Page 1 of 1 Pontiac made a fast start in the new world of Sport Compact drag racing in 2002. Jumping into the Ecotec-powered Sunfire for the first time at the season-opening IDRC event in Palmdale, Calif., driver Marty Ladwig won seven rounds of eliminations in the Super Comp bracket to post Pontiac's historic first victory in Sport Compact competition. That was only the beginning. Competing in the Hot Rod class of the NHRA Sport Compact Series, Ladwig ended the year with 16 round wins for an impressive .640 winning percentage, a fifth-place finish in the points standings and four consecutive races where he qualified fourth or better. Ladwig advanced to the final round at NHRA events in Sonoma, Calif., and Pomona, Calif.
Pontiacs have competed in organized drag racing since the sport's infancy, but the arrival of the Sport Compact classes presented a new challenge. The racing Sunfire is powered by a race-prepared version of the Ecotec 2.2-liter, four-cylinder engine that sends its power to the pavement through the front tires. The Ecotec is an advanced engine that is available in production Sunfires and a variety of GM vehicles worldwide. In showroom trim, the Ecotec engine produces 140 horsepower; the racing version tops 1,000 horsepower. A Hydramatic 4T65-E four-speed electronically controlled automatic transmission handles the Ecotec's considerable torque.
The surging popularity of Sport Compact drag racing gave GM Racing engineers an opportunity to design a vehicle to meet the unique demands of this specialized form of motorsports. Safety was a top priority throughout the preparation process. The Sunfire racecar is outfitted with sealed steel firewalls, a fire-suppression system, an impact data recorder and a full roll cage. Ladwig wears a HANS device and a six-point safety harness. By incorporating these advanced safety features in the race-prepared Sunfire, GM Racing is leading by example in the new arena of sport compact drag racing. Page 1 of 1