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Whalen back to winning ways in Big Bend Open Road with RSRT
2015/2/25 15:00

Whalen back to winning ways in Big Bend Open Road with RSRT

TomWhalenframe.jpgSACRAMENTO, CALIFORNIA (May 3, 2016) – Ron Sutton Race Technology helps drivers, teams, and car builders all over the nation in the Pro Touring, Autocross & Road Racing worlds.  RSRT equipment has taken its paces at world class facilities like Sonoma, Road America, and Watkins Glen, and others.  But nothing matches the speed it achieved over the weekend with Tom Whalen.

Whalen, the 74 year-old speedster, took his 2002 C5 Corvette over 200 miles per hour in the Big Bend Open Road Race in Texas.  Whalen picked up his fourth career overall victory in the unlimited class in the grueling race that sees racers cover a 59 mile stretch of US Highway 285 South.  Racers sprint from Fort Stockton to Sanderson, TX and back for a total of 118 miles of wide-open excitement. 

Big Bend attracts more than 160 entries and is one of only four open road races in the United States.  Whalen's average speed was 166.065 mph, a few miles per hour shy of his track record from 2013 but quick enough for the top spot.

How does a driver with three previous Big Bend wins and a win in the prestigious Silver State Classic in Nevada end up working with Ron Sutton Race Technology?  Whalen's first three Big Bend wins came aboard a 2002 Z06 Corvette outfitted with an LS7 package.  Whalen had support from Patrick Sparks at Quality Motorsports where the duo strived to get the car as low as they could while also emphasizing the engine cooling systems.

TomWhalenlg1.jpgWhalen won races with that strategy, including a 215 mph top trap en route to the Silver State win, but also suffered handling stability problems.  Unfortunately the car was totaled in a major crash in the 2014 Sandhills Open Road in Arnold, Nebraska when the rear end stepped out.  Whalen suffered a broken arm, but otherwise was quite fortunate he lived.

The LS7 drive train was saved and was transferred over to his current Corvette, a former T1 SCCA car.  Whalen's return to action in 2015 saw him score runs of a second place overall and a class win but things weren't right. 

"The car was ill handling and then it got a little bit better but there were still problems," Whalen said.  "I was at the Goodguys show in Texas and was introduced to Ron Sutton by my friends at Scoggin-Dickey.  It was an eye-opener!  I didn't know how much I didn't know."

Ron offered, “After I had Tom measure up the suspension & steering, I found the roll centers way too low for the high speed stuff he was running … where corner speeds can be 170 plus.  But the scary part … and why his first car crashed … was lowering the car that far created positive roll steer.  So the faster he would corner, the more the rear end would lose grip.  We corrected all that, so now it’s a stable car running from 160 to over 200.”

RSRT recommended several changes to Whalen's car, including moving pick up points on the front-end and rear end geometry.  Whalen completed all changes except that most major one, and with no previous testing time arrived last week at Big Bend.  After one practice session during the week, the car felt stable enough for Whalen to give it a go.  The first 59 miles saw him achieve a 198 mile per hour top trap speed.  The return run saw Whalen click off a 208 mile per hour trap as he gained confidence in the car.

"I have a level of comfort that I didn't have when I first started to race," Whalen said.  "I like (Ron's) approach.  I'd like to race as much as I can and working with Ron has added a couple more years to my racing career."

Whalen will miss the upcoming Nevada Open Road Challenge in May but will be in action in both the Sandhills in August and Silver State in September hoping to grab more wins and attention.

For more information on Ron Sutton Race Technology, visit them online at


Ron Sutton Race Technology is a one-stop resource for winning car building or improving performance for Autocross, Road Course Track Days & Pro Touring Cars. Ron offers suspension, brake & aerodynamic optimization services, complete chassis/suspension designs, cutting edge suspension packages, consulting services, books, workshops & an online store with 600 brands & over 90,000 parts.

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