Now you might be asking yourself a couple of questions right about now. For one, "Why a Saturn?" For another, "How do you expect to win any races running a totally stock car?" Well, here is an extremely long page dedicated to all these questions and more. So sit back and relax, it's going to take a while.
I bought my Saturn back in 1997. I went into the dealer wanting an Automatic car, mostly because of all the city driving I was doing at the time. But I also wanted a car with no options except for Air-Conditioning. The only thing the dealer had on the lot at the time was a 1997 Saturn SC2, but it was a Manual. So I took it out for a test drive. I was hooked instantly. The Saturn Automatic's I've driven since that time are pretty quick, with there "performance minded" shifting when you floor it. But I still love the motto one company has, "Shift Yourself". If you can't pull off a 8,000 downshift into second while doing 80MPH, then what good is it.
As soon as I got home, my mind immediately shifted to getting performance parts for the car (literally the night I came home with the car). The first spot I came across was Bill Deeb's site. I was dead set on getting Nitrous for my car after that. So I headed off to the local racing shops to see about getting Nitrous put on. All off them basically laughed me right out of the shop. "You want that on a Saturn. You must be nuts!" So I headed home with my head hanging low. "Darn, I've got to be able to do something with this car!".
I headed back to Bill Deeb's site for more info / ammo for when I headed back to the local racing shops. I found out that the kit was really a 5.0L Mustang Kit with a smaller jet on it to produce about 50HP. But while I was at it, I decided to see what else I could do to my car in case the local guys wouldn't touch the Nitrous. Wow!! Cams, throttle bodies, tires, rims, fuel pressure regulators. I was in heaven. I didn't really know what any of this stuff did, but it has to make more power! So I thought to myself, "Ok ... now let's go see what the racing shops have to say about all this other stuff". Needless to say, I received the same "warm welcome" that I got before. "Are you crazy? Why in the world do you want to modify a Saturn anyway?".
While I was out, I decided to swing by the local Saturn dealership and find out if they knew anything about performance parts. They sell the cars, so in theory, I figured that they'd have some kind of performance parts catalog or something. No luck there either. As usual, I got laughed out. "Even if you did modify the car, it's still a Saturn. Why not just buy a real sports car and modify that?" My only response to that was, "I just dumped $15,500 for this Saturn I just bought from you. I'm not about to dump $30,000 for a "so called" real sports car." And with that, I headed home, defeated once again.
I headed back to Bill Deeb's site, determined to learn more about the car that was sitting out in my driveway. I wasn't about to give up on my car, no matter how many people laughed at me for trying. So I looked at his link's page. I was stunned to see that there were other people trying to do the same thing I was attempting.
I found Lane's Page, that filled my mind with visions of a killer stereo. Not just the stereo that the "kid down the street" has (that pulls in to his driveway at 2AM with it blaring). But an honest to goodness killer stereo system where I can crank the music up when a good song comes on the radio, and not have to worry about my window's shattering. So I put down "stereo" on the list of mods I wanted to attempt.
While I was on the links page, I found SPS's Website. Now I was all set. I could buy just about all the major parts for my car to make it a killer Saturn. Spark Plug wires, Air Intakes, clutches. I had visions of beating all those guys at the race shop with my "little Saturn". So after bugging Bill Deebs and the guys at SPS about whether the PowerStack would blow up my car or not, I ordered it. All I could think of is that the car just got about 100HP added to it. Loud = More Power, or so I thought at the time.
I drove by my high school on the way to work in the morning's flooring it to make "more power." After a while some of my friends started coming by to look at the new car. When I opened the hood, and they saw that PowerStack, they were instantly impressed with the car. I took a few of them for "joy rides" in it, they loved it. "Man, this thing is so loud for a little car ... it must be like 200HP."
After my PowerStack experience, I was once again determined to get more power out of my Saturn. I started emailing SPS and Bill Deebs constantly. Every time they'd answer a question, I'd give them five more to answer. But I wasn't about to give up now ... and it seemed like they were the only way I could get more info. Because the local race shops were still laughing at me.
