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.
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 19-20, 2018, and the bench racing has already begun: What would you build?