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29th - 30th October 2005 - Haloween Showdown

This weekend was the Halloween Showdown at Shakey. All our Series rounds had finished, so it was time for some fun! Once again we towed Mark’s slingshot “Awesome 4-Some” up to the track. We drove up in the bus with Jade, Lottie and Emma, whilst Mark drove up with 4 of his friends, Nige, Ryan, Dens and Paul. We got to the track about 8:30 pm and set up in the middle of the pits, but on the opposite side to where we normally pit. Now this weekend was going to be a bit different, as Claire was going to be driving Mark’s car! Her first ever go on the dragstrip, in anything!!! I’d been encouraging her for years, and Mark had offered her the use of his car for Saturday, and there was a certain set of postings on the Wild Bunch Website Forum, entitled ‘Confidence in Claire’ where lots of Bunchers had written in to encourage her to have a go! She was really thinking about it, and me and Mark were quietly encouraging her and hoping that she would have a go. Now, I’ll let her tell you all about it…

Well, there were a few factors that made me consider having a go: my family’s encouragement and unquestioning support and enthusiasm, the fact that Mark’s slingshot was a good starting car, and not way too quick, it was the end of the Wild Bunch’s 10th Anniversary season, it was a good challenge to set myself, I wanted to see what it was like and thought I should take the chance now while I had it as you never know what’s gonna happen, and you should take opportunities to do something amazing when you can! And also, the fantastic support and encouragement of everyone in the Wild Bunch, who were all behind me, and promised to cheer and ‘do a Claire’ whatever run I ended up doing!

I had a couple of ‘fittings’ in the slingshot on the Wednesday and Thursday before the event. The first one had not gone that well, as I did not have a properly-fitting helmet, and felt quite restricted in the cockpit, trying to get used to the harnesses, etc, and had quite a few hysterical laughs about ‘how could anyone drive like this?’. The next fitting went better, and I fired the car up on the trailer. When we set off for the track, I was still 50/50 whether or not I would have a go, and planned to have a couple of fireups in the pits, running through the gears, and see how that went.

On Saturday morning we got the car scrutineered, and I put on all the racegear – Chris’ firesuit trousers, Mark’s top and arm restraints, Sarah’s helmet and gloves, and Lee’s neck brace, so already a real family affair! Mark and Chris explained the gearchange and various procedures again, and I fired up and went through the gears on axle stands. Not too bad! I then asked Mark to tow me round the pits so I could get used to the steering and the feel of the car. (Loads of people looked and smiled at this point!). I then had to get out of the cockpit as quick as I could, and this wasn’t that quick as I learned the unbuckling of the harness! I felt I wanted to run through the gears quickly again before deciding whether I was going to run so we let her cool down again. The second session of gearchange practice went okay, so I got out (quicker this time), and as things were getting more familiar, I decided I would take the next step and sign on! (At this point I was about 75% sure I was gonna do it!).

When we got back to the pits, the grey clouds were building up, and Chris gently encouraged me that it would be a good idea to ‘get on and go for it’ just in case the weather turned. I got re-suited and Chris, Mark and Nige towed me down to the fireup road, about 12:30! There was not that much of a queue, but just enough to get settled in and prepare. I got the helmet, neckbrace and gloves on, and gradually tightened the belts, as I discussed some of the fireup and gearchange procedures again with Mark and Chris. We decided they were going to push me round, and I would fire up in front of the burnout box for my first run. There was a small amount of downtime, but this didn’t unsettle me, as I was concentrating on what I was going to do. By this point I was all the way up to 90% sure!!

We were then given the signal to fire up and Chris and Mark pushed me round and turned the switch on. I was now definitely gonna do it, no matter how slow or how many gearchanges I fluffed! I was now determined I was gonna get down to the end of the track any way possible! I turned the ignition on, pumped the fuel up and hit the starter button, and the little Pinto engine roared into life. The big black track opened up before me like it was the only place in the world, and I gently depressed the clutch and put the car in 1st gear. Chris motioned me forward and I gingerly found the biting point and eased towards the line. (Having seen this thousands of times, but never having actually been there, it takes some judging the first time!). I eventually got the car into pre-stage and stage, and the starter pushed the button and the tree ran! I then floored the throttle, a bit! As I launched the feeling was incredible and I broke out into a hysterical squeal shouting ‘this is mint!’ to myself! It surprised me a bit and before I knew it, I was going too slow! I squeezed on the throttle some more and changed gear, once, twice, three times, (too quickly), slowing and speeding up along the way! The finish line was approaching and I thought I better put on a quick burst of one more push on the throttle to get some kind of speed on the board! I then accelerated even more past the line (why??!) and cruised towards the first return road. I then thought I better slow down to make the corner and pushed the brake, oh, better slow down some more or I wouldn’t make the turn and end up on the grass, and be really embarassed! I ended up just by one of the fire trucks, then shut off the fuel and ignition and got out, and leapt into the air with delight! Wow! What a rush! Absolutely incredible! I was hoping for a sub 20-second pass, and waited eagerly for Chris, Mark and Nige to drive up in Mark’s car and tell me what I had run! They came up smiling and said I had run a 25.321 @ 49.06 mph!!! “Was that all?” I thought! It seems so fast when everything is rushing past you with an open-wheeled car! I knew it was not gonna be anything earth-shattering, and that I had been actually going fairly slow in places, but with everything being new and your mind going 100mph, it just seemed so much more amazing than the statistics showed! It was excellent. I couldn’t wait to do it again, to try to improve on the time!

We went back to the pits, only a little disappointed at the E.T., and absolutely buzzing from the whole experience! Everyone came up and congratulated me, and that was great. Mark fuelled up, and we let the car cool down. He then got some shoe white and wrote ‘Mum’ on the cockpit cowling! Cool! They towed me down to the pairings lanes again, and there was still not much of a queue, but just as I was all suited and ready and only a couple of cars from running, I experienced my first wait for an oil down in front of me, and had to get out of the car for half an hour! I can now understand how this breaks your train of concentration, and you have to go through all the mental preparations again. I sat on the bleachers with Mark and Steve & Lesley Field and remembered talking about Bakersfield, and trying to keep focused. It wasn’t that long, and I got all suited again. About the only problem I had while waiting was that my fringe kept coming out of the helmet, and I kept trying to push it back in! Very amusing! Chris and Mark pushed me round once again, and I fired the car up and got myself into stage, nearly rolling through (!) but getting an accidental good reaction! I tried to go through the gears more slowly and completely fluffed the change from 2nd to 3rd, seeming to lose a whole chunk of time while I tried to find it! I was going faster this time, and as I coasted round to the first turnoff, I saw some spots of something on my helmet. I parked the car and got out, and then noticed some spots of oil on the cockpit, then some on the top of the block, then a small pool underneath! Eek! Had I broken the engine?! I quickly went over to the fire truck to report this and told them they might want to check the track. By then Chris and Mark had come up and they realised I had lost the dipstick tube somewhere! The fire crew stopped racing and had a look but could not find anything on the track. No harm was done to the engine, thank goodness. Part of me was actually more worried about not having another go, than actually having broken something (sorry, Mark!)! Chris then told me my time, a much better 19.222 @ 78 mph! Even with a bad gearchange! But lots of room for improvement!

We went back to the pits, and Mark siliconed up the dipstick hole as a temporary fix, and cleaned the oil off! (I did somehow enjoy the experience, as you can only get that in a slingshot, and it was part of the way things used to be! But real glad it wasn’t anything major and there was no damage!). We waited for the car to cool down again, had lunch, then got back in the fire up road. Every time I towed down in the car, someone else saw it was me in there, and did a double-take! It was really cool, and felt quite strange to be on the inside looking out! On this third run, I was determined to do better and improve on the gear changing, and this time I fired up and drove round, as slowly and carefully as I could, and drove round the water box. I stalled it on this one, but composed myself as if on a driving test, and re-fired! I launched okay and changed okay to second and third and really tried to put my foot down, as the car had been lovely and straight each time! I was sure this one was gonna be better, and when Chris and Mark told me I’d run 17.726 @ 84.48 mph, I was pleased with the second and a half of improvement. Although, I really did want to squeeze one more run in to try and do better, and get the most out of the day and this opportunity, and was really enjoying it!

