in the world of drag racing
The latest update as of June 12, 1999
5:00 am: Yeah, yeah, I know it's time to get up, you stupid alarm clock. With three of us sharing the townhouse, and a rather small water heater, it's always a race to get the hot water in the morning. As usual, I've got the best reaction time and set a new low et for the shower.
A wise old saying about drag racing that I'll never forget goes something like this: "If you're early, you're on time; If you're on time, you're late; If you're late, you haven't got a hope". (Referring to arriving at the track). There just isn't enough time in the day to get everything done, but being late or slow will absolutely guarantee that things won't get done.
Since I was so quick out of bed today, I've got time for two cups of breakfast and am fully charged by the time Dave and Tom are ready to leave. Today we're all going up in the Hertz "rent-a-rocket", letting Ken and Tracey have their car to themselves. We all arrive, are in the gates, parked and ready to get to work before 9:00 am; just enough time we figure, as today the race meeting swings into high gear.
Until the second or third pair of cars go down the track that is... this time it's a two-car collision and another hour lost for the clean-up. Unlike last year's event, which saw numerous Group One crashes, this year's event seems to be having more than it share of sportsman incidents. Both crashes and oildowns.
With things well in hand for the Modified car, we can start roaming the pits again, this time a little quicker, as the Alcohol cars have a 1:00 pm qualifying session scheduled. I'm certain that everyone will be in the lanes for this one, as it will be their only chance to run in daylight all weekend. Sure enough, the lanes are full and even though the session starts nearly an hour late, no one has pulled out of line.
First out of the gate is the five-time defending National Top Alcohol champion, Gary Phillips, and he promptly steps to the head of the field with a quick and clean 5.85. Interestingly, the only other car in the fives today is Mark Brew again, with a consistent 5.95. Everyone else is in the sixes or worse and the bubble stands at 7.60, with two more qualifying sessions this evening. 7.60? Yeah, I feel sick to my stomach seeing that, knowing that our old 392 Chrysler could have been in the field at this point.
As the sun starts to sink in the western sky and the daylight begins to fade, I'm still hanging out in the pits and trying to keep a fairly low profile. At this point, I'm more than tired of repeating my "sad tale of woe" about why Northern Thunder isn't here. Suddenly I'm accosted by the Drag Racing '99 camera crew and asked to do a short interview for the Winternationals TV program. Oh no, not again. This will be the third time I've polluted the airwaves downunder before I've even run the dragster.
Chris Diggles, the interviewer, gives me all of ten seconds warning of what the question will be and tells me to "just ad-lib". On the count of five..... The first take seemed to go well, but the crew asks for a second one, just to be sure. The second take goes fairly well (not as well as the first, in my estimation) and my latest "fifteen seconds of fame" is on tape. In contrast to my previous efforts though, this one should come across well on TV. Of course, you'll just have to tune in on July 11th at Noon (in Queensland) to see for yourself.
6:00 pm: The EA&S "Qualifying Night of Thunder" swings into action, with four hours of non-stop action from the Group One and Top Comp cars on the menu. The conditions aren't much better than Friday though, with the temperature dropping from the warm low 20's of the day to the low teens within an hour of sunset. However, the cars are still able to find some grip tonight and the fuel cars are able to lower the number #1 et from last night's 9.61 to a more respectable 5.32.
In Top Alcohol, the only car that stepped up and ran in the fives tonight is, once again, Mark Brew with an even better 5.91. Phillips, meanwhile, slipped back to a 6.01 and the bubble stayed at 7.60.
10:00 pm: The "Night of Thunder" still isn't over, but it's too cold to sit in the steel grandstands any longer, so we're standing at the head of the staging lanes. Out come the Top Doorslammers for their last qualifying session, and the first pair up is a classic match-up: Victor Bray in the Castrol '57 Chev versus Peter Gratz in his Valvoline '70 Dodge Daytona. Half-track burnouts, then back to the line, staged and gone.... in Victor's case to another tire-shaking high six-second run... but Gratz's Daytona, after a soft launch, sped to a new (but unofficial) WORLD RECORD 229.24 mph speed. His ET was "only" 6.42, but the speed eclipsed the best efforts of every doored car in history; Bray, Cannon, etc.
The Top Alcohol cars, for the most part, stayed in the pits, but five of them ventured out onto the now very cold track surface. The only one who improved was Frank Intini, who managed to move the bubble down from 7.60 to a new personal best for him, 6.91. (Okay, that's out of reach for my old hemi, but should be only a half-pass for the new combination... if we had it here).
The Top Fuel cars, in comparison, had somewhat better success in dealing with the conditions, but a best ET of the session, 5.32, wasn't overly impressive and the bubble remained on Rachelle Splatt's earlier 10.60. Still, we did start the weekend with nine T/F cars in the pits and with one car out (Atholwood & Smith) with irreprable damage from a major hydraulic on Friday night, the remaining eight cars were under little pressure to produce big numbers in qualifying.
It's nearly midnight now and the cars are still making qualifying passes as the temperature drops below 10 degrees. Even for a Canadian, it's getting downright cold. With no heat to look forward to back at our townhouse in Gaven Heights, it's going to be a quick goodnight when we get home, shortly after 1:00 am. At least we get to sleep in a bit tomorrow, as I only have to set the alarm for 6:00 am.