includes 12 wins, nine runners-up (including the recent March 20th showing in Phoenix) and 20 final-round appearances in the last 21 races entered.
"The great thing about the GM program is that its pushed everyone else to excel," said Ladiwg. "All of the engineering done, those are things that other car manufacturers are incorporating into their own race designs. GM is pushing the envelope and developing new technology that will make it more cost effective for everyone in the sport. We want to learn what works and what doesn't work each time we go out to see how far we can push this Chevy Cobalt Pro FWD platform.
"In this sport you never know what to expect and that is especially true when trying to determine the performance of these cars. The awesome thing about this series and these type of cars is that nobody knows what the limits are. Every time you think they can't go any faster they go a lot faster and a lot quicker. We haven't even come close to that performance wall. Every time the GM race team learns something or tries something different, our Ecotec-powered Chevrolet goes faster."
The upcoming race at Moroso Motorsports Park also has the potential of being the first event in which the two-time HOT ROD champion will face his former teammate, and now friendly rival, Nelson Hoyos on the quarter-mile.
"Nelson is such a tremendous competitor, a true sportsman and he was a terrific help in advising me how to get used to the Pro FWD car," said Ladwig. "Nelson was at our very first test session where I was driving the car, he came down and made a few suggestions regarding staging the car and it definitely helped. He told me how the car was supposed to feel, and with the new Cobalt body some adjustments were made. There were some things I was feeling in the car that he didn't think were normal and we were able to make some positive changes with his input. Nelson's new race car is going to be fast and nothing would be better than facing him in the finals."
While Ladwig looks to record his first win of 2005 in the Pro FWD category, Gary Gardella's switch to the Ecotec-powered Chevy Cobalt already has markedly improved the New Jersey native's career-best numbers. That increase in performance will make Gardella's candy-apple red Chevrolet one of the early favorites in the HOT ROD category at Moroso Motorsports Park, especially after his runner-up performance at the NOPI event in Phoenix on March 20.
"The team is ready and all set up for the race this weekend in Florida," said Gardella. "We put new rings in our Ecotec engines, just to freshen them up, and we also have a new turbo going on the car that we're certain will help make our Chevy Cobalt run even faster. When were at the NOPI event in Phoenix, we had 74 mm of boost in the turbo, and that gave us a lot more power but we didn't have a real good handle on the boost control. We feel like we now have that figured out. Garrett is also designing a new turbo for us that has a bigger housing, so we'll have the best of both worlds because this is a turbo that we plan on running in both the NHRA and NOPI race series. I really feel that with what we learned that this Chevy Cobalt has the potential of being a 7.80 to 7.90 bracket car. I think this Chevrolet is going to run great in Florida."
After his record-setting, winning performance at the NOPI Nationals in Phoenix on March 20, Matt Hartford will be looking to carry that success into the NHRA Pro RWD category this weekend at Moroso Motorsports Park. This marks Hartford's second season with the twin-turbo, GM High Feature 3.5L V6 under the hood of his Summit Racing Chevy Cavalier, and his run at Phoenix of 6.562 seconds at 212.03 firmly establishes the GM High Feature V6 as the state-of-the-art powerplant in the NHRA Pro RWD category.
"We busted our tails over this past winter looking for that performance edge and it looks like we found something," said Hartford. "Mylon Keasler and Mark Courier have been working night and day at our engine shop in Tennessee to basically solve some of the reliability issues we had last year, and it looks like we're making some headway. It felt awesome to run the 6.56 and set both ends of the world record with the 212 mph speed. Our goal is to go to Moroso and put some big numbers up on the board, but most importantly, we want to win the race so we can have a chance to win the championship.
"With any form of racing, development is ongoing and anytime you're standing still you're going backwards. Every day we're working on new stuff for tomorrow and hopefully that research and development will show as the season moves forward."
The BF Goodrich Tires NHRA Sport Compact Nationals will be held April 2 - 3 at Moroso Motorsports Park in West Palm Beach, Fla. Television coverage of the event can be seen on ESPN2 on Thursday, April 14, beginning at 2 p.m. (ET)