A-Mods the stars of SCCA competition

A-Mods the stars of SCCA competition

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SCCA Solo Championships, 9.9.2010
Gary Milligan runs the west course during the Sports Car Club of America's 2010 Solo National Championships on Thursday, Sept. 9, 2010. Milligan led the A Modified class Thursday with a time of 48.866 seconds. (ERIC GREGORY / Lincoln Journal Star)

They are the monsters of sports cars.

They sound like a thousand angry hornets. They look like winged go-karts.

And they go really, really fast ... in the straights, the tight turns and the big, long curves at the Sports Car Club of America's 2010 Solo National Championships at Air Park this week.

The A-Modifieds are the fastest, most exotic and precise racing cars in the SCCA competition.

"Compared to all the other cars here, this is sensory overload," said Dan Wasdahl, who competed in the A-Mod group on the 3/4-mile circuit with more than 12 turns.

There are miles of Miatas, tons of Toyotas and a clutch of Corvettes.

Just a few A-Mods.

"These cars are so fast and get into the turns so quickly, if you have to think about it, you're done, finished," said Gary Milligan, an eight-time national champion. "I walk the race course and I go through the course in my mind, trying to feel how each turn, each straight is going to feel.

"When I get out there, there's only you, the car and the feeling of flying on the ground," he said.

Driver and car builder Joe Cheng agrees.

"This is the ultimate, the fastest, the peak of the quest for speed in the SCCA."

Cheng races when he's not running his construction development company in Vancouver, B.C.

While hundreds of Hondas turn the course, marked with orange pylons, in 60 seconds or so, the A-Mods are cutting the course a full 10 seconds faster.

Milligan leads the division with a 48.028-second time and Wasdahl is second at 48.965. Cheng is third at 50.480.

They'll determine the winner when they race the east course Friday morning from 8 a.m. to about 10 a.m.

Milligan and Cheng drive the same car, which Cheng built, and Wasdahl drives a car he bought from Cheng.

"I guess, overall, since we started with ideas, pencil and paper, we've put six figures into the car - always looking for something to make it go faster," Cheng said. "We seek the perfect run where you never let up on the accelerator."

The cars have huge, steep wings in the front and back of the bare-bones chassis with a cockpit. Side skirts drag on the ground, and the engine sits in the back.

The top three drivers are running a highly modified snowmobile racing engine that has more than 270 horsepower. The wings cause so much drag that top speed is limited to 100 mph, but where many drivers smoke tires and obviously stomp on the brakes, the A-Mods power through the turns.

Wasdahl, 54, is a pathologist and teacher at the Northeast Ohio Colleges of Medicine and Pharmacy. He jumped into the SCCA solo racing in 1992.

"That's not counting the years from when I was 14 and driving like a maniac in Grand Forks, N.D." he said. "I get to race about six times a year and this is the nationals, the one that counts. I'm doing well, but guys like Milligan, he's my hero, the best out here."

Reach Ken Hambleton at 473-7313 or khambleton@journalstar.com.

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