RACE: Valvoline Runoffs: Eureka High Racing Team preview

Eureka High Racing Team moves to head of the class; student-built race car set for SCCA National Championships - Nissan-supported team teaching high-speed lessons to students/ EUREKA, Calif., Sept 13 -- For the first time in their 17-year...

Eureka High Racing Team moves to head of the class; student-built race car set for SCCA National Championships - Nissan-supported team teaching high-speed lessons to students/

EUREKA, Calif., Sept 13 -- For the first time in their 17-year history, the Eureka High School (EHS) Auto Shop Team will be racing in the Sports Car Club of America (SCCA) National Championships Valvoline Runoffs -- the "Superbowl" of amateur sports car racing in the United States. The red, black and silver, 250-plus horsepower, number 99 GT3-class Nissan 240SX, completely constructed by Eureka High School students under the supervision of instructor/driver Larry Hansen, competes this week at the 2002 Runoffs at the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course

"The students and I are very excited to be running in the 2002 championship," said Hansen. "We've worked so hard over the years to get here and now their efforts are paying off."

Located five hours from any road course, Eureka is hardly a hot-bed for motorsports activities, but thanks to the dedication of Hansen and his students, road-race champion Nissans have been coming from this small town since 1979. The team was formed when a teacher at EHS was campaigning a Datsun 510 in SCCA races. Hansen and the students helped campaign the car through the early 1980s and in 1984, EHS students first created their own race car from the ground up, a Nissan 200SX. Hansen obtained his SCCA license and soon was campaigning the car with students as his crew in races all along the West Coast.

In 1988, EHS created a racecar for the ultra-competitive GT3 class -- a full tube-frame Nissan with a body made of fiberglass and carbon fiber. Hansen and his students designed the original car and four additional racers since, welding the tube frames, fitting and tuning suspension components, building engines and drivetrains and creating the distinctive racing color schemes. Enthusiasm for the EHS program skyrocketed once racing became part of the curriculum, even earning students a high school "letter" normally reserved for traditional high school sports.

Once they go through Hansen's program, EHS Auto Shop students are prepared to take on secondary technical and engineering programs. Hansen is proud to report that many of his former students, including his son, are now top-flight dealership technicians, automotive engineers and even NASCAR Winston Cup crew members.

Nissan and EHS, A Great Team

Racing requires a serious monetary investment, and the team requires committed sponsorship. Enter local Eureka businesses, including McCrea Nissan, and Nissan Motorsports. Since 1989, Nissan Motorsports has been providing technical and product assistance to the EHS team, including providing a 240SX body.

"This is a perfect team for Nissan Motorsports to support, combining automotive enthusiasm and education of our youth," said Ron Stukenberg, manager of motorsports marketing and operations, Nissan North America, Inc. "When I first saw their car years ago, I could not believe that it was put together in a high school auto shop. As a former high school auto shop teacher myself, I must say it's so well prepared it looks like it was built by a professional team."

But when it comes to racing, the overriding question is not on appearance but on performance. The students' final exam question is this -- how does it run? This year, the answer is A+: good enough to make the 2002 SCCA National Championships, an invitation-only event hosting more than 600 racers at the world-renowned Mid Ohio Sports Car Course in Lexington, Ohio. In order to get to Mid-Ohio, the team had to finish in the top eight in their class in one of eight different SCCA divisions operating across the United States. EHS, competing in the GT3 class, was able to finish sixth in the Northern Pacific Division.

"We made the EHS team a deal," said Stukenberg. "If they could get an invitation to the 2002 championships, Nissan Motorsports would help them as much as possible to make it. They did it and we're proud to support them."

Crewing for the EHS team will be three current and two former EHS students, but win or lose, Hansen will be making the long tow back to California alone. His students will have to be back in class first thing Monday morning.

The 2002 Valvoline Runoffs begins with practice sessions on Monday, September 16. Qualifying begins Tuesday the 17th and continues through Thursday the 19th. The 24-race lineup starts on Friday the 20th, ending on Sunday the 22nd. These exciting races will be featured on the Speed Channel on a tape-delayed basis.


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Series SCCA
Drivers Larry Hansen