Evan J. Smith
Freelancer
December 5, 2010
Photos By: Jeff Balliet, Steve Kuhtz, Sara Krider

These days, the modern car guy can look in two different places in his search for more horsepower-under the hood or behind the keyboard.

The Internet has taken the place of the hamburger-stand parking lot when it comes to finding tips to hot rod a car. However, unlike the hamburger stand, where you can look the guy in the eye and inspect his car before trusting his advice, the Internet is more ambiguous. You don't know who might be offering those modification suggestions. It might be an engineer or it could be a 12-year-old kid.

Over the years, automotive forums have popped up like zits on a teenager's face. Almost every make and model car has its own forum-even the Edsel. Some forums have great technical information (like where to find the hidden numbers on a Bullitt Mustang), while others are full of braggers (or liars), and in most cases, people with poor grammar. "Dude. I smoked a Z06 Vette last night in my SIIIIICK Civic Si!" Eh, probably not.

The Forum Wars, presented by Royal Purple, was a show set up to put an end to some of the nonsense that has been perpetrated on automotive forums. It was time for some of these "fan boys" of different automotive forums to put their right foot where their mouth was.

The plan for the show was to take two members of different forums and have them do battle on a dragstrip and a road course. The winner would have the glory of crushing a rival forum, and the loser could head back to their keyboard and begin typing excuses. Show segments would be featured on Speed, and full episodes could be viewed at www.theforumwars.tv.

The producers trolled the Internet to find good match-ups for their first season. They put together cars based on horsepower-to-weight, modifications, and the usual classic rivalries. One of the growing rivalries they found was the import crowd and American musclecar owners. From that, the Nissan 350Z versus Ford Mustang GT episode was born.

That's where Steve Kuhtz and Rob Krider come into play. Steve and Rob had been campaigning Steve's '08 Ford Mustang Shelby GT in the F-Stock class of the Sports Car Club of America's Pro Solo series (a head-to-head autocross race using a drag-race start). The Shelby GT was essentially a stock Mustang GT with some exhaust changes, a Ford Racing cold-air intake, lowering springs, and bigger sway bars. The Forum Wars producers found a Nismo 350Z (a factory modified 350Z) and figured the Shelby-versus-Nismo match would be a good one.

Besides racing his friend Steve's Shelby Mustang, Rob Krider writes the Racer Boy blog for www.speedsportlife.com, detailing the how-to on different amateur grassroots motorsports. Rob had been cataloging some of the adventures with the Shelby on the SpeedSport: Life website, and the producers of The Forum Wars asked him if he would be willing to represent an automotive forum on their new show. Rob, who had owned and drag-raced a '92 Ford Mustang 5.0L SSP, and owned and campaigned an '01 Ford Mustang Bullitt at the SCCA National Solo Championships, was already a member of Stangnet.com. When they asked him if wanted to race a Mustang on TV, his answer was a simple, "Of course ... but let me ask Steve if it's okay to beat up his car for this." Steve said it was okay, "as long as you win!"

The episode was set to tape only a week after Rob was given the green light to appear on the show. The rules were simple: show up, bring a helmet, and make sure the car has DOT tires.

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This little outing wasn't Rob and Steve's first date to a race track. Together they had won SCCA National Tour events, 24 Hours of LeMons, ChumpCar World Series, and National Auto Sport Association (NASA) road races. They knew what it took to prepare and set up a racecar-they weren't going to show up to compete on TV with an unsorted car.

They needed to be at Irwindale Speedway at 7 a.m. on Friday. However, due to the limited time to get ready, T-shirts and stickers from Stangnet.com, the sticky Hoosier tires, a set of Carbotech brake pads, and I/O Port Racing Supplies five-point harness all arrived by way of overnight shipping at about 5 p.m. on Thursday. Rob and Steve thrashed as the sun set and then towed the Mustang to Southern California. When they arrived at Irwindale Speedway, they had about three hours of sleep.

