Chevrolet's Nelson Hoyos, GM Racing Gearing Up For 2004 NHRA PRO FWD Campaign
FONTANA, Calif., March 8, 2004 - When you look at the phenomenal success achieved in 2003 by Chevrolet's Nelson Hoyos and the GM Racing Sport Compact program, you begin to understand why the Florida native and his AK Racing teammates are so eager to get started again. Last year the orange-and-cinnamon PRO FWD Chevy Cavalier experienced an unprecedented season, raising the performance bar to stratospheric levels, and laying the foundation for what promises to be another exciting campaign on the highly competitive racing circuit.
En route to the 2003 Summit Sport Compact PRO FWD championship, Hoyos' Ecotec-powered Chevy Cavalier scored seven national-event victories, raced in all 10 final rounds, registered four No. 1 qualifying positions, set low elapsed time at three events and ran top speed at seven of the 10 races contested. At the final eliminator at Pomona Raceway (Calif.), the GM Racing Chevy Cavalier ran the fastest speed in PRO FWD history, exiting the traps at 192.38 mph. At that same event, Hoyos' Chevrolet set the PRO FWD national record in top speed with a run of 189.51 mph.
Hoyos discusses the upcoming season and what he hopes will be another successful year for the GM Racing Sport Compact team on the NHRA Summit Racing
The Inaugural Nitto California NHRA Sport Compact Nationals at California Speedway in Fontana, Calif., on March 13 - 14, is the first race on the 10-event NHRA Summit Sport Compact Drag Racing Series. ESPN2 will televise 30 minutes of event coverage on Sunday, March 28, beginning at 12:00 p.m. Eastern. ESPN2 will replay the event coverage on Friday, April 2, starting at 1 a.m. Eastern. Check the local listings in your area.
As a national champion now yourself, what does it take to be successful in the NHRA Summit Sport Compact Series? "In 2003, the GM Racing program came up with a strategy to win the 2003 PRO FWD championship. What we learned in '02 was that consistency, not speed, is what wins races, and as such, our focus during preseason testing was to get our Chevy Cavalier to repeat over and over again exactly what we wanted it to do. Since PRO FWD was a new NHRA category, this created opportunities not just for ourselves, but for everyone in the class to establish new records and make their mark. During competition, our objective was to go rounds and capture every point possible, but clean execution was critical in getting the job done. At every event, our PRO FWD Chevy Cavalier continued to go a little faster and a little quicker so that by the seventh race of the season, we were fortunate to have mathematically clinched the Summit Sport Compact Series championship. At the last three events, we turned up the
wick, really went after it and started having fun. At the season finale in Pomona, we installed our new Ecotec powerplant that we were developing for our new racecar. The result? The new Ecotec created monster power resulting in our 8.14-second elapsed time and the 192-mph national record."
How difficult is it to establish a consistent setup with a front-wheel driven car? "There are so many variables you have to consider in a front-wheel-driven car. Before coming to the GM Racing program, all of my previous experience had been with rear-wheel-drive cars. When I first got involved with this program it was a steep learning curve for me as well. Now I understand how critical minute details are in order to get the car to make consistent, back-to-back runs. What everybody forgets is that our drive wheels are our steering wheels. In a rear-wheel-drive car, when you get erratic tire growth, the car moves in the back end but you can still steer it with the front wheels. When a front-wheel-drive car gets into erratic tire growth, the car wants to steer itself. I
now have to countersteer the car to keep it straight, which makes it even more of a challenge to get the car to repeat anywhere near where it should be. A carefully thought out and executed plan has made it much easier to meet and exceed our goals."
How will the 2004 Chevy Cavalier be different from last year's racecar? "This season, the 2004 Chevy Cavalier we'll be running is completely different from what we ran last year, and that comes from a team effort to figure out how to get all of that Ecotec horsepower to the ground. Our old racecar had a transverse-mounted engine and a transverse-mounted transmission, just like a stock production car. That limited us to not only the amount of traction we could apply, but to the style of transmissions and clutches that were available to our program. This year we've elected to go to a longitudinal-style engine setup and an Xtrac transmission. The Xtrac is a beautiful gearbox and very similar to what a lot of the GTP cars use (although we use it to drive the front instead of the rear wheels). This custom-built gearbox has provided our Cavalier with much better traction than before. For example, in testing at Bradenton (Fla.) our 60-ft and 330-ft times have improved dramatically, which is were it matters most if you're looking for quicker elapsed time."
