Top 5 Tuner Car Shows for 2014!

Import Tuner CarAfter what’s been a particularly long, hard winter for many parts of the country, there is finally a light at the end of the tunnel, and it’s not a train or another car. It’s the sun!

I’ve felt an increasingly strong urge these past several weeks to see the sun’s rays bouncing off gleaming metal, to feel the heat rise into my bones from the pavement below, and to spend the weekend at a car show, salivating over the latest creations and concoctions.

Here are the top five contenders on my tuner car show list.

Hot Import Nights – The show organizers describe it as “the largest consumer car show in the world with the hottest cars, models, music, gaming, technology and live entertainment.” What’s not to love about that? HIN is entering its 17th season, so they must be doing it right. There are still 18 U.S. East and West Coast and international show locations left on their schedule through the end of the year, including Orlando, Las Vegas and Santa Clara, Calif.

Import Face-off – They bill themselves as being “the most innovative import series in the U.S. with event activities that follow current market trends.” There are more than 30 U.S. show locations through the end of the year with stereo crank-it-up contests, drag racing, live concerts, dance battles, drift exhibitions, and plenty of cash prizes and trophies.

Tuner Evolution – The City of Brotherly Love hosts this big automotive lifestyle event – dubbed an “East Coast Takeover” August 2, 2014, at the Greater Philadelphia Expo Center. Celebrities, bikinis, vendors, skating and BMX demos, and of course, hot customized cars will all be on tap.

DUB Show Tour – DUB magazine is all about car culture so you know the remaining four dates in their 2014 show tour are going to be popping. These shows are big on show cars, wheel and accessory exhibitors, video games, celebrities signing autographs, and big-name entertainment, including Ludacris, Ice Cube, and Wacka Flacka Fame performing at their previous auto shows.

WEKFEST – What started in San Francisco is now entering its fourth season of being a national, premiere automotive lifestyle event. There are two California auto shows – May 31 in Long Beach and August 10 in San Jose – and one each in Houston this fall and another in New Jersey on August 17, as well as in Japan May 11. WEKFEST’s focus is “to provide an upscale, organized event for the automotive community, a place where all enthusiasts can visit and share their common interest.”

I feel better already just thinking about car shows – that and the fact that it’s sunny and 75 today.

Stay tuned to the Advance Auto Parts blog for on-going event coverage throughout the spring and summer show season. For past coverage, be sure to check out our 2013 Nurotag Orlando and 2013 SoWo posts right here on the Advance Auto Parts blog.


Editor’s note: Is there an import car show that you think is particularly hot this year? Let us know below!

Graphic courtesy of Import Tuner Magazine.

Unlock Your Engine’s Hidden Horsepower

Hot Wheels CarI’m sure you can all relate. You buy this performance car and do your custom bits, but there’s still something missing. In my case, it all came down to actual performance when I punched the gas. For a while, it just frustrated me until I decided to look further…what I found was that I was only using a portion of my engine’s power!

If you’ve been frustrated knowing that your engine has unused power and did something to unlock that power, this is the place to share your success and tips with your fellow tuners, and make yourself look like a genius while you’re at it.

Many vehicle manufacturers are ultra conservative when it comes to programming engine control units (ECU), also known as the control module or the engine control computer at the factory. They’re not going to program the control module so that the vehicle runs at its maximum power capabilities, in part because they’re concerned with things like the vehicle warranty, emissions, and fuel economy. Their conservative settings, however, leave you with a vehicle that isn’t producing as much power as it could. How frustrating is that? The solution? Well, there are quite a few.

A lot of you are probably thinking, “ECU chip tuner” or “reflash” right about now. That seems to be the common wisdom when it comes to increasing horsepower by modifying the control module. For the uninitiated, an ECU basically controls how the engine goes about its business of producing and delivering power, including air/fuel ratio, ignition timing, idle speed, valve timing, and RPMs.

Back in the day, if you wanted to do some car tuning and change the ECU’s parameters, you had to actually change computer chips, physically swapping them out with newer chips that had software featuring the performance parameters you wanted. Today, one can install new software that changes the ECU’s operating parameters simply by plugging into the OBDII port. Boom. A few keystrokes later and you just raised the rev limit, governed top speed, and tuned the air-to-fuel ratio.