On my fourth run, it was about quarter to 6 and it was starting to get dusky, with the lights on the timing boards starting to glow. Once again I drove round, and really went for it on the launch and pushed as much as I could, keeping her straight and trying to make smooth changes, at the same time really going for it after the last change. The quicker I was going, the more amazing it was, and the difference between being full on in the run and then stopping on the return road and the sudden quiet was pretty incredible, and again I shouted to myself ‘wow’ as I switched off! I got out this time really buzzing again and hoped it would be quicker! It was! The guys told me it was a 16.9 @ 91.11 mph! I leaped in the air with my hands high and flung one of my arm restraints skywards! Absolutely brilliant! Well chuffed! And never will I think a 16-second run is ‘slow’! What a rush! We towed back to the pits and I got my ticket, only to see that it was actually a 16.400 (the 4 had looked like a 9 with the hazy glow of lights, so I had gained an extra half a second!) so really buzzing. I really loved it and am really grateful to Chris and Mark for all their help and support and crewing (!) and to Mark for lending me his awesome car! I was really pleased to have improved on each run, and quite pleased with the times. (Anyone wanna see MY timing tickets?!!) Apart from a bit more practice, smoother gearchanges and flooring it some more, it’s difficult to imagine where else you can make more improvements, so I’m even more impressed with Mark’s recent 12! And absolutely amazed with Chris’s 8’s in “Backdraft”. Can’t yet imagine that! And I’m really chuffed to be able to see things from a driver’s perspective and to start to understand what it’s all about from the cockpit! Wow! Over the moon! So glad I did it! Yeeeeeehaaaaa!

Saturday night was a great evening as we were all still buzzing and it was the Halloween party and firework night. We all got dressed up (Chris and me as a red warlock and witch) and went to the clubhouse with Sarah as a witch and Darryl as a wicked skeleton! Helen had also been a witch and Christine a nice devil all day in the fireup road, and Dean (who had been driving the ‘Belle’ all day) donned a wicked red-bearded big-eyed mask! We had a good night, and all of us won prizes in the clubhouse fancy dress competition!

Sunday started off grey and soon turned to rain, which was quite heavy at times. After a couple of hours it dried, and the track crew worked hard to get the track ready, only to be faced by another shower right after lunch. They tried some more, but realised it would not get dry enough in time, so the event was called off about 2:30pm. And Mark didn’t get a run in his car! But he did enjoy crewing for his Mum! And Chris also enjoyed the bit of role reversal! Another bonus from the weekend was the great batch of pictures that Sharky put on his website www.topendtales.com under the Halloween event section. There are 15 pics of my first drag racing efforts, including Mark explaining things to me in the cockpit, Chris and Mark either side and a great one of Chris and Mark and everyone cheering on the start line, not to mention a pic of the scoreboards with my first time and me coasting past! Cheers Sharky for all of those! Really special! Now it’s back to you, Chris!...

A great weekend, where we all enjoyed Claire’s first time drag racing. Claire would like to thank me, Mark and Nige for crewing and support, and all of the Wild Bunch for their support and encouragement, and to all the marshals and officials for their hard work as always.

We’re now really looking forward to the 10th Annual Wild Bunch Dinner and Prize Presentation at Drayton Manor, on 26th November! Should be a great night!

PS. I have stripped down the old engine, and found that everything was pretty good inside. Crank and bearings, rods and pistons all okay. But just may need a new damper and timing chain and piston rings… and bellhousing, and a few other things!!

15th - 16th October 2005 - Fall Shootout

This weekend was the Wild Bunch’s Fall Shootout at Shakespeare County Raceway, the Final round of the Real Steel Series. As “Backdraft” was broke (aw), we towed Mark’s slingshot “Awesome 4-Some” up to the track. We drove up in the bus with Jade and Mark’s crew Nige, whilst Mark drove up earlier with some of his friends, Lottie, Emma and Paul. We got to the track about 7:30 pm and set up in the middle of the near-empty pits!

Mark had rebuilt the gearbox and carbs in his car, and was hoping for some low 13-second runs. He also had not fully tested out some new parts, including the exhaust system. There were only about 40-45 vehicles at the track, so there was loads of track time, and ideal for testing. Mark fired the car up in the morning and it sounded fine, so we all towed down for the run. He started off the day with a disappointing 29-second pass at only 53 mph, due to not being able to select second gear, as the box was bedding in. He then ran a better 19.6 second pass @ 80mph, but this was still off the pace. For his third run, he improved to an 18.050 and then ran even better on his fourth run, with a 16.511 @ 90.19 mph, starting to get a handle on the rebuilt box. Mark was also trying new things with his launching techniques, and trying not to leave the line so fiercely, and he was also refining his gear changes. On his next run, he took another second and a half off, recording a 15.066, and finished the day another whole second better off, with a 14.037 @ 98.43 mph. So he had made very good progress throughout Saturday, and he hoped to continue his run of improvements the next day. We all enjoyed the Saturday evening, and chilled out, relaxing with friends in the pits.

On Sunday, Mark was one of 5 Slingshots in a field of 11 Wild Bunch cars racing, and he optimistically dialled in at 13.50, but started off with a 14.703 and a 14.609, both at 95 mph. He then adjusted the fuel, and also followed some advice about changing the cam timing, and retarded it by 2 degrees. He then went out in the third round and ran a great new Personal Best E.T. of 13.304 @ 99.83 mph! Really chuffed! He was going to leave things the same, and hope for a 5th test run later, but time was going on, so he decided to alter the setting once more, retarding it another 2 degrees. He then recorded his first ever 12-second run over the ton, a fantastic new Personal Best E.T. of 12.927 @ 101.58 mph! All Mark’s friends had gone down in the tow car in the fire-up road to watch him run, and Claire drove to the top end, whilst I cycled up! He had gone to the second return road, so this was quite a way! We all got there at the same time and shouted to him what he had run, and were all really excited! Congratulations, Mark, well done! Really pleased for you on such a great run! He also finished in 5th place overall for the weekend, and was also thrilled to be awarded the “Best Slingshot” Spot Prize for his improvements and PB’s and determination, and a nicely turned out car! Fair play!

A great weekend, where we all enjoyed Mark’s success. Mark would like to thank Nige, me and Claire for crewing, and his friends for their support. And thanks to all the marshals and officials for their hard work all weekend.

We’re now looking forward to the Halloween Showdown, where I might have a few runs in Mark’s car!

PS. I have located a 400 block, but now just need to see if the mark in one of the cylinders will bore out to +30 okay. So still may need to find another, but fingers crossed, we are well on the way to a rebuild!

7th October 2005

We have just had some great news in the family! Our Lee and fiancée Sarah have just had the loveliest baby in the whole world! He is just perfect! Born this morning, and weighing in at 8 lbs 4 ozs, little Liam Christopher is wonderful! Mum and Dad are tired and happy and I have now become a proud 'Crazy Gramps', so we are all over the moon! Congratulations to Lee and Sarah and welcome Liam, you’re very special!

1st - 2nd October 2005 - SANTA POD FALL NATIONALS

This weekend was the second event this year for the Wild Bunch up at Santa Pod, and it was the final of the Wild Bunch Series (Round 7) and Real Steel Series Round 9. So we had been really looking forward to this event. Unfortunately, we had discovered that block damage after the Hot Rod Drags, and there was no way we could find a new block and rebuild the engine in time, so sadly we had to withdraw from the event! This was a great shame, but we really have had a brilliant season this year, right from the start, with the shows at Xtreme Wheels and especially the Helsinki Fair Centre, and then my first ever 8-second pass at over 150mph on the very first run of the year! And to have kept running a string of 8’s and a handful of 150’s throughout the year, finish 2nd and 3rd in a few events, make it to the Allstars final, and now actually finish in 4th place in the Wild Bunch Series for 2005 is a great season!

So, we were still going to the Pod, to oversee the rest of the Bunch, and organise the round, and hoped to have a good weekend with all our friends. Me, Claire, and Mark left home Friday afternoon about 2 pm and drove up to the Pod, getting there about 6pm. We had secured a pit pass, so set up camp in the pits amongst the rest of the Wild Bunch.

The weather was very wet on the Friday night, and it took a while to get the track dry Saturday morning, but they were off and running by 11am. We got stuck in to a bit of pit lane marshalling and helping organise the Bunch and I stayed around the start line to help anyone and watch the racing. Meanwhile, Claire went up to the tower, and got involved in commentating on the Wild Bunch with John Price! She ended up doing this on all the WB rounds at the weekend, and even got broadcast on Nitro FM, the local radio of Santa Pod Raceway, and enjoyed the experience! Saturday was quite a long day, without the car, and there were a fair few stoppages for rain, but we had a nice evening chatting to friends.

Sunday was more hectic and all the eliminations rounds took place. On the first round, I ended up doing a bit of bump starting and holding the Dial-in board for Phil Sweeney, when his battery wouldn’t start the car for the first round. His girlfriend Abby had to go back to the pits for some jump leads, but luckily I was able to get Phil going in the meantime, whilst Abby was trying to make it back in time. She just heard them announce Phil on the startline as she was nearly there! So it all worked out okay, and Phil ended up winning the event again, so congratulations to him!

Mark also got involved and was crewing for Tony Wynne-Jones on the Sunday, and Tony went all the way to the final, plus ran his first 10-second pass in the Semi, so congratulations to him as well!

Many congratulations also to Mike Cresswell, who won the Wild Bunch Series for 2005! Well-deserved and well done, Mikey!

