These days, pretty much everyone is online all the time. Social media and smart phones have put a fire hose of information in the palms of our hands 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. To that end, most of the people we’ve interviewed over the years are people we’ve found online; sometimes Facebook, sometimes Twitter, but mostly on discussion forums. Which makes Darren Thomas stand out in my mind.
Three years ago, we heard about this guy out of Oklahoma who was rocking it in the Import Face-Off series. Trouble was, he didn’t do forums. In fact, he didn’t really do much online at all. We spoke with him via his girlfriend Giovannia, who got us the answers to our questions.
After three years, I wondered if I still had a good email address for Giovannia, Darren’s girlfriend. Would they still be together? Would I be able to do a follow up story? Why didn’t I think of this follow up idea sooner?
GOOD NEWS! STILL RACING!
Fortunately, Giovannia and Darren are still together, still racing, and still staying off the forums. I asked what they’ve been up to. “The last three years have been mixed with busy times and slow times. In 2009, we closed out the season with another Import Face-Off National Championship. That made us the 2008 and 2009 national points champion and we were pretty excited to take another win home.”
2010 found them expecting a baby girl, so they decided to stay close to home. Though they didn’t travel to any races, they did make a point of getting out to the local track to play around in test-and-tune. The goal for the year was to put the race car on a diet and shed as much weight as they possibly could. “We were able to lose a total of 350 pounds of unnecessary weight by cutting at the front end and even gutting out the doors and losing random bolts that served no purpose.”
GIMME FUEL. GIMME FIRE.
“The 2011 and 2012 seasons were by far our busiest years in regards to build work. We decided we had hit the limit on E-85 and made the switch to VP Import because it helped with the longevity of our motors and was more consistent.” They also upgraded the fuel system, as they maxed out the eight (that’s right – eight) 1600CC injectors fueling that beast.
In pursuit of new personal bests, they decided to build a second fuel system from the ground up. Methanol. This was a whole new setup for the car, designed around breaking records. Early in 2012, the team attended a Texas Import Face-Off event, where all that time and effort finally paid off. Darren turned out a new personal best – 8.78 @ 155 MPH.
Today, Darren and team are buttoning up a bunch of smaller items in preparation for the 2013 race season. That huge front mount intercooler has become a restriction, so it’s getting replaced. They’re also making too much power for the current stall converter, so that’s getting upgraded as well. And, since it’s been three years, they’re also updating all their safety gear to comply with NHRA regulations. Nice to hear about a team racing the same car long enough to need the safety updates.
“For the immediate season, we plan on racing any events we may find that have a class we fit into, no matter how far we have to travel.” No matter how far away? That’s a pretty lofty goal! I asked Giovannia how they’re planning to make that happen and, realistically, how far away is “too far away.”
“Traveling outside of what we call our local area is something we’re really looking forward to. In the past, we have taken on 21-hour trips to get to a race. Unfortunately, sometimes we had few racers in our class and, while the trip was an experience and fun for us, it was difficult to race. This season, we hope that our fans and friends will help us by passing along info about any races in the country we should attend.”
“Realistically, well, we don’t really think realistically. We just get up and go because we want to race. We don’t ever think about how far it may be away from us – only about the trip and the experience.” When I asked if they might make it out my way, to Phoenix, Giovannia told me, “If any races do come up for us in Phoenix, we might just make the trip. We went and raced there in 2008 and 2009 and wow, let me tell you y’all have a lot of dirt there!!”
Definitely a lot of dirt here in Arizona! Darren, Giovannia, and the entire Abel Racing team are also going to be out on the Import Face-Off circuit again this year, aiming to reclaim their National Champion title. If they’ve got any downtime during the season, rest assured they’re going to be playing with methanol. They want to break the 8.20-second AWD (all-wheel drive) automatic DSM record before they start playing with – and testing the limits of – a new project vehicle.
A NEW PROJECT?
Maybe it’s a bit early to be asking this, but what might Darren’s next race car be? Have they decided yet? “We really don’t have anything laid out specifically for a future build. We usually sit around and daydream about what we would like to do. So far, the only things we do know we would like to do are something with a V8 and make it rear wheel drive.”
KEEPING IN TOUCH
Gearbox Magazine is going to do a better job in the future of keeping in touch with the people and stories that mean the most to us. This is one of those stories. Our reminder is set. We’ll be checking back in with Darren and Giovannia again in a few months. Will Darren be online then? I wouldn’t count on it, but I know it’s only a matter of time before that AWD automatic DSM record falls.
This is going fast with class and pressing on regardless.