What about switching out the engine control computer entirely with a new one instead of just reprogramming it? Is  a new control module an option?

A couple people, including Ethan Campbell, a Roanoke, Virginia-based tuner toying with a ‘96 Miata, have mentioned the MegaSquirt PNP ECU (MSPNP2) as one possibility for completely replacing the stock engine control computer. Campbell’s winter project is taking an engine with a VVT head from a ’99 Miata and installing it into his ’96 and adding a MegaSquirt ECU. MegaSquirt describes the product as taking “over the functions the stock ECU provides – fuel control, ignition control, and various other outputs – and lets you adjust these yourself by connecting a laptop to the MSPNP2.”

Another car-tuning option to increase engine performance is Accesstuner from Cobb. The manufacturer describes the software as allowing “the user to get into the heart of the OEM ECU and create custom calibrations for vehicles equipped with virtually any performance modification. The end result is a tune that is custom tailored to the vehicle’s unique modifications, producing maximum power gains while maintaining the drive-ability and sophistication inherent in the OEM ECU.” Anyone tried it?

What about turbocharging as the car-tuning option? I know that turbocharging a non-turbo car is a viable option for increasing horsepower, but it’s also one that’s accompanied by a whole host of other considerations, including boost level, compression ratios and avoiding knock, that have to be planned for to avoid engine damage when turbocharging.

And finally, before you inundate me with comments for not mentioning it, there’s the ever-popular option of adding a Nitrous Oxide System (NOS) – a topic I’ll explore more in depth in an upcoming post.

If you’ve modified your engine control computer or have what you think is the perfect solution for unlocking horsepower, let us know how you did it, and what you did it to.

Editor’s note: Harness your hidden horsepower at Advance Auto Parts. Buy online, pick up in store.

Graphic courtesy of



Drive Your Performance Car Through Winter

Drift car 1No doubt, summer will always serve as high season for our high-performance rides and all the gnarly things we do with them. Close your eyes and remember just how good last summer’s heat felt as you hit the drift.

Now, snap out of it!

If that harsh blast of cold air hasn’t slapped you back to reality, maybe this will—it’s over. The summer is over. And with it went any chance you have of driving your high-performance machine anywhere – particularly if it’s rear-wheel drive – except perhaps right into a ditch now that snow and ice season has arrived. Unless of course, you’re one of those lucky souls fortunate to live in a climate where it’s always a comfortable 72 degrees, or you’ve given some thought to winter tires. Back in the day, they used to be called “snow tires” but not so much now since they’re designed to perform in a variety of winter conditions, including snow, ice, slush and low temperatures.

Notice also that we’re not talking about “all-season” tires here, which is what most vehicles on the road today are equipped with. There’s a difference, and it’s a big one. Some vehicle enthusiasts, particularly those who engage their street-legal vehicle in on-track racing and driving competitions, refer to all-season tires as “no-season tires.” They use that moniker because even though all-season tires do the job admirably for a majority of drivers, they can’t perform as well as dedicated winter tires or summer tires. Road & Track has an interesting take on that issue.

That’s because tire makers optimize their tire and tread compounds based on what type of tire they’re building. If it’s a winter tire, for example, the tire’s rubber and chemical compounds are designed for maximum performance in freezing temperatures, much the same way that race tires are designed to deliver at high temperatures. Tire industry trade groups continually work to educate drivers about the difference winter or snow tires offer.

According to a recent article in Tire Business magazine, “The idea that winter tires are only needed for snow-covered or icy roadways is outmoded and belies the superior cold-weather performance made possible by advances in winter tire technology,” said  Glenn Maidment, president of the Rubber Association of Canada. “Today’s sophisticated winter tires feature specialized rubber compounds that retain elasticity at temperatures well below -30°C (-22°F).”

Outfitting vehicles with winter tires is routine in Europe, particularly on high-performance vehicles, and required by law in Quebec, Canada, where traffic accident injuries in winter declined five percent  following the implementation of a 2008 law requiring snow tires, according to research from the Quebec Transportation Industry and reported in that same article .

In addition to rubber compounds that are designed for winter performance, these tires also feature tread designs that maximize stopping and steering ability on snow, slush and ice. And the good news is that most every major tire company makes their own version of it.

