in the world of drag racing
The latest update as of December 16, 1999
Canadian Jim Grant At Calder
First the good news . . . and then the bad news. The good news is an update to our story of earlier in the week about Jim Grant's debut at last weekend's Victorian Championships at Melbourne's Calder Park Raceway. Courtesy of Grant Stephens' Cackling Pipes website, I've been able to gather some additional information on Jim's Aussie debut. Here it is:
Jim Grant completed his first pass in his never raced before, anywhere, Dodge Dart on Friday evening with an out of the shipping container 8.49. Although the crew and most spectators felt this to be quite respectable, Jim was far from happy. After the pass back in the pit it was found that the car dropped number 8 cylinder just off the line and never recovered for the entire pass.
Many hours on Friday night were spent trying to rectify this, plus a few other gremlins that reared their heads during the pass needed attention. During this time the Aussies showed Jim and his crew how hospitable we are here in Australia, with Peter Kapiris' crew and family supplying Pizza and drinks to keep the boys going. The moral support from the other racers and spectators was also overwhelming and the team was quite taken back on how well they were being accepted.
Saturday saw the car make its second pass in qualifying, and although the team felt they had a better handle on things, it once again dropped number 8 for the whole pass, running another 8.4 time. The third qualifier was canceled due to rain and although only two passes old and a second off it's expected times, Jim qualified 12th in the field.
Jim's first pass in competition racing saw him have another one of those small gremlin attacks (that will go away with a bit more of track time) on the startline resulting in the 20 second rule being applied. Although facing a cherry, Jim still launched and completed a full pass, yes, on all 8 for most of the track. Even though no time was recorded those that should know agreed that it was a definite high seven pass, and with a bit more Bourbon the crew had it down to the low 7's before the night was out.
In all, I think a happy race team left Calder, maybe not with the time card they wanted but with more friends and allies than they expected. See Jim next at the SummerNats (Canberra), then again at Willowbank on January 15th.
All in all, it sounds like "Jim's Excellent Adventure" is off to a reasonably good start. We'll continue to bring you all the news about his downunder doin's as we receive them. And best of luck to you Jim and your hard working crew.
Now for the bad news... and in this case it couldn't be much worse for the very dedicated proponents of the Western Sydney Motorplex. Earlier this week, the New South Wales state government announced their rejection of the proposal for a new, stand-alone drag strip in the Western Suburbs of Sydney. Nearly two years of hard work by prinicpals Jim Read (Top Fuel racer), David Cook (DRAGSTER Australia publisher) and their legions of supporters has apparently been all for nought.
Initial reports of the rejection indicated that the government was worried about the possibility of lawsuits being generated by the approval of the proposal. Presumably the leaseholders of Eastern Creek Raceway, the Australian Racing Drivers Club, would sue the government for loss of income from their very profitable street meets. Currently, they are grossing in the neighbourhood of $40,000 per month, with minimal expenditures for these bi-weekly events. Since the state government owns Eastern Creek, and leases it to the ARDC, supporting another competing enterprise would be in violation of the terms of the lease.
Since the new motorplex was to be located directly across the road from Eastern Creek Raceway, even approving its construction, without any financial input from the government, would be grounds for litigation. So, after all that work, by so many people, where do the drag racers of New South Wales in particular, and the entire country in general, turn? What options -- viable options -- are available?
The state government has announced the initiation of another study to look into the possibility of constructing a drag strip within the Eastern Creek property, to run parallel to the existing main straight of the circuit track. The main straight was the dragstrip previously, until the ARDC decided that the use of traction compound and the rubber buildup on the track was not compatible with their circuit racing activities, especially in wet weather. And the ARDC is primarily a circuit racing club, with their only interest in drag racing seeming to be the extraction of maximum returns for minimum outlay.
A previous study, undertaken on behalf of ANDRA last year, concluded that the construction of a parallel track to currently acceptable international standards was not possible without the expenditure of massive amounts of money. It would require the removal and relocation of the main spectator mound to allow the project to proceed. With total government expenditures on Eastern Creek totalling in excess of $200 million to date, spending another $10 million to accomplish this would surely be a tough sell to the taxpayers.
So where does this leave the sport of drag racing in New South Wales? Still in limbo basically, just as it has been since the last "real" drag racing event at Eastern Creek, the Premier State Nationals, in October 1997. When I attended that race, little did I know at the time that it would be the last championship drag race meeting in Sydney in this century. And as for the next century, who knows?
I've e-mailed David Cook for further information on where the motorplex proposal stands, and as soon as I receive his answer, or gather any more info on the subject, will post it here. In the meantime, let's hope and pray that something good will finally come out of this very depressing situation.