Photos: Daniel Schenkelberg
With the rise of high-power street cars and their popularity in roll racing, half-mile trap-speed events have grown a massive following with the automotive community over the last several years. Shift S3ctor is a southern California racing organization which holds some of the most popular events in the country. Shift S3ctor is well known for the high caliber of cars that race at its events and many of the half mile records in the country have been achieved at their events.
The first race of the 2017 season is held at the New Coalinga Municipal Airport in Coalinga, California, a small town on the outskirts of Bakersfield. Coalinga is not known for much other than its prison and Harris Ranch Inn & Resort, which is coincidentally the host hotel for the event.
California has been plummeted with heavy rains for the past month, and just 72 hours before the event, there was a 40-percent chance of rain, which left many of the racers worried about the possibility of the event being canceled. On the morning of race day, the 32-degree air was ripe for big power from the boosted cars, but there were heavy clouds lingering in the distance. Even so, there was a line of racers and their rigs eager to enter the event facility.
The conditions easily would play a part in the performances of the high-horsepower cars, as the track was cold and dust-covered, which caused traction issues throughout the morning.
There are two popular ways to start a run at Shift S3ctor; from a dig or from a 40 mph roll. Just before the runway, there is a burnout box, which is used mainly by the rear-wheel-drive and high horsepower all-wheel-drive cars. Grid girls line up the vehicles on the runway and initiate each pairing with a drop of their hands.
Depending on the power level of the race vehicle, each run takes on average ten to fifteen seconds from start to finish line. In an interesting application of technology, time slips are emailed seconds after finishing the pass to each driver, which gives them an easy way to share their stats through social media.
Armik Agakhani receiving his 200 mph shirt from Shift S3ctor. In the process, he won the award for the fastest 6-speed car of the day with a terminal speed of 200.71 mph.
This beautiful ACG Automotive-built carbon-bodied Alpha12x GTR is owned by Tom Phan, who ran a best pass of 195.143 mph and took home the second spot in the AWD Trap Speed Competition, just behind fellow GTR owner Joseph Kennedy’s 195.822 mph pass.
Morris Malone brought his twin-turbo Corvette – built by Matt Lambrecht at Caliber Customs – to test out the new set up. The car runs a MoTec engine management system wired up by John Reed and consumes alcohol fuel to make its power. With the frigid morning conditions, it took the team nearly 45 minutes to get the car started since the oil and fuel need to be warmed before startup.
Malone ran into issues on the track learning the car and getting a feel for it with its new power; he ran a best of 199.82 mph, burning up an exhaust valve on cylinder three in the process. On Morris’ second pass the car’s front splitter got ripped off, causing some underbelly damage which had to be repaired in down time between rounds.
Matt Lambrecht and the Malone team heading to the line to watch Morris make a pass.
Announcer Jimmy Schaberg and well-known drifter Bear Dellinger, who pilots her own RB-powered Nissan 240SX.
Richard Fowler in his Underground Racing Lamborghini Huracan built by ACG Automotive. Richard’s car is a street-driven beast which makes a reliable 1,250 horsepower. On this day, the car ran a best of 192 mph, giving him into the third-fastest spot in the AWD class and the fifth-fastest speed overall.
Ryne Cunningham of Cunningham Motorsports brought his naturally-aspirated 750 horsepower Corvette to Shift S3ctor. The car was consistently running 178 mph throughout the day, which made Cunningham the fastest naturally-aspirated racer at the event.
Racing is a family sport – race fuel delivery on board!
Ross Fowler’s ACG Automotive-built Alpha 12x GTR getting ready to blast off a 190 mph pass. Fowler had the seventh-fastest car on the property.
VF Engineering’s Supercharged Huracan wore this unique chameleon wrap; when combined with the supercharged powerplant, this car stood out amongst the crowd of exotics.
By far the most talked-about vehicle of the weekend is this Ford pickup from Chuckles Garage. The pickup utilizes a full tube chassis combined with an AEM Performance Electronics-controlled Freightliner diesel engine. The truck had traction issues in the start of the day at ended up breaking the transmission later on in the afternoon.