And big thanks to all the marshals and officials who worked hard all Saturday to get the track ready despite the weather! And thanks to all at Santa Pod for making us feel welcome, we really appreciate it!

The next event we are going to will be the Mid-October RWYB at Shakey, where we will be crewing for our Mark’s slingshot, so that will be good! Now, I’ve just got to find that 400 block to rebuild the engine for next year when we hope to run some more good numbers again! Looking forward to that!!

17th - 18th September 2005 - HOT ROD DRAGS

This weekend was the Hot Rod Drags at Shakespeare County Raceway, the Final round of the Roy Wilding Nostalgia Race Cars Series, and I was leading the Series by 2 points over Joe Stevens, so was pretty hopeful of doing well! I was one of 9 Slingshots in a field of 17 Wild Bunch cars racing. Me, Jade and Mark’s friend Nige drove up to the track in the bus towing “Backdraft”, with Claire and Mark following, towing Mark’s slingshot “Awesome 4-Some”. Mark had rebuilt his engine since his last event, and installed a shiny new race-tuned exhaust system and some trick-looking induction trumpets, and he was raring to go, hoping to run low 13’s. We all got to the track at about 5:30pm and set up camp together in the middle of the pits.

I was hoping to have some more good 8-second runs at this event, and fired the car up Saturday morning to warm her up. She was a little bit slow to start on the cold morning! We got scrutineered and then Claire and Nige towed me and Mark down to the fireup road. I fired the car up and drove round, but Mark did not manage to start his car and had to push round to the back wall. I ended up running a 10.087 @ 144.36 mph, losing some traction off the line, and waited for Mark to come down to the top end. He eventually got his car running after new crew Nige had run back to the pits to get a spanner to change the timing! He ran 16.301 @ 90.92 mph on this run, so had more work to do! We all got back to the pits and got the cars ready for another run, which came about mid-afternoon. There were some quite long queues during the day, so had to join them just outside our pit area! My second run of the day was only a slight improvement, a 9.960 @ 146.08 mph, and I had thought I hadn’t found much traction again. There was no wheelie, and the car did not leave the line with the usual grunt. And something hadn’t sounded quite right. We took her back to the pits, and on firing her up and checking the timing, Mark noticed smoke pulsing from where the water pump would be, which indicated a blown head gasket. I then did a compression test (thanks to Bernie for the loan of the tester!) and discovered that one cylinder was down in compression compared to all the others. This all suggested that it was due to a blown head gasket, and although I did have spare gaskets, I felt that it was better to investigate more back at home, in case there were any other problems with the head. So, unfortunately we had to park the car for the rest of the weekend. Meanwhile, in the other lane, Mark had run another 16, a 16.883, and was then doing some more work on his car. He adjusted the fuel and ignition and late in the day ran an improved 14.545 @ 96.96 mph. Straight away after racing, all the Wild Bunch towed or drove their cars up to the top end of the track where Sid had arranged for some photographers, including Sharkman, to take some group photos of the Wild Bunch cars, and drivers and crew. This was part of the Bunch’s 10th Anniversary celebrations, and 15 cars took part. And we were very proud to be one of 5 cars from the first full year of the Wild Bunch back in 1996. We had fun taking the photos, and had to work quick because the sun was starting to set! Great to be part of it all! We then towed back to the pits, and all relaxed and enjoyed the Saturday evening, which again featured a video show of the day’s racing, made by Jeff from the “Destiny” team! Later that evening we had quite a few friends round in the bus, and stayed up pretty late, as unfortunately we weren’t going to be racing the next day! And our Mark had gained some extra crew!

Mark dialled in at 13.50 for Sunday, hoping to tune the car back up, but started off with a 15.818, so a bit discouraging. He then matched up with Tommy ‘The Gun’ Coe, who was driving his Dad & Kev’s “Shy Talker” blown slingshot! Mark recorded a 20.937 to Tom’s excellent 8.441, but the interesting bit was that Mark’s ticket had ‘Winner’ under his name, as Tom had redlit! Mark later ran a 17.247, and unfortunately sustained gearbox damage on the run, so still a lot of work to do tuning and fixing the car before his next event! He was surprised to finish in 7th place overall for the weekend and, at the trophy presentation, he was really chuffed to find out he had won a tool box, donated by the Mad R’s team as a prize for 7th place! There was some consolation for us as well, as we have finished in 2nd place overall in the Roy Wilding Nostalgia Race Cars Series, so we were really pleased to still finish in the Top 4, despite not being able to take part in the rounds on Sunday. We ended up right behind Joe Stevens, who has won the Series for the 4th year in a row! Many congratulations to him!

Thanks to Claire and Mark and Nige for crewing, and to all the marshals and officials for their hard work all weekend.

PS. After taking the car home, I got her in the garage on the Sunday night, to do some further investigations on the Monday. I took the head off, and sure enough, the head gasket was blown. I had had a problem with a head stud earlier in the year, and had to be very careful when replacing the gasket and torqueing up the head. I very gently did the bolts up one by one, and suddenly felt one go loose. I took the head back off and discovered a few tiny cracks right by a stud hole, and a breather hole, and a tiny bulge in the bore. It was too thin to attempt helicoiling, so sadly this meant that I can not repair the block and won’t be able to race at the last couple of events this year. This is a great shame as we had been really looking forward to the next event, the National Finals, on 1st & 2nd October at Santa Pod. Oh well, we’ve had a brilliant season, and achieved some amazing goals, so pretty chuffed with the year!

Now, we’ve started searching for a 4-bolt 400 SBC block to rebuild the engine for next year so we can have more fun in 2006!! Anyone know of any?!

27th - 29th August 2005 - ULTIMATE POWER - ALLSTAR NATIONALS

This weekend was the third and final round of the Ultimate Power Series as well as Wild Bunch Series Round 6 and our Real Steel Series Round 8 at Shakespeare County Raceway, and I was one of 7 Slingshots in a field of 15 Wild Bunch cars racing. Me, Claire, and Jade left home Friday morning about 10:30 and got up to the track around quarter past 12, and set up camp by about 1 o’clock, down at the far end of the pits in ‘Wild Bunch village’. Sarah & Darryl, and Alec & Rita of the Mad R’s were already there as they’d stayed Thursday night! After we set up, we just chilled for the afternoon and watched everyone else arrive and started to enjoy the weekend. Mark came up later with 3 friends and they got set up with their tents in the field.

There were scheduled to be four rounds of qualifying on Saturday, and the first round was about 11 am. We were scrutineered around quarter to 9 in the morning and we fired the car up and everything sounded good! The weather was pretty good, cloudy and warm, so this was promising for a full day’s racing! On the first run, I decided to Dial in at 8.80, as the car was running well, and the track looked good. I was paired with newcomer Phil Sweeney in the “Antisocial” slingshot. I ran an 8.956 @ 149.14 mph, so I was really pleased with that! It put me in 2nd place after the first qualifying round, with .156 off, so that was a good start to the day! In the second qualifying round, I matched up with Sarah in Bernie’s “Destiny’s Angel” altered, and again dialled in at 8.80. This time I ran a 9.118 @ 148.33 mph, so not so good. And in the third qualifier of the day, I arranged to pair up with Alec Coe in the “Shy Talker” blown slingshot. We were hoping for side-by-side 8-second passes, but I lit the tyres off the start and ran a 9.497 @ 146.19 mph, to Alec’s strong 8.895. That was it for the day, as although they started on the 4th cycle of qualifying, there was only time to get about a quarter of the way through this. So we packed up for the day. Kev Elliott of Custom Car had arranged for a display of nostalgia drag racing vehicles in a marquee, and had asked if I would bring “Backdraft” along to display there on the evenings. We towed the car down about 7pm and set her up with the front wheels next to the front wheels of Mark Coulsell’s “Limited Funz” slingshot which was on display all weekend, and they looked really good together. We left a board with the best E.T. and speed of the day in front of our front wheel. We went back to the pits to enjoy the evening and, as it had been my birthday on the Thursday I had a small birthday party by the bus, with a cake that Claire had made with some pictures of “Backdraft” at various tracks this season. We later went to watch the video show of the York event, made by Jeff of the “Destiny” team, which was projected onto the side of Sid’s transit. It was a really good night!

