Most self-funded drivers know the hardships of racing and the expenses that come along with it; Justin Bordonaro is no stranger to either of those. Even at Redline Time Attack Round 1 earlier this year, his splitter tore off, causing damage to the radiator after washing out into the dirt. By the next morning, his crew at KT Motoring brought a new radiator, but unfortunately the core support was damaged so badly they couldn't install it. Luckily there was a loaner Evo 9 Justin could use, which allowed him to round up some points, keeping his weekend from becoming a total loss.
As I sat around waiting for cars to come through, I noticed a car that had caught fire and yelled at the corner worker to grab a fire extinguisher as the flames were quickly spreading to the car's undercarriage. I could only think to myself how bad of a day Justin was already having, when I saw through my lens the flaming car was his. Luckily he walked away unscathed. I later found out the fire was caused from a rod breaking through the crankcase. In spite of this track disaster, Justin doesn't seem phased one bit. After all, this is racing.
So where does this passion for speed come from? A SoCal native and Navy Vet, Justin's venture into automobiles started with his massive collection of “Micro Machines” back in the '80s, followed later by remote controlled cars and racing video games. Everything was racing centric. Justin started his racing with actual cars when he was 16 years old when his grandfather presented him with a hand me down '67 Camaro RS that was originally purchased off the showroom floor. Justin says, “I loved that car more than anything. My free time, instead of chasing girls in high school, was chasing mountain roads and cruising PCH with the windows down.”
On New Year’s Eve '03, Justin’s Camaro met its fate, totaling the car after apexing Dead Man’s Curve on Platt Avenue in West Hills, California and rolling the car 250 feet. As with any die hard, Justin was more upset about the car than the fact he had blood running down his face. Fortunately, his insurance money covered the costs and he was able to purchase an '04 Honda Civic. Justin chuckles as he mentions how the handling of the F1 race-inspired suspension on the FWD furthered his passion for canyon driving: “Everything I learned about driving, I learned from this car while being on Stunt Road in Malibu. When I wasn't in school or working, I was at the top of Stunt Road.”
In '06, Justin turned 20 and enlisted in the Navy with high hopes of becoming a Navy Seal. At the same time he purchased his first car, a 2005 Subaru 2.5 RS. The RS handled significantly better than the Civic, which allowed Justin to push his canyon driving envelope even further. But that car had its limitations, too; he needed a faster car to keep up with his driving. Coincidentally, Justin became the beneficiary of a small inheritance that his great aunt left behind, explaining, “She always said that when she died, she would leave my brother and I both with enough money to buy our dream car.” At the time, he was dead set on a Subaru STI, which just happened to fall within his budget, and went so far as to lock in a deal - but after leaving to go pick up a check, he saw a Mitsubishi dealership off the freeway and thought it might be worth visiting. That small detour soon had him driving off the Mitsubishi lot instead with an Evo 8 MR, which in his words, "Made my life more complete."
After buying the Evo, he took off to Glendora Mountain Road (GMR) to test everything out and rode so hard that he wore his brand new tires down to the wire on only his second day of ownership. He decided he needed more grip and took his car to Muellerized Inc. in Costa Mesa for a stage 1 suspension upgrade along with a new set of rotors, pads and stainless brake lines. After a couple more months (not to mention a few more sets of tires), Justin was reassigned for duties over in Gulfport, Mississippi.
As he situated himself in Gulfport, Justin found a drag strip less than half a mile from home, which would ultimately serve as the launch pad of his sanctioned racing career. Shortly after, he began autocrossing and won his first event while taking down the undefeated Gulf Coast champion who had a full race M3. Suddenly, all these podium wins became an addiction, and his only cure was to keep going faster.
Justin had a great opportunity to experience Japanese drift culture up close when he relocated to Okinawa, Japan. After returning, he drove cross-country from Gulfport back to California, where Muellerized replaced his stock suspension with Moton coilovers. Justin continued participating in several regional autocross events, taking first place in every event he participated in.
But here's where things really heat up - Justin got his first taste of road racing while visiting Lousiana's Circuit Grand Bayou, but quickly discovered it was also the most expensive of all racing ventures to maintain. Yet, he was undeniably hooked. After finishing his service with the Navy in 2011, he moved back to SoCal, and spent every dime he earned tracking while adjusting back to civilian life, landing a job as KT Motoring's head technician. "Burning through tires and brakes, not to mention upgrading and breaking other stuff, I wouldn't have been this successful if it wasn't for KT's support," he says.
In 2013, Justin competed in the Extremespeed AWD competition and within the first few outings Justin had a pretty big scare at the Big Willow course at Willow Springs International Raceway. As he prepared to start a hot lap coming out of turn 9 wide-open throttle, he dropped two wheels while tracking out and hit a massive hole which launched his car sideways across the track and into the desert. That alone forced him to consider safety precautions, since that "little dip" knocked the tire off the rim. He immediately headed down to BlackBird Fabworx and had a full cage installed. After that, sadly, it became one problem after another: melted pistons, seized turbos and cracked blocks, which all adds up to a broken car. And a broken car means no seat time.
Last year, Justin was able to put his car back together and get back out on the track, which turned out to be his best season yet. He competed in Redline Time Attack, Extremespeed AWD Comp and the Extremespeed Roadster Cup enthusiast class with his daily driven Miata. After being beat out of First place in the AWD Comp class by just a couple tenths of a second, increased the power on his Evo to 355 whp along with a few aero adjustments; those changes alone helped him to secure more podiums and win the 2014 series. These victories include: 1st place overall at Buttonwillow, 1st overall AWD COMP, 1st overall Roadster Cup and 2nd place overall Redline Time Attack. He was also able to land the Limited AWD record at Streets of Willow during a brutally hot Global Time Attack event with a 1:20.490.
With the 2015 race season well under way, Justin is eager to take home more wins and perfect his craft even further, adding “I am beyond excited since I'll be competing in RLTA, GTA, AWD Comp and Roadster cup. I have plans to go wheel to wheel next year and still have a lot to learn!”
Catch him at the track with his ride-or-die girlfriend and main track assistant, Sarah Joy, and his trusty sidekick, Rellik.
For more on Justin Bordonaro, visit his Facebook page or follow him on Instagram at @jboogracing.
Driving Line accelerates automotive passion by providing a fresh angle of what fuels us. Recognizing that every individual's motoring journey is unique, we seek to give form to both untold as well as celebrated facets of the automotive world. We invite you to get behind the wheel with us, it's certain to be an interesting drive.