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Ed Higginbotham
Ed Higginbotham Associate Editor
10/22/17 11:28 a.m.
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A Subaru-powered Honda Insight that can beat most cars at your local autocross; a V8 Datsun that can gobble a quarter-mile in 9.5 seconds; a Hyabusa-powered miniature Mystery Machine: They can be found together in only one place, the Grassroots Motorsports $2017 Challenge.

The event meets every year at Central Florida’s Gainesville Raceway to seek the finest and fastest budget builds. The budget cap always coincides with the year of the event, meaning just $2017 for this year.

The Grassroots Motorsports $2017 Challenge sponsored by CRC Industries and Miller Electric Welders kicked off on Friday, October 20, with the autocross portion of the competition. The students of Georgia Tech’s Wreck Racing have been coming to this event for years, this time claiming top honors with their mid-engined, Subaru-powered Honda Insight.

As evening fell, the 40 Challenge entrants moved over to the Gainesville Raceway drag strip. Andrew Nelson, known for posting blistering Challenge drag times, set a new event record with a 9.521-second run in his altered-wheelbase, V8-powered Datsun 260Z. Don’t believe that such a machine can be built for $2017? Andrew will gladly point out all of his homemade tricks and tips.

The final competition venue was the concours, where entries are judged on innovation and execution. Georgia Tech turned heads once again and claimed top honors.

At the end of the event, Georgia Tech finished first overall in a car that few product planers could have ever envisioned: a cast-off Honda Insight chassis mated to a six-cylinder Subaru engine. The new powerplant has been placed in the rear of the chassis, converting the former front-drive hybrid to a rear-drive layout.

Click here for full results. A photo album will be added to our Facebook page with more images from this year's event.

This year’s event attracted six school teams, with a group of home-schooled high schoolers claiming the Spirit of Mazda Award with their RX-7 roadster. Dean Case, Communications Officer for Mazda Motorsports, personally presented the award. Smith College Racing, another school team, finished seventh overall, making them the top-placing Mazda at the event.

The $2017 Challenge also featured a sideshow of sorts, the General Tire Challenge. Twenty Challenge competitors faced off on the autocross course in a pair of Mazdas fitted with General high-performance tires. Each driver got a run in a Mazda MX-5 as well as a Mazda3. Forty autocross runs later, Andrew Surprenant claimed top honors plus a free set of tires from General Tire.

Next year’s Grassroots Motorsports $2018 Challenge will take place October 12-13, 2018, and the bench racing has already begun: What would you build?

Thank you to our partners CRC Industries and Miller Electric Welders for helping to make this event possible.

Look for full features on the standout entries–plus a run down of the entire field–in future issues of Grassroots Motorsports. Subscribe here.

Read the rest of the story

secretariata
secretariata Dork
10/22/17 12:01 p.m.

 Congratulations to Wreck Racing, Corinth Holders High School Automotive, and Smith College Racing!  It's awesome that these 3 teams all wound up with top 10 finishes!

 

759NRNG
759NRNG Dork
10/22/17 4:56 p.m.

Does Andrew  Nelson have a build thread on this BADBOY ?

David S. Wallens
David S. Wallens Editorial Director
10/22/17 7:17 p.m.
759NRNG said:

Does Andrew  Nelson have a build thread on this BADBOY ?

We did a photo shoot on the car so, well, you can probably figure out what that means. It's an update to a Z he has run before, but it's now way more radical. And longer, too. 

Thanks again to everyone who joined us. Great people. Awesome builds. Late nights. Fun stuff. 

Hope everyone gets home safely. Please check in when you do. 

mazdeuce
mazdeuce MegaDork
10/22/17 7:42 p.m.

Is there a way to see how we were scored on the concourse? We're very happy with the score, but it would be nice to see what we could improve to grab a few more points. 

It's not that I'm competitive, this is just how I get once we start keeping score. laugh

Ranger50
Ranger50 UltimaDork
10/22/17 8:19 p.m.

In reply to David S. Wallens :

I just arrived home after leaving the banquet. Drove, slept, drove, ate, drove, slept, shopped at Summit Racing, drove, shopped at Trader Joe’s, drove, ate some dinner, drove, and arrived home in a nutshell. Few gas stops mixed in there....

Had lots of time to think about next years build for the potential subclasses.... wink

ckosacranoid
ckosacranoid Dork
10/22/17 8:27 p.m.

I am in a hotel about 2 hours from the Tail of the Dragon. I am taking the subby there in the morning to run the dragon with the outback of the beast as a couple of people called it this weekend....

Matthew Kennedy
Matthew Kennedy Reader
10/22/17 9:48 p.m.

In reply to Ranger50 :

How many of us stopped at Summit on the way home?

Jerry
Jerry UltraDork
10/22/17 9:52 p.m.