Sunday dawned with much the same weather, so this was a good sign for another full day’s racing. The plan was to finish the 4th cycle, run a 5th qualifier for everyone, have a couple of rounds of demo cars, and start eliminations for the bigger classes. For our 4th round of qualifying, I was matched up with Helen Smythe in the “Hell’s Belle” altered. This time I dialled in at 8.82, which would equal my quickest run at Shakey! I ran an 8.971 @ 151.49 mph, a new Personal Best Speed! So we were really chuffed with that one, and I moved my qualifying mark 8 thousandths closer, although now I had dropped to 6th spot. In the 5th and final qualifier, I ran against Darren Law in the “Wicked Lady” rear-engined dragster. This time I dialled in at 8.88, and just floored it, and ran a breakout 8.782 @ 150.63 mph, my best run at Shakey so far! Again well chuffed, despite the breakout! This run had been real straight and a nice wheels-up launch so, combined with the strong 8 plus the 150 speed, was a pretty perfect run for us! We went back to the pits and prepared for the possibility of eliminations starting for our class but in the end they only took place for the classes with more than 16 in their field (those that had 5 rounds in total). So we stood down for the day. Claire’s friend Sue had come up that day to spectate with her partner Terry, and they both enjoyed seeing “Backdraft” run and had a great day watching all the racing. We packed up around 5pm, and once again towed the car down to the display marquee around 6pm, and this time set her up with the rear wheels next to the rear wheels of Mark’s slingshot. This time we had an even better E.T. and speed to write on the chalkboard we left by the front wheels!! Sunday evening we had a nice chilled night and again watched a video that Jeff had made, this time of Saturday and Sunday’s racing at the Allstars!! Brilliant! Many thanks for the show, Jeff!

Monday was again a nice day with warm weather, so we were really lucky all weekend. I had qualified in 7th place overall, and all 15 Wild Bunch cars had qualified. I was due to face Tracey Froome in the “Sunburst” funny car in the first round, but he had unfortunately experienced starter motor and flexiplate breakages. (I remember that from last year only too well!). This meant that I had a bye in the first round, so I dialled in at 8.74 and planned to go flat out! I ended up running a 9.360 @ 146.97 mph, really squirrely off the line! Oh well! This meant that it was the first time this year that I had made it to the second round, so I was really pleased about that! But the not so good news was that I was due to face Tony Smith in the second round! Oh boy!! Tony had beaten me a couple of times this year, so I knew this was going to be a really close race, and was really psyched up for it!! Claire suggested a Dial-in of 8.95, as I had been able to run near that a couple of times this weekend, early in the day. I slightly lit the tyres off the launch again, but charged down the track after Tony as flat out as I could! I ran a 9.045 @ 149.13 mph, and had a slightly better reaction time than him. He ran an 11.56 on an 11.44 Dial-in, so I just beat him by about a tenth of a second! Real close, and a great race! So I couldn’t believe it, but I was now through to the Semi-finals for the first time in a long time! This meant I was going to race Helen, so this was going to be another tough one, and I was looking forward to it! We got down to the head of the queue in the pairings lanes, and I fired up and drove round, and waited by the burnout box, but … no Helen! She had been unable to fire up, and later Dean diagnosed a problem with the starter motor (another problem I remember all too well, so many commiserations to Helen and Dean about that!). Once more I had dialled in at 8.95, so once again ran flat out, and recorded an 8.928 @ 148.57 mph! Great! Another good straight wheels-up run, so really enjoyed that! Amazingly I was now in the Final, and was due to meet new guy on the block, Phil Sweeney, who had done very well in his first ever MSA event! I kept the same Dial-in of 8.95, as I now knew I could achieve this. Phil left the line first with a great reaction of .101, and actually ran exactly on his dial of 13.18!! And won the eurodragster Perfect E.T. award to boot! My reaction was not too shabby, a .205, and I again charged hard down the track after a nice wheels-up launch. I just caught him at the top end, and ran an 8.916 @ 145 mph! A breakout, but with that great reaction and a perfect E.T. Phil was pretty impossible to beat!! I was still very pleased with the run and how close it had been (just .069 the difference at the top end!). A great race! Congratulations to Phil and his team of Tony and Abby for a great win, especially as it was only their first outing in race competition!! Fair play, Phil! Well done!

We all had a great weekend. I had 9 really enjoyable runs, and 5 of these had been 8-second passes, and 2 over 150 mph, with some lovely wheelies, so really chuffed with the car’s performance. And we have moved up to 3rd place in the Wild Bunch Series with one round to go, so we’re really pleased with that, especially as earlier in the year we were not expecting to be in the Top 4! And many congratulations to good friend Sarah Howells, who has won the Ultimate Power Series in Wild Bunch class. Really thrilled for her! And well done to all the Bunch on a great performance over the weekend, loads of PB’s and close racing.

Thanks to Mark and Claire for towing and crewing all weekend, and to all the marshals and officials and promoters for their hard work throughout the weekend, keeping the event running well. And to all the track prep crew for a great track where there were loads of PB’s and track and national records. And thanks to Kev Elliott for all the effort he put into making it an extra special event with shows and flag-start hot rod drags! Brilliant to see Stu Bradbury jumping in the air flagging some cars off just like he used to! And it was great to see such a huge crowd in the stands on the Sunday! A good reward for everyone’s hard work! What a wow event!! Well done to everyone!

We’re now really looking forward to the next event at Shakey, the Hot Rod Drags on 17th & 18th September! We are currently leading the Roy Wilding Nostalgia Race Cars Series, and that is the final round, so we hope to do well at that event! And our Mark should be back out with his slingshot, so that will be good to race with him again! Plus it should be a big field of Wild Bunch, so loads of fun!

6th - 7th August 2005 - UK NORTHERN NATIONALS - WB YORK SUMMER SHOWDOWN

This weekend was a RWYB event, the “UK Northern Nationals”. It was the Wild Bunch “Summer Showdown” and Wild Bunch Series Round 5 as well as Real Steel Series Round 7, and Round 3 of the Roy Wilding Nostalgia Race Cars Series, and I was one of 5 slingshots in a field of 9 Wild Bunch cars. Claire, Mark and I travelled up from Bristol about quarter to 1 on the Friday, getting there at 6:30pm after a few traffic hold-ups, and were the first Wild Bunch team to arrive at York Dragway. We set up our pit in the midway, just next to the Wild Bunch sign, and waited for all the other Bunchers to arrive. Like the event in May, we formed a line of cars all down the midway, and it looked really good! We chilled out for the evening, all ready for racing on Saturday!

The weather on Saturday morning was cool and cloudy. On Friday night, we had chatted to the scrutineers, and they kindly agreed to come round to our pits to scrutineer us all. This was about 9 in the morning and we all got scrutineered and went to sign on for the day. We fired “Backdraft” up and she sounded fine, so we were all ready to go! We were not far from the fire-up road, so we decided that I would get suited up in the pits and Mark and Claire would push me round to the pairings lanes. Our first round was about quarter to 11, and we didn’t have long to wait! I had decided to experiment with a higher tyre pressure, to see if this would give me more traction. But instead, I was fishtailing all over the place, and the run resulted in a 10.447 @ 144.05 mph! We soon put the tyre pressures back to their normal setting and hoped to improve on the next pass! On the second run, I recorded a much better 9.674 @ 146.21 mph, but still smoking the tyres! The third pass on Saturday, produced another tyre smoking run of 9.516 @ 147.74 mph, which turned out to be my fastest speed of the weekend. I went down for a fourth run, and this was an average 9.723 @ 143.13 mph, with a small wheelie and some tyre smoke. All of these runs had been against Steve Field in “The Black Pig”, and he had run well, and over 130 mph on each run. Al from the “B-Sting” team was at the track this weekend, with Paul Croston, and Al drove Steve and Lesley’s van, and towed us, Steve, Mikey Creswell and Helen Smythe back from the top end after each run.

On Saturday night, we had another good evening, as we went round to the Molden’s camp, as they were having a party for daughter Vicky and two other friends. We did some bench racing, and talked to some new Wild Bunch members. We then went round to “The Black Pig” tent to watch some video footage that Jeff of the “Destiny” team had taken that day!! They had set up in Steve and Lesley’s ‘barn’ and a lot of the Wild Bunch had gathered to watch this and a short film of Sid’s history with the car. Just after we got there, there was a torrential downpour, so we just made it in time! Many thanks to Steve and Lesley for their hospitality and for having a great tent! And to Jeff for the home movies! Very cool!

Sunday morning started off cool and cloudy again, with only a few puddles in the pits. Luckily the track had dried well after Saturday night’s downpour. After the variable runs of the day before, we wavered over a Dial-in. We discounted the 10-second run, as it had been under different conditions, so opted for close to the average of the other 3 runs, and chose a 9.62. All 9 Wild Bunch cars queued up for the first round at 11am, and I was paired up with Joe Stevens in the “Back in Black” altered. Again I smoked the tyres off the start and ran a 10.016 @ 145.16 mph, so not too close on that one! In the second round, I also ran Joe, and although the run was slow off the launch, I recorded a 9.804 @ 145.44 mph, a bit closer! For the next round I was paired up with Tony Wynne-Jones in the “Welsh Raider II” Corvette. The run was about the same, with a 9.796 @ 144.33 mph. In the fourth round, I was again matched with Joe and ran my best time of the weekend, a 9.447 @ 146.13 mph.

