WILD AT HEART

VICTOR BRAY

TIME flies when you’re busy. Towards the end of last year we had been setting the workshop up for another passion of mine: the restoration and customising of American cars. But then we were lucky enough to sign up with Gulf Western Oil as a sponsor, so we’ve had to change the shop back into more of a race shop. We’ve got plenty of room and have organised a couple of designated areas to work on the race cars. When we’ve got it all done, which should be soon, we’re planning on setting up some online virtual tours on Facebook.

I’m not sure when I last raced at Perth; it must have been the Westernationals a couple of years ago. But gee, the public let me know that I hadn’t been there for a while – we got lots of pats on the back all day at this year’s Westernationals.

Hundreds of fans came around to say thanks for coming back.

We also had a couple of hundred VIP guests of Gulf Western there both days and I want to give a big thanks to the people running the Motorplex for allowing us to have extra room in the pits for our corporate facility/area. It’s a tight pit area at a big event like the Westernationals, and one of the office staff said they had some problems with some guys complaining that we were given extra space. But, as he said, if everybody bought a few hundred extra tickets like we did (that’s a crowd in itself) then they would be entitled to extra space.

If teams want to get sponsors, they’ve got to start thinking that way. The idea that we’ve all got to line up in championship order is old hat. We should line up in commercial order. It’s all about looking after the sponsors while building value and trust in the sport and making sure they’re kept happy.

No one wants to see the big-ticket sponsor way down in the pits.

When we rolled through the gates it made me realise how lucky the people in Perth are to have the Motorplex. It’s a world-class facility and the fans really look forward to welcoming the eastcoast Doorslammer teams that make the trek across the Nullarbor.

The first day was really hot – no surprise there, given the time of year in Perth. We were testing a new converter in my car and first up we ran a 6.13 and we were in fifth, then slipped to ninth at the end of second round. Benny ran good straight out of the box and ended up fourth with a 5.94@248mph. I dropped a valve in the second qualifier, which set Ben and the boys a frantic head, piston and conrod change.

We were ready for the final session in quite good conditions, but there is a very strict curfew in place at the Motorplex, so halfway through the final round of Doorslammer qualifying they had to pull the session and run it the next day.

The conditions were really hot that day too, so I had to go about a tenth quicker to get into the field. I left the set-up in the car from the day before and was pretty confident. But not knowing the converter all that well, we just blew the tyres off it on the startline. We try and run as aggressive a converter as possible, and on the day we may have just been a little too aggressive given the track and conditions.

But Benny got in the field well. He was fifth with a 5.94 and drew Mark Belleri in the first round.

Lucky for Ben – but unlucky for Mark and his team owner Maurice Fabietti – they had done some serious engine damage earlier and had to pull out.

So that put Ben up into fourth spot against Paul Cannuli. Paul took the win after getting Benny on the lights, but still, that was Ben’s best ET on the

day, a 5.92. We were pretty happy with how the car ran. We’re really working on some stuff now with the converter and the transmission. So are a lot of the other guys. To me, the converter is the way of the future, but then again you only have to look at Zappia, who is still dominating using a clutch.

There’s been a right-royal controversy in the Doorslammer and Alcohol ranks. Jamie Noonan from Noonan Race Engineering has designed a new motor; it’s a 4.9in bore spacing. Current Hemis are 4.8in bore space and that limits a lot of things: the size of the bore you can have, and the thickness of the sleeves. You could say that’s been a controlling factor in the bracket.

The biggest bore that you can have with a 4.8in spacing is 4.467in, and you have a pretty thin sleeve with that. But Jamie has come up with this fantastic new engine with a 4.9in bore spacing, so you can actually go out to a 4.6in bore, with a thick sleeve. That gives you a huge advantage because you can have bigger heads, bigger valves, a flatter chamber to make getting compression easier, and better valve angle. He also added a better rear thrust bearing and rearranged the lifters for improved valvetrain geometry.

A lot of the stuff we use these days you can trace back to the street Hemi. Jamie’s taken all the things we have problems with and fixed them!

The whole lot! This is a massive leap forward and it’s conceivable that we could see horsepower improvements in the hundreds.

But there’s a problem. If that engine were to come in and be as successful as it probably would be, everything we run nowadays will be obsolete. Millions and millions of dollars’ worth of engines will be outmoded. Jamie’s built a much better mousetrap – good old Aussie innovation.

So what’s happened is the Doorslammer and Alcohol guys had a vote on whether we allow it into the bracket or not, and decided not to allow it to happen. Not because it’s a bad motor; it’s a fantastic motor – and that’s the problem. It may destroy the bracket.

What happens now is the final outcome of the racers’ vote goes to the sanctioning bodies as a recommendation, and they’ll make the final decision. Stay tuned; this could change the face of Doorslammer either way. s