Posts Tagged ‘Rally America’

Synaptic3 Performance is a prime example of what this website was started for. Located in an out-of-the-way, unassuming business park in the fully unassuming town of Candia, NH, brothers Ron and Dana Salb have created a world-class performance shop that is turning out some of the most complete builds to be found on either road or track. Simply pulling into the shop’s parking lot is proof enough that Ron and Dana are for real. A handful of Synaptic3 tuned and customized Mazda RX-7s, RX-8s, and Subaru STIs effortlessly shatter the cloudy, dull gray that permeates this late fall day—deep paint hues, pearlescent carbon fiber hoods, and lithe, aggressive stances make for a striking welcome party.

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The seeds of Synaptic3 Performance have been taking root for years. Ron and Dana starting tinkering with friends’ cars as well as their own, using their parent’s garage as an impromptu shop. Both Ron and Dana have kept their lives and careers woven around the automotive industry and have continued to build Synaptic3 even while pursuing school or other interests. The brother’s diverse skill sets, along with their infectious enthusiasm, is the driving force behind Synaptic3 and its growing success.

The Synaptic3 that exists today began in large part because of the rally scene. The ability of Ron and Dana to fabricate FIA-spec IFrollcages really helped jumpstart the company. The result has been Synaptic3 tuned cars that have not only competed in Rally America, but have won rally championships as well.

“While we have a fair amount of exposure in Rally, it’s actually a pretty small sport and community,” said Dana in an email interview. “We’ve worked on a half a dozen full blown rally cars. Some started out as virgin chassis, other were revamps of previous rally cars that were gutted and rebuilt to bring up to current class specs. We’ve covered everything from building FIA spec roll cages and chassis preparation… to doing motors builds, setting up suspensions, building wiring harnesses, fuel systems, and safety systems, etc.”

Two things are readily apparent immediately after stepping into Synaptic3’s crowded, but clean, shop. #1, the market for customization is as unique diverse and the people who enjoy it—a customer’s race-prepped Porsche awaits its turn on the lift, several Mazda RX-7s sit in various stages of completion and manage to look fast even while motionless, and a Nissan Sentra Spec-V is getting finishing touches on its crazy custom turbocharger setup. And #2, the guys here are really good at what they do.

“We’re currently working on a forced induction application for a brand new Nissan Sentra Spec-V. The customer is very contentious about the details. It’s going to be quite the sleeper. We have a number of big turbo Subaru’s being built and a host of third generation RX-7s for street, track, and show all leading into the winter.”

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOne of the things that makes this shop so special is the level of engineering and attention to detail that even the smallest parts receive. Case in point—Ron and Dana stick their heads under the hood of the turbo Spec-V to explain in detail all the time and effort that went into designing a single bracket used to move a part out of the way of the new turbo piping. Beautifully fabricated and covered in crackle finish, it’s a small but perfect example of their work.

“We can build you a tube chassis frame, an award winning stereo system, install and dial-in your track suspension, or turbocharge and tune your daily driver,” said Dana. “Two members of our staff have Bachelor’s degrees in Industrial Design (product design), so we can come up with solutions and execute them in a unique and effective manner.

A range of cars find their way under the wrenches at Synaptic3, but Ron and Dana’s specialty is tuning Japanese cars. They have found that Japanese cars are a preferable platform to work from because they begin life at the factory with a superior level of quality and allow for higher levels of tuning and customization.  This mirrors their own quasi-obsessive standards.

“We adhere to our own best practices that we’ve developed over the years. We sweat the details, and will not cut corners to get a job done quickly. Many customers have told us it is that reputation that has brought them to us. We take the time to make sure aftermarket components not only fit but allow for service in the field should it be necessary.”

IFWhen a car comes into the shop, Ron and Dana’s first mission is to figure out what exactly a customer is looking for. Instead of getting right to work, they start with questions—Do you know what you’re looking for? Are you going racing with the car? What kind of racing? What is the purpose for upgrading? A concerted effort  is made to clearly define what the customer is looking for, and then working to build a solution that meets or exceeds the customer’s end goals.

One of the significant customer service elements that Ron and Dana employ is to take meticulously detailed photos the car in its various build stages. Synaptic3’s website has literally thousands of such photos and they provide a unique glimpse into the kind of work Ron and Dana are capable of.

Next to Synaptic3’s main building is an unassuming steel shed that serves as the company’s dedicated dynamometer room. Inside it has to  2010-09-17_00001be one of the most thorough dyno setups ever put together. Instead of being installed into the floor, the all-wheel-drive Mustang 500SE unit sits above the floor, allowing for easier access to  car’s underside and the dyno’s moving parts. Built directly into the wall facing the dyno are four giant fans capable of pushing 40,000 cfm through the room, while a dedicated exhaust fan sucks fumes out from the back of the building. Like anything Ron and Dana do, this facility was heavily researched and designed to meet their exacting standards, and it’s clear the guys are proud of the setup.

When asked if he could describe what Synaptic3 was all about in one word, Dana paused, let out a deep breath, and thought for a moment. He then looked up and said, “Dedication.” And, after seeing the inner workings of the shop and spending several hours with Ron and Dana, there couldn’t be a better word to describe Synaptic3. To learn more about the company and how they can help you on your next project, be sure to visit the Synaptic3 website at www.Synaptic3.com, and ‘Like’ the Facebook page.

Welcome, Synaptic3 Performance, to The Torque Tube.

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Many thanks and much respect to Dana and Ron for their time and energy for this piece, and for allowing me to poke around their shop.

