4 Slippery Laps Around Sonoma Raceway, Courtesy Of ProCharger

That was fast!

Is there such a thing as immunity to adrenaline? I’m not talking about beta blockers or any other psychotropic supplement. I’m talking about becoming numb to white-knuckle, hair-raising situations…

I’ve been an avid motorcyclist, rock-climber, skateboarder, automotive enthusiast, and pretty much anything else that’s fun and dangerous for years. I’ve never met a wild activity I didn’t want to try. Some of those activities are daunting and somewhat “scary” at first, but once the initial anxious feeling is gone, people are usually fine and calm. 

The point being, it’s rare for me to feel a spike of adrenaline that leaves my hands shaking, and skin goosebumped. I was quickly reminded of what that’s like thanks to ProCharger and their exclusive, 25th anniversary media event. 

A storm was definitely brewin’.

All of the activities I previously mentioned are individual in nature, which leaves the person performing the act feeling “in control.” As much as anyone can feel in control while careening through a canyon on a motorcycle with nary a guardrail in sight, anyway. Strap the same person in the passenger seat, and it becomes an entirely different story.

That’s exactly what happened to me…

ProCharger’s 25th Anniversary:

Procharger put together an amazing event by partnering with Sonoma Raceway. Along with celebrating the company’s 25th birthday, the event also commemorated the three-year anniversary of Procharger’s California office. The California office is only a 20-minute drive from the raceway in Mill Valley, California. The event was meant to be part road course/part drag strip, with ProCharger offering ride-alongs on both tracks. Attendees were also invited to drive their own cars on the drag strip. 

Things took a turn when Northern Calforinia was hit with a bit of a storm. The whole raceway was shrouded in dark clouds, and of course, subsequent rainfall. The crap weather put the kibosh on the dragstrip, but fortunately for me and the rest of the attendees, the road course was still fair-game. 

It was a bummer for all the drag racers who loaded up their trailers and brought out their race cars. They were all in good spirits though, and off-loaded into the covered paddock area near the drag strip. It offered some pretty sweet eye-candy, if nothing else. We all hung out while waiting to see if the rain was going to let up…it never did. 

Nevertheless, here are some shots of the rides and racers that came out. 

This thing was SLAMMED! Check out our gallery below and see how low it was.

Photo gallery


The Cars:

After rubbing elbows with racecar drivers and the great people at ProCharger, I made sure my name was near the top of the list to go for a ride on the famed Sonoma racetrack. There were two cars running on the road course – a 2018 Mustang GT, and 2016 Camaro SS – both ProCharged, of course. 

I had a chance to speak with ProCharger Founder, Ken Jones, and he told us their Mustang was running ProCharger’s 50-State Legal kit. The kit has been specifically engineered for Gen 3, Coyote-powered Mustang GTs and is completely emissions legal. There are two options for the Mustang, a HO intercooled system, and a Stage II intercooled system, both of which retain the factory airbox. The kits utilize either the famed P-1SC, or the equally notorious P-1X supercharger head units.

He went on to explain that the Camaro was running a similar kit that Procharger has been developing. It actually just received an EO (Emissions Order) for the sixth-Gen Camaro platform, which means it too will be smog legal in all 50 states!

A ProCharger head unit in Satin finish.

Ken told us the Mustang was putting down 678 rwhp, while the Camaro was making 582 rwhp.  This is pretty much par for the course with its kits – users can expect to see 55-70% HP gains depending on the options they choose. Of course, ProCharger still offers three head unit finishes (satin,polished, or black), a helical gear set, race bypass valve, and its Stage II intercooler for customers who want to upgrade. 

The Camaro:

Back to the death-defying, hair-raising driving on the road course. As a former owner of a 6th-gen Camaro, I had a good idea of what to expect, and that was the first car I had a chance to ride in. Granted, the ProCharged Camaro was quite a bit more powerful than what I was previously used to, and it was on a wet track which increased the level of sketchiness exponentially. 

The ProCharger Camaro definitely brightened up an otherwise gloomy day – in more ways than one.

Fear not though, I was in the very capable hands of Walt Sipp – packing 4 national championships, 30 national event wins, and multiple track records, it’s safe to say Walt knows his way around a track. Walt has also worked for ProCharger for more than 11 years as their technical service and V-Twin manager. It goes without saying, he handled the road course with ease. 

I did get the distinct impression that Sipp was holding back slightly, not just because of the wet track conditions, but because he probably didn’t want the muscly Camaro to get away from him on company time. Frankly, we can’t blame him – piloting a Camaro that boasts 675 crankshaft-horsepower is not to be taken lightly. Ha! Joking aside, he was very crisp around the entire course.

I took a moment to grab some picks under the hood of the Camaro while everyone took a lunch break, and the cars had a chance to cool. Wet and dirty, the LT1 and ProCharger combo still looks fantastic.

We did two laps, but he had already done several with other passengers. Despite some brake fade, the car didn’t show the slightest bit of squirliness. The power delivery was even throughout the powerband, and the Camaro was very mild-mannered, even in the wet, which speaks to the drivability of not only the Camaro, but the ProCharger system itself. I felt very secure, and it was a fun, spirited ride. Although, it didn’t exactly make my palms sweat.

