Chevrolet's Nelson Hoyos Gets His First Taste of The Bonneville Salt WENDOVER, Utah, Aug. 26, 2004- With a proven record of accomplishment on the quarter-mile, and a 2003 Pro FWD championship tucked away in his trophy case, it's safe to say that...
Chevrolet's Nelson Hoyos Gets His First Taste of The Bonneville Salt
WENDOVER, Utah, Aug. 26, 2004- With a proven record of accomplishment on the quarter-mile, and a 2003 Pro FWD championship tucked away in his trophy case, it's safe to say that Nelson Hoyos has experienced his share of success on the drag strip. In just two seasons on the NHRA Sport Compact tour, the Chevy Cavalier driver has captured 10 national-event victories and competed in 18 final rounds. During a winning weekend at Gateway International Raceway on Aug. 21-22, the South Florida resident drove his orange and cinnamon Ecotec-powered Chevrolet to a Pro FWD national record of 7.594 seconds and collected his third victory of the season. A few days prior to his record-stomping visit to St. Louis, Hoyos actually got to drive faster, much faster, when he got his first taste of competition at the 2004 Bonneville Speed Weeks at the legendary Bonneville Salt Flats. After working the 2005 Ecotec-powered Chevy Cobalt up to speed on the Utah sea of salt, Hoyos turned three laps above the 230 mph marker before posting his fastest run of the week at 243.127 mph on Thursday, Aug. 19. GM Performance Division will return to the Bonneville Salt Flats with the Ecotec-powered Cobalt in October when Hoyos will attempt to set a new land-speed record in BFALT (B Fuel Altered).
How were you selected to drive the Chevy Cobalt for this project? "GM Performance Division approached Chevrolet about making an attempt at the BFALT (B Fuel Altered) land-speed record, and Chevy saw it as a tremendous opportunity for the new Cobalt to be exposed in that type of venue. When I learned that Chevrolet was going to be running the Cobalt at Bonneville this year, I kind of put my hat in the ring and let it be known that I'd like to drive it. The selection process went through an internal committee at GM, and I was fortunate to be selected to drive the car. It was great knowing that management had the faith in me to give me that opportunity. At the same time, with my work with the Pro FWD Cavalier in NHRA Sport Compact, it's also a wonderful way to continue my relationship with Chevrolet. After the selection process, I got fitted in the Cobalt and met the program director, Dave Bolognino. I then found out that Russ O'Blenes was in charge of the engine program, and that was neat since Russ and I have worked together for the last few years on the Sport Compact program. Russ was confident that I knew how to press the 'go' pedal, and it all kind of came together very nicely."
Getting in the 2005 Chevy Cobalt "I actually got my introduction to the car sitting in it at the Salt Flats. I had no previous runs in the car, so I went around and talked to a lot of the Bonneville veterans who have years of experience running on the salt, asking them questions and really learning what I needed to do. The main thing that caught my attention is at Bonneville you need to be patient. In drag racing, I'm used to doing 20 different things when I'm running my Pro FWD Cavalier in a quarter-mile during a seven-second run. At Bonneville I was embarking on a two-and-a-half minute run where I had to practice a lot of patience, bringing the motor up gently, shifting gears right on the money and making sure the car was experiencing a gradual increase in power. I couldn't stab it and go which I'm used to doing with the Pro FWD car. It actually worked out real well. My first run was on the short track, and the Cobalt had to go at least 175 mph, but no faster than 195 mph, to qualify and go to the long course. The Cobalt ran 186 mph on a great pass where we experienced a gradual increase in speed, the car was stable and everything worked out very well. That kind of gave me my introduction to Bonneville. You get a two-mile opportunity to gain speed. They measure you at the two-mile marker, again at 2.25 miles and then they measure you for the whole two to three-mile segment. At three miles you click it off, throw the parachutes and you have two miles to stop. I entered into the third segment at 179 mph and exited at 186 mph, which was exactly where we needed to be. The Cobalt qualified and I qualified, so from there we went to the long course."
