THEREíS a bit of a joke that goes íround amongst the guys, and it sounds a little like a Confucius saying: ĎEvery now and then, even a blind squirrel finds an acorn.í
This can probably apply to our experience at the ANDRA Grand Final meeting at Adelaide International Raceway on the weekend of 31 MarchĖ1 April. We made the final and finished second to John Zappia, who collected his 10th title. Any time we can be within yelling distance of him, itís a good weekend.
It was great to come back to Adelaide. The fans were sensational like they were at Calder Park earlier this year; I had hundreds of fans coming to the trailer for a chat and to say thanks for coming back to Adelaide to race. Iím not sure how long it had been Ė one fan said it was five years, and itís certainly been at least four, and thatís too long between visits. The main reason for such a long absence was that after Benny had his accident we had a couple of years off. 138 The crowd was incredible on both days, even Friday qualifying, which is a work day for lots of drag racing fans. Then on the Saturday they packed the place out Ė fantastic! I reckon every single one came around to the pit area; the place was really jumping. Even after all these years itís still a real buzz to hang out with the fans.
Adelaide has always been a bit of a favourite for Team Bray. In many ways South Australia is a drag racing mecca. Pro Stock has been massive in Adelaide and over the years there have been a lot of memorable meetings at AIR.
Drag racing is alive and well in both Adelaide and Melbourne, and at the end of the day the sport needs to get its act together and present a single front. At least the two bodies are talking together, which they were not in the past couple of years, but the sport needs to be unified so teams can go ahead and attract sponsors. The Doorslammer guys would prefer one championship, as would all the Group One categories. Will it happen? Not sure. I
think it will depend on the bigger tracks like Willowbank, Sydney and Perth; theyíre the ones that have international-standard facilities.
Darwin is a great facility and even Adelaide and Calder Park donít really need a lot of money spent on them to get up to standard. I just hope that someone in their wisdom can get the parties together and work it out.
I canít talk about the Adelaide meeting without mentioning the show that Santo Rapisarda and his pair of Top Fuel cars put on. Heís gottta be the godfather, or as I heard someone refer to him, Saint Santo of Top Fuel. After all these years he is so passionate about drag racing and has given so much in his life for the sport, and we all know what Iím talking about. Both his cars ran faultlessly. No early shut-offs, just good hard racing, and the header flames from the cars at night really had the fans on their feet.
His two sons, Santino and Santo Jr, are getting so good at tuning the cars, they are world-class and from memory theyíre still only about 23 years old; they can only get better and better.
Straight after Adelaide we were on the road to the Australian Automotive Aftermarket Expo in Melbourne Ė Australiaís version of SEMA or the PRI show. This year the show was fantastic, as it usually is. Every manufacturer was there and the big companies sent down their CEOs and marketing people to talk about and display their products. We had Benís car on the Century Batteries stand and my Chev in the foyer for Gulf Western. We also wandered over to the Gates Belts stand for their happy hour Ė and believe me, it was a very happy hour!
Weíve got a lot of stuff happening in the next few weeks too, particularly with Gulf Western sponsoring the Nitro champs in Sydney and then in June the Winternationals at Willowbank. We are going to really step up for both those meetings. Weíve got some new gear coming from the States, and Iíve gotta tell you, it takes months to get the stuff here; hopefully we get it in time and it works for what we want to do. We are hoping to make our engines more suitable to work with the converters and are testing a lot of the converter technology in both Bennyís car and my car, as well as working on engine combinations. Do we have the answers? Of course we donít, not yet. Are we going in the right direction? Well, only time will tell.
A lot of guys want to run converters but have trouble with them. We did when we started, and for a couple of years after. We tried converters about 10 years ago, ran them for a while, then came back to a clutch. However, times change and we decided about three or four years ago to give the converter another go. We sold all our clutches and have run converters ever since. Full stop.
A quick update on the new car. Murray Anderson is very busy at the moment; heís going to build the basic chassis. We are designing the body at the workshop, and when thatís done we will apply to ANDRA for certification. When the chassis is finished weíll transport it to our workshop and put the car together. Stay tuned! s