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The latest update as of March 26, 2001

So what about that promised update on Saturday night, or Sunday morning, or Sunday evening? Well, the best laid plans, etc..... So here it is on Monday afternoon in Oxenford, with the temperature just over 39 (C) or 100+ (F) and 53% humidity and I'm still trying to get started writing about my latest "Lost Weekend" or "Racing with Bob is not just a job -- it's an adventure". This may take a while, as I have to pause every few seconds to wipe the sweat out of my eyes and refocus them. It's so hot today that even the Aussies are whingeing about the heat. That's hot!

So what have we done since the last installment on Friday? Remember how we planned to finish modifying the intake manifold by "9:00 PM" ? Well, we called it a night just before 11 PM, came back Saturday morning at 7:00 AM and got the manifold done and on the car just past 10:00 AM. The job turned out beautifully (check the pics on Ken's website to see it), and we soon had the engine reassembled and the car ready to load on the trailer.

Shortly after noon we were ready to roll out to Willowbank (four hours later than originally planned), towing the flatdeck trailer with a rented ute (pickup truck), a Holden Rodeo with a 4-cylinder engine. Mission impossible? Surprisingly not, as the little ute was easily able to maintain highway (100 - 110 kmh) speeds. Spot on at 2:30 PM, we pulled into the pits and set to work getting everything unloaded and the car ready for a warmup. With the air temps near 40 (C) in the shade, and very little of that available (except under Ken's awning), it wouldn't take much to build some heat in the motor.

With everything looking good, we pulled through the empty staging lanes (the gates wouldn't open for another half hour) and prepared for our second test run of the week. The track had been sprayed all the way to the finish line, so we weren't worried about traction today. Soon I was rolling through the water, brought the revs up.... waaaay too far, as the shift light (set at 8000) flashed almost instantly, I quickly lifted off the throttle and the engine virtually died. Pulling over to the side of the track just past the starting line, I pulled the fuel shutoff, clicked the mag switch and waited for the crew to pick me up.

Verdict: Broken blower belt. Not only had it snapped horizontally, there was a three inch vertical gash (almost in the middle of the belt) where it had ridden up on the idler pulley flange. Ken explained later that the rather large and heavy rotors in a PSI don't spool down too quickly and it keeps turning at a fair speed even after you lift off the throttle. One belt down, one to go. We put the last remaining belt in our parts inventory on and make a mental note to approach the next burnout in a less than banzai mood.

Barely thirty minutes later we're back at the starting line for attempt number three (second one today). This time I manage to execute the burnout properly (7400 on the telltale) and roll to a stop near the 300 foot mark. Actually, I'd planned to stop earlier, but the brakes are weak and I didn't want to get too violent with them at this point. The car slips into reverse and I try my first backup without slowing the car with the clutch or brake. Whew... Dave is nearly sprinting to keep up with me on the way back to the starting line.

Everything looks good.... until I try to stage the car. I overstage and then leave without getting a light... or timeslip. It's bad enough that we aren't getting any data from the computer, but now I've got to compound the problem by not getting a timeslip. Doh! The car leaves well; well for 3000 rpm, and I shut off early before hitting second gear. Doh! Strike Three already? Back in the pits, we start cooling down the by-now very hot motor and clutch and try to get me ready for a much better effort on the next lap.

By the time we head for the staging lanes again, it's 5:30 PM and the sun is nearing the horizon. Luckily, we wait in the lanes for a short while as the sun sinks lower and lower and the downtrack view become easier to see (the track faces directly into the setting sun). The car starts up smoothly, the idle speed a little higher than earlier today, as it was starting to lope on the previous runs, and for a change, we're in the right lane for the first time.