The Mustang:

The Mustang on the other hand…

The ProCharger Mustang was an incredible piece of machinery. If I wasn’t a fan before, I am now!

If the Camaro was a mild-mannered pony, the Mustang was a wild animal, kicking, braying, and rearing its hooves in a slippery, slidey show of force. With its flanks flexing and steam snarling from it’s nostrils – the Mustang was a handful. With almost 100-extra hp over the Camaro, it’s not difficult to understand why.

Admittedly, I had no baseline on which to compare the Mustang. Up until then, I hadn’t ridden in, or driven anything Coyote-powered. I’d heard the Coyote has a reputation for being “peaky” in terms of power delivery. What I didn’t expect was it to be as tail-happy as it was. Of the two, I expected the Camaro to be the one thrown into slides, but it was the total opposite.

The 50-State Legal Procharger System provided even power delivery across the entire powerband, despite the "peaky" nature of the Coyote. It's also inconspicuously tucked behind the front fascia – I'd bet it would catch a lot of people sleeping at red lights.

Perhaps it speaks to Sipp’s skill and control behind the wheel, or maybe it speaks to James Kim’s confidence in his own. Kim was piloting the Mustang, doing so like someone who’s logged more than a million miles at Sonoma Raceway…oh wait, that’s because he has! 

Kim has been tearing it up on the track since ’99, when he graduated from Russell Racing School. He’s subsequently been working as an instructor, and test driver, mostly behind the wheel of Formula 3 race cars, Formula Mazdas, and Formula Fords. He’s also logged tons of track time with street cars like Ferraris and Lambos – hot-lapping for Sonoma Raceway since 2001. Lately he’s been working with race teams providing track support and instruction. 

Right out of the gate, Kim threw the Mustang into a vicious slide, and proceeded to go for broke. Honestly, he wasn’t even going as hard as he could have. Had I gone with him earlier in the day, he really could have given it the gusto. But, by the time I got to ride with him, the tires and brakes on the Mustang were well worn. 

Still, that didn’t stop him from making my heart beat much faster than its meant to. If you take a look at the course map below, you can pinpoint exactly where I developed vehicular-induced arrhythmia. 

Heart-Attack City:

7a, 11, and especially 12!

Approaching Turn 7a is a long straight, with a barricade at the end looking us right in the face as we went flat-out toward it. On a dry track, this can be harrowing, on a wet track, it’s down-right stressful (in the best way possible). But, James broke hard, and threw the Mustang around the corner like he was out for a Sunday cruise. 

By the time I got my lunch back down, we approached Turn 11 – a hairpin that had formed a pretty large puddle [read: pond] on its approach. Kim, once again making me reach for the “oh-shit” handle, avoided the puddle on the outside, and proceeded to back the Mustang’s meaty haunches into and out-of the hairpin. Albeit with considerably more effort this time. 

About to put the Mustang’s grab handles through some serious use.

The final nail in my coffin of chaos was Turn 12. Coming out of the hairpin led us into a slight left-hand sweep. In doing so, the Mustang got away from us a bit, and before I knew it we were completely sideways sliding toward the tower, right inside of Turn 1. Before I could pass out from holding my breath, Kim flicked the Mustang around seamlessly, and said in the most nonchalant way, “Well, this isn’t the place we want to get crossed up, but I guess we got away with it.” Given the fact Kim had already looped it a few times that day, I considered us fortunate – sometimes it’s better to be lucky than good – in our case, I think it was a bit of both.

The dude was as cool as the under side of the pillow though, man! Meanwhile, I was just sitting there trying to hit the reset button on my equilibrium, and act like I’ve been there before. It ultimately made me reflect on my own driving habits, and how may times I must’ve wrecked a passenger’s nerves. But, such is life in the fast lane…

The line of people heading out for some lap time was never-ending! The Mustang and Camaro both handled the hot laps with ease.

Final impressions:

They say to make lemonade out of lemons, and I think that’s what everyone intended to do as far as the weather went. But, at the end of the day, we all said “forget the lemons, lets go racing!” It was a blast, and judging from the looks on some of the passenger’s faces as they each got out of the Mustang and Camaro, I wasn’t the only one who’s an uneasy rider. I mean, these guys are some serious racers, but I guess some of them just prefer to be behind the wheel, and that’s okay. It’s really a control thing – remove that element, and even the most seasoned adrenaline junkie will have their heart racing. 

In closing, I’d like to give a huge shout out to the folks at ProCharger and Sonoma Raceway for hosting such an amazing event. I just hope I’m around for ProCharger’s 50th anniversary event. Who knows what we’ll be wheeling around the track, then! To check out everything it has cooking, and what’s next for ProCharger, check out its website, here.

Article Sources

About the author

Vinny Costa

Fast cars, motorcycles, and loud music are what get Vinny’s blood pumping. Catch him behind the wheel of his ’68 Firebird. Chances are, Black Sabbath will be playing in the background.
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