The weather had stayed dry, although there had been some dark clouds around. There were even a few spots of rain, but it kept away so we’d got all 4 rounds in! I was well chuffed to find that I had finished 2nd! This came with a Ł45 prize, so that was a real bonus, along with the Ł25 Real Steel money! So thanks to the PDRC, the Wild Bunch and Real Steel for that! Congratulations to Mikey Cresswell for winning in the “Living the Dream” slingshot, and to Sid Slattery for finishing 3rd and Joe for 4th. And well done to all the teams for putting on a great show again! Many thanks to Des, Andy, Mick, Steve and all the hardworking track crew and officials for all their efforts this weekend. Thanks to Steve and Lesley, and Al for towing me back all weekend. And special thanks to Mark and Claire for all their hard work pushing and crewing!

The next event is the “Allstar Nationals” on 27th – 29th August at Shakey and we’re really looking forward to it!! Especially as it’s my birthday weekend! Can’t wait for that one! Stay tuned!!

16th - 17th July 2005 - MINI NATIONALS

This weekend was the “Mini Showdown”, a RWYB event which was Round 4 of the Wild Bunch Series and Round 6 of the Real Steel Series. I was one of 9 slingshots in a field of 20 Wild Bunch cars, our biggest field of the year! I left with “Backdraft” for Shakey about 3:30pm with Lee and Sarah because Claire was coming up later towing Mark’s “Awesome 4-Some” slingshot, and Mark was also driving up with Jade and some friends. We got to the track about 5:30pm, after the bus had overheated on the way up, with the fan not cutting in. We set up in the middle of the pits and waited for Sarah and Darryl, as Sarah was towing Lee’s “Dazed & Confused” altered. They arrived about 6pm, with Darryl towing his beautiful “Chemical Reaction” slingshot, which I’d just finished rebuilding the engine for on the Wednesday! Claire arrived about 9pm, and we all managed to pit together.

Saturday started off sunny and warm and stayed that way all day. All three cars got scrutineered around 11am, and were ready to roll, and we all signed on. Claire had again made some T-shirts for the occasion. There were “Dazed & Confused” shirts for Lee and Sarah, “Chemical Reaction is back” T-shirts for Darryl and Sarah to celebrate getting back to the track, an “Awesome 4-Some” shirt for Mark’s friend Nige who was going to be crewing for him, and Claire had one with all 3 cars on it that said ‘crew’!

Claire, Sarah, Nige and I went down to the fire-up road for Lee and Mark’s first runs of the weekend, so we could crew for them, to start off with. I was overseeing everything and showing Nige the ropes for what to do for Mark. They got to pair up together, which was nice, and Lee ran a 12.412 @ 110.25 mph and Mark ran a 14.677 @ 93.80 mph (Mark got the holeshot on that one!). We picked them up at the top end and got ready for the next run. Mark had been a little of the pace on that one, and had some good advice to change the points and plugs and advance the ignition, so he sat out the next run in the pits making all the changes.

Lee and I towed down together, and we were able to pair up for the run. And this time, Gareth Kent helped us out with crewing. I wheelied sideways off the line and smoked one tyre, and ran a 9.413 @ 146.55 mph, while Lee ran a good 12.272 @ 110.83 mph. (Lee got the holeshot this time!). Back in the pits, I had to change the oil again, ready for the next run, as obviously the boys were working on getting their own cars ready! Unfortunately, on the last run, Lee had broken something in the axle and couldn’t run again this weekend. It was a really great shame, as we had all been looking forward to some more match racing together and seeing how well he could do. Hopefully, it will not take too much to fix! We then towed Mark down by himself for a run and he paired up with a Karmann Ghia. He had a problem getting second gear, so only ran a 17.819 @ 89.58 mph.

Meanwhile, Alec Coe had just run his first ever 8-second pass at over 150 mph in his and Kev’s “Shy Talker” slingshot! (Congratulations Alec and team!!). Funnily enough, his speed was exactly the same as my highest so far, 151.08 mph!! He came over to ask if I wanted a match race, and of course I said yes! We were really hoping for some side-by-side 8’s at over 150!! Well, once again I smoked it off the line, then off and on the throttle and a bit sideways twice, so I had to give up on that one! It was a 10.060 at only 128 mph, whilst Alec ran strong and straight to a 9.015, again at 150 mph. From the picture Claire took, it seems like I had him off the line, but then it all went downhill from there!! Hope we can have a few more match races this year!! After my run, Mark paired up with Darryl for his first run since the rebuild! Mark had a problem getting second gear again, and ran an 18.352 @ 93 mph, whilst Darryl had a great checkout pass, running a 12.107 @ 108 mph. At the top end Mark noticed some oil leaks from his engine, and we realised he had blown a head gasket. So he also had to park the car for the rest of the weekend. So hopefully he can get that all fixed in time for his next race. Scottie had arrived to help crew for all 3 of us on the Sunday, so he didn’t have as much work to do as planned! We still had a good day, and a good time on the night, as it was Twisted Dean Smythe’s Graduation party in the pits. He had just achieved a degree in Automotive Engineering, so fair play to him! And thanks to all the gang for the party!

Sunday dawned sunny and dry and became really hot, almost as hot as the Shakespeare Nats mid-June! As the runs had been really variable on the Saturday, we decided to Dial-in at 9.40, because I knew I had been able to run that the day before. There was quite a long wait in the queue for the first round, as it had become really busy. I paired up with Sarah in “Destiny’s Angel” for this run and, just as we got into stage, we were shut down as the previous car had not been able to clear the track. While we were waiting, Darren Prentice grabbed the grip juice sprayer and put a bit of extra track prep just in front of me and Sarah. I decided to nail the launch again, and had a nice wheelie and the quickest run so far this weekend, an 8.912 @ 148.95 mph!! Oh, well, never mind the Dial-in, I was just well chuffed to run an ‘8’! And it was against Sarah again! She ran a 9.724, not far from her 9.70 Dial! We went down for the second round just after 2pm, and this time I was paired with Joe Stevens in the “Back in Black” altered. Again, I went out of shape after the launch, and recorded a 9.881 @ 146.15 mph to Joe’s 10.097.

As the day had been so hot, and the people and the cars were still pretty hot, we spaced the rounds out a bit, and as we’d had a wait for the first round, it was getting later for the other runs, so it was decided to just run the 3 rounds. We left the pits about quarter to 4 for the third round. There was not much of a queue at this time, as things had gone pretty quiet. For this run I was against Roland Willats in the “Dragin Time” slingshot, who ran a high 12-second pass. I put in my closest to Dial-in of the day, with a 9.447 @ 144.23 mph, but overall had been pretty far off, so nowhere near good enough for a Top 4 place this time!

Many thanks as always to all the track crew and officials for all their hard work over the weekend, especially in such hot weather. Thanks to Gareth for helping out on Saturday, Scottie and Lee for crewing Sunday. And thanks to my Claire for firing me up, backing me up and pulling the chute pin on the line again!

Still a great weekend, and it was nice to have the boys racing at the same event again too. Congratulations again to Alec Coe for his 8-second passes, and son Tom, who ran a storming 9.090 @ 157 mph for his first ever run in the car! Wow! Well done to the Mad R’s team! And really chuffed for Darryl and Sarah (DASH is back!) for getting the car back on track and for Darryl running his first couple of runs over 130 mph!! Fair cushtie, mate!! And congrats to Phil Sweeney in the “Antisocial” slingshot and “Buzzin” Sid Slattery in the “Destiny” slingshot, who both got their MSA licenses! We think the whole Wild Bunch put on a great show again, so fair play to all!

The next event is the “Summer Showdown” at York Dragway on 6th & 7th August, and that will be a lot of fun! We’re really looking forward to it!! And we’d like to wish Tom Coe & Jenny Archer all the best for their wedding that weekend! Congratulations to them and all best wishes for a great future together! Also best wishes to Tony and Linda Smith as their son is also getting married then!

2nd - 3rd July 2005 - NOSTALGIA NATIONALS

This weekend was a RWYB event, the “Nostalgia Nationals”. It was Roy Wilding Nostalgia Race Cars Series Round 2, and I was one of 10 slingshots in a field of 16 Wild Bunch cars. Scottie had come down from Reading to drive my ’63 Chevy pickup up to the track to use as a pushtruck for pushing the dragster down to the fire-up road, old-style. We left Bristol about 6pm with Claire and Mark towing Mark’s slingshot, “Awesome 4-Some”, Scottie driving the pickup and me towing “Backdraft” with Scottie’s son Zak. We arrived about 8pm and Sarah and Darryl not long after, and we all set up camp together as they were going to be Mark’s crew for the weekend.

The weather on Saturday started showery about 5am, but then started to dry up. Mark and I got scrutineered and we all signed on. Claire had made us a great surprise, with T-shirts for the occasion. Mine was a nice wheelie picture of “Backdraft” at the Pod, that Sharkman had taken, and it read “Backdraft, 8-second 150mph methanol injected slingshot dragster! Mark’s T-shirt was of Sharkman’s great one-wheel launch picture of “Awesome 4-Some” and Claire had one with both cars on it that said ‘crew’!

