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The latest update as of April 1, 2001

NOTE:   Despite the date on this page, there isn't ANY April Fool's type material at all. We'd prepared some stuff in honour of today's date, but the joke was on us: the story about how we got rained out at Willowbank yesterday turned out to be too true... and too cruel. What might be my last chance to have my license endorsed before the season-ending Winternationals may have fallen prey to the vagaries of Australian weather. To read all about it, check out yesterday's What's New update.

We can honestly say that we gave it our very best shot at reaching that goal, starting from the moment I arrived here in Brisbane on February 19th. Working sixty to seventy hour weeks, the car was fully prepared and the engine came to life for the first time on March 11th. The "Racers Nationals" (at Melbourne's Calder Park) later that week took five days out of the schedule, but at the time, it seemed as if there was plenty of time left to get the car and myself enough track time to get licensed.

Our first test session, on March 22nd, under perfect weather conditions, was cut very short with an intake manifold problem after only one short run. We spent the next thirty-six hours correcting the problem and then hit the track on the afternoon of the 24th. Despite attempting five runs over that three day period, we missed an opportunity to make at least five more. In retrospect, that was to prove to be one of the final nails in the coffin of my license quest.

During the past week we worked hard to correct a steering problem that had shown up on the previous weekend, and headed out to Willowbank on Friday the 29th, full of hope for three or four successful passes. The weather got into the act at that point, limiting us to one solid (but still short) lap and an aborted later attempt (due to yet another bug, this time in the CO2 system). Then the final whammy came down yesterday, with a complete rainout, instead of the four or five runs we'd planned on making.

All tolled, we missed out on at least a dozen runs (or attempts) in the last ten days. Even though we crossed the starting line seven times, the missed runs proved to be crucial in costing me a chance to get the licensing done. So where do we go from here? Well, for the moment, home to Canada and the all-important "money pump" on the waterfront. Besides the heap of bills that have piled up over the last six weeks, we've identified quite a few other necessities that have to be purchased before the car can run again. Topping that list is a late-model Racepak computer; not a cheap item.

Then there's the truck, which still needs a few thousand dollars worth of odds and ends before it hits the highways downunder. And we can't forget the Chaparral trailer. It's going to cost quite a bit to ship it down, but after only two weeks of using borrowed or hired utes and Ken's open flatdeck trailer, I'm almost ready to rob a bank to get the necessary shipping funds. Looks like there's not going to be many (if any) days off for me until the end of the year... at least.

So when will the race car hit the track again? At the moment, we're aiming for the test'n'tune on June 2nd at Willowbank. Then, if (and it's a very big IF) all goes perfectly, we'll be in the staging lanes for the first qualifying session on the following Friday at the Winternationals. Realistically, it would take an amazing lineup of all the planets, stars, and other celestial bodies to make that happen. However, after all the work that my crew has done, and all the faith that so many people have shown in us, to not at least try our best would be a major disappointment to everyone, and a major confidence killer. So, unless something extraordinary intervenes, like the bailiffs, we'll be back in Australia on June 1st. Barely eight weeks from now; where's that countdown clock gone?

The "sensible" solution would be to skip the Winternationals, stay home, pay off all the debts, purchase the heaps of necessities for next season, finish the truck, ship the trailer down, and get ready for the 2001-2002 drag racing season downunder. Since the schedule won't be set until late June or early July at the earliest, we've got plenty of time to plan for it. The only problem with that scenario is that it would keep me out of the car for nine months, and I'd still have to go through the license process. Plus, if history is an indicator, the first race of next season will probably be on New Year's weekend at Willowbank, and I wouldn't be licensed in time to compete at that event.

The seven runs we made in the last ten days were barely enough to scrape the four and a half years of accumulated rust off me, or completely de-bug the car, and we'd be almost starting our track time from zero again. So, the best I can say now is that all our options are open. We'll just have to take it one day at a time and see how far we can get, and more importantly, how quickly.

Was it all worth it, Bob? You betcha!!! The last six weeks have been some of the most exciting and rewarding times I've had in quite a few years. The weather, despite being almost off the scale (temperature-wise) for my Canuck body, has been great. The people are just as friendly as ever and whenever I've needed help on this project, there's never been a lack of eager volunteers. Together, we've managed to solve heaps of small problems on the race car, and when we encountered situations that seemed impossible to solve, the solutions have been found. Even the race track personnel have gone far out of their way to help us run the car with a minimum of trouble.

As I write this, with barely twenty-four hours left before I fly home, both poles of the magnet are tugging at me: to the north is home, work, the webpage; to the south is the race car, my Aussie mates, a beautiful country and, come to think of it, the webpage. As long as the two forces don't pull with equal strength all the time, and keep me stuck in limbo, all I can see on the horizon is more regular commuting from Canada to Australia. Last thought before I sign off today: the fun-meter isn't exactly pegged, but it's definitely getting up there.

Black Bar
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