TDC had the distinct privelege of attending this year’s New England Forest Rally held in the great green yonder known as the Great North Woods. Stages of the Rally were held in Errol, New Hampshire, as well as several parts of Maine and the event was absolutely spectacular. This was our first time watching a rally and you gain a serious amount of respect for the drivers in this sport being there: they pound their cars through the woods at breakneck speed on brutally rough roads, slam on the brakes, hang the tail out, and drift around corners with the throttle pinned. Awesome.

Shout out to Andrew Pascarella from DirtyImpreza.com for being TDC’s fantastic tour guide and teacher, and to Ananda Sieverts from Rally America for being such a gracious host. Head over to Rally America’s website for a wrap up on the 2011 season, and to Pascarella’s flickr page for more photos from the Rally. See you at next year’s NEFR!

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Travis Pastrana is one of those guys who really doesn’t need an introduction with words, his deeds are what precede him: X Games Champion in supercross, motocross, freestyle motocross, and rally racing, NASCAR driver, multiple Rally America Driver’s Title winner, and action sports superstar. Pastrana has managed to squeeze in several lifetimes worth of epic adventures into his 27 years, but this interview isn’t about his exploits on the motocross track or behind the wheel of a stock car. Pastrana was gracious enough to spend some time with TDC talking about his September 8, 2010 run up the legendary Mt. Washington Auto Road.

For the uninitiated, the Mt. Washington Auto Road is a twisting, undulating ribbon of tarmac and gravel that ascends the mighty Mt. Washington. Man has been climbing this road for over a century: 2011 actually marks the 150th anniversary of the Auto Road. Motorsports is also deeply ingrained here; the Road played host to the Mt. Washington Hillclimb for many years. The previous record up the 7.6 mile road was set during 1998 Hillclimb by Frank Sprongl in his 1982 Audi Quattro S2 at a blistering pace of six minutes and 41.99 seconds. A few years later in 2001, the Auto Road began a decade long hiatus from hillclimbs as sponsorship malfunctions kept the race from being run. All that changed when a joint effort between the Auto Road and Vermont SportCar created the ‘Climb to the Clouds’ hillclimb that occurred this past June. Pastrana’s run in September didn’t qualify as an official “record run” (it wasn’t held during competition), but it did annihilate Sprongl’s record by more than 20 seconds: Pastrana blitzed the Road in six minutes and 20.47 seconds. In the process, his coming to the road and setting such a quick time helped stimulate substantial attention for the Auto Road and its rich motorsports history and helped kick off its big 1-5-0 birthday celebration.  Check out two great videos of Pastrana’s run up Mt. Washington here, and here.

What’s it like to drive the Auto Road?

“It was the coolest thing; it’s truly a road that is a great rally road. Honestly, it is so good it could be fun with a horse and buggy! (laughs) When we drove it, the weather was absolutely ridiculous. It was sunny at the bottom, a little rainy in the middle, and by the end, you couldn’t even see road right in front of the car.” When asked how he was able to see when visibility is so poor Pastrana said, “As long as I have a solid ten feet in front where I can see, I’m okay. Having a co-driver is really important as well. With good weather up there, it’s definitely possible to break six minutes.”

What was the thought process behind coming to Mt.Washington to make a run up the Auto Road?

“It was always something I knew about, the Auto Road has always been famous, I grew up looking at that road. When they said they were going to reopen the road… Some of the top guys at Red Bull and Vermont SportsCar were super enthusiastic and said, ‘We have this guy who wants to run up the road.’ I just wanted to get up there and drive the road.” 

“So many people were way pumped, there was good hype around it and everyone felt like they were part of something cool… Everyone was so passionate about it, that’s what made it so great… One other cool thing that happened on the road is that I almost hit a bear! We’ve accidentally hit a deer before, but never a bear… A little black bear ran across the road during one of the runs.”

During the ‘Climb to the Clouds’ hillclimb in June, Subaru Rally Team USA driver David Higgins, who hails from the Isle of Man, set a truly staggering time up the Auto Road of six minutes and 11.54 seconds, setting a “true” record time and seriously raising the bar for future drivers hoping to conquer the Road. In the process, Higgins bested Pastrana’s time by a lengthy margin. It makes for an interesting situation for Pastrana:  Higgins beat his time up the Auto Road and essentially replaced him at Subaru when he left to pursue other motorized passions, like NASCAR. (You think Pastrana might be a little competitive?) There is little doubt Pastrana will be back on the Auto Road for another shot at the record.

How do you feel about David beating your time?

“I knew that David was going to be at least as quick as me… It was exciting to get beaten by David, I was just hoping the weather would move in on him! (laughs) It meant a lot for David to get such a good time, and I’m sure he wants to get back up there and break the six minute mark. It meant a lot to race my mentor up there, but it would be great to get that record back on American soil.”

Will you be back for another attempt on the Auto Road?

“I’d like another shot. There’s an ongoing battle for that record right now and with good conditions, breaking six minutes is definitely feasible. Who knows if the conditions will be right though in a place with the worst weather in the world!”

Pastrana has excelled in a wide range of motorsports and has performed at a tremendously high level in all of them. In one final parting question he was asked, if he had to choose, would he pick one form of racing over another?

“The beauty of it is I haven’t had to choose! From age four to 18, all I thought about was motorcycles. From 18 to 24, it was all about rally… What I like is changing my focus and now trying to figure out the new elements of pavement and racing in NASCAR. NASCAR is all about precision. You can drive a stock car really fast for about eight laps or so, and then you start to slow down because you took it too fast… Rally is all about aggression, calculated risks. Motocross is all about will. I am always looking for the new challenge.”

Welcome, Travis Pastrana, to The Torque Tube.

- Much respect and many thanks to Travis Pastrana for his time and energy for this interview. Thanks also to Vermont SportsCar for providing the photos, and for Lars Gange for taking them. Serious thanks also goes to my good friend Meg Skidmore for without her help, this interview would not have been possible.