Cutting an apex though a dry heat of the west coast desert valley. Full throttle out of the turn, the bumper of the competitor ahead appears ghostly in the dusty horizon. Again. Full throttle, brake, side step, throttle, jockey the wheel through the apex and into the next straight. The car ahead is still there — and then it disappears around the next corner. Full throttle into another straight and passing through the checkered flag — it’s finally time for a deep breath.
Driving a road course is a thrill. An exhilaration, and though this was the first time for Sonya Klaus, there was no win, no first place; but it was the event that sparked her ascend into building a race worthy car — and since, there’s been no looking back.
You can’t say she was born in an environment of racing. There were no child hood inspirations. Just a deep down an intuition. Like many of us, a love about going fast and cars where the best solution. Though she didn’t start out with fully built car, in fact, she owned a 2008 Pontiac G6, a mild subdue daily driver. But all of that changed the day it was rear ended on a congested LA freeway, thus opening an exit to find her muse.
Before ink on the insurance check even dried, she brought home a 2008 Nissan 350Z. Although it was in complete stock form at the time, it was enough for her to sign up to participate in an open drift day event at Willows Springs, California. After the event, she left with a broken driveshaft and a laundry list of new mods needed. “I became addicted to wanting to make the car better.” She says. “Every time I would go to the track something else would be apparent that needed fixing or modifying.”
While the driveshaft was replaced, she also installed a KAAZ 2-way limited slip differential with a 4:08 final drive, installed with the help of Mr. Ray Kaaz. Next on the list was the suspension. “I swear, I’ve removed, modified, and reinstalled every suspension and drivetrain component on the car!” She says. “I can literally tell you the bolt size for each thing, I’ve done it so much now.” Which includes upgrades of KW adjustable coil-over suspension, SPL front upper control arms along with SPL solid bushings for the LCA, compression rod and subframe.
But as she attended more events, safety became a major priority. So she opted for a GSWERKS 6-point roll cage, followed by a set of Sparco Halo racing seats and Team Tech 5-point harness. The interior is topped off with a Flocked dashboard, Grip Royal suede steering wheel and limited release Spinnaker composites carbon fiber shift knob. Although she did majority of the work, she sourced out welding in the cage and the initial powdercoating. “A lot of the suspension is powder coated, which at the end I ended up learning to do it myself and coated the compression rods.”
With safety at bay, it was time to invest in making the car a touch more powerful by installing a set of PPE long tube headers and custom straight pipe exhaust. Pulling the intake air is a Stillen Gen 3 dual CIA’s and to keep temps to a cool level, she installed a Z1 Sertrab oil cooler and Sertrab power steering cooler all connected with custom AN lines. “I built the AN lines myself and installed all of the parts — but I have to give credit to my boyfriend for helping install the headers and always lending a hand when needed.” She says.
Lastly for grip she’s running a set of 18-inch, Cosmis XT-006R wheels wrapped in 18 Dunlop Direzza III 285/35/18 tires. But of course, the wheels depend on the race. Over the past couple of years, she’s been competing in in a mix of open drift events and recently competing in the Nissan Challenge road racing series. “I’ve now finished the Nissan Challenge and am the first female to compete in the full series!” She says. “I’ve also placed fifth out of twenty-one in my class, and landed a couple of podiums in the Class 3, which is similar to a street RWD class.”
Needless to say, Sonya’s been keeping her little Z busy committing to competitive racing, which is an exhausting sport while working around a full-time job. With that, she mentions that her best experience was actually her worst; when she was up for nearly 24 hours before the race, due to her car not being back together as planned. But with endurance she finished the car the eve before, raced that morning and even landed a podium spot. “Overall, I’m just extremely happy with all that I’ve accomplished so far even during the moments of complete stress and chaos I consider it a win when I can stay focused and calm despite what’s going on around me.”