ZZP’s Al McClure sets multiple Saturn Ion world speed records, looks next to raising Ecotec-engine speed ceiling
Even before setting foot on the ½-mile stretch of track at W.K Kellogg Airport on Saturday for the five-day Battle Creek Speedfest, Al was already a record-setter.
Two years before, he set the world record in his black 2006 Saturn Ion by reaching 161.4 miles per hour at the ½-mile Battle Creek event. He’s held the record ever since, but this week he upped the ante for any competitors hoping to claim it.
Despite the brutal heat and humidity affecting much of the state this season, Al finished his run on Saturday at 164.4 miles per hour, breaking his previous record. And if that wasn’t enough, he broke it again the following Tuesday when he finished at 167.7 miles per hour. Al’s Ion also won for fastest front-wheel drive in the entire event.
“For the past two years I’ve been trying to beat that again and I was finally able to be successful,” Al said.
At these speeds, driving challenges change, Al said, which prompted an altered strategy in the vehicle’s construction.
“The half-mile is a lot different from drag racing. In drag racing, it’s pretty much your power versus how much the car weighs. That’s going to determine how fast you go. In half mile, you kind of transition over to your power versus how aerodynamic the car is. That’s what I was really fighting. You can keep adding all kinds of power to it, but you’re not going to get much faster until you get it more aerodynamic,” he said.
To meet challenges posed by increasing aerodynamic pressures, Al and the ZZP build team changed the shape of the Ion’s front end by sealing in the bumper and lowering the body of the car, which keeps air from stacking up underneath and produces a vacuum-like effect. In addition to more power, Al also installed plastic panels on the underbody of the car to reduce drag.
“I think that had an equal effect as the power added to the vehicle. They both worked together to make the car faster,” he said.
Al was close to setting the record for Ecotec engines, which stands at 173 miles per hour and is currently held by the ZZP shop Cobalt. However, unfavorable driving conditions created by the heat and humidity prevented him from taking that record as well.
“There was no way. If the air would have been a little better, there would have been less drag. It’s possible for the Ion to do it. It just wasn’t going to happen this weekend,” he said. “If it would have been cooler and less humid, then I honestly think it could have at least broken 170 if not taken the engine record.”
There are racers around the country that are gunning for Al’s record, but for now he isn’t worried.
“I’m probably just going to lay low a little bit until it gets close to me before I take it any faster,” he said.
But in the meantime, Al and the ZZP build team are looking forward to putting their energies into breaking the Ecotec’s 200 mile per hour record in a Chevy Cobalt at future races before the end of the season.
“Which I am more than capable of doing. It’s just going to be putting the time in to get it there,” Al said.
If successful, the Cobalt would be second fastest front wheel drive vehicle in the world and the team hopes to have it ready in time for the Indy Airstrip Attack, a half-mile side-by-side trap speed competition held from August 18 to 19 in Marion, Indiana.