“Rather than keeping their fun-to-drive cars in the garage during the cold season, drivers have the opportunity to enjoy them, even in the middle of the winter,” said Brandy Gadd, Goodyear brand manager.

For areas where ice-covered roads or packed-snow conditions dominate the winter driving season, drivers might want to consider using snow tire studs. The studs are metal pins that protrude from the tire surface and “bite” into ice and packed snow. Snow tire studs are noisy on dry roads, however, and performance and handling can suffer too.

Another alternative for added winter traction are tire chains. Sized to fit your vehicle’s tires, tire chains can be installed without having to lift the vehicle or even move it, making them an excellent resource to keep in the vehicle and install when bad weather strikes.

And finally, it’s important to remember that winter tires shouldn’t just be fitted to the vehicle’s drive wheels, but rather all wheel positions in order to maintain control.

Often the biggest obstacle to drivers using snow tires is the cost of having an extra set of tires. What has to be figured into that equation, however, is the cost of missing a day of work, being involved in an accident, or having to park your vehicle for the winter if you’re not using the right tires for the season.


Editor’s note: Slide on over to Advance Auto Parts for a wide selection of tire chains, accessories, roadside safety kits and more.

Graphic courtesy of

Advance exclusive – interview with Driven’s Tommy Kendall

Advance Auto Parts

Photo courtesy of FOX Sports.

Our Street Talker gets the inside track on racetracks, winning and free cars from 4-time Trans Am Champion racer Tommy Kendall.



The first, and only, time I met famed SCCA racer Tommy Kendall, I thought my life was over.

He was the special guest at a new tire introduction for one of the major tire manufacturers and I was working at the event. The day’s activities at the Arizona racetrack were drawing to a close and Tommy was about to take a few hot laps around the track in one of several Ford Mustangs being used for the event. I asked if I might join him.

Having never ridden with a professional driver or on a racetrack, everything was fine – for about the first second as we sped away from the starting line. We quickly approached turn one, Tommy showed no signs of slowing down, and I stared in horror at the wall directly in front of us, growing larger and closer while my remaining lifespan grew shorter.

I was convinced there was no way this Ford Mustang could make the turn and avoid slamming into the wall, even with an SCCA champion at the wheel. Doing so would have defied the law of physics. Instead, we sailed through the turn easily, as though the car was glued to the track, and that’s the only thing I remember about the ride.  We probably weren’t even going top speed. Tommy Kendall was just doing what he does—drive well.

I was reminded recently of that ride in the Ford Mustang with Tommy when I saw FOX Sports’ new TV show, Driven: A Race Without Boundaries, starring him along with professional racer and Red Bull Drift Champion Rhys Millen – a familiar name and face to many fans of drifting.

For the show, the two racers compete at several of the world’s most famous racing venues, including Utah’s Bonneville Salt Flats, Nevada’s Mint 400 Desert Course just outside Las Vegas, Colorado’s Pikes Peak Hill Climb and the high banks of Daytona International Speedway.  They’re driving identically equipped 2014 Range Rover Sports, featuring a 510-horsepower, supercharged V8 and a lightweight aluminum body.

Tommy Kendall

Photo courtesy of FOX Sports.

“When you get two competitors together like Rhys and I, it can get pretty intense,” says Kendall, a four-time SCCA Trans-Am Series champion. “There is a reason why these race courses are so iconic. They are tough to conquer in any format or race machine, let alone a factory SUV without any modification. A win at these courses means something.”

Kendall says that the Pikes Peak course was probably his favorite of the four courses. “I’ve always watched races there and thought, ‘I don’t know if I’d do that if they asked me to,’” Kendall explains. Specifically, he points out the steep drop-offs and lack of guardrails in spots, and the fact that he saw a Rally class car with two occupants, both of whom survived, go off a cliff on the same stretch of road on which he and Rhys would be racing. “Then again, my favorite tracks to race on were also the hairiest, and that’s what draws you to the sport,” Kendall explains. “They cause you to execute at the highest level when the stakes are high.”

