Car Feature: Scarallo’s Road Racing GTO

GTOGROUPA-13We often remark on those who excel at their chosen pursuit by saying they were born to do it. This definitely came to mind, as I began my research on racer, Joey Scarallo Jr., and the origins of his awesome ride.

Like his Aussie-built Pontiac GTO, Joey too was born on the Island continent, and then raised in the States since before the age of three. Leaving their Kanga-roots behind, Joey’s family relocated to Long Island, New York where Joe Senior built the widely successful Autotrend Tire & Wheel Co. – now Group A Wheels – a name borrowed from their most prominently-run GT race class.

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At age 11, Joey Jr. started racing karts on Long Island, winning championships in 1993 and launching a career that spans two and a half decades. Joey’s race resume includes open wheel competition in the 1996 US Formula Ford Championship, 2000 Toyota Atlantic Championship, and the 2007 Firestone Indy Pro/Lights series.

From 2003- 2010 he ran GT class in the North American Trans Am four times, raced SCCA World Challenge, and made his NASCAR debut in 2010 driving in the Nationwide series at Road America and Watkins Glen.

From the outset of Joey’s life behind the wheel, there were moments of inspiration and trials of tribulation. In 1989, Joey met then newly crowned Indy 500 Champion, Emerson Fitipaldi, then promoting a line of performance wheels sold at Joe Senior’s  several stores. Accompanying dad on business to Moroso Park in Jupiter Florida (now Palm Beach International Raceway), Joey had the opportunity of running a few hot laps in a brand new 1989 Turbo Trans Am with Emerson behind the wheel. Needless to say the experience left a lasting impression, as Joey remembers, “It was the spark that got me thinking about racing for real.”GTOGROUPA-5

By age 13, with the road in front of him wide open and his foot on the throttle, Joey had to slam on the brakes to deal with a life-threatening medical condition. While in the hospital awaiting surgery, inspiration found him once again when his childhood hero, three-time Winston Cup Champion Darrell Waltrip, telephoned to wish him good luck.

With the expert hands of his medical team and the watchful eyes of the racing gods upon him, Joey made a swift and full recovery. In 2003, Joey raced in the Trans-Am Series at Infineon Raceway reuniting with the living NASCAR legend, whom he remains in contact with to this day.

GTOGROUPA-10By the 2008 season, Joey had been racing for nearly 20 years, with most of his GT-based road racing performed in C5 and C6 Corvettes. It was more than a sense of irony that united the Aussie-born racer with a new steed originating from his birthplace Down Under.

Joey was quite familiar with the ’04-’06 Pontiac GTO’s Aussie bloodlines. Being a fan of Australian V8 Supercar racing, he was attuned to the success of the Holden Monaro – the platform used to reintroduce the goat.

Even though GTO production had ceased, Autotrend/Group A Wheels was offering performance wheels for the rare Pontiacs, becoming experts on the running gear. With the GTO still considered current for competition and the obvious marketing advantages, moving from Corvette to GTO for SCCA World Challenge seemed a perfect fit. As Joey would say, “the GTO was unique and offered open possibilities.”

The car he would soon be piloting started life 3-years earlier as a body-in-white shell of a Monaro/GTO, delivered directly from Holden Manufacturing in Australia to Autosport Development in Detroit.

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Autosport Development had been modifying GTOs for Grand Touring competition since their debut in ’04, initially sending a 525hp 5.7/LS1 version to Sebring for World Challenge GT. For ‘05/’06, homologation rules now had the Goats powered by 6.0L/LS2 motors putting out 600hp, conservatively.

Group A Racing acquired two SCCA GT spec cars, one as backup for the main ride, identically fitted with 6.0L LS based motors, custom fabricated roll/chassis cages, custom headers/race-exhaust, machined heads, full race drive-trains, heavy-duty suspension/brakes tucked under modified lightweight carbon fiber body shells and equipped with a Motec M800 programmable PCM with manual switch controls for ignition, pumps, rear end, Trans, etc.

After some initial seat-time, with Joey running in the 2008 Utah Grand Prix World Challenge race, the cars, several engines and a plethora of spare parts made their way to New York.

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As with Group A’s previous platforms, Bob Cronin of CRD Engine Development in North Carolina, continued his engine building artistry on the GTOs; expanding on Autosport Development’s efforts, to remain competitive against newer cars from high-dollar, manufacturer-backed teams.

As per the rules of homologation, and a testament to the limitless potential of the LS engine, the goats were naturally aspirated. Without need of a heavy turbo or blower set-up, massive power emanates from intake/exhaust modifications, similar to the tricks used on LS powered streetcars.

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Throughout the 2008-09 seasons, Joey’s Group A GTO ran an LS2 with forged internals a CRD custom-grind camshaft, hardened pushrods, and Jesel 1.7:1 ratio roller rockers, on top of the aforementioned goodies from Autosport Development.

The race built transmission consists of a Hewland 5-speed dogbox with interchangeable ratios and a Tilton five-disc carbon clutch- weighing only six pounds.

The rear end is a Ron Harrop of Australia-built independent unit with a 9-inch center section, a la Aussie V8 supercar, 3.90 gears-changeable depending on track-venue and Harrop axles.

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The road holding suspension consists of 3-way Ohlins adjustable shocks at all four corners, Eibach racing springs, a completely custom fabricated race-chassis with adjustable front upper and lower control arms and front and rear sway bars.

Supremely crucial for GT road racing are the massive British-made Alcon brakes, with 6-piston front/4-piston rear calipers clamping down on 15-inch front rotors and 14-inch binders out back.

