Chavez High Students Ready to Tear Up the Texas Mile with Their 561-HP GTO

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High school kids with a car that can bomb away at 180 or so mph? Sounds like a recipe for disaster.

Instead it's a learning experience that's turning out to be a fun ride with no end in sight.

This weekend, the 10th annual Texas Mile competition will play host to an extremely competitive field of high-performance sports cars. Competitors will have a more than one-mile stretch of open road to hit eye-popping speeds -- the record of 263 miles per hour was set last year in a modified Ford GT.

This year, an unusual motorsports team will be among the field in Beeville. Called Chavez Motorsports Engineering, this team is made up of students from Chavez High School near Hobby Airport in south Houston led by science teacher Greg Ditch.

Ditch teaches a class at Chavez High School called "Scientific Research and Design," and the latest class project is a modified Pontiac GTO with 561 horsepower.

Ditch said the car was his daily drive for six years.

"This hasn't been funded by any tax money or grants. We used my car," Ditch said. "All of the modifications have been done thanks to sponsorship from several performance auto parts companies."

Walter Campos is a senior at Chavez and the car chief of the project. He said the class had been staying late after school to work on the car since the beginning of January. But Campos also said it would all be worth it to see the car compete this weekend. "We're just a couple of teenagers and we built this," Campos said.

This weekend at the Texas Mile, NASCAR driver Donnie Neuenberger will be at the helm of the GTO as he attempts to reach the car's top speed. Ditch said the top speed goal for the car was 183 mph.

In addition to gutting the interior of the car, students made numerous modifications to the car's powertrain, including a new exhaust system, new transmission components, modifications to the suspension, and aerodynamic improvements for the high-speed run. Ditch said this project was a great teaching opportunity for his students.

"I really want to see the kids benefit," Ditch said. "This isn't just an auto shop, it's an engineering program. They get to see how the science works."

They may get to see something more -- the goal is to keep improving the car and eventually take it to a competition at the Bonneville Salt Flats, the holy testing ground for anyone who feels the need for speed at ground level.

The Texas Mile will take place this Friday-Sunday, March 22-24. For more information about the team from Chavez High School, visit chavezmotorsports.net.

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