The filming, Tommy Kendall says, was surprisingly challenging, more so than the racing because the driving took up a very small part of the production. “In the middle of it, the days were pretty tough because there was so much to do. Our first wake-up call in Bonneville was 3:45 a.m. and you go until there is no more light. In the summer, that’s a long time.” The long days were accompanied by challenging weather conditions that delivered triple-digit temperatures in both Bonneville and Las Vegas, and hail in Pike’s Peak. “Tough might not be the right word though, because Reese and I were the lucky ones, spending time in our cars with air-conditioned seats.”

Tommy Kendall

Photo courtesy of FOX Sports.

The long days and challenging weather suddenly became worth it, however, when Tommy said he learned that for the last race, he and Rhys would be racing for a 2014 Range Rover Sport. They were tied at two wins each, and it would be winner take all. “When I texted my wife and told her I’d be racing for the car, she texted me back the line from the Toby Keith song.” The words of encouragement she texted were a variation on the lyrics from As Good As I Once Was – ‘You’re not as good as you once were, but you’re as good once as you ever were.’ Her encouragement must have worked because Tommy is now anxiously awaiting delivery of his 2014 Range Rover.

When asked if there’s going to be a sequel, Tommy said that’s one of the questions he asked most frequently. “If they keep giving away cars, I sure hope so!”

Editor’s note: Whether you’re hitting the track or that dreaded commute, make sure your vehicle is a top performer by stopping by Advance Auto Parts—for all the best in quality auto parts, accessories and more. Buy online, pick up in store.


Wheels and Tire Stretching

Advance Auto PartsPretty is as pretty does.

Many people take this old saying to mean something to the effect of, “Don’t judge a person by how they look, but rather by how they behave.” I’d like to apply that thought to the trend of tire stretching, and then to vehicle wheels.

Looks matter, and that’s probably the only reason there is for stretching tires. Some might argue what better reason could one possibly need? If you’re not familiar with tire stretching, it’s essentially installing a tire on a wheel size that’s larger than what’s specified for the tire, causing the tire to have to stretch to fit the wheels. A lot of online forums give credit to the VW-crowd for starting the trend, but whether or not you agree with that, it seems to be growing in popularity, and polarizing car aficionados who either love or hate the look.

I’m going to remain neutral and not jump on either side, but rather encourage you to do your homework and get the facts before you decide to go for this look.

Here are some considerations that fall on the “minus” side of the equation. Tire stretching probably isn’t good for your tires’ longevity. The stretching places undue stress on the tire sidewall and bead and can cause premature and irregular tire tread wear, particularly if you have an aggressive camber setup. Plus, the tire companies don’t like it.

“We follow the RMA (Rubber Manufacturers Association) guideline, beginning on page 42, under Tire Rim/Wheel Selection,” explains Jim Davis, PR Manager – North America, for The Goodyear Tire & Rubber Company. “If it doesn’t fit in the rim width range that is published in the tire data books, then we don’t approve.”

Food for thought. They are, after all, the tire experts.

Now the pluses. Ok, there’s probably just one. Stretched tires just look cool — to some people — and draw added attention to the wheels.

Wheels are undoubtedly an important part of the appearance equation, but also play an important role in performance, specifically when it comes to weight. Here are some thoughts on wheels from someone who knows a thing or two about competition and performance parts – Kevin Wells, Technical Manager for FORMULA DRIFT.

“Wheel weights matter to our drivers,” Wells explains. “Less rotating weight is preferred, especially in drifting. The wheel speed changes very rapidly – 100 mph to 0 mph (ebrake) to 100 mph. Excessive rotational weight places additional stress on the drivetrain and the slower this reaction takes place, not to mention suspension setups from excessive wheel weight.

“Other considerations when it comes to wheels are sizing, fitment, and sponsors,” he adds. “You will see drivers use spacers, front and rear, to get available sizes with the incorrect offset to suit their needs. And as for sponsors – free wheels are good wheels unless you can afford to buy something better!”

So what’s it going to be – looks, performance, or both?

Editor’s note: When you need to pretty-up your tires and wheels, make Advance Auto Parts your first stop. Buy online, pick up in store.


Plan Your Summer Stance

Advance Auto PartsSummer’s here. For many of us that means loading up the family car with siblings (and sometimes parents) that don’t along, pets with gas, and way too much stuff for another epic adventure most commonly known as “The Annual Family Summer Vacation.”

