The latest update as of February 16, 2001
The rumours that have been circulating recently on various websites are
true. I'm back.... in Australia, that is. Or, to be exact, I will be by the
time most people see this. As I write this first update in nearly two
months it is less than 12 hours from takeoff for the land down under. (Anyone
who knows me will not be surprised that I still haven't started packing and
have a full schedule of parts shopping to do today before I even start trying
to organizing the luggage).
The first part of that parts shopping process was carried out yesterday,
with a trip down to Tacoma, Washington, for some much needed rod bearings and
various parts required for some friends in Australia. I'd conveniently forgotten
that the NHRA event in Phoenix started on the same day, but naively assumed
that somebody would be minding the store at Walt Austin Racing. After nearly
four hours of driving through some abominable (snow, sleet, ice, rain, maniac
drivers) conditions, to say I was disappointed at the sight of the locked gate
at Austin's would be a gross understatement.
So, did the other shoe drop? No, thankfully, as next door at Brad Hadman's
Progressive Metalcraft, the lights were still on and the boxes of parts were
stacked and waiting for me by the door. While Brad was busy at the computer,
checking out the latest qualifying results from Phoenix, the rest of his crew
was hard at work on half a dozen race cars, including another new car for Joe
Amato and his new driver, Darrell Russell.
The nearly completed chassis for Amato/Russell was my first look at the
latest ideas Hadman has developed for Top Fuel. Besides the obvious greater
protection for the driver, there are some subtle (or not so subtle?) changes
in how the car will perform. The first hint in that area was Brad's statement
that "the car thinks it's 30 inches longer". Hmm.... Note how the new
frame within a frame has been built to protect the driver and give extra
protection to the kevlar tub.
Other than the obvious addition of the driver protecting tub and inner
frame surrounding it, the balance of the new chassis appears to be standard
fare for a 2001 Top Fueler. Appears is the operative word, as there are more
tricks lurking in these tubes than is apparent to my untrained eye.
All too soon, my visit to Hadman's shop was over, as he had work to do,
and I had rush-hour traffic to battle on the way north. Before we parted, he
mentioned that Jeff Hamelink's "NorthStar Machine" chassis and the new (nearly
identical) replacement for it were due to be picked up on Monday. Of course,
with Hamelink wanting all the finishing details done at Brad's, the usual
delays from his suppliers were causing Hadman nothing but grief. "The anodizer
was supposed to be finished on Tuesday, then he said Friday noon at the latest".
Since it was now nearly 5pm, and with Monday being a holiday in the U.S.A.,
the odds on having the chassis ready for Hamelink weren't looking good.
Sorry for the brevity of today's report, but it's now nearly 11 AM Saturday and I've
still got some last-minute shopping to do, suitcases to procure and pack and
then out to the airport and off to Australia. The next update will be from
the land downunder, hopefully on Monday. If I can drag myself out of the swimming
pool or away from the barbie long enough to do so, that is.