in the world of drag racing
The latest update as of November 7, 1998
This update was meant to be posted yesterday, but the strain of working 53 consecutive graveyard shifts is starting to take its toll -- yeah Bob, the strain of hauling all that dough to the bank, some cynics might say. However, anyone working in Canada for an employer knows all too well how many of those "big bucks" are flushed down the government toilet before we even see our "share" of it. Then convert those Canadian "pesos" into American dollars to buy parts for the race car . . . I could literally work 24 days a hour, 365 days a year for the relatively large hourly wage that my job commands and still not have enough to properly fund my Top Alcohol Dragster.
In case it hasn't been mentioned before, or you're not aware of the financial status of the NORTHERN THUNDER racing team, let me explain. All the money, every penny of it, comes directly out of my wallet and from the various financial insitutions brave (aka: insane) enough to lend me more money to feed my "habit". There are no sponsors, no partners, no fairy godmothers, no alternate sources of income, no rich relatives -- some of them have some real money, but they're not interested in seeing it evaporate in a cloud of tire smoke.
Before I go any further, I would like to mention two companies that have been a great help to us this year. High Performance Engines, a very well-respected engine machine shop in Burnaby, BC has kindly donated their time and equipment in the preparation of our new B-1 cylinder heads. Their state-of-the-art Serti machine has ensured the best seats and guides possible for the titanium valves. Many thanks to the whole gang at "Hi-Po": Bud, Dave, and T-Bo for all the help. We really appreciate it. By the way, when can we bring the block (TFX-96) in to do the B-1 head stud holes ??
Back to the heads for a moment. While the B-1 heads have some fairly stout flow numbers right out of the box, crewchief and engine builder Tom Mohan has spent many, many -- thank god I'm not paying him a "real" salary for all the work -- hours porting and massaging the heads. Before we leave for Australia in February, we plan to put them on a flow bench and see just how far we've come in their development. However, flow benches and engine dynos only tell half the story, as the only dyno that really matters is the asphalt one. In the final analysis, on-track performance will tell us just how well we've done in narrowing the gap to the well-developed hemi heads.
In fact, the preparation of the heads is one of the key areas in our entire engine combination. While we have the same basic short block, blower and fuel system as Rick Santos, Jay Payne, or any of the other top running cars, we've gone waaayyy out in left field with our choice of cylinder heads. While they have been run by a few competitive cars in the past, most notably George Johnson of Olympia, WA (who ran 5.82 with B-1 heads - five years ago), there is currently only one competitive alcohol team using them.
The "low-budget" Edgecombe & Kaiser crew from Northern California have run as quick as 5.79 at 241 earlier this year. Not great compared to the 5.40's of Rick Santos, but if you saw some of their equipment you'd be very impressed with what they've achieved. If our heads don't flow comparably to the Brad Anderson fatheads, then we're going to be watching people run away from us on a regular basis. That's on the track, by the way. Come to think of it though, some people make a habit of running the other way when they see us coming, no matter where we are.
Our second "benefactor" has been MOPAC Auto Supply of Surrey and Vancouver, BC. I've known the founder of the company since 1974 and the current owners, John and Rick Duda since they were in high school. Over the years they've given me good deals on quite a few dollars worth of parts, but the past year has seen me at least double the amount spent there.
For the latest "blitz" of parts orders: MSD 44-amp mag, Crower crank and lifters, etc., they've gone beyond the normal pricing structure to help us finish the car before the next ice age begins. Every time I think we're almost there -- just a few "nickel" and "dime" pieces left to buy . . . suddenly it's another 5 or 10 thousand dollars worth of those nickels and dimes. Again, without the help of all the good people at MOPAC, we wouldn't be as close as we are now.
Special thanks to Jay Syvertsen of the Vancouver store, for having the persistence of a pit-bull in dealing with delays and backorders. A promised six-month waiting period for the Crower crank became less than 6 weeks with Jay's help -- don't know how we does it, but just keep on doing it Jay. By the way, how long do you think it'll take to get that titanium clutch we want, Jay ?? And how much did you say it was?? I could have sworn I heard you say something like "more than you can afford". Heck, everything on the car is more than I can afford, so what difference does that make??
If you read this in time, remember to tune in to TNN on Sunday, November 8 at 9 am. (PST) for a special one-hour edition of NHRA Today, featuring the (rain-delayed) final rounds of the MATCO Tools Supernationals. You won't want to miss the awesome national record-setting performance of Gary Scelzi in Alan Johnson's Team WINSTON Top Fuel Dragster. For fans of the "plastic coffins" there's the record-setting runs of Cruz Pedregon to entertain you.
No word on whether the Top Alcohol finals will be shown - of course it was two nitro burners in the Top Alcohol Dragster (oh yeah, I keep wanting to forget Federal-Mogul) finals. At the least the F-M funnies were running on methanol, and (almost) local hero Pat Austin of Tacoma, Washington took the win with a string of low 5.70 at over 250 performances. The best series of runs yet out of his still-new wedge combination.
Switching continents now, the 1998-99 ANDRA Championship Drag Racing season moved into full swing with the Springnationals at Adelaide International Raceway last night. (It's Sunday down there already). The featured bracket, Top Fuel, had only five "confirmed" entries at last report and we're anxiously waiting for a report on the results. While it will be difficult (and unfair) to make judgements on the success of the coming season downunder based on only one event, the signs - at least for the Group One (Pro) categories are not looking too encouraging.
