THERE is still a lot happening out there between ANDRA and the three tracks.
Perth Motorplex, Sydney Dragway and Willowbank Raceway have announced they are going to run their own series under the 400 Thunder banner. The series is about the race tracks taking it upon themselves to promote Group One, with ANDRA in charge of rules and regulations, and in my view that is a positive move.
Everyone is so distrustful of what is going on because of what has happened in the past. We have had pretty rough treatment from the track representatives over the years, but they are all different people there now, so you have to give them a fair crack at it.
The tracks have been suffering financially, so itís in their best interests to build the sport. If you go back 10 years ago, there was a lot of money floating around with the promise of new tracks, and everyone wanted to get their fingers in the pie. A lot has changed since then, but the tracks sound positive about building the sport and making it more viable.
I donít like politics Ė particularly the deep-shit politics that is going on at the moment between the tracks and ANDRA. I thought things were solved and that they had an agreement, but it seems there are still differences and ANDRA has pulled out of it. I believe the only way they can both survive successfully is to work together.
The thing is, the three big race tracks have the power. People say they are just exerting their power, but thatís just it Ė they do have the power.
The problem for ANDRA is that the tracks will just go on their merry way and run events. If ANDRA donít want to be part of it then they wonít, and they donít have to be. I just hope both parties can work it out, because it has turned into such a big shitfight that really neither side can win.
I can see the sportsman guys are concerned, but I think their futures are going to be better, because if Group One is strong then sportsman racing is strong.
I think the name 400 Thunder works. It sounds like a red hot crack at marketing and does have some meaning to the general public. It may not have specific meaning to the drag racing diehards, but 400 metres is what we race over and Ďthunderí is what is associated with Top Fuel.
Time will tell if itís acceptable to the public; it may be a hard sell, but it is up to the racers, teams and promoters to get them used to it.
I havenít looked into the Fox Sports TV deal and Iím not an expert in that field. I watch Foxtel, but not all people have it. I just hope they put as much effort into the filming and the graphics of drag racing as they do with the V8 Supercars, because they do a really good job.
I see the turbo guys are still trying to coax the Doorslammer class into racing against them. The problem is, we have been around for 20 or 30 years and have a rulebook that relates to our class, so if you want to race Top Doorslammer then build a car that fits it. Donít build something else and then come and try to change the rules.
I think the turbo guys should be given the opportunity to build a class of their own like we did. Back in 1995 at the Nationals, George Glasby and I stepped out of line with what ANDRA wanted us to do. They said if you do a demonstration run as Top Doorslammer, you will be disqualified. Well, we did the run, we got disqualified, but that was the beginning of Top Doorslammer. We had stuck up for what we believed in. I regret missing the Nationals in front of my new sponsor at the time, Castrol, but I donít regret that the next year we had Doorslammer as a Group One class.
Paul Mouhayet has proven to be a fantastic driver Ė the fastest in the world at 274mph in a turbo car Ė and has been making a lot of noise about wanting to enter Doorslammer. But the differences in the rules are just too great. Turbo cars have a whole different driving methodology to blown cars. Once the turbo cars have staged with their electric Ďbump boxesí and let go of the button, all they have to do is steer the car down the track. I am not saying that part is any easier than a blown car, but the staging process, swap of the feet and shift points are an incredibly important part of a successful blown Doorslammer pass. All those processes are computer-controlled in a turbo car. We had a vote amongst the Doorslammer guys not too long ago and it was 23 against and two in favour of letting the turbo cars in. The Doorslammer guys donít want them.
Finally, let me tip my hat to Santo Rapisarda, who looks like he is going to run three or four Top Fuel cars this season. I have run three cars before, and they were just in Alcohol and a pair of Doorslammers. It drove me absolutely mad. He is lucky to have his boys, Santo Jr and Santino, and a great team around him to make it all happen. Thatís why he can get away with doing what heís doing, because not too many guys in this world can run four Top Fuel cars, apart from Santo, John Force and Don Schumacher.
Santo is a massive part of the sport Ė always has been Ė and I wish him all the best for the 2015-16 season. s