Event Coverage: The 2016 Edition Of Waterfest Is Tainted By Leaky Skies

Earlier this year, when we were discussing the Front Street event schedule, the conversation centered around who would be covering each of the 20-plus events planned for 2016. With Kyle Crawford on the clock to cover nearly every Formula Drift event this year, and Waterfest 22 falling on the same weekend as FD Montreal, all eyes in the meeting turned toward me – the resident domestic drag racing guy here at Front Street.

“Waterfest? What’s Waterfest?” I asked. “It’s a Volkswagen/Audi meet,” said Kyle. “There will be lots of bagged cars and big wheels.”

“Great, so it should be right up my alley,” I thought, with as much mental sarcasm as I could muster up.

And with that, Waterfest became etched onto my calendar, something for me to look forward to – more sarcasm – as the heat of summer approached.

But as the day came closer, and I started checking out the Waterfest Facebook page and website to see what I was getting myself into, I realized that VW and Audi enthusiasts are just that – enthusiasts. And while their tastes may differ from mine, they still expend their paychecks and brainpower to develop cars they can be proud of – whether that includes airbagged suspension and big wheels or coilover suspension with a long list of handling mods and a big turbo kit.

Saturday morning dawned hot and humid, with not a single cloud in the sky. Once I arrived at the event and set up my camera gear, I was off to wander around and drink in all that is Waterfest. The first impression I had was that the VAG (Volkswagen Audi Group) enthusiasts have a serious hankering for sweet wheels – from BBS to Rotiform to Gram Lights, Rays, and HRE, it seemed like nearly every car had a set of wheels that were worth more than a few months’ worth of my rent payments.


There were cars and vendors stretched throughout the Raceway Park pit area all the way down to the dragstrip’s timing shack – and on the other side of the timing shack sat the show field with hundreds of well-executed vehicles.

This R8, although it shares its V10 engine platform with the Lamborghini Gallardo, has one element the Gallardo does not – the twin-turbo kit that’s been fitted under the rear bumper. Unfortunately I could not locate the Drive Auto Works gang to find out how much power the turbochargers added, but there’s no doubt the R8’s performance has been substantially improved by their installation. I love the fact that they’re hidden under the bumper cover; I would not want to roll up next to his beast on the highway.

When I was a young lad in high school, the Volkswagen Corrado was considered one of the “hot hatch” models of the day, and there was more than one occasion where I had the opportunity to ride in one of the G60 models, which used the 1.8-liter 4-cylinder engine equipped with a supercharger. This particular SLC model on display at Waterfest had the larger, 2.8-liter VR6 engine and BBS wheels installed, and was a serious throwback for me. I remember thinking that the VR6 was a solid engineering feat for the VW team back then with its V-shaped cylinder block and single cylinder head. The car was super clean and a nice blast from the past for me.


The KW and ST Suspensions booth had people in it asking questions every time I walked by. The company has a solid foothold among VW and Audi enthusiasts, as they produce a wide range of components for most of the vehicles that were on the property.


As I wandered past this couple playing super-size water pong, the only question I asked was how they were going to fill the buckets back up when someone won. She couldn’t answer me – but it sure did look like they were having fun. It’s a good thing there wasn’t beer in these buckets, or they might have been carried out on a stretcher.

A big Precision Turbo 5858 snail, TiAL wastegate, and Integrated Engineering intake manifold were just a few of the mods lurking under the hood of this super-clean VW CC rolling on Rotiform forged WRW wheels and Falken Azenis FK 459 rubber. The car is bagged, slammed, and blacked out. I’m not usually a fan of the bagged look (maybe it’s my drag racing roots?), but this car carried it well and wasn’t overdone and too ostentatious. A nice piece!


Speaking of Rotiform, it appeared to me that maybe 50 percent of the vehicles in attendance were rolling on their wheels – they were everywhere! After a look at the wheels on display in their booth, it was easy to see why. They had a wide variety of styles on the racks and offered a ton of fitments and offsets. If someone is looking to stand out, I can see why they’d choose these.


If I happened to be in the market for a new daily driver, I’d quite possibly look in the direction of the Audi SQ5 in Scuba Blue Metallic – this thing is just straight-up slick. Quattro all-wheel drive, eight-speed automatic trans, 350-plus horsepower of supercharged silky-smooth Audi V6 engine, and lowered like this. What’s not to like?


Just because it’s funny. There isn’t really much more to say here.

I remember thinking these were an interesting exercise in design strategy when they were originally built – and they were certainly eye-catching because of that oddity. I never knew the story behind the 1996 Harlequin Golf until I sat down to write this article and asked Kyle what the deal was with these wacky cars, which then sent me down the rabbit hole of researching them on the Web. Twenty minutes later, I’ve discovered that apparently there were 66 cars of each base color produced (determined by the pigment found on the roof, rocker panels, and rear quarters) and the body panels of each were swapped between one another to create the four different Harlequin patterns. With so few cars ever built – and the fact that they were only created through one model year – I’m surprised that any of them still exist 20-plus years later. This one is especially wacky because it’s fitted with Ronal URS Teddy wheels – perhaps the strangest wheel design to ever grace a car.

Finally – something right up my alley! There was a wide range of vehicles running in the test and tune sessions when I was sitting in the grandstands. It was nice to see some of the car owners putting their machines onto the track.

As the Presenting Sponsor for the event, the APR team was all over the place shooting photography and video of the festivities. I especially appreciated the use of the mobile filming equipment.

This Lamborghini Diablo passed me on the way in, and I vowed to get a better look at it during the event. As I became more enamored with automotive culture throughout my formative years, the V12-powered Diablo was the hottest thing going as it represented the ultimate in automotive styling and performance and graced the cover of more than a few Road & Track and Motor Trend magazines – the books that really planted the seed in my young mind that I wanted to play with cars when I grew up. This car was surrounded by people virtually all day long on Saturday.


You don’t see a right-hand-drive Cabrio too often in the wilds of New Jersey, but this one rolled past and I did a double-take and almost missed it. The owner has swapped a VR6 engine into it and has plans for new paint and new wheels at some point in the near future.


In the domestic drag racing world, big’n’little has a completely different connotation. The little version was remote-controlled and drew plenty of attention from onlookers. When I was in this area, there were more than a few people taking picture of this combination. Later on, I saw the owner wheeling the R/C car around as he took in the sights.


To me, this photo describes the vibe of the entire event in one single image. Everyone I talked to was having a great time – Waterfest is a destination visit every year for most of them.

Although the day was sunny, hot, and humid at the outset, that was also its downfall. As anyone who’s grown up in the New Jersey area can tell you, this type of start to the day often means that the rains will come later in the day, which they did. One minute it was partly cloudy, the next it seemed like the sky was going to open up and swallow every car on the premises. I waited the rain out, as my car was about a quarter-mile away and I didn’t want to wreck my camera gear by making a run for it. Once the rain subsided, I made the trek through calf-deep water to the back corner of the parking lot, my Waterfest experience complete for 2016.

Kudos to the Waterfest team for putting together an event that has serious staying power.  It was certainly an interesting day filled with all sorts of VAG enthusiasm, and I had an enjoyable time learning about a new-to-me side of the enthusiast hobby.