A strong, but under control, burnout again and the car comes to a rather sudden halt at the 200 foot mark, with a decided crunch.... as I tried to slip into reverse just as it came to a halt. All together now: Doh!!! Assuming the crunch indicated the demise of the reverser, I shut off and wait for the inevitable tongue-lashing from Ken, the crew, and the Willowbank track workers. "What's the go, mate?" Another "muck-up" from Wilson it looks like. At this point the joy of Thursday has turned nearly 180 degrees and our public debut is rapidly turning into public embarassment. It's not easy for me, but must be far worse for the team, as they don't have a helmet and suit and rollcage to hide behind. Back to the pits, for possibly the last time today.

We've now made three burnouts, and one launch in barely two hours and the hot engine of an hour ago is now a bloody hot engine. It's going to need some serious cool-down time and the driver's going to need a serious think about what he's doing wrong. After all the thrashing of the past three days and the frustrating day we're having, I'm ready to pull the pin on this outing, admit defeat, pack up and go home. But where would be then? Six days away from our next test session and no closer to even getting it to half track. Take a break, let the sun set, the engine cool down and we'll try it again.

While I'm sitting down (out of striking distance), replenishing the gallons of sweat that have been pouring out of me since early this morning, Ken decides to drag out his Modified Dragster and make a lap to test out the latest trans/converter combo for next week's Drag Racing School. He's mainly trying to see if he can slow the car down enough for the students to be comfortable with it. (It's been running between 8.40 - 8.70 lately). Richening it up, and not changing anything else in the combination, nets an 8.79... still too fast. Looks like the mufflers will be going in before the school starts on Wednesday. With Ken and Dave in the staging lanes, and Darren off to a party, it's just me to babysit the dragster and try to get my thoughts together. Probably the toughest task I've had all day.

Ken's back just after 7:00 PM and we get ready to take one more shot at the track for the day. Before we go up, Ken sits in the car for the warmup and he diagnoses a steering problem that I'd been missing all along. With the front wheels pointed straight ahead, the steering wheel is off center by nearly 20 degrees. Hmm, we may have found why the car keeps drifting towards the center line. (Actually, after reflecting on that situation later, we feel that the (mis)alignment is only half the problem. We'll let you know later this week whether the other half has fixed itself). Dave adjusts the steering arms as much as possible, but it's going to require taking out the steering shaft and reinserting it one tooth over to fully correct the problem. While he's doing that, I top up the half empty master cylinder and then tighten the loose brake line. Whatever happened to our meticulous preparation schedule?

We're ready to go up for the last attempt of the day in full darkness and now I've got to face one more complication. Racing at night, without the full track lighting on. It's not bad, but for major events, they turn on a few more lights and brighten things up considerably. Another factor that's arisen is the lower temperature (26 C) and higher (88%) humidty. Fog-up time, but I've managed to mitigate it somewhat with a last-minute application of Rain-X to my glasses and visor. Our gameplan this time is to launch at 4000 rpm, shift at 8000 rpm and shut it off just after the 1 - 2 shift. That's the plan, anyway..... Can you see what's coming next?

The engine starts, I roll through the water, execute another decent burnout, backup straight and stop on the signal from Ken. He waves me up to the prestage light, signals to lower the visor, then points at the tree. "Okay Bob, time to do your job (correctly, for a change)". Then the brainfade sets in again; I start bringing the revs up... before lighting the pre-stage, roll into full stage before I get the rpm up all the way, and with the tacho needle fluttering between 3800 and 4200, leave just a tick after the tree is activated. It goes red, but at least we'll get some data this time.

The car leaves decently, with a 1.040 sixty foot time, then starts the inevitable drift to the center line and I short shift (again!) at 7400, and shut off short of the 300 foot mark. The 330 time is 2.807, the 660 time is 4.713, and the 1320 numbers come up at 9.234 - 85.76. Surely nothing to write home about, or admit to on the internet, but it's a start. Not much of one, obviously, but it's a start. At this point all I can say is... we have nowhere to go but up. Surely everyone who's reading is nodding their heads in agreement by now.

