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in the world of drag racing

Black Bar

The latest update as of December 9, 1999

Nearly another week has just . . . evaporated, flown by and left me mulling over the "year that could have been" -or- "the year that wasn't meant to be". I'll leave it to the cynics and the historians to decide which title is more appropriate. Anyways, as we draw ever nearer to the abyss . . . I mean the end of the year, the news (good, bad and indifferent) just keeps on coming. Here's the latest that I've discovered (stumbled across) this week:

From DownUnder, where the drag racing season is starting to hit top gear, comes good and bad news on the drag strip front. The continuing saga of the proposed new track: Western Sydney Motorplex, took another turn last week, with the New South Wales (state) government announcement that yet another feasability study on the issue was required. The Eastern Creek Raceway promoters (and their friends) have once again obscured the issues and gained another (short, I hope) extension on their tenuous grip on drag racing.

The government has decided that maybe a stand-alone drag strip can be constructed at Eastern Creek, precluding the need for the new motorplex. Despite numerous reports and studies, prepared by engineering firms, the politicians have once again given in to the disinformation campaign being waged by Eastern Creek's promoters, the Australian Racing Drivers Club. (Far from being some benevolent group of enthusiasts, the ARDC is a for-profit group of circuit racing wankers, who feel that drag racing is nothing more than a cash-cow, to be exploited for maximum gain with minimum expenditure).

This latest setback to the motorplex proponents, which include the only drag racing magazine in Australia, virtually every drag racer in the country, and ANDRA, is only temporary, according to reports. The study is scheduled to be completed no later than December 15th, but with the Christmas holiday season pretty much paralyzing the country for the entire month of December, a realistic date is somewhere in early January.

Even if the answer is in the negative for Eastern Creek, it still doesn't guarantee approval for the motorplex proposal. With the way this issue has been studied to death, committeed to death, shunted, obscured and ignored, it wouldn't surprise me if we enter the next millennium (2001) without a firm decision. In this case, I sincerely hope that I'm proved wrong. To read the latest details on the motorplex proposal, visit the WSM website, or check out the latest media release from RPS Promotions: RPS Media Release.

On the other hand, the latest news about Canberra International Dragway's court battle against the federal and territorial government, is encouraging. The issue is whether the government(s) can break the terms of the lease they signed with the Canberra Drag Racers Club in 1989, and offer only a five-year lease renewal, instead of the agreed-upon ten year term. The reason behind this change of heart is the expansion desires of the Canberra airport, which lies directly across the road from the drag strip.

When the track property lease came up for renewal last December, they were offered only a five-year term, with no compensation, and their legal advisers suggested an immediate closure of the facility until the matter could be settled. This was done, early in their 1998-99 season, with the expectation that the situation could be dealt with in a short time. It's now a year later, and after months of government stalling, and the need to prepare an overwhelming case in their favour, the track may be close to reopening.

Track manager Geoff Develin has provided news of the supreme court case, heard yesterday in Canberra, which follows:

Canberra court hearing completed

Today, Wednesday 8th December, our leasing matter was heard in the Supreme Court. The matter has now been fully heard. The judge has reserved his decision. This is so that he can take all the documents and evidence away and give a more thorough consideration to the matter. We would not expect the decision to be handed down for a couple of weeks as the judge comes from Brisbane and he will not consider the matter until he returns next week.

I must say that it was a very stressful day. At the end of the hearing we feel confident that the judge will make a decision in our favour. Our legal counsel did a fantastic job in presenting our arguments. The Government have tried every possible trick in the book to get out of their responsibilities with regard to our lease option. I trust that justice will prevail.

As soon as we have the judgement you all will hear about it.

With the ruling expected by the end of this month, or early next month, the remaining portion of the 1999-2000 season could be salvaged for Canberra drag racers. Geoff has indicated that the track could be up and running again within a month of the lease being signed. Let's hope this one is indeed a winner for the sport in Australia.

After all the political and legal news from Australia, how about some competition news? As mentioned last week, Jim Grant's doorslammer tour of OZ starts this week, with his downunder debut at Calder Park's Victorian Championships. Jim sent me an email earlier this week (check out Backfire! for all the details), and has promised to try his best to provide a report about his first racing weekend in Australia. As soon as we hear anything, we'll report it here in "What's New".

Turning our attention to matters closer to home, this week we've learned about some major changes to the scheduling at Division Six FMDRS events next season. Trying to create a better product for the specators, and simultaneously making it easier for the racers, Division Director Chris Blair has released the following news:

NHRA Division Six To Debut New Event Format in 2000

Seattle, Wa.: Fans and competitors at 2000 NHRA Northwest Division Six Federal-Mogul Drag Racing Series events will witness an all new approach to event production when the series kicks off next April in Boise, Idaho. A new event format will raise the entertainment level for the thousands of fans packing the grandstands while also providing racers with better racing conditions.

