monday, august 15, 2011
can you make it
LOUDER? Jordan Ching Aaron Yeo
words by photos by
tanding next to a vehicle as it vibrates so violently its windshield deforms from the pressure is sort of amazing. It’s also terrifying, since anyone sitting inside without hearing protection would most likely be bleeding from their ears and suffer permanent hearing damage — inside the car, massive subwoofer and speakers are pushing the volume past 150 decibels.
Most people don’t know what dB drag racing is. Whenever I mention the competition to someone, I’m typically met with a blank look on their face. While it’s an international sport with countless followers, it doesn’t tend to find its way into the mainstream. In essence, dB drag racing pits car stereo systems against one another to see who can crank up the noise the loudest. Competitions are held all over the world, and are open to anyone who thinks their vehicle has what it takes to compete. The dB Drag Racing Association (dBDRA), which has been around since the mid-‘90s, is the international association that oversees all of these events and specifies the rules that govern the format of the events, as well as the regulations that make them run smoothly. Participants are classified based on a wide array of criteria that encompasses all aspects of a user’s system, from the number of speakers to the number of batteries. Competitors then participate in qualifying rounds where they are metered using a special microphone designed for high sound pressure levels (SPL) measured in decibels (dB). Their system must meet a minimum SPL of 120dB if they are in a category with eight or fewer participants in order for
them to move on. For larger brackets, only the top eight will advance. Finally, elimination rounds occur where competitors go head to head, with the loudest system advancing and eventually being crowned the winner. The prizes often have no monetary value attached, usually a trophy or a certificate, but it’s more about the comaraderie and the competition than about prizes. Bragging rights are also a nice bonus. When it comes down to it, these events put on by people like Ray Choy, owner of FX Audio, are what bind this community together. For him, he says it was a logical choice to start organizing events. “I was a competitor before and […] I own a car audio shop, so it goes hand in hand. You have shows, you get people to come out, and you generate hype around your business. Then I became a dB drag racing certified judge, started helping hosting shows for other stores, and then I started travelling worldwide helping out with shows.” People will come in from as far away as British Columbia and Saskatchewan to compete in local events, with the most recent one being held August 13 in Spruce Grove. With a total of 31 vehicles present
in a wide variety of classes, the qualifying rounds were hectic. Participants typically take some time to tweak and check over the components of their system, but plenty of them just hang around chatting with the other participants and checking over their one-of-a-kind sound rigs. It makes for a much lighter atmosphere than one would expect at an event which is, after all, a competition. But according to Matt Tracey, one of the competitors, it’s the norm in this sport. “Everybody gets along with everybody. People help out people [and] if you need to borrow stuff, people let you borrow stuff.” He pointed out another competitor behind him who was doing his run while three guys braced the car’s trunk lid. “You got people helping this guy out, pushing on his trunk to help him get a higher score. They might not even know each other.” He did lament the fact that compared
to Eastern Canada, there was a general lack of events in the area, saying that “we need to get more of this going in Edmonton.” When it comes to the large national and international events, the competition usually gets more intense. Choy has been all over the world for world finals and has seen competitors ship their vehicles overseas in order to compete. Nowadays, though, there are much easier and less costly ways to get people together for these events. “When we compete internationally or even nationally, we can do it via web. Previously, the only way to compete with someone else was to be at the same event. Now with […] high data rate transfers, we can have a video conference with somebody in Europe and have a head-to-head competition with them.” Regardless of the event size, however, it seems that most everyone has memorable moments from one event or another. Breaking 150dB,
for example, is considered a major achievement, and Allan Kaufman, a competitor from Westlock, remembers the day he accomplished that feat quite clearly. “[Choy] was the head judge that day, and I was doing 148s and 149s but I couldn’t quite break that 150. He told me to try a few things and […] sure enough I started blowing 153s like nothing.” Of course, there are less illustrious moments, too, often entailing damage to the vehicle in the name of a better score. At one event, he tried having people lay on his roof, which resulted in it caving in, while at another, his buddy tried to stop his windshield from buckling by “standing on the hood and putting his ass on the windshield, [which] cracked it.” But in a competition to see who can create noises loud enough to blow out ear drums and rattle windshields, a little bit of a collateral damage is to be expected.