What was it like being at the Bonneville Salt Flats? "I've heard it described as moon-like and it was exactly that, 44,000 acres of white salt as far as you can see. We were surrounded by beautiful, gorgeous mountains, but there's nothing else out there. The way the courses are laid out, where we were in the pits, you could not see the starting line because we were four miles from the starting line and three miles from the end of the racetrack. You would see a car coming through that one-mile segment in front of you, nothing but a speck of dust, it passes, and then you see a speck of dust going away from you, that's it. You don't see where the parachutes are thrown, you don't see the turnoff, you don't see anything from the pits because it's this huge, wide-open environment. It was absolutely breathtaking."
What were some of the modifications made to the Cobalt and Ecotec? "The car was a stock unibody Chevy Cobalt that they began with. Roush Industries built the cage structure and all of the internal components. We used a rather large 30-gallon water tank in the backseat area, and we used a 12 gallon water tank on the passenger side. These tanks were to keep fresh, cool water going through the motor for a long period of time and also as extra weight for ballast on the car. In the passenger compartment, to offset my weight on my side, we used an intercooler tank which was filled with ice and water for the turbocharger. On our Pro FWD Cavalier we use a very small tank for the intercooler and we use a small tank for fuel. On this car we needed maximum capacity. The structure on the Chevy Cobalt was incredibly solid and I felt super safe inside it. All of the safety structure that I have in my Pro FWD Chevy Cavalier was in the Cobalt including the safety seat, six-point belts, HANS and multiple fire-suppression systems. I wore a five-layer NHRA Funny Car style suit with the Funny Car boots, the Funny Car gloves, the head sock, and I felt like the Pillsbury Dough Boy with all of this stuff on. We had three different fire-suppression systems in the car. We had one specifically for the engine department, and we had two for the interior driver's compartment, so again, we were prepared. But the car performed very, very well. We had a 2.0L turbocharged Ecotec engine that produced about 800 horsepower. It was very similar to the engine that we use in Marty's (Ladwig) Pontiac Sunfire. We also use a 4T65 Hydra-Matic transmission, just like the one Marty uses in his Sunfire, and it held up tremendously under all that stress. That was a little bit different for me because I haven't had any experience with the automatic transmission since I run the X-Trac. It was a button shift on the steering wheel, and it worked really well. We were able to spool the turbo up to maximize our traction capability with the Hydra-Matic, realizing that full 800 horsepower. It was already a tried-and-proven package, and we knew that it would work because Marty has flown in his Pontiac. It was just a matter of getting all of that traction to the ground, which is what we did."
What did it feel like going 243 mph on the long course? "That particular run we kind of changed our strategy a little bit. We were using a push truck to get us up to speed, and at about 50 mph, I would pull off the push truck. We were doing that in second gear hoping not to break the tires loose and get the car to build up to speed. We ran a couple of good runs going 222 mph on one lap and 235 mph on another run. We then decided to approach it as a five-mile drag race. We called Steve Coleman from Hydra-Matic to get his input on how we could get the Cobalt to launch like a drag car and basically still control the wheel spin. Steve gave us some excellent tips on how to do that. We got the push truck to bring us up to about 60 mph, and then I pulled away in first gear and just matted it to the wood like I would a drag car. It started slipping the tires a little, but the slippage was controlled. The Chevy Cobalt came up to speed very, very quickly. We were hoping not to drop the engine rpm too much so that we would stay in the optimum horsepower range. I got it up to about 9500 rpm, shifted, and it went to 7500 rpm, all the while pulling like a rocket ship. By just changing the way we launched the car we got a 28 mph gain at the first measured mile. At the two-mile mark we were at 228 mph and we still had three miles to go. By the time we got to the third measured mile we were at 243.127 mph. The Chevy Cobalt was humming along beautifully, the engine rpm was great and the car was pulling strong. I got out of it a little early because we didn't want to break the 250 mph mark just yet. We want to save that for the October meet. As it sits now, the Ecotec-powered Chevy Cobalt definitely has more than 250 mph in it."
Preparing for October "The Chevy Cobalt will be available on the showroom floor in the Fall and then we'll be eligible to run for the BFALT speed record. We decided to use this run at Bonneville as a research-and-development session, a chance for me to get some seat time in the car, and to see what we needed to do to get the car up to the speeds we want. As it sits, the Cobalt performs flawlessly and did exactly what we wanted it to do. It was a great test-and-tune session and a good learning experience for me. At the same time, it was an absolute blast to be a part of."
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