We all went down to the fire-up road for Mark’s first run of the weekend, so I could check whether we had cured the wheel bounce. We think it has improved quite a bit with the new shock absorbers on the front. Mark ran a 14.502 @ 97mph. After that it was ‘push time’! We were trying to recreate a bit of Nostalgia with how they used to push the cars down the track in the 60’s. So I had installed a pushpad on the truck and a longer pushbar with wheel onto the original pushbar of the dragster. Mark and Josh sat in the back of the pickup whilst Scottie drove with Zak in the cab. Claire ran alongside on the first push to make sure the bar and roller were correctly positioned on the pushpad, and we just pushed the car down from the pits into the pairings lanes. There were a couple people who were nearly falling over backwards to get a photo, which was pretty funny, and some even clapped! We did this for every one of the 6 runs over the weekend, and got some great pictures! It looked really cool and we had a lot of fun doing it! Well chuffed!

The first run of the weekend produced a nice wheelie and my only ‘9’ of the weekend, a 9.038 @ 149.78 mph! (All the other 5 runs were in the ‘8’s!! Well pleased with that!). Back in the pits, I had to change my own oil seeing as Mark was looking after his own car! While I was doing this, Darryl and Sarah towed Mark down for another run, as they were going to be his crew for the rest of the weekend. When I had finished, I ran down to the fireup road in time to see him run a 15.9 at a new best speed of 99.08 mph. After that round, Sarah and Darryl towed Mark down, and Scottie pushed me down for the next run of the day. I ran an 8.926 @ 149.13 mph with a good wheelie, and the whole run felt good. While we were towing back, we saw Mark come through the top end on his next run, a 14.202 at a new best speed of 99.27 mph. We pulled over at the bank to watch the Fuel Altereds come through, and saw Mickey Moore driving “The Mob” going through for his best ever run at Shakey, a 7.30 @ 203 mph, against Wendy Baker who was still doing checkout passes in the “Time Warp” Bantam-bodied altered. Unfortunately Mickey had a small fire at the top end, and all the fire crews went to attend that. Luckily he was fine, apart from a bit shaken and the car is mostly okay, except for a crack right down the old faithful block! Hope to see him and the team back out later this year! Meanwhile, Mark was stuck at the top end, as no tow cars could go up there until things were completely clear, so after we towed back to the pits, we drove up and picked him up with the truck. That was it for the day, as a small shower curtailed racing about half an hour early. We had a great day, and a good time on the night, as it was Zak’s 9th Birthday, and we celebrated with cake and presents back at the bus. Happy Birthday, Zak!!

Sunday, Sunday, Sunday!
Sunday dawned cloudy and dry and became really warm so we looked forward to some good racing. Claire decided on a Dial-in of 8.97, about half way between Saturday’s runs. Darryl and Sarah again towed Mark down, and Scottie pushed me down, this time being filmed by Dave Long, our new friend who is making a short documentary on the Wild Bunch. For the first round, I ran an 8.950 @ 148.02 mph, so really chuffed to be quite close to the Dial-in! Mark had dialled in at 14.00 seconds even and ran a 14.271 @ 97 mph, so he wasn’t a long way off. It wasn’t long til the next round, and again I had to change oil between these runs. We pushed down again, and this time we saw Dougie Bond and Bob Glassup in the fireup road, and they clapped and smiled when they saw we were pushing the dragster with the truck! This made our day again, as we were having fun with the whole setup! On this run, the car pulled another nice big wheelie, and ran 8.826 @ 149.58 mph, the quickest so far at Shakey, and I was really chuffed to win the “Quickest Wild Bunch” award from the NSRA for this one! (I was lucky to get that, because if Alec Coe had done one more run with his and Kev’s lovely new blown slingshot “Shy Talker”, he may have beaten that time!). Mark ran well in this round too, as he recorded his first 13-second run, a great 13.633 at another new best speed of 99.95 mph, so close to the ton! We then had a bit of lunch and it was time for the third round. I ran an 8.989 @ 148.26 mph, just .019 off my Dial-in, and closer than I’d been for some time!! Mark ran another good ‘13’ with a 13.759, again at 99 mph! He had a electrical problem after this run, and had to be towed off the top end. He discovered a chafed wire, and a lot of people pitched in to help him fix this. He was able to get it repaired and the bodywork back on, and managed to tow out just after we pushed out of the pits, at about 4:20pm! There was absolutely no queue at this time, so we all assembled at the blue hut end of the fireup road and pushed down in one go. Luckily Mark was right behind me, so we were able to pair up. Both of us pulled a wheelie off the line, which was really cool! (Sharkman got a couple of great pictures of this, so thanks for that! And thanks again to him for all the grea pics he took of the pushtruck setup, and the big wheelies!). On this run, I ran an 8.840 @ 149.52 mph, so was well pleased with how the car had run over the weekend! Mark did well again, as he ran a new Personal Best E.T. of 13.561 @ 99.89 mph!

At the prize presentation, I was surprised to be awarded the “Best Burnout” Spot Prize by the commentators. The car has been running really strongly, including the burnouts, so guess that might be why. I was really pleased as well, as I finished in 2nd place overall, my highest finish for about a year! So really chuffed with that. Our Mark did really well too, as he finished in 4th place! And was really surprised! And we were really thrilled for him when he won the “Driver’s Choice” Spot Prize, as voted for by all the Wild Bunch teams attending. Fair play, Mark! So we all had a great weekend!

Many thanks as always to all the track crew and officials for all their hard work over the weekend. And many thanks to Scottie for pushing me and crewing all weekend. Cheers, mate for making it possible! Thanks to Darryl and Sarah for crewing for Mark and for all their support. And thanks to Claire for all the extra crewing, firing me up, backing me up and pulling the chute pin on the line!!

Congratulations to Steve Field on his first 9-second run in “The Black Pig” altered, a 9.77! Excellent! And many congrats to Alec and Kev and the Mad R’s team on the debut of their beautiful shiny blown methanol–injected slingshot. Really chuffed for them. Congrats also to Roy and Angi on the debut of another beautiful car, their “Chariot of Fire” bright green big block altered! Loads of attention to detail and a lovely car. Great to see Roy back racing in the Bunch! Congrats also to good friend Daz Selwyn in his “Pandemonium” Dodge running in the Gasser Circus, as he ran his best E.T. of 10.21!!! Glad I had a hand in the tune-up!!! Ha ha! Good also to see Mikey Cresswell back in the 10’s, Roland Willats far down into the 12’s, and our Mark in the 13’s! We think the Wild Bunch put on a great show again, with some really good performances and we’re really proud to be part of the Bunch, a great group of people and cars!

The next event is the “Mini Nationals” at Shakey on 16th & 17th July, and all three of us will be racing at that one, me, Lee and Mark, so it will be a lot of fun! We’re really looking forward to it!!

25th - 26th June 2005 - SANTA POD SUMMER NATIONALS

This weekend was the first event this year for the Wild Bunch up at Santa Pod, and it was Wild Bunch Series Round 3 and our Real Steel Series Round 5, and I was one of 3 Slingshots in a field of 8 Wild Bunch cars racing. Me, Claire, and Mark left home Friday afternoon just after 1:30pm and drove up to the Pod, getting there about 5:30. We then set up camp in the pits, right alongside the track, just before the finish line, a really great place to be as it means we can get to see some racing for a change! We then all went to sign on, then Darryl and I towed the car up to be scrutineered, while Mark and Claire got everything set up by the bus, all by about 7:00pm!

The weather had been very wet on the Friday, and we were greeted with the sight of Darren Prentice, the race director and some of the track crew sucking up the puddles in the pits! He came over to welcome us all to Santa Pod, which was really nice! On Saturday there were scheduled to be three rounds of qualifying and the first round for us was due to be about 11. It had tipped down about 5 o’clock in the morning and there was still intermittent rain and drizzle. The track crew worked hard to clear the surface water and dry the track, and qualifying got going about 1:00pm. We were called down to the pairings lanes about 3:30, and it was past 4 o’clock when we had the first qualifier. Bernie and Darryl towed me down to the fire-up road behind Sarah in “Destiny’s Angel”. They have recently tarmaced all this area, and numbered the lanes, and it really works well getting several classes paired up at once. On this first run, I decided to Dial in at 8.80, as I was hopeful of running another 8, this time at the Pod. I nearly did in the first round, as I ran a 9.001 @ 149.42 mph – how close can you get?! This had been against Helen Smythe in the “Hell’s Belle” altered who was running in the team’s new engine. After this round, I was number one qualifier out of the six who took part! The second qualifier was around 7:00pm, although it only felt about 5 o’clock! This time, me and Sarah were able to pair up, and I kept the same Dial-in. She was kidding me about being a good luck charm to run 8’s, so we were gonna test this theory! I smoked one tyre on this one and drifted right, so had to back off a bit before getting back on it. I ran a 9.272, but at 150.13 mph, my second time over 150! (So guess the charm worked for the speed this time!). We must both have been fired up as well, as I had a .151 reaction, and Sarah a .176, and she ran a strong 9.573 @ 142 mph. She had dialled in at 9.55, so moved into the number 1 spot! Fair play! I had moved down to number 3, as Mike Cresswell had gone up to second. There was a driver’s meeting to let us know that they were going to run the 3rd qualifier in the morning, which was great, as it meant we would get at least 2 runs that day! We then had a nice evening chatting with friends and relaxing, looking forward to better weather predicted for Sunday. All this weekend, Dave Long was again doing some filming for his short documentary on the Wild Bunch, so he was interviewing many of the drivers, and getting some good racing footage.