We get back to the pits and wisely I keep my helmet on until Ken has finished "critiquing" my driving on the day, and it's safe to exit the car. All that remains at this point is to flush the fuel system, pull the rocker gear, lube the cylinders, then load up all our gear and head for home. With a stop for breakfast at the Mobil servo on the way. Even though the temperature has declined to the mid-20's, we're all still sweating like pigs as we deal with the ugly side of drag racing. Everything secured, we're finally on the road a little after 9:00 PM.

Ten minutes down the road, we pull into the Mobil, grab our usual post-race meal of "Burger With The Lot" and a thick vanilla milkshake. NOTE: When they say "with the lot"... they really mean it. Bun, hamburger, bacon, fried egg, pineapple, beetroot, raw onion, tomato, lettuce, etc., etc. Stuffed and bloated, we pull out onto the highway for the last hour to home just past 10:00 PM. Traffic is light and we're making good time, until.... "Watch out for that tire tread in our lane, Dave" THUNK! We nail it dead center as we both realize that it just came off Ken's Chaparral, which we see skidding to a sparkly stop on the side of the road a few hundred metres ahead. Our apologies to the lady following us who got the surprise of her life when the tread flew out from beneath our flatdeck trailer and took out the grille and and assorted other bits on her car.

Now we get to experience one of the ugliest sides of drag racing; changing a tire at the side of the road, at night, with barely enough room to stand beside the trailer without falling down a rather steep embankment. And the spare tire is on the wrong wall of the trailer, wedged up beside Ken's dragster. Have you ever changed a tire on a Chaparral? If so, you know what a pain it can be at the best of times, so let's just move on to the next bit of fun: trying to convince the ute hire mob that we were 30 minutes late returning the Holden Rodeo because we played good samaritan and helped a mate change a blown tire on the Logan Motorway. Dave managed to convince them of our good intentions, saving me $50 in the process, and we finally stagger in the door to his place just shy of 1:00 AM.

A quick "check of the plumbing" and I'm in bed and asleep almost before the filament quits glowing in the bedroom light. Tomorrow is almost guaranteed to be a writeoff. Monday isn't looking much better either, at this point.

Sunday - 4:00 PM  We decide that it's almost time to look for some breakfast and head down to Chevron Island (near Surfer's Paradise) for some "health food" at one of Dave's favorite carvery's. Scalloped potatoes in butter and garlic sauce, and a roast pork roll (yes, lots of crackling please!) become a combination of breakfast, lunch and dinner in one shot. Hmm, that was good, let's wash it down with a quick tour of Marine Parade in Surfer's. NOTE: Every weekend and most evenings, this becomes the place to be seen for carloads of single sheilas and single blokes. See and be seen. With the sun blazing strongly and the gentle breeze off the Pacific (not much surf today, barely a metre it looks like) the cruise fills up the balance of the afternoon quite nicely. As the sun sinks low in the western sky, we head back to Gaven Heights, reaching home just as the sun sets at 6:00 PM.

The heat inside our townhouse is incredible, since we locked all the windows earlier. Even the aircon is struggling to cool down the superheated air, and the temperature seems to rise five degrees every step of the way up to the top floor. (I'll remember to bring the infrared heatgun home tomorrow night and get some readings). Since Dave was doing most of the heavy work yesterday, he fades long before I do and is in bed shortly after 9:00 PM. Meanwhile, I carry on at the keyboard, trying to catch up on a heap of website-related stuff until nearly midnight. With just enough energy to make it up the stairs to bed, I'm off into dreamtime in seconds.

Sorry about the delay in posting this update until Tuesday morning (Australian time), but I've just finished the last few paragraphs on Monday evening, while listening to the Academy Awards show in the background. Our satellite TV is down tonight, and the other six channels are only showing quiz shows and two different shows on snakes. Later for that, mate. The next update is planned for later this week, just before we head out to Willowbank for our next test session on Friday. The clock is ticking louder by the day as we enter the final week of this latest trip downunder. The license passes: blindfold test, half pass, and two full passes are still pencilled in for the Street Meet on Saturday. Cross your fingers, knees and eyes for me.

Black Bar
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