"We're not re-inventing the wheel or anything," explained Division Director Chris Blair. "We are simply looking at different ways of making our events action-packed from start to finish. This new formula breaks away from the way it has been and looks at our races from a fans point of view."

Instead of the traditional NHRA format of running Federal-Mogul Dragster and Federal-Mogul Funny Cars together every 90 minutes, Division Six events will split those classes evenly throughout the schedule. Now fans will be able to witness 250 mile-per-hour, five-second qualifying and elimination passes every hour on the hour.

The typical event format will see Federal-Mogul Funny car slated for Noon, 2:00 and 4:00 p.m. The Federal-Mogul Dragsters will take to the quarter mile at 1:00, 3:00 and close the show at 5:00 p.m. Federal-Mogul Funny Car will be paired with Top Comp throughout the run order and Federal-Mogul Dragster will team up with Competition Eliminator to showcase the tour's premiere cars.

At most NHRA Northwest Division FMDRS three day events, each class will receive one qualifying run on Friday (2:00 p.m. for Funny Car and 3:00 p.m. for Dragster), two runs each on Saturday (Noon and 4:00 p.m. for Funny Car and 1:00 p.m. and 5:00 p.m. for Dragster) and eliminations on Sunday. At selected two day events, drivers will receive all three qualifying runs on Saturday at the same scheduled times as their three rounds of Sunday eliminations.

"Without compromising the basic integrity of the sport, we also need to look at the value of entertainment in our Federal-Mogul Drag Racing series events," continued Blair. "People want action and we neeed to be able to give it to them as consistently as possible. By eliminating the 90 minute-to-2 hour breaks between feature cars we are giving them a reason to stay in their seat and enjoy all of our classes."

The new program met with overwhelming approval from the Division Six track operators and was well received by Federal-Mogul racers as well. As a result of the response, Blair decided to implement the program at all six 2000 events instead of testing it at selected races.

"The racers liked the idea because they know it means more consistency in the pits, more preparation times and less waiting in the staging lanes," continued Blair. "Our racers and track operators also know what it takes to keep the grandstands packed and we are all working together to make 2000 our biggest year ever.

Good news for TV viewers, especially those north of the border, comes from NHRA. They've reported that all 23 NHRA national events will be broadcast either live or same-day tape on only two networks next year: TNN and ESPN. (No more trying to find out where this week's show will be, or when, or if). Also, there will be 24 epsiodes of an NHRA Today-type magazine show, to be broadcast on race weekends. No word yet on which network gets that show.

Also, NHRA has announced plans for the broadcasting of a series of commercials promoting the TV broadcasts, to try and get the message out to the general public. (Gee, what a concept, eh?) As of today, there is still no TV schedule for 2000 listed on NHRA's website, so negotiations must still be ongoing between the association and the networks over the broadcast details. As soon as the schedule is finalized, you'll see it here.

For the sake of us "ESPN-challenged" viewers up here in Canada, let's hope that the majority of the shows will be broadcast on cable, ie. TNN. No ESPN in Canada, you say? Well, you see, we have something called the CRTC (Canadian Radio & Television Commission) that tells us what we can watch and listen to in this country . . . Are you serious, Bob? . . . Unfortunately, it's all too serious; the CRTC's mandate is to protect the "culture" of this great land and keep out anything that might degrade it. So that means we can watch the WWF, WCW, etc. until our brains dribble out of our ears, but ESPN?, absolutely not!

If we (Canadians) were as loving of liberty, free speech and all that, as our American brethren, the CRTC wouldn't have that sort of power over what we can watch on TV. However, since the overwhelming majority of the herd have "moo-ved" in the direction of allowing the government to control almost every aspect of our daily lives . . . what else can you expect? Oops, I'm getting wound up about politics and starting to lose it . . . time to have a pot of coffee and chill, eh?

Okay, I'm feeling much calmer now, and will finish today's update with news of a recently inaugurated forum for drag racers to discuss the issues of the day. With all the controversy (what controversy?) concerning the Federal-Mogul (Top Alcohol, please) Dragster and Funny Car categories, some folks have started an AOL message board forum for the racers. In the few weeks it's been running, the board has seen some wide-ranging discussions, spiced with some good-natured humour. Check it out at:
Top Alcohol Dragster & Funny Car Racers Forum.

That's all the news I've got time to report (or comment) on today; The next update should be over the weekend . . . but at Northern Thunder, you just never know, do you? Sometimes we're posting stuff twice a day, sometimes, twice a month. You'll just have to stay tuned to find out, won't you?

Black Bar
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