Race the strip, not the street

MANA — Evidence of illegal automotive activity is not limited or restricted to certain areas of the island as black scarring of the asphalt streaks the straightaway leading to the Kekaha Beach lifeguard tower, the Kipu By Pass road or the straightaway leading to the main gate at PMRF.

However, evidence is not limited to asphalt streaking by tires as there have been fatalities recorded which can be attributed to excessive speed and the resulting loss of control by drivers.

It is these non-sanctioned automotive activities that the Garden Isle Racing Association doesn’t endorse as they opened the summer 2003 season with a drag race on Sunday at the Mana Raceway Park.

Jammin’ Jay Street, the dynamic announcer that keeps spectators, drivers, and pit crew apprised of the latest race results, says the strip is available for the young drivers, now out of school and in a transition period while waiting for summer activities to kick in. He also says the strip is a lot safer.

Jay announces from the comfort of an air-conditioned tower that has been fitted with state-of-the-art computer systems that provides him with real-time readouts of each racer’s performance down the quarter mile.

Another computer draws from a database program to provide him with any driver’s history based on input from previous races.

Tani Schmidt and John Gaines, both too young to even have a license, assist Street, monitoring drivers against another computer to make sure they are in the right lanes.

Cars wanting to race head-to-head have a chance to do so during the time trials portion of the race as they compete to a non-discriminating Christmas tree that flashes yellow to green, or a break-out red should the driver over-anticipate his launch.

Tech inspectors make the rounds in the hot pit area, checking to make sure that vehicles wanting to race are in safe condition to make the quarter-mile run down a track that ends with a safety barrier of sand.

Former president of the GIRC Walt Barnes waves a national racing banner that repeats the message of trying to get the young drivers out onto the strip instead of the streets for illegal races that pose dangers for not only the drivers, but for unsuspecting road users. Barnes also raced a “stock-stock” Mustang convertible on Sunday.

GIRA officials reinforce the open invitation to the younger drivers by hosting a series of keiki races featuring youngsters piloting high-powered dragsters even if they are not of age to legally drive an automobile on the streets.

Nancy Matsuda who was working on getting photos for a Hawaii racing publication, explained that keiki racers such as the Costa brothers Calvin and Sheldon, and Wayne Parraga, Jr., take the rail down a 1/8-mile strip compared to the 1/4-mile strip tackled by adult drivers.

As the motors roared to life, the Costa rails hit the top end with Calvin in the lead, tripping the clock at 7.61 seconds at 85 mph. Brother Sheldon was not far behind, clocking 8.01 seconds at 80 mph.

The raceway has evolved to become a family gathering place as cars and vans park side-by-side along the spectator fenceline, sharing coveted shade-providing canopies offering relief from the blistering sun.

The significant other for many of the drivers make their way to the tower for a printout of the last run, and many of the pit crews sport youngsters amidst the tech crews.

In addition to stock, or street-legal cars, race fans can check out performances from the more specialized dragsters and rails.

Barnes noted that during the upcoming July 4 two-day weekend series, a lot of off-island cars will converge at the Mana facility and fans will have an opportunity to watch dragsters that can reach 200-plus mph down the quarter mile.

Marc Perales is the current president of the GIRA who reminds people to Race the Strip, not the Street.

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