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Tales from Drag Challenge: Sanchez the Barra Commodore

Melbourne mates Warick and John thought spectating at this year’s Street Machine Drag Challenge would be an awesome idea.

However, four months out from the event, they figured if they were going to go to the trouble of taking a week off work, and travel to drag tracks around outback Australia, they may as well just enter the competition, and thus began the story of Sanchez. 

With a tight schedule and a tight budget, the boys chose a venerable Holden VP, mostly because they have a solid rear axle, meaning they can be set up to run a respectable time without breaking the bank. However, the standard 3.8L Buick-sourced V6 had to go! Where many would go down the tried and true route of an LS conversion, both Warick and John wanted to be different, and they weren’t afraid to stand up to a barrage of internet hate either. Which is good, because what the guys have done is borderline sacrilegious.

Take a peek under Sanchez’s hood, and it takes a while for your brain to catch up to your eyes and realise you’re looking at a Barra – yep, the four-litre straight-six usually seen behind grilles sporting Ford’s blue oval. 

“Why!??!” we hear your collective screams. Well, as John says, “The Barra’s a great motor!”.

This particular example was a naturally aspirated FG motor that they boys picked up for $250 from the wreckers, however it didn’t remain that way for long. We know Ford’s Barra motor can provide plenty of power when boosted on stock internals, but the boys weren’t about to risk it.

 A forged bottom-end, stronger head studs, and billet pump gears were installed to ensure the motor was up to the task of completing what could be described as one of Australia’s most gruelling motorsports trials.  

A Holset turbo was bolted to the side of the block to provide boost, while 1600cc injectors and twin Bosch 044s were tasked with supplying fuel. A Haltech Elite 2500 ECU takes control of the show, the combo was good enough for 350RWKw at  22psi on Pump 98 fuel.

Power gets to the track via a TH400 and a standard Borg Warner rear-end that has been fitted with 31-spline billet axles and a full spool. 

When you build a Drag Challenge car in four months, you’re probably going to have a few issues, but aside from an alternator and a couple of little hiccups, John and Warick made it through the whole week relatively stress-free. What’s more, unlike most of the competitors who trailered their cars to Adelaide for the start of the event, John and Warick drove from Melbourne to Adelaide, did Drag Challenge, and then drove back. That’s a 3500km round trip over eight days, plus a whole bunch of passes at the tracks. A testament to the work they put into the car. 

The boys completed Drag Challenge in the Haltech Radial Blown class, with a time of 40.898s, putting them in 37th place overall. That mightn’t seem fast, but you have to take into account that because the car hasn’t been ANDRA tech’d they weren’t allowed to run faster than an 11.0 in the quarter, or 7.0 in the eighth. They did turn up the boost on the last day at Adelaide International Raceway which resulted in a PB of 10.5. There’s a rumour on the streets it could have been better, but John bitched out and lifted. 

One thing is certain, however – this isn’t the last time we’ll see John, Warick, and Sanchez. Plans are for bigger brakes, E85, ANDRA certification, and more boost! Then they’ll likely be back for Drag Challenge in 2018 to put their money where their collective mouths are and prove that  “If you’ve got an LS in a Holden, you’re doing it wrong.”