in the world of drag racing
The latest update as of June 13, 1999
SUNDAY, SUNDAY..... It's race day and we're up and ready to roll out the door shortly after 7:30 today. The sun is shining brightly, not a cloud in the sky and the cold night air is rapidly being displaced by the sunlight. First round of eliminations for Modified eliminator is scheduled for 11:00 am, which means we'll have nearly two hours to get ready before pulling into the staging lanes. (The Group One cars don't start until after sunset -- 5:30 pm). The dragster is up on the start-up stands, warmed, adjusted and ready to go within an hour and then we're able to relax for a while and chat with the continuing stream of visitors.
Every one of the people I've been in regular contact with over the internet for the past few months, who said they'd look us up at the race, comes by to say G'Day. One fellow even travelled all the way down from Mt. Isa (North Queensland) to attend the meeting and drops by to visit. Other folks are from the Brisbane area, but the longest distance visitor (other than Bill Pratt from the USA), turns out to be Steve Piesley from Albury (on the New South Wales - Victoria border).
We'd met one night at Melbourne's Calder Park Raceway nearly two years ago and he recognized me sitting in the grandstand. Sitting next to him was Tony Brooks, father and partner of Cameron Brooks, a Top Doorslammer competitor. Later in the afternoon we spent a couple of hours comparing notes and tune-up info, (seems we have the same fuel system "guru") and he ends up having me start a search for a carbon-fibre injector hat for their new '63 Corvette doorslammer.
"Modified eliminator to the staging lanes". That's our cue. Time to hook up the dragster and start towing up to the line. We barely get into line when the strip falls silent (again, for what seems like the 50th time this weekend). Another crash or oildown; another long wait for the clean-up. Things barely get rolling again when yet another oildown brings the proceedings to a halt once more. It's now well past 11:00 am (time for Modified elim's to start), and they still haven't finished running the first round of Super Sedan. And we're behind at least 30 other Modified cars in the lanes. It's going to be one long day... and night, at the rate things are going.
The tedium of the wait is broken only by the parade of sheilas in very skimpy outfits streaming past. Where's the camera? Smile.... Then the boredom is well and truly broken by the appearance of Mick Withers, editor of Dragster Australia, who thrusts a large hand through the side window and checks my can of Coke for any "foreign substances". "No bundy, mate? Poofter!" (Note: Bundy = Bundaberg Rum; An insanely overproof concoction that tastes worse than nitromethane... and is probably more powerful!)
Before he departs, after several minutes of trading insults and gossip, he leaves an advance copy of next week's issue of the magazine. The Annual Top Alcohol "Planners and Schemers" issue. Rapidly flipping through the pages I come to, at the very end of the list (alphabetical order of course) the write-up on Bob Wilson. The story reads well, all the facts are correct and I've got some more good ink from the magazine. Thanks heaps, mates. And good luck in your new job, Mick. (The Winternats was his last assignment as editor before he leaves the magazine to make a career change).
Noon: Finally we're in motion again, slowly moving towards the head of staging. Amazingly, no more oildowns stop us and within 10 minutes it's time to unhook the tow-strap and fire the car. Pulling off to the side of the return road, I watch Nathan cut an excellent (.413) light and see him pull away from his opponent, until the bad news flashes up on the scoreboard. 8.84 on an 8.88 dial-in. Breakout by .04 seconds. First round loss. Bummer. It's a long drive down to the far end to pick up the car and an even longer drive back to the pits, knowing that "our" race day is over so early. Still, the car ran well, Nathan did his job and we can't be too disappointed with the result. That's just drag racing.
As the afternoon wears on, the pace in the pits picks up as the fast guys prepare for eliminations. The air is thick with nitro and alky fumes as everyone goes through their warm-up routines. The crowd in the pits becomes elbow-to-elbow as everyone tries to get their "nitro fix" and the buzz of excitement surges through the pits. Even though it's nearly two hours until Group One (Pro) eliminations start, the spectator mound on the left side of the track is packed, the grandstands on the pit side are packed and there's still several thousand people milling about the pits. This has got to be the largest spectator count ever at Willowbank. And, like I said, eliminations haven't really started and the spectators are still pouring through the gates.