One of the things we’ve long loved about the DSM community is the spirit of innovation. When others say it can’t be done, DSMers do it. Remember all those V8 guys 15 years ago? Yeah. A lot of people think a FWD car can’t be fast either. Kevin Kwiatkowski (aka: Kiggly) ain’t hearing that noise.
Does your Mitsubishi race team have an official name?
What do you race?
It is a 1991 Plymouth Laser, FWD with an automatic transmission and 2.3L. We run in a local tire-size limited class that dictates a 28×10.5” tire and also some DSM and Mitsubishi-related races, mostly at Norwalk.
Tell us a little bit about yourself.
Kevin Kwiatkowski, Owner – AKA Kiggly. I live in the greater Detroit area. I’m a mechanical engineer, working in specialty vehicle design as a system and vehicle-level team leader. Work is predominantly on road race and military vehicles.
How long have you been racing this car?
12 years racing this same car.
Why did you choose this Laser to race? Features? Benefits?
It started as my street car and I just never got rid of it. It was a decent vehicle to make a race car from as the lightest of the DSM trims and also drivetrain parts didn’t break as often with a FWD at lower power levels.
World’s quickest FWD car on gas, quickest DSM on gas.
Temporarily world’s 2nd quickest Mitsubishi on gas (by 0.01sec).
Quickest and fastest FWD DSM
Quickest automatic DSM
The pre-race check list:
The car has a pretty strict maintenance regimen. The external trans filter is disassembled and cleaned every time out to look for excessive debris. We had some main and rod bearing wear problems in the past so the pan comes off every couple of times to the track for an inspection. Those problems seem to be fixed by some clearance adjustments, but as the power and rpm range gets pushed higher they could resurface so everything is still on a tight schedule. Otherwise, there really isn’t much that goes wrong so I just do a good visual inspection of everything between races as long as nothing out of the ordinary happened previously.
Engine bearing wear as mentioned above, not really much else.
What’s the stupidest thing that’s broken (or the stupidest reason why something broke)?
Lost a whole engine to a backfire during startup. The engine skipped timing backwards a couple teeth and popped the head off an intake valve. This even took out the block. Only the rods, cams, and crank were salvaged for hard parts. Ever since then I run a positive backstop on the hydraulic tensioner (it is just washers over the peg).
What goes on in and out of the car for a pass?
First thing into the car leaving the pits is be sure I have Erin (my wife) guiding me backing out since I can’t see a thing behind me through the cage. Then I try to avoid any uneven ground on the way up to the staging lanes so I don’t beat up on the wheelie bar wheels too badly nor bottom out the fascia. Once we’re in the lanes we usually check the wheelie bar heights and chase tire pressures (they change pass to pass with heat). I get my HANS and helmet on and strapped in with Erin’s help before going up to do the burnout.
This car is tough to get a good burnout sometimes, so I try my best to be consistent. After Erin positions me in the box I start the burnout in 1st gear at about 4200-4500rpm and shift 1-2-3, then neutral when leaving the burnout. For the first pass of the day I will try to get a strong burnout in 3rd gear and sometimes set it on the rev limiter at 9200rpm. Later burnouts I just try to keep it down in the 8k range for a couple seconds. Getting the car on the converter is the biggest problem/inconsistent area and these problems will show up for the burnout.
I try to line the car up in the groove as best as possible and I stage it myself. If in a real race on a pro tree, I bump the car into the first beam and then get it to launch boost and on the 2-step (4700rpm) before tripping the second beam. At this point, my only concern is cutting a good light. After I leave the line, I just try to keep the car in the groove and hit my shifts right. On a good track I’ll be shifting at ~9000rpm for both the 1-2 and 2-3. If the track doesn’t stick I’ll be short-shifting it. If I get into tire shake I will be pedaling it in 1st gear. I’ve only seen tire shake in 2nd gear once or twice, but this may get worse as the power goes up.
At the end of a pass I stop the car using the brakes. I really don’t like using the chute and the car stops fine with just the foundation brakes. As soon as I turn off the track I usually get my helmet, harness, and sweatsuit opened up as quickly as possible if it is hot out. I drive back with the driver’s door cracked open to get some cooling air since the windows don’t open. This can be pretty damn uncomfortable and sweaty by this point on 90F days.