Or not.

This summer, If you’re lucky enough to be doing what you want, where you want, when you want and with whom you want to be doing it, then I’ve got some road trip suggestions for you – particularly if you’re into import tuners and “bagged, stanced and stretched” are part of your vocabulary.

Aggressive fitment will be front and center when Stance:Nation brings its Stancenation & Showoff – Nisei Edition to Los Angeles Saturday August 17 where some of the West Coast’s top cars and import tuners to compete for trophies and prizes.

West Coasters would do right to also check out the annual WEKFEST San Francisco on their fifth anniversary, July 27 at the San Jose Convention Center. Billing itself as “featuring 300-plus of the West Coast’s best euro and import builds. WEKFEST is your destination to see some of the best on display.”Advance Auto Parts

If the mere thought of 300 import tuner beauties on display in one spot has you salivating but you live on the East Coast and don’t have the time or rich relatives to finance a cross-country trip, don’t despair. Check out WEKEAST on Sunday, August 25 at the N.J. Expo & Convention Center in Edison, N.J., with 300 of the best builds the East Coast has to offer.

Summer’s also heating up thanks to the continuation of the epic Hot Import Nights shows. With four shows remaining this summer in Seattle, Loudon, N.H., Seoul, Korea, and Houston, and another five shows scheduled to close out the year. HIN says it features “the hottest cars, models, and music,” and at the New Hampshire event – drifters.

Speaking of drifting, Streetwise Drift has a bunch of amateur and ProAm events scheduled through the summer in the Southeast while the big boys over at Formula D have three more drifting events remaining in Washington, Texas and California before they crown the 2013 Formula D champion.

Now, if you do decide to road trip it to any of these events, here’s how to avoid turning it into a repeat of that stressful family vacation from your childhood, or at the very least, having a significant other giving you the death stare from the right seat. Pop the hood and check your vehicle’s vital signs. You know the drill – fluid levels, battery age, belt and hose condition, tire pressure, lights, wipers, a/c temperature. Do it in the driveway now, so you don’t have to hear about it on the side of the road later.

Got any favorite import tuner shows or  memorable photos from a recent road trip or drifting event? Share ‘em here, and enjoy summer!

Editor’s note: If you’ve got a road trip in the works, download this handy infographic for helpful tips — no matter what kind of ride you’re taking.


Photos courtesy of Formula Drift and Stancenation.

Fast & Furious 6 boils over with bigger, badder action!

We review the hottest car film of the year!


car movieCan you smell what The Rock is cooking? You can if you’re Vin Diesel and you wake up one morning to find Dwayne Johnson, uninvited and in your oceanfront paradise. It’s a big, simmering pot of homemade trouble, and Vin Diesel and his crew are the missing ingredients.

And so it begins, again. The latest installment in the Fast and Furious franchise – Fast & Furious 6.

You don’t have to love hot, fast cars or The Rock and his bulging biceps to like Fast & Furious 6, but it sure helps if you do. Even if you’re not a car aficionado going into this movie, you just might be by the time you come out. I think a more appropriate name for this non-stop action fest might be “Fast & Furious 6 – Over The Top” or “Fast & Furious – More of Everything” simply because it is, and there is.

More cars. More women. More chases. More fights. More stunts. And a whole lot of mayhem mixed in.

A wide-ranging vehicle selection is the Fast & Furious franchise’s calling card. Don’t like the BMW M5 that’s screaming through the streets of London? Wait a few minutes, because the cars change as fast as they drive. There’s old school, new school, a plane, a tank, and something I’m just going to refer to here as an Indy car wedge. If you’ve already seen FF6, you know exactly what I’m talking about.

fast-furious-6-FF6_Tsr1Sht_VIN_0205_1_rgbWe love modern cars and all their computer power controlling various vehicle systems, right? Perhaps, unless you’re a diehard “Prepper” who thinks this is going to be a major problem when the you-know-what hits the fan and life-as-we-know-it goes south. One of the first chase scenes through the streets of London in FF6 clearly shows why all this computer horsepower might not be such a great idea, and serves as a great excuse for Vin Diesel and crew to attend an upscale, classic car auction for some serious retro horsepower, not to mention good looks. For car fans, it’s a great sequence.Paul Walker

Want to impress your friends with both your attention to detail and automotive knowledge? Throw out this little nugget at the next backyard beer and barbecue – Hobbs says the BMW M5 he’s procured has a twin turbo V8. That’d be true if he were driving the current F10 M5 version instead of the older E60 that’s pictured. That one has a normally aspirated V10.

