During the three-day Goodguys 11th Annual Meguiar’s Del Mar Nationals event the guys from powerTV were invited to participate in the Editors’ Challenge Autocross. The Editors’ Challenge involves inviting some of the media’s finest automotive editors to compete amongst each other for bragging rights and a little recognition. Basically these guys and gals pilot each of the three rides around the course, hoping to end up with the lowest average lap time for each car.
The cars themselves are manufacturers’ showpieces: Optima Batteries graciously volunteered their sponsored ’68 Camaro for the Editors Challenge. The Ridetech ’69 Mustang featured 630 horsepower and a clutch that plagued the majority of the editors. Hotchkis‘ ’68 Plymouth Road Runner was the third car in the editor abuse competition. Not to say that these guys can’t drive, but the first guy on the track managed to take down the course’s timing device and give the Mustang a small boo-boo.
RideTech’s Untamable Mustang Puts Up A Fight
With the first lap around the track resulting in a repair to the timing system, it should have served as a warning to the rest of the crew. However, friendly competition seems to bring out the animal instincts in these fine automotive journalists. Kevin Shaw, Editor of Street Muscle was up first for the powerTV crew in the Ridetech Mustang.
That clutch could snap your leg in two!
Shaw made a calculated and careful trip around the track, but it was not a record breaking lap with a time of 42.913-seconds. Editor Shaw was careful to not break the two cardinal rules of a successful autocross lap: don’t over shoot the corner to the point of using reverse, and don’t kill any cones in the process.
Next in line for the powerTV crew was Mark Gearhart, editor of StangTV and Dragzine. Gearhart fell prey to the tricky clutch in the ’69 Mustang once, but still managed to turn a respectable 37.052-second lap time. Nearly all of the editors had at least one run-in with the Mustang’s clutch; even the ringer Mary Pozzi fought the tricky third petal.
Finally, Paul Huizenga, editor of LSXMAG and Corvette Online, had his turn to pilot the ’69 around the course ending up with 46.066-second lap time. Huizenga had a run in with the touchy clutch, but after having an incident with the clutch on the Optima Batteries One Lap Camaro, Huizenga was already rattled.
Optimizing Optima’s Camaro Until…Well, You’ll See
The Optima Batteries One Lap Camaro had made several laps around the course before Huizenga got behind the wheel. Each pass made by the editors prior to Huizenga had already greatly tested the durability of the car and its clutch.
In fact, with each lap made the unique odor of burnt clutch grew more and more potent. Most of these guys are animals, but it just seemed unfair when fate elected to bite Paul as he tried to slip the clutch off the starting line.
The trip from the pits to the starting line seemed normal with no funny sounds or odd smells, but as Huizenga rode the clutch and laid into the throttle clouds of smoke erupted from underneath the ’68; those not close enough to smell the smoke, it might have believed it to be the tire smoke thanks to the hearty LS7 power plant, but alas it was smell of death.
It would have been impressive to see smoke billow from the rear of car from an obvious lack of traction, but it was in fact the clutch going out in a blaze of glory. Knowing the stomach churning smell of freshly fried clutch, Huizenga had the sense to stop the Camaro before any serious damage was inflicted. Shortly after coming to a stop Goodguys officials, the car handlers, and paparazzi gathered around the car. A quad arrived shortly with a tow strap, but in the end the Camaro was given a push start was driven back to the pits.
With the Optima One Lap Camaro on the DL, Detroit Speed’s Chevy II was volunteered for use in the event. Editor Shaw was given the chance to put this little blue Chevy II though the paces, before it met with mechanical failure as well. Shaw managed to turn a 39.556-second lap time, a personal best for the day in this sweet ride.
I felt terrible when Stacey Tucker begged me not to break her Chevy II.
This ‘63 Chevy II is powered by a Mast Motorsports LS engine and features DSE’s prototype Chevy II QUADRALink rear suspension. Detroit Speed also added their front frame and inner fenders to complete the package on this car.