My first ever challenge.  My first ever drag race.  My first ever driving a Miata (no really) and I got to drive two (the Tire Shootout and a much more...rustic '96).  And now I'm picturing a cheap Suabru wagon of my own if that ends up being the sub-class next year.

wheels777
wheels777 SuperDork
10/23/17 12:48 a.m.
759NRNG said:

Does Andrew  Nelson have a build thread on this BADBOY ?

We have a build site.  It will be linked in after GRM has a chance to pick thru it and pull pics.  It has pics of the engine parts including the pistons that have the valve pockets clearanced with a belt sander, the scored cylinders, the piston that bounced off the cylinder head and the rusty lifters.  The only thing missing is pics of the cracks in the cylinder heads.  

alfadriver
alfadriver MegaDork
10/23/17 7:24 a.m.

Dumb question- how did the insight win the concourse?  

From all of the pictures that you've posted, and the video I've seen- it looks very thrashed together, with not so elegant fender flares and a complete missing rear of the car bodywork....  

Other than getting the engine to fit in the back of the car to drive the rear wheels, the appearance execution looks terrible.

That seems rather odd, to me.

(maybe a lot of my time was just saved)

¯\_(ツ)_/¯
¯\_(ツ)_/¯ UltraDork
10/23/17 7:35 a.m.

In reply to alfadriver :

Probably the same way a giant doorstop on top of sketchiest mid engine chassis in history did last year- a completely loony concept is worth more concours points than a beautifully executed but more typical build.

Ashyukun
Ashyukun UltraDork
10/23/17 7:45 a.m.

In reply to alfadriver :

It's something that we noted in going through the scoring from this year and had noted before (and why we took the 'Don't Judge Me' option this year with it being available)- the judges have historically been far more biased toward radical and bizarre builds than very clean lightly-modified & mostly stock cars. It's not wholly surprising from the standpoint that the Challenge is more a car building competition than a driving (hence why there are pro autocross drivers) or shining/polishing competition. It's definitely something that new pariticpants need to be aware of, since a traditional concourse obviously hinges very much on how clean/shiny a vehicle is.

Ranger50
Ranger50 UltimaDork
10/23/17 7:46 a.m.

In reply to alfadriver :

Unfortunately, there is more to the concourse then just how it looks.

Patrick
Patrick MegaDork
10/23/17 7:49 a.m.
Ashyukun said:

In reply to alfadriver :

It's something that we noted in going through the scoring from this year and had noted before (and why we took the 'Don't Judge Me' option this year with it being available)- the judges have historically been far more biased toward radical and bizarre builds than very clean lightly-modified & mostly stock cars. It's not wholly surprising from the standpoint that the Challenge is more a car building competition than a driving (hence why there are pro autocross drivers) or shining/polishing competition. It's definitely something that new pariticpants need to be aware of, since a traditional concourse obviously hinges very much on how clean/shiny a vehicle is.

I pitched an article to Ed Higginbotham while we were going over some other things and hope we can get that done to guide future first timers through what to expect for/from the event.  Some people have been there for years and still don't get it though laugh

 

alfadriver
alfadriver MegaDork
10/23/17 8:23 a.m.
Ranger50 said:

In reply to alfadriver :

Unfortunately, there is more to the concourse then just how it looks.

I get that.  But looks should matter a LOT.  Especially when "execution" is mentioned, but when I see the big body gaps and the waviness of the flares- only credit for powertrain execution was given credit for, and no consideration for the questionable body finishing.

I thought it should look good on the cover of a magazine.  Find me an angle of that whole car that would look good on a cover.

It's totally awesome that they transplanted a motor like that.  Totally awesome.  But it's not the first time.  And it's by far not the best that anyone has done it.  Other than it being fast.  So overwhelming points to just that feature does not seem quite correct.  

I know it's unlikely that I would actually make a car anytime soon, but the plans that I did have would have put me way back in the "fabrication challenge" just because of my car choice- there's no need to do that kind of work.  And without the need, there goes the points.  Basically, this car winning the concourse very much ends any dreams of coming back and making the ultimate Alfa autocrosser.  (the reasoning behind that- noting how the top autocrossers finished in the top 10 overall, and that's what I prefer)

Ranger50
Ranger50 UltimaDork
10/23/17 8:55 a.m.

In reply to alfadriver :

Oh trust me, I COMPLETELY agree with you. But looking at the scoring sheet, it’s 0-5 pts per category. How do you score “crappy” work, when you have already done the radical swap in a already crap car, etc? I do believe there should be a “finished” project look towards the scoring. To me, for an example, the Mystery Machine is way more finished then then the Insight.

Again, this is the challenge and nothing makes sense.

alfadriver
alfadriver MegaDork
10/23/17 9:07 a.m.
Ranger50 said:

In reply to alfadriver :

Again, this is the challenge and nothing makes sense.

And that is high on the reasons that I don't plan on returning. 

