in the world of drag racing
The latest update as of November 30, 1999
From the "little did they know... or expect department." Nine years ago, the relatively (at the time) unheralded Alcohol Funny Car team of Bateman & Reynolds, from Calgary, Alberta, shipped their race car down to Australia for two events at Perth's Ravenswood Raceway. Small aside: From the "small world" department: I was indirectly involved with their trip, as the container with their car and spare parts was shipped through the dock where I work. It was quite a surprise to be handed a container load plan that read simply "funny car and spare parts." Then it became my responsibility to safeguard the shipment until the ship arrived later in the week.
Amazingly, everything arrived in Australia intact and the short tour was a success, with Roger Bateman breaking all the Ravenswood track records, and igniting a blown alcohol drag racing boom in Western Australia. The knowledge that the Canadian racers imparted dramatically improved the performance levels of the local racers and led, indirectly, to the first five-second pass by an alcohol car in Australia. (That occurred three years later, at the 1993 Winternationals - in Brisbane - when the Gower-Dobson-Howson team turned the trick in their alky flopper).
Since that time, the only Canuck contributions to downunder drag racing have been fuel system software, expertise and parts provided by Calgary's Les Davenport, and the knowledge gained by Brisbane's Jeff Burnett while part of Victoria, BC's, Stan Sipos' Top Alcohol Funny Car team. Now, though, there are two Canadian race cars in Australia and four Top Fuel Harley drag bikes heading there early in the new year.
First to make the "plunge" was myself, when the Northern Thunder Top Alcohol Dragster arrived in Brisbane in June of this year. While the car sits almost ready to run at Ken Lowe's shop on the Gold Coast, its competition debut has been delayed, through a series of misadventures, until next year. And believe me, that just can't come soon enough. It seems like forever since I've gone down the track with a blown alcohol engine screaming in my ear, and with all the state of the art gear onboard, the new car should be a real player. It's going to be a long winter here in Canada, working, saving and waiting, while the car sits down in sunny, warm, Queensland.
Moving past my dramas, we turn our attention to another Canadian race car that arrived in Melbourne last week, and should be on the track within the next ten days, at Melbourne's Calder Park Raceway. Langley, BC's Jim Grant, with his '69 Dart KB-powered Doorslammer has made major plans to tour all over Australia over the next six months. From Willowbank to Perth (east coast to west coast) and all the major tracks between, Jim has scheduled a total of 14 appearances during the 1999-2000 Aussie drag racing season.
He's already winning the promotional battle, with a major story appearing in the most recent edition of DRAGSTER Australia. Check out the Canadian Connection article in our Press Clippings index. Jim's done a good marketing job too, with Australian sponsorship from Best Western Inns; a smart move for a touring racer, wouldn't you say? In addition, he's running a series of contests, awarding tickets, airfare and accomodation to the Nationals and Winternationals, PLUS four rides (as a passenger) in the race car. Helping Jim get around the very large country (trust me, it's a long way from anywhere to anywhere downunder), is Sydney racer Grant Hogwood, who has generously provided his WTF Racing transporter and will assist Jim at all the events.
I'm not sure how often Jim will be able to update his website with news of his downunder adventures, but keep an eye on 1320 Racing for all the news and results. In a small, very small way, I'm jealous of Jim "beating me to the punch" and actually getting his car running downunder before mine, but on the other hand, wish him the very best and hope that his tour is a major success. Even if Jim is unable to update his own website, I'll do my best to bring you any available information about the tour.
Now to the other four Canadian "Invaders" heading downunder. Several months ago, the American Drag Bike Association announced plans for an international series of races in Australia early in 2000. This series will be the first of an annual competition, with the 2001 series in the United States and the 2002 races in Europe. The last time an international drag bike race was held in Australia, in 1991, at Heathcote, the event was ruined by rain and police harassment. This time around, however, the planning has been extensive, the promoters, racers and association are all on the same page and the series should be a major success.
Racers booked from overseas include five from the U.S., four from Europe and four from Canada. They will join the four best (plus two alternates) Australian Harley racers in what should be an absolute "battle royal." Representing "Team Canada" are three riders from British Columbia: Ron Houniet of Haney, Warren Hill of Mission and Greg "Mad Max" MacLean from Langley. Joining them will be Edmonton, Alberta's Ken Kent. Canada's quickest and fastest Harley, Ron Houniet's, has run a best of 6.74 at nearly 206 mph, so Canada will be well represented in the performance department.
While the Northern Thunder website is primarily dragster-oriented, I'm more than willing to mention any Canadian racer who has the drive and desire to race in Australia. I know, only too well, how difficult it is to achieve a goal like that, and as a fellow Canadian, wish them all the best of luck, success and fun. And if anyone is planning a vacation downunder this winter, you should definitely make a point of attending one of the international Harley races, or a Jim Grant appearance. The Harleys will be at Melbourne's Calder Park on January 29; Brisbane's Willowbank Raceway on February 5; and finish up at Adelaide on February 12. Jim Grant's schedule is contained in the "Canadian Connection" article.
Well that's about all the news that I've got time for tonight. Next up, later this week, is a look back at just how things have evolved this year in NHRA's Top Alcohol racing. The biggest question in my mind right now: Is it just a "coincidence" that the injected nitro cars started running a LOT harder after the NHRA announcement that the rules would not be changed for 2000?
NO, I didn't think so either. When a car (David Hirata) can run 5.37 (at 269 mph), and not even be close to low ET of the meet (at the AAA Finals), then there is something sort of rotten, and it isn't the "drag dogs" at the concession stands. By the way, low ET at Pomona in "Top Alcohol" was turned by California's Mark Woods . . . at 5.303. (In an injected car, obviously). Think there's more there? Stay tuned. . .