So after about six months of emailing back and forth, Bill Deebs decided it was time to put together a Saturn Homecoming of our own. It was time for the "1st Annual Saturn Performance Rally!" This was around August of 1998. By this time, I had gotten some rims and tires from Sears. And I had the PowerStack on the car. I thought I'd get to Spring Hill and be one of the only ones with any mods, boy was I wrong. I was just about the only one running an almost stock car. Everyone had a bunch of mods done to their cars. I was in heaven. ;-)
While on the trip, there was a raced scheduled for us. Something called an Auto-Cross. "What! Are you crazy, what if I hit a cone out there!" was all I could think of. There was no way in heck I was going to risk hurting my car. "You guys say that it's no big deal, but yet you have to wear a helmet? You guys go a head, I'll just watch." Luckily for me Bill Deebs was able to pull me out of that attitude and by the end of the day, he had me set on racing the next day. So the next day we set out to race. I was dead set on at least running one lap to see what it was like. I looked at the parking lot filled with cones and just nodded my head, "Where's the race track? What? This is it?." But I was still set on at least giving it a shot. After my first run, it was all over. The Auto-Crossing animal had claimed another victim. I got out of the car, still shaking from the adrenalin rush, wondering how I ever lived without Auto-Crossing before. From that day forward, I was hooked. I think I came in dead last in the "beginner's class", but I had a blast.
As soon as I returned home from Spring Hill, I immediately looked up the SCCA on the internet (the biggest organization for Auto-Crossing). I found out what region was nearest me and looked up their website (Finger Lakes Region). I went out the next weekend to see one of their events. But I arrived at about noon, and the event was about half over already. No way I was going to be able to race. So I headed home kind of bummed. But no fear, I headed out about a month later to their next event. We got there at about 8AM to the sights and sounds that I've now come to know and love. Power tools going, people getting car's off of trailers, etc.
Luckily for me, the Finger Lakes Region has an instructional class. I was put into that class to start out with. I got to have an instructor ride along with me for the first two runs of the day. Then if I wanted to ride alone for my last run I could. I received all kinds of help / tips that day.
The funny thing was, no one seemed to care that I was the only one there with a Saturn. Everyone thought it was cool. "Excuse me, but how can the race shops hate my car, yet you guys love it?", I asked. "Well, that's because they don't race "for real". All they do is street / bench race. They wouldn't know a "good race car" if one bit them in the butt.", was the response most people gave me. They said that they get the same treatment when they go into a race / parts shop. The guys at the counter try selling them all kinds of mods for their cars, but all they want is a set of tires. They said that the guys at those part / race shops can't understand it at all. I guess some things were never meant to be. ;-)
Jumping a head to the beginning of this year. After what seemed like an eternity, the 1999 race season opened up. I came out in full force in my still fully stock 1997 SC2. Only this time I had two other guys to deal with. Todd Miller in his 1995 Neon Sport with race tires, and Nathan Lucier with his 1996 Neon Espresso (same thing as the sport) with race tires and Koni adjustable racing struts.
All I could think of is how on earth could I beat two Neon's running with racing tires and racing struts in my stock Saturn? I carried that mind set with me for the first few events. Luckily I was still in the instructional class at the time, and both of them were running in the open classes. So I was safe for a while.
After the first few events I got all the cob webs out and started kicking some butt in the instructional class. The first event I took 5th, the second 3rd, and the third event I took 2nd. That was it, I was ready to race on my own. I started to see what Todd and Nathan were doing with their cars, and I got the attitude that the reason I couldn't keep up was because the instructors were holding me back. So I made the jump from ES-Novice to the open class ES. The only problem was I still carried the mindset that these Neon's could beat me regardless of the drivers abilities because of there mods. So needless to say, for the next few events, I always took 3rd place.
When ever we'd go to out of region events, we'd usually end up beating the other people in ES, but I couldn't shake Todd or Nathan. But then one bright and sunny day, at an event held about an hour and a half from here, I took Nathan. It was the first time I was able to race against another Saturn. The other Saturn came in first, and I finished second, with Nathan almost half a second behind me taking third. Boy was I happy! I finally proved to myself that my "little stock Saturn" could take a fully race ready Neon.
Not soon afterwards, Todd have the misfortune of getting into an accident with his Neon. So he teamed up against me with Nathan. Basically, they turned it into a Neon vs. Saturn thing. If it's a fight they want, it's a fight they'll get. But till this day, I consider it a "just for fun" type of war. I try not to make any remarks about their Neon's. And they, for the most part, leave my Saturn alone.
A few months before the 1999 season ended, I ran into a killer deal on some race tires. $75 for seven of them. Sure they were used, but hey, $75!!! I bought the tires and had them mounted up before the next event. It was at MCC, a local college. They had just resealed the parking lot, and boy was it slick ... or so everyone else told me.
