The Pontiac brand is synonymous with performance and success in the National Hot Rod Association (NHRA) Pro Stock circuit. Recently, Pontiac looked to carry that success over to the NHRA Sport Compact Hot Rod class with a front-wheel drive 2003 Pontiac Sunfire.

Of course, this is no ordinary Sunfire. True, it's powered by the same Ecotec 2.2-liter inline four-cylinder engine found in production models. But, in this racing application, the 2.2L Ecotec adds a turbocharger to deliver over 950 hp and 650 ft.-lbs. of torque. This engine is mated to a Hydra-Matic 4T65-E, electronically controlled four-speed automatic transmission featuring a high-performance torque converter.

The FWD Sunfire runs on methanol fuel and features a unitized body/frame with a full roll cage, a six-point safety harness, a HANS device, a fire-suppression system and an independent witness crash recorder to record data in the event of an impact.

Appearance also matters in the sport compact segment and Sunfire's sporty design stands out in the staging lanes. The racing version shares many of the exterior styling cues found in the production model, including freshened front- and rear-end appearances.

The Sunfire is piloted by Marty Ladwig, who started bracket racing in 1985. From there he went on to enjoy success in motorcycle racing, where he was the 1999 and 2000 AMA/Prostar 600 Supersport National Champion, as well as the 1999 AMA/Prostar West Coast Series 600 SS Champion.

The 2002 racing season marked the debut of the Ecotec-powered, front-wheel-drive Pontiac Sunfire in the sport compact drag racing series. The inaugural year is an overwhelming success, with the Sunfire winning in the supercomp class in the bracket category at the IDRC Advanced Clutch Technology West Coast Nationals in Palmdale, California - marking its first win in sport compact drag racing.

Ladwig also captured runner-up honors at the NHRA Sport Compact event in Sonoma, Calif., where he ran a career-best elapsed time and speed of 8.928 seconds at 161.25 mph. As of Sept. 22, Ladwig and the FWD Pontiac Sunfire had accumulated 15 round wins.

SEMA participants are invited to attend a technical seminar on how to build a 1,000-horsepower Ecotec engine with parts developed by GM Racing. The seminar will be held on Wednesday, Nov. 6 from 8 a.m. until 9 a.m. in room n223-224.


  • Ecotec 2.2-liter I-4 turbocharged engine
  • 950-plus horsepower
  • 650 lbs.-ft. torque
  • Hydra-Matic 4T65-E four-speed electronically controlled automatic transmission
  • Methanol fuel
  • Unitized body/frame with full roll cage
  • MacPherson struts
  • Six-point harness belts and HANS device
  • Fire-suppression system and independent witness crash recorder
  • 28 x 10-inch front tires, 25 x 4.5-inch rear
  • 15 x 10-inch front wheels, 15 x 4.5-inch rear
  • Purple and Tangelo Orange with pearl white flames

# # #

Back to SEMA Show Coverage