Article by Dmitriy Orlov. Cover photography by Alex Murtaza. All other photography by respective artists.
To race is to compete, and such competition is an inherent part of human nature. People have always wanted to race for anything with anything, and drag racing is a direct result of this desire to compete along with a thirst for adrenaline. Pushing the limits of technology, environment, and reason, modern vehicles are built and tuned with utmost precision to go faster, longer, and harder.
Classic ¼-mile drag racing has been around for decades, with a long history of events, technology, and methods for "survival.” Many tracks can be found throughout the country, and many enthusiasts will hit the strip to push their vehicles and see how well they can do. A quarter of a mile, however, can be limiting. To get quick times through standard tracks, vehicles need lots of prep and work to ramp up the horsepower, increase grip, and get out of the hole fast, which is all very taxing on a car. Building a fast enough dragster means sacrificing how easy it can be to drive on the streets.
Many cars are indeed quick, but they may not be prepped to be able to move out from a dead stop. People may take cars to the streets for highway runs or enter other racing events across the country.
It's the anticipation and stress that come with the "preflight” checks—topping off just the right amount of fuel, loading up the calibration files, setting tire pressures, and checking mechanical connections—all systems primed and ready at the start of the runway. You are cleared. The engines ramp up, adrenaline and revs equally bouncing off the launch control limiter, and the audible chaos over-stimulating your senses. You are all in, as the car launches, shaking, vibrating, tires grasping for every bit of grip. You glance at the speedometer and see it climb, side by side with the RPMs with every shift. It's you, the runway, and the guy next to you.
This is Shift S3ctor's Airstrip Attack. You have two days of sanctioned racing down the strip at the New Coalinga Municipal Airport in central California. Drivers get a half-mile to push their cars to the limit of power and speed and compare themselves with other contenders. The vehicles competing here are built by some of the biggest names in the industry—the crème de la crème of the racing world. This is certainly the place to be if you want to see state-of-the-art technology in some superbly tuned vehicles.
The two days are split into various events. Whether you're just pushing your car to its limits, settling the score with a fellow enthusiast, testing and tuning your vehicle, or qualifying for the trophy competitions, most of both Saturday and Sunday feature open grudge-style runs, where drivers can run against anyone they want. If a driver has entered into Saturday's Trap Speed Competition, each run's top speed is recorded. These speeds are then used to determine the winners of the Speed Trap Competition and also double as qualifying scores for the Roll Racing competition's bracket.
The main event takes place on Sunday, as the open runs continue followed by the Roll Racing competition. Rolling out with a new classification system, Shift-S3ctor decided to make it simple with no horsepower tiers this time around. Many variables determine the capability of a car, and the organizers wanted to provide as much opportunity as possible. Doing this also relieves the "sandbagging” syndrome, preventing participants from claiming that their competition incorrectly stated their vehicle's horsepower. Vehicles are separated into classes by drive type: AWD, RWD, or FWD. There's a Naturally Aspirated Unlimited class, and the event is also open to AMG vehicles with a BMW/AMG Unlimited class, which should fire up the never-ending BMW vs. Mercedes debate. To top it off, there is the Overall Roll Race Champion.
Shift-S3ctor has invested a tremendous amount of time and energy into the event, from adding grandstands for spectators to acquiring proper timing devices for accuracy. The audience will be able to track trap speeds from both lanes, which will be visible on large screens. GSR Autosport has come on board as the technical board and advisor for the competition portion of the series. What started as a friendly "hangout” for racing off the streets has now become a full-fledged racing event, with participants coming from all across the country and people around the world watching the action.
With so much anticipation, the scene is buzzing. All eyes are fixed on two classes in particular: AWD and AMG/BMW. Each one is stocked with some of the heaviest names in the performance industry: Extreme Turbo Systems/English Racing Team, AMS Performance, Underground Racing, SP Engineering, ACG, Weistec, Lab 22, and more.
English Racing Team is bringing out a couple of outrageous Nissan R35 GTRs to compete in the AWD class. Naturally, the high-profile AWD competition will be between the Lamborghini Gallardos and the Nissan R35 GTRs.
Underground Racing is well known in the 1/2+ mile rolling race events because that's exactly what their quadruple horsepower, twin-turbo Gallardos are built for. October's event will be a display of exotic prowess. UGR will be bringing out more builds than ever before, as they aim to take down the R35 GTRs.
ACG is also a major contender, with their 1,600+ whp GTR. They will definitely be competitive, as they eye the trophy for the AWD class.
With a knack for developing supercharged applications for Mercedes' AMG line, Weistec will be bringing out several of their prominent builds to compete in the AMG/BMW class.
We've been following Lab 22 for a while and heard they would be bringing out a gang of high hp E46 M3s. With their two top entries from Marcus and Kenton (see our previous article "Fire and Ice” when we featured these two cars a couple Shift-S3ctor events ago), they're proving to be formidable competition for Weistec in the AMG/BMW class.
This is now the 4th Airstrip Attack event that Shift S3ctor has hosted, and it has grown exponentially. There seems to be no shortage of attention, support, and demand for this event with its unique race setup. It's a beautiful way for drivers to show off their car and for tuners to show off their craft.
If you want to follow the competition, be sure to keep an eye on our social channels, as we'll be pushing constant updates throughout the weekend. This event is just too good not to provide the most up-to-date coverage possible.