Everything meets the road via, Group A in-house modified Forgeline 3-piece wheels, 18×11” front and 18×12.5”rears wrapped in sticky Hoosier race rubber; 305/45/18 in the front, and 320/45/18 in the rear with an R80 or R100 compound, depending on race circuit.

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As mentioned, save for the original steel Monaro/GTO A-, B- and C-pillar sections, the body shell is complete carbon fiber, wearing a World Challenge-spec, 72-inch rear wing, flared fenders front splitter and dressed in sinister black paint with sponsor decals and race numbers.

The interior appointments are sparse, with only a Racetech racing seat surrounded by welded chromoly protection, shifter, Motec gauge-pod, and removable Sparco steering wheel.

After a season and a half racing their GTO with multiple top ten finishes and NASA track records at Pocono/Watkins Glen in ‘09, varying issues from race politics to finances lead Group A Racing to pull out of World Challenge competition, to pursue new horizons.GTOGROUPA-8

Early in 2013, The GTO received a new 6.2L LS9-based motor, again worked from the inside out by Bob Cronin at CRD. Adding more grunt to the galloping goat, Nick from American Racing Headers was summoned to fabricate and install new 1-3/4 inch race headers with 4-1/2 inch piping; exiting mid-car passenger side with a deafening bark and shaking the ground like a ‘quake measuring 6.5 on the Richter scale.

Also fitted, were new carbon fiber splitters/planes/spats, wider wheel well flares and even fatter 14-inch wide rear rollers, all to help cheat the wind and stick like glue to the track.

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Now making around 760 hp and 660 lb-ft., the 2700-lb., LS9-powered goat ran a Time-Attack at NJ’s Thunderbolt and Lightening tracks blasting out impressive 1.03 and 1.50 times.

Joe Senior describes the GTO as, “a Brahma bull wearing ballet shoes,” thus, Joey’s skills and light precise touch was rewarded, as opposed to manhandling the immensely powerful car. Joey describes his GTO as “real crowd pleaser,” and loves dominating the pricier Grand Touring competition.

The GTO’s racing days will continue, as Joey plans to race Redline, Global Time Attack, and exhibition runs in ’14. Without regular race circuit competition, future plans have the Scarallos hoping to find a suitable home for their pair of historic racing Goats, perhaps in a Pontiac or Holden collection if not in the hands of a competent driver wanting to scorch the road course.

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Thanks and kudos are extended all around to CRD Race Engine Development, fabricator/builder-extraordinaire Jason Petzold, Hoosier Tire, and everyone at Group A wheels for their hard work and contributions.

Joey and his GTO share pedigrees from Down Under and purpose built beginnings, facing adversity, overcoming challenges and achieving acclaim. Racecar drivers see many rides in their careers as Joey has in his. Perhaps it was destiny that brought them together or a match made in heaven, whatever theory you believe, it is clear-both man and car were born to do it.

TECH SHEET:

  • CAR: 2006 Pontiac GTO
  • OWNER: Joey Scarallo Jr.
  • ENGINE BLOCK: 6.0L/LS2, 368cid for SCCA racing, presently-417cid 6.2L/LS9 based motor
  • COMPRESSION RATIO: 12.1:1
  • CYLINDER HEADS: LS3 based, machined, CRD-spec
  • CAMSHAFT: CRD proprietary R&D-spec custom-grind hydraulic roller, undisclosed duration, lift, LSA
  • PUSHRODS: Hardened
  • ROCKER ARMS: Jesel; roller, 1.7:1 ratio
  • PISTONS: Mahle; forged
  • RINGS: Titanium
  • CRANKSHAFT: Callies; forged
  • CONNECTING RODS: Callies; forged
  • THROTTLE BODY: 90mm for SCCA, 102mm billet and FAST intake currently
  • FUEL INJECTORS: 52-lb.
  • FUEL PUMP: Bosch
  • IGNITION: Motec M800 tuner and switch controlled
  • ENGINE MANAGEMENT: Motec M800, programmable tuner
  • EXHAUST SYSTEM: American Racing 1-3/4-inch race headers, 4 1/2-inch piping
  • TRANSMISSION: Hewland; 5-speed dog box with changeable ratios
  • CLUTCH: Tilton; 5-disc carbon clutch and carbon flywheel
  • DRIVESHAFT: Aluminum
  • SUSPENSION (FRONT): 3-way adjustable Ohlins shocks, Eibach racing springs, adjustable sway bar, custom fabricated upper/lower control arms, electric steering box
  • SUSPENSION (REAR): 3-way adjustable Ohlins shocks, Eibach racing springs, adjustable sway bar, Harrop upper/lower control arms, based off of C6 Corvette, Harrop 5-link rear suspension module
  • REAREND: Independent unit, 9-inch center section, 3.90-SCCA/ 3.50 gears currently (depending on circuit), and axles all built by Ron Harrop in Australia
  • BRAKES: Alcon 6-piston front, 4-piston rear calipers, 15-inch front, 14-inch rear rotors
  • WHEELS: Modified Forgeline 3-piece; 18×12.5 front, 18×14.5 rear race wheels
  • TIRES: Hoosier road race slicks, 305 or 320/45/18 (front), 355/65/18 (rear) R80/R100 compound-circuit dependent
  • FUEL: Sunoco unleaded, 260 GTX oxygenated race fuel
  • RACE WEIGHT: 2700-lbs.
  • BEST ET/MPH: est.- 200mph capability

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