Back to the pits
Between passes there is a standard schedule:
Set up the fan on the engine and leaf blower on the converter (big fan)
Pull the logs from the Haltech and AIM dash and review for any problems or changes needed
Check for leaking fluids and the catch can
Check spark plugs to verify no knock/peppering and also change them every 2-3 passes (more than this and they can get tough to read)
What does it take to go the distance?
Mechanically – Be sure everything is strong enough and inspect parts all the time, even if you don’t think they’re broken. I quite often catch things before they go catastrophic and try to keep it that way. Bearings and gaskets are VERY cheap compared to a rod through the side of the block.
Mentally – STAY FOCUSED! As simple as it sounds, this is sometimes very difficult to do. When you’re going up to the line to cut a light you have to be focused only on cutting that light. The car must be reliable enough that you’re not thinking about things breaking. Consistency in the routine helps me a ton with being able to have a clear mind when pulling the car into the beams.
How is that mechanical/mental prep different from other forms of racing?
I have also done a lot of autocrossing and some road racing (wheel-to-wheel endurance events). Lots of those guys tend to dog drag racing because “how hard can it be to go in a straight line?” Truth be told, very hard and with absolutely zero room for error. It is a totally different set of challenges than racing with turns. You absolutely must cut a good light, hit your shifts, and keep the car going straight and in the groove. There are no second chances, nor room to do something a little better to make up for it somewhere else. Every single time I’ve come off an autocross or road race session I think about the things I could have done better and what I can improve for next time around. If you can do that after a drag race, that means you screwed up and probably lost the race due to it. You can’t make up for it in the next round when you just got knocked out.
How have you tuned the car for what kind of powerband? Flat torque curve? Peaky?
The powerband is approximately 7.8-9.2k, but with the requirement to make enough torque and boost in the 3.4-4.7k range to get onto the converter and launch. It is actually a very flat torque curve from 7.5-8k and I don’t know what the torque curve does at high boost below 7.5k because it rides on the converter at that rpm at high boost. Based on fuel requirements, I think it is actually a pretty flat torque curve from full boost up to 8k.
What has been your favorite event? Why?
The Talon Shootout (aka: DSM Shootout). It is great to see all our old friends there that we only see once a year.
How do you budget for season of drag racing?
Budget is dependent on Kiggly Racing’s sales. The business exists to fund the racing program.
What’s next for the Laser?
I really want to see 7’s on gas. So far in 2010 there have been a couple hiccups but a lot of promise as well. With what has been shown so far I think it has the capability to run 8.1’s or 8.2’s at 43-45psi on a good track. As long as it makes more power at higher boost, 7’s should be possible before 50psi and the 76mm borg warner turbo is capable of a lot more than that.
Can people come and watch? Where and when?
We’ll be at Norwalk for the races Buschur Racing puts on (like the Talon Shootout) and Milan Dragway for a couple more True 10.5” tire races this season. Besides that we do some testing on Friday nights at Milan, usually before the races.
Is it easy to get into this type of racing?
Absolutely, anybody can come out and drag race their cars. All you need is a mechanically sound vehicle.
Who has helped out the most along the way?
Have to thank the guys that have been helping me out:
Forced Performance and their killer cams
Precision Industries Billet Torque Converter
Borg Warner/Airwerks 76mm S400SX3 76/83 turbo
TRE shot-peened gears
Manley Turbo Tuff Connecting Rods
Fuel Injector Clinic [fuel injectors]
Haltech [engine management]
Who do you look up to in the Mitsubishi community?
I have the utmost respect for both the shops and individuals who are out there developing new and innovative parts, ideas, and approaches to accomplishing their goals. One of the reasons I got into this type of racing in the late 90’s was the creativity involved that just wasn’t there in other forms of racing. Although you can buy turn-key cars today, the innovation is still alive and well if you look for it. After all, this breed of vehicles is really still in its infancy compared to the V8 stuff.
How do you encourage other enthusiasts to get involved in legitimate racing?
Just show up, in my experience the legit crowd is generally more friendly than the street racing crowd as well!
What do you see as the biggest challenge facing the Mitsubishi community today?