The decision by last year's #2 Top Fuel racer, Graeme Cowin, to sell his Aussie operation and set up shop in Los Angeles for 1999 was an ominous announcement. Then came word of Peter Russo (Funny Car) and Joe Polito (Pro Stock) planning similar overseas ventures. Add in the loss of two Top Alcohol cars in crashes at the Winternationals and you have a serious thinning of the pro ranks in the works.
With no major sponsors for the championship series in place, or even on the horizon, the continuing uncertainty surrounding the operation of Bob Jane's Adelaide and Melbourne tracks, the travesty of Eastern Creek (Sydney) and major questions about the viability of ANDRA . . . and you've got the makings of a crisis. Last season saw the virtual end of nitro funny car racing in Australia - at least for the foreseeable future - with the only remaining active cars located on the west coast and only running at Perth's Ravenswood Raceway. With the Top Fuel cars being the only nitro bracket left, are they capable of filling the void left by the extinction of the funnys?
Unless more money is made available to the racers, through purse increases and end-of-season bonuses, and more sponsorship opportunities are created, the answer will remain in doubt. Presently, with the country's largest city, Sydney, not hosting championship drag racing at its Eastern Creek Raceway, the opportunities to raise the sport's profile on a national basis are rather limited. Up north, near Brisbane, Willowbank Raceway continues to move forward in a healthy fashion, but nowhere else in the country does this vigor exist.
There's no easy answers or solutions here and times may get worse before they get better . . . but they will get better. The up and down cycles of Aussie drag racing have always existed and the current down cycle will sooner or later reverse itself. Let's just hope it's sooner. Much sooner. For more details on the challenges currently facing the sport downunder, check out some of the recent articles in our Press Clippings index.COMING " . . .TRACTIONS "
The jury's still out on whether these will "hook up and fly" . . . or just go "up in smoke" like so many other well-intentioned (but ill-fated) projects of mine.
A guided tour of all the drag strips downunder, with pictures, directions, contact names and information, schedules and my personal comments about each facility. The front page for this section will be an "image" map of Australia and will be quite a challenge for my limited web-page building skills.
Our "favourite" ROAD TRIPS FROM HELL, describing some of our more "interesting" expeditions to the track - and back. You'll ride along as we drive through mountain canyons at night with no headlights, lose the trailer brakes while approaching a long line of stopped traffic, lose the alternator during a dark and rainy rush-hour in Seattle and other fabulous follies. Believe me, getting there is not always half the fun . . .
Your chance to sound off and let us know what you think about this website, our racing team, the way we look, the world of drag racing . . . almost anything goes. The only restrictions are: NO major profanity, NO nudity, NO computer viruses. Plus, we reserve the right to edit and reply to all submissions. Like the image map for the dragstrip directory, the "form" will take a little time to construct, so be patient. The plan is to update the BACKFIRE page on a daily basis. So stay tuned, it should be interesting. And wait until you see the logo !
What can you say about this one, except YES and NOW. With the runaway success of our Aussie Drag Babes pages, we felt it only fair to give all the girls on this continent a chance to display/expose/show off themselves to everyone. Not too many to start with, so stay tuned as the section grows. Submissions are invited. So send 'em in.
Our personal favourite links on one page. See where we go on a regular basis for information and entertainment. All drag racing of course, with descriptions of the individual sites and the reasons why we go there so often. If your site isn't on the list, I'm sorry, but to keep the page manageable I had to set the limit at ten. Don't worry too much though, there will be a bunch of honourable mentions added. Again, it's going to be some work to put together, with logos and everything, so stay tuned.
Oooohhhh . . . touchy subject or what??? Some might suggest that it would be much wiser to not even bring it up . . . but when have I ever shown the wisdom of age??? Age YES, wisdom NO. This will not be a witch-hunt and the only names mentioned will be those on public record. Since NHRA has published the names and details of the guilty, what harm can come from a short article about the subject of drugs in drag racing?? Other than a firestorm of controversy that even my SFI-15 firesuit couldn't handle, you mean?? Stay tuned, this one will be worth reading, at least until my service provider pulls the plug.
In addition to all the new sections mentioned above, the next few weeks will see many of the "under construction" areas of the site finished. This week alone, I've managed to update the Marketing Article Index and add a dozen new articles. Next week, the Top Ten Lists page will see at least ten new entries. Then it's on to the OZ Top Ten Top Fuel, Alcohol, Doorslammer pages to complete the reviews on each racer. Plus, while all this is going on, more updates to this "What's New" page, more details about Willowbank Raceway's plans for the coming season and whatever else crosses our path.
Finally, even though its still nearly five months away, we're already working on the Bob's BIG Adventures in OZ page. From the day we land in Brisbane on April 5th until we return to Vancouver in mid-June, daily (or almost daily) updates of our progress downunder - with pictures - will be posted. Follow us as we finish the race car at Ken Lowe's shop on the Gold Coast, test at Willowbank Raceway and compete at the 1999 Konica Winternationals. It will definitely be a challenge to make it all happen as planned, but when have we ever shied away from a challenge? Again, stay tuned for all the news from downunder next year.