That Time I Took My Saab 9-3 Aero To Numidia Dragway

This story takes us back to May 29th, 2015, when my Saab 9-3 Aero still bore an Anthracite Gray Metallic finish. Chris and I had just graduated earlier that month from Penn State, and I was enrolled to begin my master’s program in a few months, so I wanted to squeeze some racing in during that time.

I was also attempting to have my Saab 9-3 Aero tuned via HP Tuners. I hoped that James Rakes of RPT could figure out a way to do so despite not having access to all the parameters of the ECU. At this point, I had to modulate throttle inputs so as to avoid ‘over-boosting’, which would cause the Saab to go into limp mode. After a number of revisions I eventually decided to go with JZW for tuning, but we’ll open up that can of worms in a future story and focus on the trip to Numidia Dragway.

Since I didn’t want to run into any issues at the strip, I decided to re-upload the factory tune. The only non-factory installed parts were a Taliaferro carbon fiber intake and a QTP electric exhaust cut-out, neither of which yielded any gains with a stock tune. At the time there were 18-inch wheels from a 2008-2010 Cobalt SS, and the fronts were wrapped in tired Hankook Ventus V2 tires.

2008 Saab 9-3 Aero_Numidia Dragway_In Grid

I guess I should first explain how this event worked, since not all drag racing events are the same. This wasn’t heads-up racing, meaning it was not¬†about being the fastest car. Instead, it was about consistency. Each car made a few runs, and the time of quickest pass was written on the window. Once the rounds began, the drivers wanted to get as close to this time as possible without going quicker than it. If you ran a quicker time, it was an automatic loss, which is exactly what happened the last time I was there in my supercharged Chevy Cobalt SS.

There were 4 classes in the event:

  • Street Stick
  • Street Auto
  • Stick Outlaw
  • Test ‘N Tune

Since my Saab 9-3 Aero has a 6-speed manual F40 transmission mated to the 2.8-liter turbocharged V6, I was in the Street Stick class.

2008 Saab 9-3 Aero_Numidia Dragway 3

The time I was aiming for that night was a 15.40, which isn’t exceptionally fast by any means. However, I was rather content since Motor Week published a time of 15.5 seconds for its 1/4-mile testing of the 2008 Saab 9-3 Aero. Unfortunately I didn’t do a good job of saving the time slips from this event (if you haven’t figured it out yet, Chris is the organized one).

Launching the Saab 9-3 Aero was certainly more challenging than launching the supercharged Cobalt, which ran a 14.473 with 0.516 reaction time and a 2.346 60-footer. The torque delivery of the Aero’s LP9 engine and open differential can lead to loads of wheel spin if you’re not mindful of your throttle inputs. I spun hard my first two runs, which left me with just one clean run to net my posted ‘window’ time.

The first round that night was also my last, as the driver of the Mitsubishi Evolution X in the left lane knew his car well and was able to run a 13.74 compared to his targeted time of 13.70, and I ran a 15.56 compared to my targeted time of 15.40.

Despite my ‘short’ night, I still had an absolute blast. I understand straight line racing isn’t everyone’s cup of tea, but doing the little things right as I attempt to go as fast as possible is highly entertaining for me.

Please, enjoy these images of the Saab 9-3 Aero in the gallery below, then comment and let us know if you’re a fan of drag racing, if you’re partial to the circuits, or if you don’t care as long as you get to go fast.

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