in the world of drag racing
The latest update as of June 11, 1999
5:00 am: Bloody 'ell? What's that noise? Oh my gawd... it's time to get up already? How come it's not raining so we can roll over and go back to sleep? Okay, enough procrastinating, time to throw off the covers, fall into the shower and regain some semblance of consciousness. Wowww! Is that floor cold or what? For the first time since we arrived, over a month ago, I'd really enjoy having some heat in the house this morning. Shower, shave, a hot cup of breakfast and we're on the road to Ken's before the sun even gives a hint of breaking over the horizon.
7:00 am: The sun's barely up, the chill is still in the air, but we're in the pits already and preparing to unload the car and get ready for the first qualifying session later this morning. With Ken's Modified Eliminator dragster the routine is nowhere near as detailed as with an alcohol car, so pre-race preparation proceeds quickly, leaving us time to relax before heading to the staging lanes.
First visitor of the day is everybody's favourite, Melissa, from Lifestyle Australia, with my order of crew shirts. At least I'll have a clean shirt each day this weekend (three for me, three for Tom and six spares) and anytime "Mel" comes around is always more than welcome. (Stay tuned for a pic of her soon).
Next up is Bill Pratt, the webmaster of the The Drag Racing List. After much e-mail correspondence between us over the last year, we finally get to meet in person, in Australia. He's come all the way from Washington, DC to attend the Winternats, courtesy of Victor Bray and is already in love with this country. We spend an all-too-brief hour discussing drag racing, the internet, the weather, Australia, etc. until he has to move on and meet the other racers.
Then we're off to the staging lanes for the first Modified qualifying session, along with the other 52 entries in that eliminator. Progress through the lanes is slowed by several oil-downs (of the 19 recorded on this first day of the meet) and one major crash in the braking area. (No injuries, but one less race car...). Nathan Peirano is driving the car this weekend and as we move towards the line, prepares himself and gets strapped in, ready to race. Finally we're on the line, and shortly thereafter, going down the return road to pick him up after an 8.88/150 effort. With a few changes made since the last time the car ran, the result wasn't unexpected and gives us a baseline to work from.
With the second session scheduled three hours later, and not much to do in the meantime, we're free to roam the pits and visit with our soon-to-be competitors in Top Alcohol. First though, I've got to get another "lucky" Sainty Speed Works hat, to replace the one I left at the Vancouver airport last month. (If I was superstitious, I could probably blame all our bad luck and dramas on that single incident...).
With the first (and only) qualifying session for the Group One cars (Top Fuel, Top Alcohol, Top Doorslammer, etc.) scheduled for 6:00 pm, most of the racers are relaxed and willing to chat for a while before they get down to business later in the afternoon. As usual, lots of gossip is exchanged, a few "secrets" are gleaned and more new friends are made. (If Aussies aren't the friendliest people on the planet, they must be a very close second).
6:00 pm: The sun departed an hour ago, the cars are in the lanes, but, due to more oil-downs and a few more crashes, the schedule is running behind. And it's starting to get cold. Already, the thermometer is down to 15 degrees and still dropping. The track looks well prepared, but if the fast cars don't start running soon, the rapidly cooling bitumen (asphalt) won't have very much traction. Already there are racers grumbling about the conditions and threatening to head back to the pits without running. First pair of cars comes up, runs, oils the track... and we're waiting again.
9:00 pm: The fuel and alcohol cars have finally finished their session, and as expected, nearly half the field went back to the pits without turning a tire. The ones who stayed and braved the conditions went mostly without reward, except for one. Mark Brew (Ken Lowe's partner and driver), hung on to a rather out-of-shape run and nailed down low ET of the day (by a mile) with a 5.95 at only 223 mph. That was only the quickest run ever for the nearly two-year old car, and Mark's quickest pass in nearly three years. Although he may get bumped down the chart tomorrow, for today he is #1 on the Top Alcohol qualifying list. Good on ya', mate!
10:30 pm: At this point it's getting downright bloody cold (9 degrees) and there's yet another oildown. A nitro bike this time. As it's probably going to be midnight before qualifying finishes for the day and we've got to be up at 5:00 again tomorrow, we call it a night and head for the highway. We've still got an hour's drive home and that alarm won't take no for an answer in the morning. PS: Nathan's second run in the Modified car today produced an 8.87, so we've got an excellent baseline to work from tomorrow. Good night all.