So I went out there on my first run expecting the worst. Not only was it my first time driving on race tires, but I was "supposedly" slick as all get out. I took the first turn slow ... then realized, "Hey! I could have taken that turn A LOT faster!". So I took the next turn a little faster, and the next one faster, and on the last turn, I took it a little to fast. ;-) I ended up sliding sideways right towards the timing booth. The people in there were ready to run for the hills when they saw the car coming towards them. But luckily for them, all I took out was about six cones (2 seconds added to your time for each cone). And after that happened, Nathan and Todd didn't think I stood a chance. Never underestimate the power's of the Saturn! ;-)
I went out for my second run ready to push the limits once again. To Nathan and Todd's amassment, as well as my own, I pulled off a time that was about a second better then their best times for the day. They went out and took their second runs. I was still in 1st place by about 0.600 seconds (at least). Then I went out for my third run. I was thinking to myself that I had it all rapped up. So I just went out there and had some fun. I ended up taking 1st place in ES by about 2 seconds! Boy was I happy! My stock Saturn had finally overtaken the race ready Neon by a huge margin. But even though I was floored, I didn't say anything to the "Neon guys." Mostly because I knew it could have just been a fluke. So I held out on gloating until I could win at least two in a row by that kind of margin.
Well, it didn't happen again. Nathan and Todd came back with a vetches after that. And that combined with the fact that for some reason, I didn't feel like racing on "race days", set my place in history as being stuck in 3rd place for the rest of the season. I was right on their heals all along though. And after all said and done, I still had a blast! :-)
Shortly after, we headed out to race in an out of region event at Griffiss Air Force Base (where Woodstock `99 was held). About half way through, Nathan noticed that one of his race tires was starting to cord (racing tires are different then street tires, cord's start showing when they start going, but you can still race on them for a little bit). So Nathan decided to call it quits for his last run. He had to drive home on the tires, so that meant that Todd was done to.
Then I offered to let Todd and Nathan drive my car for their last runs. Nathan said no ... but Todd took me up on it. After he got back, he got out of the car and screamed, "I've finally got power again!". Nathan seemed a little down after Todd said that, so I tried to cheer him up and get him to race my car. But he said he'd spare my clutch for another day.
I don't remember what the results where for the day, but at the end of the day, Todd decided that he was going to start co-driving my car from now on. I felt kind of bad stealing Nathan's co-driver, but all he's got to do is say the word, and I'll be more then willing to let him drive my car. But I've been hearing roomer's of Nathan wanting to buy a 5-speed Neon, so maybe Todd will jump ship again. ;-)
Getting back to racing a Saturn. Some where in all of this, I managed to find out about a race team that raced Saturn's on "real race tracks". The team is TeamSCR, and is run by James Walker, Jr. As soon as I found out what they did, I started emailing them like crazy (they'll vogue for that!).
I started to have visions of me getting a truck for a tow vehicle and towing my Saturn to race tracks. Instead of driving it to local parking lots. I could start "racing for real" then. But first I was determined to try it out.
So some where around August of 1998, EMRA had an open time trial event at Watkins Glen. I signed up as soon as I found out about it. It was well worth the $120 I paid to run that day. I was hooked instantly. I was actually hitting "real racing speeds" instead of just turning around a pile of cones. But the fundamentals of my Auto-Crossing experiences carried over and helped me take the turns correctly.
I was addicted. I needed to find out more about getting my car on the track "permanently". So I asked around. I found out that in the regions close to me, I'd need a roll cage if I wanted to see some competition on a race track. Needless to say, that costs money. And if your going to put a cage in your car, you basically loose it as your daily driver. So it just wasn't meant to be, at least not right now.
But in the mean time, I've raced at Gingerman twice, and Watkins Glen a second time. I'm defiantly heading in that direction. That's mostly why I started this page up. To eventually get the support I need to turn into a full "track ready" race team. As well as to help out everyone that's just getting started in racing.
All in all, I've had a blast! In the good times and the bad (well, ok so there haven't really been any bad times). Racing is a strange animal. If your a "regular every day driver", or a "street / bench racer", you probably won't get this, but being a racer, I can honestly say that except for the money factor that would be involved, I probably wouldn't think twice about smashing up the car on a race track. Racing does different things to different people, well ... never mind. Basically what racing does is pulls people in and doesn't let them go. Once you catch the bug, there's no way your getting away from it. So all I can say is, "Sit down, Strap in, and Shut up!". (advice taken from a sticker Nathan likes).