Muscle Mustangs & Fast Fords
Eight was Great at WFC
Records were set and the racing was close at the 8th Annual World Ford Challenge.
For the eighth straight year, the Pro Mod 5.0 and Pro Street Outlaw classes were the headlining categories at the Mobil 1 World Ford Challenge at Gateway International Raceway outside St. Louis.
WFC 8 was the ultimate trip for Ford enthusiasts, from the packed car show to the various drag racing classes that could accommodate virtually every style Ford product.
The top class of the weekend, Pro Mod 5.0, was dealing out $35,000 to the winner. It brought out the best in the business, including several IHRA Pro Stock racers. It is so prestigious that team owner Kevin Marsh hired Billy Glidden to wheel his nitrous-powered mountain-motor Escort. That way he had two shots at winning the title. In the end, it wasn't a blower, turbo, or nitrous entry that took home the cash--Tony Gillig wheeled the all-engine ASSC Racing IHRA Pro Stock car to the top of the heap over Chuck Samuel.
Pro Street Outlaw was insanity as the record crowd of spectators witnessed both the e.t. and mph records fall on real 10.5-inch tires. We aren't talking about 10.5W tires either--the competitors were forced to run 28x10.5-inch as-measured slicks. Manny Buginga was victorious with his turbocharged Stang and ran a jaw-dropping 7.37 in the finals to beat Dan Millen of Livernois Motorsports. Buginga dominated the class start to finish with 7.40 performances before shocking the crowd in the finals. Millen ran a demented 196 mph on the smallish tires, but his e.t. was not quick enough to beat Buginga in the big-bucks round.
Wild Street became a seven-second show as these street machines were set on kill during eliminations. Most of the competitors backed down their cars to survive the 30-mile cruise and three straight qualifying runs. Mike Keenan dropped his late-model Mustang into the sevens--a first in class history--however the win went to Mike Saponara of Cape Coral, Florida. His single turbocharged machine ran mid eights to win the category.
For the second year in a row, Johnny Lightning entered both the Diesel Challenge and Pro Lightning categories. Against all odds he captured both titles, same as he did last year. That is quite an accomplishment when you consider he jockeyed a mid-14-second Econoline Van and his 10-oh '01 Lightning.
Mike Post denied Brian Mitchell three straight WFC Renegade victories. The Chicago-based tuner ran consistent 8.60s at over 160 mph to lay claim to his first WFC win. The School of Automotive Machinists (SAM) team went back to class with its first Hot Street win. Driver Pat Topolinski laid down the gauntlet with an 8.92 run to beat Adrian Doran in the finals.
It took two years for someone to beat Richard Lelsz of Strictly Performance in the Cobra Eliminator. Daniel Pachar of Orange, Texas, laid down a sick 9.43 to capture the victory over Lelsz, who ran 9.73--sans nitrous. Dennis Merrow of Maine won Factory Stock by beating Jeff Schmell.
Two Personal Tragedies
Two racers suffered great personal losses during the event weekend.
Brit is putting his old Pro 5.0 car back together and should be back in action by next season. Sam Vincent is racing on a part time basis right now and has a new home being built.
Pure Street saw Rich Groh dominate the field with 10.20 performances. Modular power ruled the Real Street category as Tim Matherly added another winner's trophy to his collection. The largest class of the weekend was the Open Comp category where 57 competitors slugged it out. When the smoke cleared, the Gillam Brothers were the only ones left standing.
Bob Kowalske overtook Gen I and Gen II Lightnings as well as Harley trucks and was crowned Street Lightning champ. Louie Manglos of Laurel Mountain Mustang drove his mid-11-second '03 Cobra to the win in Modular Street.
Auto show Spectacular
World Ford Challenge is not just about late-model Mustangs but rather a complete Ford extravaganza, including the car show. Several show classes were available for old-school Ford iron.
Next year we expect WFC 9 to be just as fine. Promoter George Gonzales promises it to be one of the wildest Ford drag races of all time. He even said that planning for WFC 10 has already begun.
Exclusive Web Coverage!
Even after 8 pages, we didn't have enough room in the magazine for all the shots we took. So, here's a sampling of more cars, more trucks and some great burnouts!