Race the Base

CFB Cold Lake, Alberta, will be an interesting place this weekend. Zahir Rana, owner of ZR Auto, an exotic car tuner, has teamed up with Lt.-Col. Rob Carter to present the “Race the Base” charity event at the base.

For $1500, you can take your car and show what it can do on the base airstrip. It’s nearly four kilometres long and eight lanes wide, so there’s plenty of room! For an extra $500, you can have a passenger along for your speed runs, though the extra weight will certainly affect your time.

I read about this on the Ottawa Citizen site and as of yesterday, when the article was posted, 75 drivers had signed up. In addition to the drivers, spectators can attend for a far more reasonable fee. Proceeds go to four charities: Military Families Support Society, Breast Cancer Awareness Foundation, Bonnyville Health Foundation and Hearts for Health Care.

One event is of particular interest. Rana has a tricked-out twin-turbo Ferrari Enzo, an Enzo XX Evolution and he’s going to race this car against one of the CF-18 Hornets stationed at the base.


I think he’s going to lose. Why? I recall having seen bizarre drag races like this in the past and the car always loses. Case in point, when Chevrolet came out with the Corvette ZR1 in 2008, Motortrend arranged a drag-race between an F/A-18 Hornet and the ZR1. The car lost. Yes, the Ferrari is more car, but it may not be enough.


Motortrend was kind enough to publish “Blue Devil vs. Blue Angel” on the web, with the numbers. The reasons weren’t made entirely clear, but the drag race was a mile long and not the traditional ¼ mile. Drag racers know how to get their car down the strip to the finish as quickly as possible while pilots seldom concern themselves only with the first part of the runway, so they made two runs. For the first, the pilot spooled the engines up to 87% thrust, and held the aircraft in place with the wheel brakes. The article isn’t clear about what he did when the flag dropped, but he won. Easily.

For the second run, the pilot did not spool up the engines at all. Instead, when the flag dropped, he pushed the throttle forward to full-afterburner. This was even faster. The Corvette crossed the finish line at over 170 mph, by which time the Hornet was up onto the clouds, having already crossed the finish-line at 345 mph and indulging in a vertical climb. The article doesn’t give each vehicle’s finishing time, but they do offer speed timings. Here’s a table of the time to speed of each vehicle for the second run:

Speed  F18  ZR1
-----  ---  ---
0-30   1.9  1.6
0-40   2.5  2.1
0-50   3.1  2.7
0-60   3.6  3.3
0-70   4.1  4.1
0-80   4.7  4.9
0-90   5.3  5.8
0-100  5.8  7.0
0-110  6.4  8.1
0-120  7.0  9.5
0-130  7.6 11.1
0-140  8.3 13.0
0-150  8.9 15.8
0-160  9.5 18.9
0-170 10.1 23.1

So, for example, you can see that the F-18 took 5.8 seconds to get to 100 mph from a stand-still while the Corvette took 7.0 seconds to reach the same speed. Looking over the numbers, the Corvette immediately pulled ahead and stayed there until automobile and aircraft reached 70 mph. At that point the automobile’s acceleration began to fall off and the aircraft’s did not.

I don’t know if there’s any significant performance difference between the CF-18 and the F/A-18. I suspect not, but it’s possible. Also, as I mentioned, I don’t have the performance numbers for Rana’s Enzo. The stock Enzo is a smidge faster than the ZR1, but he claims his Enzo delivers 860bhp versus the stock Enzo’s 650 and the ZR1’s 638.

I think the biggest factor will be the length of the race. The fact that his Enzo can reach 392 km/h (244 mph) will not matter because he won’t have the time to get there, and the aircraft can go much faster, anyway. If they limit the run to a ¼ mile, he might beat the aircraft. The Motortrend drag race had the aircraft finish the ¼ in 10.3 seconds at 173.9 mph. The ZR1 did it in 11.2 seconds at 130.5 mph. A stock Enzo can do it in 11.1 seconds at 133.0 mph. All he needs do is shave about a second off the stock Enzo’s ¼ mile time.

It depends on the length of the race. It depends on how good Rana is at launching as quickly as possible with minimal wheel-spin. It depends on how well the pilot can get the 20 ton aircraft quickly off the start.

Arg! I want to know!

I’ll keep an eye on the papers and the ‘net. If I find any results, I’ll let you know.

Enzo XX Evolution photo by Philipp Lücke. Used according to the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 2.0 Generic licence.

CF-18 photo by Patrick Cardinal. Used according to the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported license.

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