Michael Johnson
Associate Editor, 5.0 Mustangs & Super Fords
June 1, 2004
Photos By: Steve Turner
Quite different from the '95 GT Donna previously campaigned in EFI Renegade, her Cobra-dressed '02 Mustang features a wicked paint scheme applied by Crazy Al's Paint Shop. The yellow and purple gradient flame design comes courtesy of a combination of PPG basecoat/clearcoat paint. An H.O. Fibertrends fiberglass hood lightens the load up front, while a Skinny Kid Race Cars aluminum wing keeps the rear planted at 150 mph on the big end.

Horse Sense: EFI Renegade racer Donna Sydor is acknowledged by the Automotive Hall of Fame and the Women's Automotive Association International for her professional achievement and support in racing. Donna also supports the Autism Foundation, which helps raise funds toward autism research and awareness. "Autism impairs a child's ability to communicate, socialize, play, and think," she says.

Some people think women aren't supposed to be race car drivers. In a male-dominated sport, there are those who believe women should be rooting for their significant others from the pits instead of getting in on the action themselves. If you know much about the racing careers of Shirley Muldowney or Lyn St. James, you've likely heard some of their stories of harassment. It's sad that even today there are some who still hold these views.

NMRA EFI Renegade racer Donna Sydor thinks she has a bullseye on her back because of her gender. Still, she seeks the high road, hopefully around nine seconds flat-or quicker-at a time. Even after hearing of other racers' attempts to make her an outcast, Donna finished Fourth in points as a rookie in 2000. After winning the '03 NMRA Columbus race, Donna proved she belongs in one of the toughest classes in the NMRA.

Donna began bracket racing in an '86 Mustang GT, which she still owns. Her next Mustang was a '95 GT made famous by its previous owner, Barry Shepard. It was with this car she entered the NMRA's EFI Renegade class. "I was tired of brackets and also wanted more of a challenge," Donna says. "We chose Renegade due to the fact that a woman had never competed in it, and it was a heads-up class. Being the first and only woman in a heads-up class like EFI Renegade helped me promote my sponsors." She also chose EFI Renegade because she thought the class fit her budget.

Just as with every other part of the car, the interior of Donna's EFI Renegade ride is race-specific with the requisite aluminum racing seats, removable steering wheel, and Auto Meter carbon-fiber gauges. A B&M Line-Loc makes burnouts as easy as clicking the Timmy Huston-built C4 into high gear using another B&M product, a Pro Ratchet shifter. To keep Donna safe, an S&W Race Cars rollcage was welded into the former body-in-white.

Not only was Donna the new kid on the block during her first year in EFI Renegade, but she also thought that, as a woman, she was an outcast. "We pretty much kept to ourselves and concentrated on running the car and keeping me competitive," she says. After her Fourth-place finish in 2000, she had a couple off years where she struggled to stay competitive in an ever-growing, ever-faster class.

"In 2003, my husband [Chris] along with my crew [Joe, Jake, and Timmy] worked their butts off to keep me in the running," Donna says. Because the '95 GT was a street car converted to an EFI Renegade ride, in order to stay competitive, Donna and Chris (CDS Motorsports) decided to purchase a body-in-white and turn it into a race car. They also enlisted the services of ATI-ProCharger and the tuning prowess of Jimmy LaRocca of LaRocca's Performance to make sure the car would run as fast as it looked. Their work paid big dividends because shortly after making its debut, Donna's car had a hard time keeping the front end on the ground out of the gate. "All I know is, I spent more time looking at the sky than down-track," Donna says. "I think she [the car] wanted to have two wings off the side instead of one off the back."

With a best elapsed time in testing of an 8.97 at 151 mph, Donna's car has yet to run an 8 in NMRA competition. With the variety of EFI Renegade-legal nitrous kits and supercharger systems, she says there's a lot of debate between racers as to which power adder combination is best. "All I can say to this is, my crew and I keep to ourselves and stay out of the scandals," Donna says. "We figure the best way to prove a point is on the track and in the points."