The latest update as of January 7, 2002
Surprise! Back with a few more bits of cheap entertainment. I'm pretty sure
we haven't posted any of the following pics from the ANDRA Winternationals
yet, but if we have... too bad, you'll just have to look at them again. For
a change, we've even got time to put some captions (read:stories) under them
too. My apologies if we've already posted these stories in previous updates,
but looking at the pics tonight brought back a flood of memories; some good,
some bad, some downright embarassing. Share the pain and check them out.
This shot (from Friday night's first qualifying session) could be sub-titled
"Lost in Space". If the camera lens had been a wide-angle, you could see that
I was several feet across the starting line, revved up and ready to go... but
not in motion. Huh? A combination of several factors: a tightened airgap in
the clutch (that the crew wanted to surprise me with!), a totally fogged-up
visor (cool temp, high humidity, a heart rate approaching 250...) and my
first run at night in nearly 15 years, led to me over-staging.
Patiently waiting in the other lane was Wayne Newby, who was caught off
guard nearly as much as me. Assuming that I'd be red-lighted as soon as the
tree was activated, I just sat and waited for the inevitable. And waited. And
waited some more. Seriously, it felt like I was hung out there for thirty
seconds, until finally, the tree flashed and Newby left.
Not quite sure whether I should stay or go, bearing in mind the almost
complete lack of vision, my worse judgement got the better of me (how's that
for a completely mixed-up metaphor?), I nailed it and hung on. Now, if you've
been following the Northern Thunder saga through the year(s), you'll know that
we hadn't gone past half track... okay, 500 feet... all right, 400 feet, under
power with the new car.
Now for the god's honest truth (and I really shouldn't be admitting this
to anyone, let alone the world wide web): all I saw was the lights flash on
the christmas tree and the shift light come on twice. That's it. I simply
could not see the track at all until I shut off somewhere around the 1000 foot
mark. The run felt pretty good, but I felt bad for Newby and wasn't looking
forward to his reaction later in the pits.
When the crew came down to retrieve me, they were pumped up and excited.
The reason was beyond me for a few moments until one of them mentioned he'd
heard "180 mph at half track" over the p.a. A buck-eighty and I was still on
it and driving blind? Oh man; now my knees were shaking. Hey, how'd we get a
time when I'd overstaged?
At the scrutineering shed we were waved onto the scales and told our run
was valid (who am I to argue?) and issued a timeslip. The e.t. was pathetic,
a 7.34, and the finish line speed was only 174 mph, but it did put us seventh
in the field after the first session. A closer look at the timeslip really
got the mental wheels turning when I noticed a very slow 60 foot time of
nearly two seconds. (Remember, the 60 foot clock was already started before
I left the starting line). Knocking that time down to one second (and we should
be quicker than that), yields a true e.t. of 6.40 something... shutting off
very early. Now my knees were really knocking!
The best news of all at the shed came from Wayne Newby, who wasn't upset
and said "not to worry; stuff happens; you'll be right mate" and assured me
that he wouldn't mind lining up against me again. Little did he know....
Fast forward to the next qualifying session, on Saturday afternoon, and
I'm in the other lane, doing my best burnout yet in NT3. Guess who's
on the other side? Yep, Mr. Newby, surely wondering whether lightning was
going to strike twice. With the temperature up and humidity down, the visor
was clear and I was ready to go for a good pass. Since we were the second pair
out of the staging lanes, I was still in the field, but there were three
non-qualified cars coming up behind me. And with the final two sessions
scheduled for the evening, this was my best chance to lay down a number.
Burnout executed properly, I backed up carefully, following the signals
of Mike "Kiwi" Hyde, one of the new crewmen that came on board just in time
for the Winternationals. Then it was show time. Note: we'd loosened up the
airgap in the clutch, the visor stayed clear and I managed to hold the revs
right at the planned 5200. No, my light wasn't "stellar" but at least it
wasn't another triple zero...
The launch felt fantastic (to me) and was reflected by the .963 time we
got at the 60 foot mark. Then the trouble started. It had been a long time
since I'd experienced any serious tire shake and wasn't really aware of it
until I realized that the black groove was starting to grow a double white
stripe... Say what? Off the throttle just in time for the vision to clear
up enough to see that I was nearly on the centerline.
At this point the run looked like a lost cause, but in another serious
lapse of judgement, I nailed it again, over-revved the engine (still in low
gear... ooops!), shifted, steered it back into the groove, hit high gear...
then.... ELVIS! what the heck are you doing here?
Time for another ill-advised admission: from half track until the finish
line, I really don't remember anything of the run. I DO remember the finish
line stripes coming at me REALLY FAST, then the chutes hit, then I was taking
the last turnoff. Whew! But what did I run? Six seconds? Seven seconds? No
way to tell.
The first indication that it was something decent came when the crew showed
up hooting and hollering and sporting very large smiles. Ken Lowe broke the
ice with the question "What do you think it ran?" Not sure just how leading
a question this was, I was momentarily at a loss for words (Wilson lost for
words? Has the Pope converted to Judaism?) and stammered out something like
"6.70?... 6.50?". Not a chance mate: 6.34!!!
"What was the speed?" came out of me in response. "210 mph". Hmm, sounds
like I shut off early... again. But 6.34... faaaarrr out! One second quicker
and nearly 25 mph faster than I'd ever gone in my life before. And that's
got to be good enough to keep us in the field. This is really starting to be
a lot of fun. Let's get it over the scales, collect the timeslip and see
what shape the car's in.
From this point on, the weekend started on a steady downhill course. The
weight came up right; but just barely. Five pounds over. Hmm, looks like we'll
have to throw another bag of lead shot under the seat (to join the other 65
pounds of ballast we're carrying). Then came the post-mortem in the pits.
Dropped valve, torn up guide, damaged piston and liner. With our spare heads
not finished and ready to run we've got some serious work to do to fix this
damaged one. The other parts aren't a problem, but we're not going to be able
to make another qualifying pass and have to hope our 6.34 keeps us in the
After we broke (again) on the burnout in the first round of eliminations
on Sunday evening, we managed to talk the announcers into allowing us to fill
up the dead air on the p.a. during the oildowns. Asking the questions (read:
carrying me) was the track announcer from the new Kwinana Motorplex in Perth,
longtime West Aussie drag racing identity Stuart Bond. Thankfully they don't
allow the spectators to bring rotten fruit or vegetables to the races
And that's truly a wrap for tonight. By the way, if you're finding this
page and the homepage are loading really s-l-o-w-l-y.... then please let us
the button displays. Just remembered: it doesn't work with Internet Explorer
6.0, but then again, not much else on this site is really designed for that
Until tomorrow, Happy New Year everyone and best wishes for a happy, safe
and successful year in all respects.