You see a little bit of everything at Shift S3ctor – even Range Rovers take their shot at the half-mile challenge!
This beautiful Blue Pearl Charger Hellcat makes 700 horsepower; more importantly, it does gnarly burnouts!
An early morning shot of the proving grounds at the New Coalinga Municipal Airport.
At the Shift S3ctor events, there is a nice variety of vehicles; everything from exotics to Sport Compact to American Muscle is well-represented.
This turbo BMW M3 was one of the cleanest and tastefully built cars on the property.
Entering the event, Armik and Steven Aghakhani were arguably the most anticipated racers to watch that day. Armik is the owner of a twin-turbo Ford GT – named Black Mamba – and has been trying to reach the prestigious 200 mph mark in a half-mile race for the past 4 years. Black Mamba, which started off with a bolt-on twin-turbo system, was then augmented with the addition of nitrous oxide to try to crack the barrier. The car hit a plateau at 199 mph, and as Armik was simply one mile per hour from his ideal number and had visions of shattering the hurdle, he delivered the car to Aaron Miller at Nth Moto in Minnesota, where Miller built the vehicle to be reliable on the street but become a monster with a simple twist of the boost controller knob.
With plans of putting Steven into the car later that day, Armik gave Black Mamba one test pass and eclipsed 196 mph with low boost. As he was eager to see how the car would perform at the higher power level, Armik drove Black Mamba (with Steven in the car) a little harder, putting 18 pounds of boost pressure to the turbos, and finally eclipsed the 200 mph mark he’s been chasing all this time to cap his day behind the wheel before turning it over to Steven.
The Black Mamba’s powerplant for Armik’s Ford GT built by Nth Moto makes 1,600 horsepower. The car has great drivability and with a turn of a knob can go from 1,000-horse street car to track monster status. The eye-catching billet-aluminum intake manifold was designed and built by Nth Moto.
Steven – just 13 years old – was set to pilot Black Mamba next. At a glance, he appears like any other teenager, but his driving capabilities and accomplishments at various tracks far exceed those of the typical middle-school student.
At just seven years of age, Steven started shifter kart racing, then transitioned into full-size vehicles at just ten years old. In the years since, he’s been coached by his father and others such as Michael Jantz and Michael Essa. Over the past two years, Steven’s driving ability has grown leaps and bounds, as he is now driving for Factory Lamborghini team US RaceTronics, where he is mentored by his driving coach, Bryce Miller.
Aaron Miller of Nth Moto going over the data log of Steven Agakhani’s 196mph pass. Aaron is seeing where he can make boost by gear adjustments to aid traction on this cold track surface.
The difference between the other vehicles Steven has driven and the Black Mamba is the sheer amount of horsepower the Ford GT produces; this was the first time Steven has been in a racecar with this much power. Once he got behind the wheel of the Black Mamba, he struggled with traction issues for the first few passes of the day. Once he became acclimated to the application of power, Steven was running consistent 198 mph passes at Coalinga. Being the competitive racer he is Steven was eager to match his father and get that prestigious 200mph pass.
During his coaching session earlier in the day, Armik had explained to Steven how the brakes on the right side of the Mamba were performing more aggressively, and gave him tips about how to drive the car and apply the brakes at high speed.
With the day coming to a close, Steven went out for one final pass. Armik watched nervously; Steven blew through the traps at 199.8 mph and the crowd erupted, then tragedy hit. Mere seconds after he passed through the traps, we could hear tire squealing and saw the car spinning wildly through a cloud of dust, as the tires broke loose and sent the car into a spin that never seemed to end. Panic set in; Armik asked Steven if he was OK over the radio.
“Yes, I am fine. Did I hit 200?” was his reply, and everyone in the pit area was able to breathe a sigh of relief.
The weekend was filled with highs and lows – that’s just part of racing. At the end of the day, everyone walked away safe and sound, able to race another day, and that’s one of the biggest attractions of the half-mile style of racing offered by Shift S3ctor.