Online car geeks got their chance to prove their automotive fanboy claims were legit at the race track during season one of The Forum Wars. The overall winner is not the car you're thinking of.
Filming of all ten episodes of season one of The Forum Wars presented by Royal Purple was done on a single day in late 2009 at Irwindale Speedway in Southern California. The twenty competitors were matched into pairs based on horsepower, modifications or plain old rivalries. The show pitted two different online automotive forums to do battle in each episode on a eighth mile drag strip and a road course. But since the entire season was filmed in one day (the course layout and track conditions didn't change) an overall winner could be determined using some simple fourth grade math.
Automotive online forums are filled with exaggerated horsepower bragging and unrealistic stop light to stop light drag race win claims. For instance, "Last night I smoked a Lambo in my Integra Type-R?" No you didn't. You were revving the piss out of your Integra and grinding the gears while the Lambo was making a left turn into a Starbucks. The Forum Wars was designed to end all of this. This was a competition of not just the cars themselves, but the people who actually buy and modify these machines. There are plenty of car magazines sitting on the back of your toilet that can tell you if the Subaru WRX or the Mitsubishi Evo is faster in the quarter mile. The Forum Wars is different because it determined if the type of person who purchases a Camaro SS is faster than the person who purchases a Dodge Challenger.
To determine an overall winner three aspects of the racing were used to come up with a total event lap time: reaction time, eighth mile time, and road course time. Those of you who are familiar with drag racing know that using a 5/10ths tree a perfect reaction time is listed as 0.500. So the listed reaction times had 0.500 subtracted from them to represent the actual reaction time of the driver. The eight mile times were unadjusted as well as the road course times (we didn't bother to add two seconds of penalty time for knuckleheads who ran over cones on the road course). Throwing it all into a spreadsheet gave us the ranking of all twenty cars, drivers and the forums they represented.
These results are not what most of us were expecting. How could a stock engine 317 horsepower Mustang beat out a Viper, GT-Rs and Porsches? Well, what The Forum Wars proved was that just because you have the money to buy an expensive car, and can login to CadillacForums.com and brag about how fast the CTS-V is, it doesn't mean you can actually drive it that fast.
Watching all ten episodes of The Forum Wars gives you some insight as to how these unexpected results came to be. One of the biggest implosions on the show was the road course time of Justin Beckley in his CTS-V. After he bested the Viper in the drag race and had the lead, he went out onto the road course in his 615 horsepower V and actually had the second slowest lap time out of everyone including a 178 horsepower VW GTI. This GTI was no hot rod either, it was lowered by its owner so much that in every corner you could hear the tires grinding on the fenders. At the end of the show the GTI driver claimed, "I guess the coil-overs just couldn't handle it." The coiliovers he installed of course. A bunch of German engineers got together during a coffee break in Frankfurt and each donated some cash for a bounty on this kid's head.
Every race has two things, a winner and a loser. Avi Kaiserman in his Honda Civic SI took home honors as the "worst driver on the show" with a redlight start, the slowest eighth mile time and the slowest road course time. In poor Avi's defense what you couldn't see on the show was that Matt Farah from Garage 419 and The Smoking Tire was heckling the crap out of this poor kid at the drag strip start line. Obviously Matt got into this kid's head (Avi mentions it during his interview as the credits roll).
Not all of the results were completely unexpected. Adam Bruce, the guy who started Streetfire.net and Autostream.com, picked up the best overall eighth mile time with a 7.89 using the launch control on his GT-R. That was good enough to give him the final podium spot on the show. The car he ran against, a Porsche 996 driven like a madman on the road course by Enrrique Gutierrez, took second place overall.
The car that really disappointed was the heavily modified 746 horsepower GT-R of Justin Green. Justin choked the start with a "stoner" reaction time of 1.020 seconds (if he had cut a better light he would have come in second place overall). For the road course he put in a ringer driver which referred to as his "special sauce," Michael Ramies, a Skip Barber Western Region Champion and aspiring USF1 racer. This combination of 746 horsepower and a "pro" driver was still over a second slower on the road course than the 317 horsepower Mustang driven by, of all things, a blogger.
Speaking of "stoner" reaction times, the "Bob Marley" award goes to Sam Malapas in his Evo for sleeping at the light with a worst of show reaction time of 1.324 seconds. He lost his episode to a WRX STI driven by Jonathan Gih, who claimed to have a fair amount of "track time experience" and then he ceremoniously went across the finish line and mowed down a delineator making everyone on I-club.com cringe in embarrassment.
Since this was The Forum Wars, the smack talking didn't finish when the checkered flag dropped. Actually the results of the shows just fueled the online fire. The one guy who took the brunt of this Internet lambasting was Richard Seville in the 350Z. He lost the first episode to the overall winner, but he managed to finish 5th overall besting a Porsche Turbo, an M3, an M5, a Viper, and plenty of other cars that on paper should had crushed him. But that didn't matter one bit, the folks on My350Z.com have spent their evenings flaming him endlessly for losing to a Mustang. It's too bad because when you watch all of the episodes and see some of the dismal driving that went on it shows that Richard really drove the hell out of that Z.
So how did a Mustang win over all of these big horsepower performance machines? Certainly nobody expected it to. At the event Steve Kuhtz's 2008 Ford Mustang Shelby GT hardly got a second glance since most of the cars at the event had over 450 horsepower including the "real" Shelby at the event, a GT 500.
Most people consider this car to be the Shelby since the GT 500 boasts 500 ponies, where the Shelby GT is essentially just a stock Mustang GT with Shelby springs, sway bars and a cold air intake kit from Ford Racing. However, the GT 500 was a total flop at the event with an eighth mile time of 10.40 (the second slowest all day).
It wasn't gobs of horsepower or exotic twin turbos that won The Forum Wars. And it wasn't a professional driver slipped into the mix. It was a simple, solid axle, naturally aspirated Ford Mustang that picked up the overall win. The Mustang had the best reaction time of the day, 36 thousandths of a second, and the fastest road course time by over a full second giving it the top time of the day.
So what did we learn from The Forum Wars? It ain't just the machine or the statistics. You gotta drive it to win it.
The Forum Wars presented by Royal Purple Season One Overall Winner: Rob Krider (Racer Boy blogger on Speed:Sport:Life), driving a 2008 Ford Mustang Shelby GT (owned by Steve Kuhtz) representing Stangnet.com sponsored by I/O Port Racing Supplies, Hoosier Tires, Carbotech Brake Pads, KW Automotive, and Piloti driving shoes.
To see all of the racing (and some of the excuses) for yourself go to www.theforumwars.tv and check out the different episodes. The producers are accepting new applications for season two of The Forum Wars.
Photos by Steve Kuhtz and Jeff Balliet.