Sunday was still mostly cloudy, but stayed dry, and the air and track were pretty good! We got called down for the qualifier at about 10:15am, and again I was able to pair up with Sarah. I kept the same Dial-in, and was really chuffed to run my first 8 at the Pod, an 8.898 @ 149.93 mph! Whilst Sarah ran another good 9.5 @ 144 mph! This put me back up into second qualifier. Some more excitement on this round was Helen Smythe really going for it, and smashing her PB and Dial-in by seconds to run an incredible 9.472 @ 136 mph!!! So many congratulations to her and Dean on this great achievement! (And congrats also to Joe Stevens who ran his first 9’s in his “Back in Black” altered, while in competition in Pro E.T. Fair play, Joe!). After this qualifier, Claire quickly did the ladders, and checked them out with the officials, and confirmed that I had drawn Tony Smith in the first round, which was the quarter-finals!! Oh boy! I decided to keep the same Dial-in, as I was nearly approaching the 8.80, and was gonna go flat out on this run! We went down to the pairings lanes about 1 o’clock and got strapped in and ready. I pulled a nice smooth wheelie on the launch and really charged down after Tony. I had just nipped him on reactions, .182 to a .191 and caught him about three-quarter track. I was really enjoying the run, and the car was going well so I kept right on it! We both pulled round to the collection area at the top end of the track, and waited for our crews to tell us the results. I hadn’t seen a win light in my lane, so guessed Tony had won, but this didn’t matter at all when Claire came running up to tell me I’d run a blistering 8.747 @ 151.08 mph!!! Wow! I couldn’t believe it. I was amazed and chuffed to have broken out on the 8.80! And glad I had stayed with the run, as it felt so good! We were over the moon, and only a little disappointed to go out in the first round again! Oh well! That run did mean that I won the “Fastest MPH” of the Bunch for the weekend, so really pleased with that one as well! And I had recorded my best statistics all the way through, including a 1.239 60ft time, and a speed of 124 mph at the eighth-mile! Many congratulations to Tony for winning, as he then went on to take his first ever MSA event win! Fair play, Tone! Well chuffed for you!

Later on I had been going round to see some friends in the pits, and one of the marshals asked me to go and see Darren Prentice. He told me I could have another run, and I thought something must have happened with the timing. But they were running about an hour ahead of schedule and he asked me if I would like to do a ‘demo run’! Well, I was really chuffed with the honour, and jumped at the chance! He also asked if I could ask someone else in the Wild Bunch to pair up with me. And shortly after this, Sarah broke out with a PB of 9.470, and got eliminated in the Semi-finals, so when she got back to the pits, I asked her if she would like to do the demo run. She was well chuffed too, and we were asked to go to the pairings lanes about 4 o’clock, after the Fuel Altereds, and with another few racers doing demos. We got down there on time, but did have to wait a bit, as there had been an oil down, and of course we did have to defer to all the racers yet to run their semi-finals so it was after 5 when we ran. As we were no longer in competition, this was to be a ‘heads-up’ race! We were both really up for this, and Sarah had me on the reaction time, a .154 to a .185! She recorded a strong 9.491 @ 144.68 mph, her best speed of the weekend, whilst I had a nice wheelie again, and ran another 8, with an 8.895 @ 149.55 mph! Cool!

I was also lucky enough to win the “Best Slingshot” Spot Prize this weekend, as the commentators had liked the wheelies and the strong runs, so I was really chuffed with that too! And congrats to Sarah for winning the “Best Altered”, well-deserved!

Many thanks to Bernie for towing us all weekend, and to his lovely wife for her delicious scones! And to Mark and Claire for crewing, as they really did me proud. And big thanks to all the marshals and officials who worked hard all weekend to get the track ready Saturday, and ran the event so efficiently! Thanks to all at Santa Pod for making us feel so welcome, we really appreciated it!

I thought that all the Wild Bunch drivers and crews put on a great show, and I am really proud to be part of the Wild Bunch, great people, great cars, great times, great fun!

We’re now really looking forward to the “Nostalgia Nationals” at Shakey, next weekend, 2nd & 3rd July. Scottie is driving my ’63 Chevy pickup to the track and we plan to use it as a ‘push car’ for “Backdraft” like they used to do, back in the day! And we hope to run some more good numbers! Stay tuned!!

18th - 19th June 2005 - ULTIMATE POWER SERIES SHAKESPEARE NATIONALS

This weekend was the second round of the Ultimate Power Series and our Real Steel Series Round 4 at Shakespeare County Raceway, and I was one of 2 Slingshots in a field of 8 Wild Bunch cars racing. Me, Claire, and Mark left home Friday night about 6 o’clock and drove up to the track, and set up camp by about 8, down near the market end of the pits. We were scrutineered in the morning and I warmed the car up – she sounded really good!

On Saturday there were scheduled to be three rounds of qualifying and the first round was about 11. The day had dawned sunny and warm and gradually became really hot! On the first run, I decided to Dial in at 8.80, as the car had been running really well up at York, and I wanted to get a run in on the right side of the Dial-in. Bernie and Darryl towed me down to the fire-up road behind Sarah in “Destiny’s Angel”, and we had hoped to pair up, but we were temporarily down to single-lane running, in the right hand lane. I pulled a really big wheelie on launch (thanks to Sharky for another great pic on that one!). I had to back out, got on it again and had to steer all the way down the track. This was a 9.108 @ 147.99 mph, so I was pretty pleased with that! The next qualifier was not til about 2:30 and as the weather had been so hot, we were all drinking quite a lot of water. There had been a bit of a queue in the fireup road, and a bit of down time, so by the time I got half way down, I had to get out of the car, take my helmet and mask off, and leg it to the Portaloo behind the VIP suite, as I just could not wait any longer!!!! I made it back to the car in time, before the queue had moved too far, and got my mask, helmet, neck brace and gloves back on and got strapped in with plenty of time to go! Phew! For this round, I was matched up with Mike Cresswell in the “Living the Dream” slingshot. I kept the same Dial-in, and smoked one wheel on the burnout, and this time I pulled one wheelie, came back down and pulled another one! I was then swerving gently towards the centre line, so had to steer to get straight again, and ended up left of centre on the lane. I was all over the place on this one, and had to more-or-less abort the run, so it resulted in a 10.074 @ 119.52 mph! I stayed with the same Dial for the third qualifier at about 4:15, and the temperature was still really hot then. This run was better again, but I still had to do lots of steering. I ran a 9.119 @ 148.21 mph, matched up with Mike again. I had qualified in 5th place overall, out of the 7 who qualified. Later that day I decided to add a bit more lead to the weight box under the front of the nose cone, to try to control the wheelies a bit, as they had started to become a bit fierce again! The weather was still great, so we all relaxed and enjoyed a warm Saturday evening!

Sunday dawned warm and sunny again, and got really hot! As it turns out, I was paired up with good friend Sarah in the first round! On Saturday, Mark had suggested that I do a run without doing a burnout beforehand, because, as we run an open diff, I was doing one-wheel burnouts, and this had become more noticeable now that the power of the engine had increased! We guessed that this must be why I was going all over the track on the run!

For this round, the quarter-finals, I had opted for a 9.10, thinking that the track would be pretty good, and that conditions might be about the same as they had been the day before, and knowing that I had been able to run that time a couple times Saturday. As I was not going to do a burnout, I drove round the water box, and did a few blips of the throttle and went into pre-stage. I launched well, with a nice smooth wheelie, and charged down after Sarah. The run had been as straight as a die, so fair play to Mark for the suggestion! I was amazed to run a new Personal Best of 8.884 @ 143.15! (Backing out!!) My second 8 of the year, and both against Sarah!! (And incidentally, the first one had been without a burnout, too!). This turned out to be my only run of the day, as Sarah had beaten me!! Fair play to her! And many congratulations to her as well, as she went on to win the event!

I was lucky enough to win the “Best Slingshot” Spot Prize this weekend, which I was really chuffed with. Thanks to Bernie for towing all Saturday and Ed for towing Sunday, and Mark and Claire for crewing, and to all the marshals and officials for their hard work in the hot weather all weekend!

We’re now really looking forward to the first event at Santa Pod this year, the Summer Nationals, next weekend, the 25th & 26th June. And with any luck, a few good numbers up there!! Stay tuned!!

