To be successful within drag racing’s Pro Modified class category racers must be innovative and experimenting and Canadian Eric Latino really is a shining example….
Driving his supercharged 1969 Camaro which is funded primarily by confirmed Canadian drag racing proponents Rob & Anne Sporring (Quality Plus Compressors), the Whitby, Ontario based racer recently entered what is now a bit of a mid-season break.
Six of the first ten NHRA J&A Service Pro Mod Drag Racing Series races have been completed for this year and the series action does not resume again until the marquee Chevrolet Performance U.S. Nationals at Indianapolis over the Labour Day weekend in early September.
Eric sits a very respectable 15th place in championship points within that very demanding circuit – which simply put – features the absolute top echelon of Pro Mod class drag racers on our particular planet.
DragRaceCanada caught up with Eric recently, who took some time to reflect on the first half of his 2015 season as well give us some insight and aspirations for the rest of the year.
The very talented racer has come a very long way in a relatively short period of time and his spectacular looking “Team Green” Camaro is for sure one of the most respected cars within NHRA’s RPM Pro Mod racing group.
“This all started back in 2008 when I began running locally within Canada in the PMRA,” Eric confirmed. “I had a Bickel car (1938 Chevy) that was first nitrous that we converted to supercharged. Then in 2011 I had Jim Salemi build me this G-Force Race Cars and we won the PMRA championship with it in 2012. In 2013 we went testing with one of Al Billes’ new superchargers and when we put that on the car – it made so much more HP — that we began thinking about even bigger and better things. That’s really the key behind what led us here into the NHRA Pro Mod circuit.”
“In 2014 we ran 7 NHRA races – but for 2015 the plan is run the entire series,” he affirmed.
But even in the Pro Mod class which oozes innovation and creatively everywhere, Eric Latino’s car is in fact a bit of a “black sheep”. That’s primarily because of the motor program that he began using for 2015 — which it’s safe to say is different then other supercharged cars out there. While exact and minute details of all that are somewhat secretive — we can report that it’s an unorthodox 522 CID block and one of only two made.
“It’s actually a block design that is something very new that Al Billes had a big part in coming up with,” he added. “It has a different crank stroke. We are coming from a more naturally aspirated engine building arena and then applying that with a supercharger. In this class you have to constantly look at ways to improve performance and that’s exactly what we are doing.”
Eric confirmed that his engine program is certainly not for the meek financially. It’s only possible because his racing partners since 2011, Rob and Anne Sporring, agreed with the investment. “Basically it cost about the price of two Ford F-150’s to get one motor,” he winked.
The results have been very promising however. Led by his crew chief, Paolo D’Alimonte (who very recently got married – congrats Paolo!) and car chief Peter Olin, the team has during the first half of the season been in a constant experimental mode. That includes playing with various different cylinder heads and cam shafts (7 different designs!) as they continue to seek that “happy place” for their motor and tune-up. They have been rewarded with a number of strong qualifiers and event placings within NHRA racing including a career quick 5.82 secs time slip – so far this season – all of which holds well for the remainder of their campaign.
“Basically everything we thought and learned from our previous engine programs – has all changed,” Eric added. “It’s been a whole new deal for our crew and for our car – almost back to square one. But we think we’ve now got the latest and the greatest and we’re making more power then we ever have before. We are going to try to step on all that during the upcoming second half of the season.”
Eric’s team is backed by a very impressive supporting cast of associate sponsors. In addition to the two main primaries (Quality Plus Compressors and Vibrant Performance), that list includes Global Emissions, Ellesmere Fabricators, Pro Racing Fuels, NGK Spark plugs, Don Butt Auto Body, Kooks Headers, Specbilt and Redline Automotive.
Eric Latino’s racing philosophy actually mirrors his business practice too. He is the co-founder, President and CEO of Global Emissions Systems Inc. (GESi®) and quickly points out some similarities.
“At our company GESI – in order to see technological advancements — it’s basically non-stop R&D,” he emphasized. “I’ve learned over the years from that – if you do the research you will always find the tech – and that’s the real principle behind our racing program.”
For more information on GESi® click: HERE
For more information on Quality Plus Compressors click: HERE
For more information on Vibrant Performance click: HERE
Post and photos by: Bruce Biegler