Is this an improvement over last season's Cavalier? "We're confident that this new setup will allow us to achieve the traction and horsepower levels to move our program to the next level. In addition to the longitudinal, forward-aft type motor and transaxle we now employ, our '04 Cavalier carries a slipper clutch like an NHRA Pro Stock Car, so now our weight distribution is far, far better than what it was before. Almost half of the transmission, clutch and motor hang out over the front wheels so that gives us a lot more weight in the front of the car. The new setup gives us better weight distribution and tremendous balance. In fact, in our recent tests in Florida, the new Chevy Cavalier responded phenomenally, running as fast or faster than last year's championship car. And we don't even have this car in race trim yet. Our new Chevy Cavalier is going to be a rocketship, and it is highly likely that sometime this year, with the abundant horsepower our turbo-charged Ecotec 2.0-liter engine provides, that we will eclipse the 200 mph mark. The new Chevrolet has an enormous amount of traction, our 60-foot and 330-foot times have improved and we haven't lost anything in third our fourth gear. It is going to be a fast racecar."
What are some of the other enhancements made to your new PRO FWD Chevrolet?
"The suspension setup on the 2004 Chevy Cavalier is straightforward with shock absorbers on the front to allow maximum extension and travel. The rear suspension has also been altered to make the car more drivable. The engine has a quick-release frame component so that we can swap motors in about 15 minutes - the whole front element of the car comes off. There are four bolts that hold the chassis, and four bolts that hold the bell-housing plate. You take those eight bolts off and the entire front segment comes off the car. We have a second, completely built frame member that we can slide right back on the car. The AK Racing team has done a fabulous job in making this new Chevrolet an accessible, user-friendly machine. All of the things we learned running the old car have been incorporated into this racecar. The longitudinal engine placement doesn't fight me going down the track and now the car drives so smooth and straight, even at a high rate of speed. The look of the new Cavalier will be very similar to what we had in '03, a similar paint scheme, but we've inverted the colors placing the cinnamon on top and the orange on bottom. But technologically, if you wanted to build a great racecar, this is what you would do. It's an awesome, awesome piece."
Describe the safety features on the new Chevy Cavalier? "Safety is the No. 1 priority at GM Racing and my hat goes off to Tom Gideon and everyone on the GM Racing safety team in developing an even safer racecar. The materials we employ on this PRO FWD 2004 Chevy Cavalier are solid. It was manufactured for optimum safety and speed. Installed is a specially designed Racetech seat which has shoulder support and side head protection, something you would normally find in our GM Racing ALMS Corvette. I have a seven-point harness this year instead of the six-point harness I used last year. I also use a HANS and a three-layer Nomex fire suit with Nomex fireproof underwear. The actual cockpit in the '04 Cavalier is laid out to be very comfortable. I'm in a rearward seating position similar to a Pro Stock style car so exiting on both sides is very easy to do, and the car has a fire extinguisher system on board for the cockpit and engine compartment. We're also using huge axles, almost an inch and a quarter in diameter, and large 935-style carrier bearings, so the chance of breaking a driveline are reduced to almost nothing. GM Racing engineers have also installed sealed, steel firewalls, an independent fire suppression system and a fresh-air system. The GM safety team has made every effort to make this '04 Chevrolet the quickest, fastest and safest FWD car in the world!"
How well did your preseason test sessions go? "Very well. Russ O'Blenes and the AK Racing team assembled the car and brought it down to Bradenton. I hopped in the car, got oriented with the cockpit, and the new switches and gauges. We cranked up the new Chevy Cavalier and made two easy passes, just to make sure the car stopped and steered and didn't do anything crazy. We turned up the wick and started doing burnouts to get familiar with the new clutch setup and also to get our new teammates accustomed to what I do as a driver - how to guide me back correctly, how to stage me on the starting line, just the fundamental procedures of making the run to get everybody comfortable with each other. We spent a lot of time going over the team issue - what we needed to do, how we needed to do it, how to stage the car correctly, etc. We made several passes with the boost turned up somewhat in the 35-pound range, and the new Chevrolet netted some unbelievable times. It was extremely exciting for me, as a
driver, to be able to run that fast, back to back on a car that is technically brand new. It's a tremendous feeling when you can run within three hundredths of a second, back to back. All of our objectives were achieved. I'm pretty confident this new Cavalier will give us the times and speeds we've been working toward."
What are your expectations for 2004? "When you achieve the kind of goals we accomplished last year as a team, the momentum gives you an edge going into the next season. But there's also a little bit of pressure because the expectations we've set for ourselves are so high. The competition in the Summit Sport Compact Series continues to escalate. More and more racers are understanding what it takes to create a winning program. As the evolution of the sport continues, it will become even more competitive, but there's nothing more gratifying than coming out on top against a field of great teams. Competition is what continues to fuel the growth of our sport, and this year I expect everybody to step up their game making it even more difficult for us to defend our PRO FWD championship."
"Only two things are infinite, the universe and human stupidity, and I'm not sure about
the former." - Albert Einstein