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2017 Drag Week: Day Two
Alex Corella rises to be provisional class leader, Mike Jovanis out of competition
The second day of the five-day competition proved to be an interesting one for Mike Jovanis and Alex Corella. The roaming street race tour moved to Gateway International Raceway, located just outside of St. Louis in the town of Madison, Illinois. The facility has a storied history and many longtime Mustang enthusiasts may remember it as the home of World Ford Challenge from 2001 through 2007. For Jovanis, it will be the track where he had to bow out of competition. After running 8.100 at 172 mph, your author and Jovanis were feeling pretty good on the racing consistency of the turbocharged Mustang. But shortly after getting on the road, it became clear that a crankcase pressure problem was only getting worse and filling the overflow tank. Realizing there was no roadside fix available, Jovanis made the decision to pull out of competition.
The good news is that teammate Alex Corella has forged on and his turbocharged Mustang, in the Street Race Small Block Power Adder class, knocked off an 8.517 run. It wasn’t an easy task, his first run resulted in an 8.58 at 163 mph, a solid performance but in a class where closest to 8.50 wins, that wasn’t going to keep him competitive. Running an index with a car that goes 8.30s is a double-edged sword, on one hand he has enough power and ability to run dead-on the number. The other side of it is that the power also can push him under the time. Street Race competitors cannot turn in a timeslip quicker than 8.50, making the average over five days a much more daunting task.
Corella connected his laptop to review the data from the Pro EFI engine management system to see why the car fell off from an 8.51 the day before to an 8.58 at Gateway Motorsports Park. The weather was slightly warmer, however, he did add some more starting line rpm and cleaned up the air/fuel ratio in anticipation of those conditions. A quick review of the data revealed the problem—the E85 content in the tank was a mere 56-percent. The first day of competition showed a 79-percent reading, in favor of E85 fuel. The lower percentage of corn meant the Pro EFI kept ignition timing lower than normal due to the excessive amount of pump gas. As a side note, the engine management system has a flex-fuel option that allows a GM fuel sensor to be used to garner those fuel readings. Errol at TPS, the tuning company who built the engine strategy for Corella, has the tune-up tied into that sensor making it an automatic recalibration to account for the percentage changes.
Lujan Motorsports built the Mustang to be as turnkey and trouble-free as possible, allowing Corella to concentrate on managing the power in order to maintain the mid-8 second performances. Another problem with the car, in terms of engine calibration, has been the excessive cool weather. The temperatures have varied between 50 degrees and 70 degrees. That can cause some issues when running on E85 and utilizing an air-to-water intercooler as the inlet air temperatures were down around 40 degrees. The extremely cool inlet air temperatures did cause a slight surging problem and rough idle. The solution is that Corella regulates the ice that he puts into his small water cell, which is mounted under the hood. He starts with straight water and then only adds a little bit of ice to it as the ambient air increases, maintaining inlet air temperatures around 50-60 degrees. With the starting line launch rpm turned up, the Floridian knocked off an 8.518 and he got on the road to Byron Dragway.
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The official Hot Rod Drag Week results after day two show Corella sitting on top of Street Race Small Block Power Adder with an 8.5150 average. The next two positions, occupied by Jason Doisher and John Dodson, are tied with an identical 8.5155—meaning Corella has just a .0005 lead!
The drive from Gateway Motorsports Park to Byron Dragway in Rockford, Illinois took contestants on to the interstate highway system as opposed to local state roads. The 289-mile trip put the cars through a grueling high-speed test of durability. Valvetrain systems were beat on relentlessly with long runs but the lone checkpoint stop was an ice cream stand where competitors could enjoy a refreshing snack. Jovanis might be down and out, but Corella is running strong with three days to go in the five-day, 1,000-mile street race competition.