We recently got to talk some “tech” with one of Canada’s most colourful Pro Mod class racers….

Eric Latino, from Whitby Ontario, is no stranger to thinking outside the box within drag racing’s demanding Pro Modified class category, and so far this 2018 season is no different.  

After suffering a pretty intense crash and setback with his Pro Mod Camaro at the NHRA national event in Las Vegas late last season, Eric has returned back to action this season – albeit on a bit more measured timeline and at a few events only so far.  But using his current supercharged ’69 Chevelle,  Eric has been busy refining a dynamic new engine program in conjunction with Canadian engine visionary Al Billes and his race team’s two right hand men, Peter Olin and Paulo D’Alimonte.  

While some details about that development remain somewhat secretive – one of the most obvious and glaring changes to his Northstar Battery-sponsored race car is the employment of a new huge injector “hat” — which is pretty interesting in itself.  That design, which was originally conceived by another Pro Mod class master, Mike Janis, has been morphed according to Eric for his specific engine program as he continues to work towards gaining an advantage within this unmercifully competitive class category.

“Al (Billes) and I both go way back with Mike Janis,” Eric revealed.  “After Mike debuted his hat concept we both liked the idea and we got his OK to do some modifications so that it would fit and line up with one of Al’s new design blower programs.  Al has a very sophisticated 3D simulator which allows us to see exactly what is going to happen with the movement of air.  Following that, a design is drawn up and a program is sent off to a machine shop where it was milled.  The bottom line is that with that and after a lot of analysis, with this new “hat” our engine makes a lot more power.  And with Al’s simulator we can make additional changes going forward when needed.  It’s really all about speeding the process up too.  It’s a prototype — I’m the only one (so far) out there with this.”

Paralleling his team’s engine development side of things, Eric has also confirmed that once that is where it needs to be it will be housed within a new chassis and race car.   Very soon (i.e.: next week at Indy US Nationals!) Eric will begin competition racing a brand new Tim McAmis ’68 Camaro which will replace the current Jeffries-built Chevelle. 

“We’re excited about the new car,” he added.  “It’s very light weight with titanium everywhere you can put it.  It’s of a similar design to the Camaro we set the record with at Gainesville in 2016 – but with some enhancements.”

….And while on the subject of “hats” we would also like to report that Al Billes himself recently threw his “into the ring” for a different type of motorsports.

Just this past July, Al in fact jumped back into a race car as a driver for the first time after a very long lay off. 

Drag racing fans will recall that following a high speed Pro Mod incident (at Milan Dragway back in 2005) Billes was concussed and had to (reluctantly) at the insistence of his physician, step away from the racing cockpit for health hazard reasons.

However during a CTCC/CASC road racing event at Shannonville Ontario in early July, Al was given the opportunity to jump in drive and compete in a Porsche GT4 Clubsport  (a factory built entry level race car) – which he in fact took. 

“I was at Shannonville and I had fun!,” Al beamed.  “That was the first road race I’ve ever run.  It was a CTCC / CASC regional event and I raced in the CASC sanctioned portion in their sprint races.  They ran 3 sprint races and I finished 3rd in class in the first followed by 2 DNF’s due to mechanical issues.  It was my first time in a race car since that crash — which was a l-ooong time ago!”

Yep — that is Al Billes – back in a race car cockpit!

Al did hint that he might also jump back in the Porsche circuit car again at Mosport a bit later this summer.  And it’s exactly that which does pose a obvious question.  If this type of racing goes well – will Al Billes try his luck within his career signature Pro Mod class in drag racing once again?   

We don’t have anything more to report on that front and we are not going to speculate just yet – but it might be safe to surmise that door of possibility might now be at least cracked open slightly?  

Posted by Bruce Biegler