And what about the same double decker #4 bus they keep passing no matter where the chase takes them in London? While the devil may be in the details, The Rock and director Justin Lin have still cooked up something special for this high-octane feast.

Editor’s note: Want to get something cooking with your vehicle this summer? Power slide on over to Advance Auto Parts. And, be sure to check out Fast and Furious 6 now.


Formula Drift Co-Founder Ryan Sage Promises an Exciting Racing Season

Street Talk recently caught up with Formula Drift Co-Founder Ryan Sage to find out more about the series, its growth, and some exciting changes for the 2013 season. Here’s what he had to say.

Formula DriftST: As Formula Drift enters its tenth season, how has it grown, evolved and changed, and what are some of the factors responsible for those changes?

Ryan Sage: The sport’s growth has really been fun to watch and be a part of. It’s grown not only in terms of fan base, but also in reach. We have been doing global events now for some time and they continue to be an important part of our portfolio.

The factors [responsible for growth], ultimately, I believe have come down to the fundamentals of the sport—exciting on-track action. It’s really hard not to fall in love with this type of motorsport, and when you combine that [action] with good product distribution via TV, live stream, web, social, etc., this is what you get. From the early days until now, it’s really been about that.

ST: What does the 2013 season look like, and looking further down the road, discuss where you see the series going.

Ryan Sage: I think we are going to have another tremendous year. We have only begun selling tickets for the season and some are already close to selling out. As far as the long-term perspective, we feel we have some room for growth in the U.S. We see our brand having similarities to that of Super Cross, and we love that series. We don’t try to emulate what they do, but we think we have many of the fundamentals that they have.

ST: The sport appears to be growing in the U.S. How do you measure growth? Is it by attendance at events? Number of competitors? Media coverage? All of the above? Share some numbers that illustrate that growth.

Ryan Sage: All of it really. In terms of drivers, we have close to 90 licensed drivers in 2013. 60 of those will travel to all of the rounds. In four-wheel motorsports, there isn’t really anything that compares to that. Our attendance has averaged about 15% growth year-to-year with four out of the seven events in 2012 actually selling out.

Our biggest event is around 18,000 people. We have 200 individual media at our big rounds and about 150 at the others. The high number of media is directly related to the series’ growth. We have over 1.5 million unique viewers on our live stream year after year and it keeps growing.

Our fans watch for an average of 34 minutes per broadcast and that is pretty much unheard of in the web space. We produce 12 original TV shows that air domestically on NBC Sports, and internationally we’re seen in over 300 million homes around the globe. So in short, we have what we feel is a very compelling program.

ST: Being part of the Long Beach Grand Prix this year has to be a big deal for Formula Drift and the sport’s credibility. Talk about how that opportunity came about and what you think the national exposure is going to mean for your organization and for the sport.

Ryan Sage: Long Beach is great for us! We had been doing some small exhibitions at the Grand Prix for a year or so when we approached the Grand Prix Association about doing an actual Formula Drift round the week before.

The Grand Prix Association, with Jim Michelian and Dwight Tanaka, helped put the whole thing together and now it’s been going strong for 6 years. This year, we have added a night competition round on their weekend – one weekend after our standalone event.

It’s a first for night racing of any kind in over 30 years, I believe, and the prize package is the largest since the Red Bull Drifting World Championship. So – two weekends of drifting craziness in downtown Long Beach.ADVANCE AUTO PARTS

ST: What do fans have to look forward to in the 2013 season and what are you most excited about?

Ryan Sage: Really, I think the biggest thing to look forward to is where the competition is going. The drivers and fabricators have been taking things to all-time levels in recent years and we’ve been seeing some of the closest, most aggressive drifting ever. I think we are in for a treat in 2013.

ST: Is Formula Drift racing and drift racing in general a misunderstood sport?