Both the biggest advantage and biggest challenge is the anonymity of the internet. It is obviously our home base and the biggest wealth of information available by a mile. Unfortunately, there is no good filter for misinformation vs good information. Another challenge is the DSMs are just getting old and nice examples are becoming less common. Yet another big challenge for the drag racing community is finding places to race as the series for cars like mine have unfortunately dried up.
Do you spend time on any Mitsubishi sites?
Now that I have a family I don’t spend that much time on the Mitsu sites. I sometimes check out NABR, DSMTuners, DSMTalk, EvoM, and DSMLink forums. There are a couple other ones I sometimes check on, but those are the major sites. I usually just do searches for “kiggly” to see if somebody is looking for me buried in the verbiage of a post.
Mod list and dyno:
28” x 10.5” MT Front Slicks on 12” Wheels, 25” Rear Skinnies
65” Wheelie Bars
25.5 Spec 7.50ET Cage
Koni Double-Adjustable Front Struts
Strange Single-Adjustable Rear Shocks
Zero Bump-Steer 4-Link Rear Suspension with Panhard Rod
Stock Front Suspension, Delete Swaybar
Factory ‘Big’ Brakes with Vacuum Pump
Kiggly Racing 1-pc Fiberglass Front Clip
Launching 4700-4900rpm, Revlimit 9250rpm
Eagle 100mm Stroke Crank
Full-Groove all Main Bearing Shells
Wiseco 9.7:1 Pistons
Manley Turbo-Tuff Rods
FelPro PermaTorque MLS Head Gasket
ARP Main and Head Studs
Kiggly Racing 6-Bolt Main Girdle
Modified Oil Pickup and Deeper 6qt Pan to Maintain Pressure Everywhere
2g Head, Stock Size Valves
Kiggly Racing Beehive Springs
Kiggly Racing HLA Pressure Regulator
FP Cams – Prototype Intake and 11R Exhaust
DSMIVEC Intake Cam and Control System
Custom Sheet Metal Intake
Custom Tri-Y Header
Garrett 28×12.75×5.1 Bar and Plate Intercooler with 3” Piping
Q45 Throttle Body
Kiggly Racing 6-Bolt Crank Trigger Sensor
Borg Warner S400SX3 76/83
1.1AR Turbine Housing
Mitsubishi 2g F4A33 Automatic Transmission
Precision Industries 9.5” Billet Converter
Ported Fluid Passages in VB and Case
Translab Shift Kit with some Custom Tweaks
Full Manual Shifting at Full Line Pressure
John Deere Hy-Gard Universal Tractor Fluid
Kiggly Racing Front Clutch
TRE Shot-Peened and Detailed Gears
Kiggly Racing SFI29.1 Flexplate
Porsche 930 (911 Turbo) Torsen-Style Diff
Kiggly Racing Billet Diff Saddle
Upgraded Porsche 930 Inner CV Joints (30-spline instead of 28-spline)
BIG 300M Bars and Pro4 Outer Joints with GM 2500 Truck Splines
Custom Hubs and Wheel Bearings to Accommodate Axles
2 Gallon Pro Stock Fuel Cell Filled with VP Import
160lb/hr FIC-Serviced Injectors
Dual Parallel Walbro 255 Pumps with Pressure Bleed Eliminated
20V, 40A Kenne Bell Boost-A-Pump
-6AN Fuel Lines and Stock Rail, SX Regulator
Haltech Platinum Sport 2000 ECU
AIM MXL Pro05 Digital Dash
Various Accelerometers, Strain Gauges, Pressure Sensors, etc.
Old Dyno Plot:
Where can we find more information online?
Special thanks go out to Kiggly for taking the time to be interviewed! Like many of us, Kevin works the day job and plays with the Mitsubishi after hours, but Kevin also runs a business based around his passion, so you know free time can be hard to find.
The Gearbox Magazine 4th of July red, white, and blue DSM dragster series is back again TOMORROW. If you can’t make it back, grab our RSS or register on the site and you can receive future stories right to your inbox. (It’s that easy!)
In the meantime, jump on over to KigglyRacing.com and take a look around. You’re bound to find something you like! We’ll see you back here tomorrow! (Have you figured out our blue car yet? HINT: It’s been in the background of a couple pictures already! WINK!)