Unfortunately this little car met with mechanical failure at the hands of another durability engineer not employed by powerTV. Needless to say it was not a good showing for classic General Motors rides on Saturday.
Yet another Detroit Speed Chevrolet was also volunteered for duty in the Editor’s Challenge; amazingly they were comfortable enough to turn loose their test-bed 1970 Camaro on the track with these carnage producing editors. However, this Camaro proved to be a survivor allowing Gearhart and Huizenga to complete their laps.
Gearhart managed to run a 34.444-second lap time with one cone down. The cone went down halfway through the run, but it was taken out in spectacular fashion with the rear end of the Camaro hanging out as Gearhart accelerated out of the turn.
Gearhart came close to killing yet another cone by pitching the rear end of the car through another corner, but this time it was only a close call. After the run was completed it was time for Huizenga to get behind the wheel of the ’70. After the Optima car met with mechanical failure and the incident Ridetech Mustang’s tricky clutch on his mind, Huizenga was slightly rattled by the circumstances.
Despite all of the earlier incidents, the Detroit Speed ’70 Camaro managed to turn a lap time of 38.550 without a single cone down. While it may not have been the fastest time of the day, it was a clean solid run without any sort of mechanical failure or suspension gremlin rearing its ugly head. Time and time again, the announcer stated that a clean run was critical, while illuminating the reverse lights while on the track was the ultimate failure in Autocross.
Beep! Beep! Goes The Sole Survivor Of The Three
The third vehicle was Hotchkis’ 1968 Plymouth Road Runner that seemed to particularly delight Shaw, judging by the grin on his face. This large B-Body appeared intimidating to maneuver through the narrow maze of cones, but it proved to be an illusion thanks to the suspension and braking upgrades.
The big B-Body Mopar surprised everybody with how well it handled.
Shaw worked the Mopar through the cones and ended up with a 39.571-second lap time. It was yet another clean run for Mr. Shaw, without a single cone being disturbed from its slumber.
Mark Gearhart was up next in the ’68 Road Runner for the powerTV crew. Again it was another cone free lap for the powerTV guys; Gearhart worked the big car’s suspension and braking for 35.527-second lap. Following two clean runs by his coworkers it was Huizenga’s turn behind the wheel of the ’68. Huizenga’s bad luck did not follow him along for the ride with Hotchkis’ Road Runner. He managed to make the big beast run a 39.687 without coming close to a single cone. It seemed like the guys had a healthy respect for the for the big B-Body.
So, What Gives? How’d We Do?
After all of our favorite editors had finished stress testing the cars, it was time for the Goodguys officials to tabulate the results. This is a mysterious and mathematically elusive process, involved averaging the three lap times for each editor and adding in the number of cones exterminated during the course of the run. Despite all the dents, smoke, and broken parts, we have to give full credit to the brave souls who volunteered their beloved cars for a full day of abuse at the hands of all the editors.
Of all these cars, the Road Runner held up the best. What a trooper
Regardless of a few broken parts, a need for a paintless dent professional, and perhaps a few bruised egos, the event proved to be a success. In the end Mark Gearhart came in sixth place for the Editor’s Challenge with a 36.007-second average time for all three vehicles. Kevin Shaw came in 13th place with an average time of 40.298-seconds.
In 14th place was Paul Huizenga with an average time of 41.434-seconds, which was not too bad considering the clutch failure and stalling the Mustang a couple of times, which had to kill his confidence ever so slightly. The overall winner was Mary Pozzi, a newly hired contributing editor at Camaro Performers and autocross ringer, with an average time of 34.205-seconds.
In the end the difference between first and second place was decided by a measly 4-tenths of a second. As for the powerTV crew rankings, Mark Gearhart received the gold medal, while Kevin Shaw received the silver leaving Paul Huizenga with the bronze. Despite the 13th and 14th place finishes for Shaw and Huizenga, at least neither of them came in last place among the journalists present.