The Forum Wars show was set to tape all 10 episodes of Season 1 in one day at the race track. The parking lot was littered with Vipers, GT-Rs, Porsches, BMWs, and a Cadillac CTS-V. It seemed like the minimum bid to be on the show was 500 hp and independent rear suspension. The naturally aspirated Shelby GT came with only 317 horses at the crank and a solid rear axle. Rob and Steve were already feeling a little intimidated. Then they learned the guys representing My350Z.com had been at SEMA when they got word they would be on the show, and had then run around the conference picking up sponsors and high-speed parts. The 350Z guys had done a motor swap on the car two days before the show was to be taped. Who knew how much power they were packing under the hood?

Before the racing could begin, the producers attached microphones to the competitors, sat each of them down in front of their cars, and instigated some smack talking. This was a reality-TV-style event, which means you have to have some sort of drama to be considered for television. When they had Rob in front of the cameras, the producers told him, "The guy driving the 350Z said he is going to smoke you." Rob laughed and replied, "He's smoking something, but it ain't gonna be me." The 350Z driver, Richard Seville, an amateur drifter from Southern California, said the Mustang was just a "blue hunk of metal" and there was no way it could "compete with Japanese technology." Rob's reply to that claim? "Enough talk-let's just see what happens on the track."

The first event was an eighth-mile drag race. Here it became clear to Rob and Steve that the people who were competing on The Forum Wars weren't racers-they were Internet forum nerds. Most of the guys couldn't stage their cars, some waited for the green light before they left the Tree-overall it was a pretty sad sight.

Out of all 20 competitors, Rob set the best reaction time of 0.036 second. That jump at the line also gave him the much-needed win over the 350Z in the first event. When Richard, the driver of the 350Z, had a camera stuck in his face after he just got "owned" by the Mustang, his excuse was, "The clutch pedal was stuck to the floor." Apparently that happens all the time in those foreign cars.

Even though the Mustang had one event up, the 350Z fans weren't worried. The road course was where they were going to dominate the Stang. What the 350Z contingent didn't know was that the Mustang was driven by an established road racer. The "hunk of metal" Shelby was set up to go around corners from racing with the SCCA. The Z car would get a shot at the timed road course first, and then Rob would have his chance to chase down a quicker lap.

Richard was so confident, he actually began to drift the 350Z around the banks at Irwindale Speedway instead of running the car clean for a solid lap time. After the 350Z was done making smoke on the track, Rob headed out to lay down a fast lap. He ran the car right up to the edge, pushing the limits of the tires and running the engine right up to the rev limiter.

When his lap was complete, he had set the fastest road course time of the entire day, over the two Nissan GT-Rs, two Porsche Turbos, a Viper, a BMW M5 and M3, a Camaro SS-and the list goes on. The solid-axle rearend, moderate-horsepower Mustang whipped all of those high-priced exotic machines on the road course. One of the GT-Rs actually substituted a professional racecar driver to run the road course section of the event and still couldn't catch Rob Krider in the Mustang.

Not only did the Mustang win on the road course, but after all of the event times were added up (reaction time, eigth-mile time, and road-course time), Rob Krider had put Steve Kuhtz's Ford Mustang Shelby GT in the top spot over every single competitor for all of Season 1 of The Forum Wars. Though the show was supposed to settle some of the online smack talking on the different automotive forums, the Mustang winning overall just started a barn fire of Internet postings. There were claims of illegal tires, eight-mile versus quarter-mile racing to benefit the Mustang, Ford editing the footage to make the Mustang win. It was ridiculous.

The show showed that just because you can afford a Porsche, and you can get online and brag about its "'ring" times, doesn't mean you can actually do it yourself. The show also showed what we at MM&FF have known for a long time: Mustang owners know how to get it done.

Congratulations to Steve Kuhtz and Rob Krider for representing Mustang so well.

The full episode of Rob Krider bringing victory for Mustang can be seen at www.theforumwars.tv.