Wednesday Night Test-n-Tune
Paradise Garage

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© 1999 Brian F. Schreurs
Even we have a disclaimer.

Memo to Maryland: why are your gas taxes 5 cents higher, but your pump prices 30 cents higher?

Orlando Speed World, Orlando, Fla.

Test Session: Wednesday, January 20, 1999

The line of parked cars wholly blocked a narrow road leading to a chain-link fence. The line split where the access road ended at Route 50, branching off along the shoulder of 50 East and clogging the left-turn lane of 50 West. It was the first test-n-tune of 1999 at Orlando Speed World, and it showed.

What made the sight just a little surreal for this Virginian was that it was all taking place on January 20. A bit early for racing.

"When we get in, head straight for the staging lanes," said Speed World veteran John Hunkins. "It's like getting a free pass."

Finally the gates opened. At $10 a head whether racing or spectating, Speed World is a great track for racers on a budget but brutal for spectators on a budget. Still, it has one major advantage over other tracks its size -- at least this particular evening, super street cars far and away outnumbered the pro street cars. Which, of course, means less breakage and more track time.

The announcer warned us to be careful on the new track surface and told us we could listen to him on any FM radio. A very nice touch! This is a feature which will be appreciated by anyone who has missed his call because of noise or crackly speakers.

The test-n-tune was quickly underway. In a moment I realized I might be waiting a while; the ZR-1 in front of me wouldn't start! But this didn't faze track officials. They surrounded the car and pushed it out of the way. Bravo!

On my first pass, I tried to get back in the groove and turned a 14.237 at 100.98 mph. This was a new mph for me, but not enough to beat my competition.

A Volkswagen.


Hey, it was a 12-second Volkswagen, okay?!

The second pass wasn't long in coming. I squared off in a classic Poncho vs. Mustang battle, which I soundly lost by turning a mere 14.5 at 100 mph. I had begun to wonder whether it was me or the car that was losing all these races. Did I get a lemon?

There was a lot of time to ponder this question before the next round. I met a fellow with a cherry '79 Li'l Red Truck, just bought it, driving with Wisconsin tags donated by his Mercedes. In Florida? That's guts. He "wanted to see what it could do" before he put it on the show circuit.

The Firebird takes off with John Hunkins driving.
I discussed my reservations with Hunkins and he allowed that he could probably drive my car a lot better than I could. Normally that would be fightin' words but let's face it, the Paradise Garage Firebird hasn't spent that much time on the track yet!

So round three was driven by John Hunkins who turned a.... 13.592 at 103.98!! Holy smokes! There's definitely nothing wrong with the car!

Properly humbled, I listened in silence as he patiently explained to me what I was probably doing wrong to turn such sad little times. They involved a) doing a cleaning spin in the waterbox; b) launching at a higher rpm; and c) powershifting.

I had about an hour to ponder his wisdom. By the time I got up to the line, I was thinking so hard that I don't recall what was in the other lane.

Short burn in the waterbox...


Okay... up to the line... 2000 rpm... GO!!

Not sideways! Forward! Drat!!

Yep. The worst time of the night: 14.7 at 100. Clearly the Hunkins Way takes practice. But the car can do 13s, stone stock. It's up to me to learn how to get it there.