The dynamic scoring is very clear.  The concourse is very not clear, and given that my car would start at a major disadvantage, it makes it kind of pointless to even try.  It's a lot of effort to do a challenge, I know that very well.  If I do it again, it will be with the goal of winning the autocross and using that finish for a top 5 overall.  Which I can't if I don't have the "radical powertrain swap" because I chose a competent car to begin with.

Sorry to bitch, but I was talked out of the concourse scoring conversation.  And this is somehow where that thread went???  

dculberson
dculberson PowerDork
10/23/17 9:09 a.m.

Reading the forum coverage has been really fun. I wanted to go to the challenge years ago when I first heard about it, and that's how I ended up being a member here. Somehow the actual *going* to the challenge never happened despite this gradually morphing into my only online hangout spot. SO - I'm hoping to make 2018 the year. I have two kids, one of which is 6 months old right now, so that's gotten significantly more difficult than when it was just me and my wife 10 years ago when I first heard of this circus. But I'm going to start making plans now and see if it's possible for me to make it.

Three different ways I'm considering: whole hog, building a car, towing it down with my 1970 Ford. Or, building a car, and towing it down with a rental or borrowed truck. OR, tagging along with another team's build. I know which one is easiest and most likely, but I'm not usually one to do things the easy way.

alfadriver
alfadriver MegaDork
10/23/17 9:15 a.m.

I just noticed that the corolla running on bump stops got over 20 points in the concourse. 

Other than running on bump stops, and gutting the car- what did it do to deserve that high of a score, too?  Technically, the Smith Miata did more fabrication, welding the cage up.  And only got .5 points more.  

And the former racer probe- the pictures and videos of that car- it looked remarkably clean.  What did it have wrong to justify only 16.75 points?

Tom Suddard
Tom Suddard Digital Experience Director
10/23/17 9:21 a.m.

For those that aren't aware, we've formalized the instructions handed out during judging, which now fully explain the three different categories, and we've removed all of our staff from the judging panel. Together, the presentation and innovation categories make up 60% of the score, and I'd agree that Georgia tech pegged the innovation category. They also had one heck of a presentation for the judges, with cool stuff like exact values to illustrate the stresses put on their rear suspension members. They clearly practiced their spiel, and it paid off. That's how they were able to beat some prettier cars that were less wild and presented more humbly.

I know that the concours will never be popular with engineers, because there is no single correct answer. But, look at the results and it's clear that thinking about all three categories does pay off. Presentation, meaning only what you do and say during your three minutes of alloted judging time, is worth a full 20% of your concours score. A great example of this (besides Georgia Tech's presentation) is Calvin Nelson's sunbird, which was presented with a full-on homebuilt injector flowbench demonstration. That's the kind of stuff that gives you a winning edge in the concours.

Tom Suddard
Tom Suddard Digital Experience Director
10/23/17 9:23 a.m.

That Corolla was different than the one running without springs. It was an AE86 with a 4A-GZE swap, and it was beautiful. The springless corolla earned a 14.

The Probe, well, didn't have that great of a story. I love the team and the people behind it, but they bought it already fully built, added a few modifications, and brought it to the Challenge. Those sorts of lower-effort builds (no offense Jeremy) didn't seem to resonate with the judges this year.

alfadriver
alfadriver MegaDork
10/23/17 9:32 a.m.

Tom, 

Thanks, but honestly, your explanation makes it even more confusing.  The max score in the concourse is 25 points, and 60% of that is 15 points.  So even if they did the best of the best, and super explained what they did, the most they could have gotten was 15 points out of maximizing the presentation and innovation part.

Given how the car looks, I don't see how they got the other 7.75 points out of 10 left.  

And then you point out that presentation is 20%- but that's part of the presentation and innovation 60%, right?  You can't double count presentation.  That can't be 15 points for "presentation and innovation" and another 5 for "presentation", right?

I still don't understand how they got that many points with a car that looked like that.  

alfadriver
alfadriver MegaDork
10/23/17 9:33 a.m.
Tom Suddard said:

That Corolla was different than the one running without springs. It was an AE86 with a 4A-GZE swap, and it was beautiful. The springless corolla earned a 14.

The Probe, well, didn't have that great of a story. I love the team and the people behind it, but they bought it already fully built, added a few modifications, and brought it to the Challenge. Those sorts of lower-effort builds (no offense Jeremy) didn't seem to resonate with the judges this year.

I thought the High School car was the one running without springs.  

pimpm3
pimpm3 SuperDork
10/23/17 9:35 a.m.

No offense taken, I actually really like the concours portion of the event.  With the exception of the truck we ruined for the parking lot build, the concours helped all of the vehicles I was involved in.

A great example is the 1984 c10 my friends kids built.  They had a great presentation and a good story and it really moved them up in the standings.  They lost to the blue c1500 in the drags and the autocross but ended up beating him based on their story.

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