Ryan Sage: I would say that there is some misunderstanding of what we do and how things are judged, but I think some of those things have been corrected. I also think that the sport’s evolution requires that we adjust criteria and how the sport is judged, and when we do that, it requires that we re-educate fans.

It’s not as easy for us to say, “You win if you get from point A to point B in the fastest time.” That [type of racing] is actually easy to understand. When you have a nuanced sport [like Formula D] that is constantly evolving, it takes greater pains to have the fans understand how to judge a battle. We can’t, for example, do backside 720’s and actually submit someone.

With that said, we are employing a whole new barrage of tools in 2013 that are really going to be game-changing in the sport of drifting. This will really help people see things better, more transparently.

Advance Auto PartsST: Formula Drift has several well-known national tire sponsors. Tires are obviously an important component of Formula D cars. What other parts are critically important, and perhaps typically modified or experimented with, on Formula D cars?

Ryan Sage: Clutch, brakes, LSD [limited slip differential], suspension, weight, power plant, zip ties, zip ties, zip ties, tape, oil, cleaning products. All are relevant and at some level of importance in drifting.

ST: How can young drivers and drift enthusiasts break into the sport? Can their “every day driver” car also double as a competition drift car, particularly at some of the smaller, regional drift car series?

Ryan Sage: Definitely. I can count on two hands the number of drivers that came through our Pro-Am series and now are drifting full time. This is probably the most accessible sport out there and definitely the most accessible motorsport. A list of our Pro-Am affiliates is on our website as well as regional resources.

Editor’s note: Whether you’re building a drift car, modifying one, or simply driving to a Formula D event this season, be sure to visit Advance Auto Parts for great deals on parts and tools that help get the job done.

Photos courtesy of Formula Drift.

Advance exclusive: see what’s behind the exciting new Ford Fiesta ST

Street Talk gets the inside track from Ford on one of the year’s hottest upcoming releases!

Advance Auto PartsThe Ford Fiesta ST has arrived…almost. Fiesta enthusiasts should expect no less than the following this summer: 197-horsepower with 214 foot-pounds of torque, all rolling on ultra-shiny 17’s. To top it off, it’ll be available for the first time in the USA in the coming months.

While the Fiesta’s no stranger to the import tuner crowd or fans of drifting—having been reintroduced in these parts in 2010, and adopted by Ken Block and Tanner Foust as their rally car that year—don’t confuse that Fiesta with the new 2014 Ford Fiesta ST.

“The Ford Fiesta ST has a completely different target customer than [the traditional] Fiesta, which is a young, millennial-generation female or male who is driven by different purchase reasons than the ST buyer,” explains Liz Elser, Fiesta/Fiesta ST Marketing Manager, Ford Motor Company. “The [traditional] Fiesta’s target customer is a city dweller that loves being where the action is, and they are constantly out and about. They see the vehicle as an extension of themselves. They appreciate the prized fuel economy, value, and quality when making their purchase decision.”

All well and good, if you’re into that kind of thing, but sounds a little tame for my high-octane blood.

The Fiesta ST’s target customer, in comparison, is “a 24- to 28-year old single male who’s always wanted to own a true performance car—and now can—thanks to Fiesta ST’s affordability,” adds Elser.

Did someone mention performance? Now I’m listening.

Advance Auto PartsPerform it does. The new Ford Fiesta ST specs begin with a 1.6L Ti-VCT EcoBoost I-4 engine featuring a single turbo for the power of a V6, with the fuel efficiency of a four cylinder. Sustained torque output is achieved through an over-boost feature that extends peak torque through a higher RPM range. Keeping all this fun under control are four-wheel disc brakes with high-performance pads, a sport-tuned suspension, and 17-inch wheels flaunting Bridgestone Potenza 205/40R17’s that are W-rated (168 mph) high-performers.

Ford is targeting drivers who have an interest in performance and drifting, who are younger and might consider themselves part of the import tuner crowd, while at the same time, are price conscious. The Ford Fiesta ST starts at $21,400. As for what makes Fiesta ST so appealing to this demographic, Elser says “there’s a new generation of enthusiasts emerging and they define performance differently.”

