I’M CONFIDENT 2016 is going to be a watershed year for drag racing. I think the dispute between ANDRA and the tracks is over; they are both going to go their own way.
For some time now I’ve been saying that we need to change and freshen up drag racing, and I believe the 400 Thunder series is the future for the sport.
Some racers have their doubts, because in the past when the racetracks have taken over, things haven’t worked out as well as they could have. The tracks need to keep their businesses viable and healthy, but they also realise that for that to happen, the teams and the racers have to be strong. We have the cars – the most spectacular racing cars in the world – and we need to present a much stronger and attractive package to the public.
I also think there needs to be a little bit of tweaking to the race format. The elimination format that we are using now has been around since the 1950s. It’s very entertaining and ‘cutthroat’ – you lose and you go home. But the public would like to see their favourite racers come out more than the once. Qualifying is fantastic – that doesn’t need to change – but the elimination day needs some work.
Currently, in a two-day event everyone comes out three times in qualifying and the top eight cars get to go and race. We should include the non-qualifiers in some way, something like a second-tier consolation-type bracket. I just want to see the racing presented to the public in a much stronger and exciting format.
One of the most positive changes since the introduction of 400 Thunder is the fact that for the first time ever the racers in Doorslammer actually have a say in Doorslammer; the racers in Pro Stock have a say in Pro Stock; and so on.
Personally, I want to have a say in Doorslammer but I don’t really care what happens in Pro Stock. I mean, I care as far the sport as a whole is concerned, but I’m not interested in what happens with their rules because I’m not competing in that bracket. Let the guys in that bracket decide their rules.
Under the new Australian Professional Drag Racing Series (APDRS) system there is a commission that makes all the rules and decisions. If this works, it will be the best thing that has happened to drag racing since I first went down the strip. The naysayers from the past reckon the APDRS will never let you have a say, but so far it appears not to be the case. I don’t think the management is really interested in getting involved in the shit-fights that go along with the rules in each bracket. They have enough on their plate with managing the sport, and I think they are happy to let the racers have their say.
The Sportsman racers will be some of the biggest winners out of what’s happened. I don’t know if they think that – but they will be. They are going to have a bunch of races under the IHRA rulebook, and also the Summit Series with ANDRA. They get to race in all the capital cities plus lots of regional tracks as well, so there will be more Sportsman racing than ever before.
The Perth Nitro Slam meeting was the first to be run under IHRA sanctioning; unfortunately we missed the cut. Since we got the Corvette for Ben we have struggled with electrical problems.
We noticed that it was missing some cylinders, so we’d been running the car pretty lean to get it to pick up off the startline. That’s a sign that you have a weak magneto. We had three cylinders that just wouldn’t fire until about three seconds into the run, so they were virtually not firing at all.
We chased it down and decided to put on a new magneto, new points box, new transformer (we can thank fellow Doorslammer racer Pat Carbone for that) and a new Power Grid that controls the ignition timing.
So then, everything sparked up and all of a sudden we had too much power, and blew the tyres away. In drag racing you can be around forever and still be learning, because a Doorslammer can be a very difficult car to tune.
While we were in Perth I caught up with Mike Baker of the IHRA, who I first met when I crewed with Scotty Cannon about 20 years ago. Mike has always been a very knowledgeable guy, very astute and with a worldwide reputation for making sure the racing stays fair. He is still the same, very straightforward and very definite in his thoughts about how a race meeting should be run.
Mike had a great story to take home from his time in Perth. One of his colleagues, who shall remain nameless, went to have some coffee in the morning. So he turns the stove on, grabs the kettle – an electric kettle – fills it up with water and puts it on the stove. He goes inside and starts cleaning his teeth. He sees some smoke, walks in, sees the kettle on fire, grabs a fire extinguisher to put it out and the fire alarms go off. Next minute someone’s coming up the hall yelling: “Evacuate! Evacuate!”
Mike showed me pictures of the kettle – and the people outside. They evacuated the whole motel, at 5.30am in the morning. You don’t reckon there were some unhappy people! I was killing myself laughing! You have to be kidding me; why would anyone put an electric kettle on a hotplate? s