“Fiesta’s history and heritage as a performance vehicle in Europe is one factor driving demand [among the import tuner scene],” Elser explains. “The target customer for Fiesta ST in the USA is savvy—they want fuel economy and performance with a European-inspired performance pedigree.  The shift to small, fun-to-drive performance cars is happening now and will only continue to gain momentum when you consider the growth projected for the B- and C- car [size] segments globally.”

Helping the Ford Fiesta ST deliver on the “fun-to-drive” reputation that Elser promises, is a 6-speed manual transmission and three-mode AdvanceTrac electronic stability control that allows drivers to select the degree of intervention they want. Even when backed into a corner, other Ford Fiesta ST specs are equally impressive, namely its enhanced Torque Vectoring Control.

Yeah, I know, that’s a mouthful, but it gets the job done.

“G-forces in a corner transfer more traction to your outside tires than to your inside ones,” Elser explains. “Our Torque Vectoring Control exploits that by transferring torque to the wheels that have the most grip, virtually eliminating understeer and forcing the front end to hug the inside of each curve.”

And, while we all know that actions speak louder than words, what’s performance without looking and sounding good? Ford achieves what it’s calling the “desired Fiesta ST sound” inside the car through an “engine sound symposer” that uses “good” engine-generated frequencies from the intake system and transmits them to the passenger compartment.

As for looks, the accelerator, brake and clutch pedals are all clad in racing-inspired aluminum, while the shifter knob and steering wheel are leather-wrapped. Headliner and pillar trim are black and standard seats are outfitted in charcoal black sport cloth with the ST logo or upgrade to RECARO partial leather-trimmed and heated sport front bucket seats.

For added style, the ST logo is emblazoned on the front door sill plates, while exterior mirrors with the RECARO package are heated—so you can see exactly whom you’ve left in the dust.

The Fiesta ST is capitalizing on a trend toward downsizing, to deliver a higher power-to-weight ratio and better cornering, and “is seen as replacing Ford’s SVT Focus as the consummate Ford tuner vehicle in the USA,” Elser says. “When Ken and Tanner migrated to the Fiesta from their previous vehicles, it gave the Fiesta the ultimate validation in the tuner community.”

That validation, coupled with the ST’s buzz, specs and style enhancements, should help drive major sales when it finally becomes available this summer. I’m saving up as we speak.

Editor’s note: As you’re gearing up to test drive the hot, new Ford Fiesta ST, be sure to visit Advance Auto Parts for great deals on parts and tools for just about any project you can dream up.






Studying up on the drift

Advance Auto PartsIn spite of the fact that I live for speed approximately 22.5 hours out of the day, I’m probably the happiest when I can finally relax with a healthy selection of reading material to choose from. Nearly all of my reading is done just before I crash out. And you’ll always find a pile of car magazines next to my bed. Forget the classics, I’m all about fixating on the latest models, gear, tips and tricks, and on some days, that’s what I look forward to most.

This brings me to my latest dilemma—deciding on which print and online media to consume. There are tons of custom car magazines out there targeted to the import tuner enthusiast. Take, for example, the list of media sponsors on Formula D’s website. There are about 40 print, online, and radio media outlets linked there, each one just as interesting as the next. It’s a great selection, and overwhelming at the same time. I could spend days reading them and checking out all the unique cars, but I can’t.

Some of my favorite custom car magazines include Import Tuner, DS Sport, and MotorMavens.comin part for their photography and countless project car profiles. These media outlets are a great way to stay up to date on the latest news too. Recently, I found out that Walter Wilkerson’s Formula Drift car, truck and trailer were stolen and last spotted in Carson, California, and that driver Ryan Tuerck now has his own show on YouTube called The Ultimate Game of Drift.

Most online media is heavy on video content, making it even harder for me to tear myself away from my tablet. Then again, it is winter, and what better way to spend a chill winter’s night than inside, cozying up to a car magazine or two, or eight.

I’m always on the lookout for new online sources geared to import tuners or drifting, so let me know what some of your favorites are. Because let’s face it, when it comes to this stuff, there’s no such thing as too much reading material, or too many cars.

Editor’s note: As you study up on the latest and greatest developments in the automotive world, be sure to read all about the latest and greatest deals at Advance Auto Parts.