29th - 30th May 2005 - UK SPRING NATIONALS - WB YORK SPRING SHOOTOUT

This weekend was a RWYB event, the “UK Spring Nationals”. It was the Wild Bunch “Spring Shootout” and Wild Bunch Series Round 2 as well as Real Steel Series Round 2, and the first round of the Roy Wilding Nostalgia Race Cars Series, and I was one of 5 slingshots in a field of 11 Wild Bunch cars. Claire, Mark and I left Bristol about 11:30 Saturday morning for the steady drive up north to York Dragway. Darryl and Sarah followed us up, as Sarah was going to be driving “Destiny’s Angel”. We made a couple of stops along the way, and arrived just as the gates opened at 6:00pm. We were the first of the Wild Bunch to get there, and started to set up our pit. Nine other WB cars arrived during the evening, and formed a nice line along the middle section of the pits, which made an impressive sight.

The weather on Sunday morning was warm and dry! We towed round to get scrutineered, and then signed on, ready to roll! We fired “Backdraft” up, and she didn’t sound quite right, and there was a wet header on number 2 cylinder. I checked the plugs and one of the electrodes was bent over (it had been hit by the piston). I changed the plug, and fired the car back up, and she sounded really good again! We were now using a slave battery to help spin the engine over on starting, so this had to be carted around on every run. [Thanks Mark for playing chess with the battery! Ha ha!]. We towed down for our first run about 12 noon. This run was all over the place, and resulted in a 9.917 @ 146.29 mph! Already my best speed at York! When I got to the top end, I noticed a small oil leak out the dizzy gasket. Luckily both Dean of Team Twisted, and Bernie, owner of the “Destiny’s Angel” had one. (I had tried to fit one, and it broke, so then was able to use the other, and fitted that okay). So many thanks to both of them! And after that, it turned out to be trouble-free racing for the next 6 runs! Yee-ha!!!!

On the second run Sunday, I had a big wheels-up launch and ran a 9.082 @ 148.07 mph, my quickest and fastest run at York and my second best run ever!! It felt really good and Des Brown, the chief starter at York, really liked that one! The third run on Sunday, was another tyre-lighting launch, resulting in a 9.906 but still at 147.20 mph! All that day, we had a young film-maker, Dave Long, filming the Wild Bunch. He is just starting out, and he approached us to ask if he could make a 10-minute documentary-type film on the Wild Bunch. He caught lots of track and pit footage, and interviewed quite a few of the teams, so we really look forward to watching that!

Monday dawned dry and warm, but some weather forecasts predicted showers later, so we were hopeful of getting at least a few rounds in! Joe Stevens had joined us, meaning there were now 11 racers in the Bunch. After having runs varying by nine tenths on Sunday, it made it a bit difficult to predict what we might run, but we decided to Dial in at 9.35 for the day, hoping to be in the low 9’s again. All 11 cars towed down for the first round, and I was paired up with Gavyn in the “Herr X” slingshot. I ran a 9.459 @ 147.68 mph, so was pretty pleased to be only around a tenth off my Dial-in, to start the day! On the second run, I matched up with Sid Slattery in the beautiful “Destiny” slingshot, and had to make a few goes at the launch, losing a bit of traction off the line, so ran a 9.583 @ 145.51 mph. In the third round, I raced Mike Cresswell and ran a 9.410 @ 148.19 mph, again my fastest speed at York, and another good clean run, and the closest to my Dial-in that day. In the fourth round, I paired up with Sid again, and ran a 9.465 @ 146.00 mph, so was again pretty pleased with that!

The weather had stayed dry, so we’d got all 4 rounds in! At the prize presentation afterwards, I was really chuffed to find that I had finished in 3rd place, my first Top 4 for a while! This also came with a Ł20 prize, so that was a bonus! We also won the “Best Slingshot” Spot Prize for the weekend, chosen by the tower team, so we were really pleased with that as well!! Congratulations to Sid on his first Top 4 finish, and to Tony Smith for winning, and the Loveridges for a good second place and their PB’s, and to Steve Field for his first 130 mph runs! And to Team Twisted for their “Best Appearing Team”. And indeed to all the teams for putting on a great show!

Many thanks to Des, Andy, Mick and all the hardworking track crew and officials for all their efforts this weekend. Thanks to Sarah and Darryl for the loan of the tow vehicle and accompanying us on the motorway, and their company! And thanks especially to Mark and Claire for all their hard work crewing!

The next event is the “Shakespeare Nationals” on 18th & 19th June at Shakey and we’re really looking forward to that!! Especially as it is the first of ‘3 in a row’! With the next weekend being the “Summer Nationals” at Santa Pod, and the following weekend to that being the “Nostalgia Nationals” back at SCR! What a fortnight!!

PS. I got the car in the garage on Tuesday again, but this time, not for any major problems or maintenance, just a check on the dizzy gasket and a general spanner check and clean up! Can’t wait for the next event! Stay tuned!!

14th - 15th May 2005 - AMERICAN CAR WORLD - WB SPRING NATIONALS

This weekend was a RWYB event, the “American Car World Nationals”. It was the Wild Bunch “Spring Nationals” and Wild Bunch Series Round 1 as well as Real Steel Series Round 2, and I was one of 8 slingshots in a field of 16 Wild Bunch cars. Claire and Mark had driven up earlier with Mark’s car, and Sarah and Darryl had towed up Lee’s car, “Dazed and Confused”, behind their bus, so Lee, Sarah, Jade and I arrived with “Backdraft” being the last in the fleet of Hartnell cars! The THREE cars looked great all in a row together!

The weather on Saturday was cool and very windy, but fortunately dry! Scottie had joined us as he was due to crew and tow for all 3 of us. It was the first time out for Mark’s Pinto-powered slingshot, “Awesome 4-Some”. We all went down to the fire-up road to help him on his first run. He did really good, running a 16.906 @ 72.29 mph, so he had beaten both mine and Lee’s first runs, so fair play to him! Then on the next run, we all towed down together, and me and Mark paired up for his first race, which was good. I had a big wheels-up launch on this one and ran a 9.206 @ 144.12 mph, and Mark improved his time to a 15.182 @ 93 mph. And on the third run of the day, Lee and Mark paired up, with Lee running a 12.474 and Mark recording his best time of the weekend with a 14.128 @ 96 mph. I then tried to fire up, but there seemed to be no life in the battery, so Scottie ran back to the pits, and cycled back on Claire’s bike with another battery to give me a jump start. We got it fired up, and I pulled round and did the burnout, and started to reverse. Number two cylinder began to smoke, and then really started chuffing out, and I was shut down, also with a small oil leak. Fair play to the marshall for making the call, as we wouldn’t have wanted to have made the run like that! We went back to the pits, after Claire and Sarah had picked the boys up from the top end! I took the manifold off, and discovered that it was an inlet manifold gasket leak, so Saturday night I fitted another gasket, and finished working about 9pm!

Sunday dawned dry and became really warm so we were hopeful of some good racing. I fired the car up in the pits, and everything seemed fine. I dialled in at 9.00 for the day, hoping to be in the low 9.0’s or dip into the 8’s again. We all towed down for the first round, and I did my burnout and backed up. I started to pull forward to stage, but the engine started to smoke again, so I had to shut her down. It was disappointing, but it meant that after that I was crewing for Lee and Mark, which was good, and I was able to help Claire who was running around pushing and helping us all! Lee managed to do a wild burnout that had my heart pounding, and was making really strong runs, with a weekend best of 12.200, and Mark was really confident and getting to grips with some teething troubles of a new car. He put in a one-wheel launch on one of his runs, and this was captured on several pictures on the net! He even won the “Best Slingshot” Spot Prize for the weekend!

It was great to have all 3 cars at the track for the first time, and we got some really good pictures of us all together. The boys did really did us proud, and completed all 4 Wild Bunch rounds, collecting 5 points each. Lee finished in 6th place, and Mark in 9th, and as for me, I broke, and only finished with the 1 point! Oh well, I’ll have to try and do better next time! Ha ha!

Many thanks as always to all the track crew and officials for all their hard work over the weekend. And many thanks to Scottie for towing us and crewing for us all weekend. Cheers, mate! Thanks to Sarah for helping strapping Lee in and for her support, and thanks to Jade for being at the top end, and cheering us all on!! And thanks to Claire for all the extra crewing, and a bit of towing! Thanks also to a few people passing by who helped push all the cars in the fire-up road! Much appreciated!

The next event is the Bank Holiday weekend “Spring Shootout” at the UK Spring Nationals at York Dragway on May 29th/30th and this will be a lot of fun. We’re really looking forward to it!!

PS. I got the car in the garage that Sunday night, and did a compression check which turned out to be fine. It seems the gasket had gone again, due to some seating problems. I hope I have now cured this problem, as when we fired her up again the next weekend, everything seems fine again. Stay tuned!!

16th - 27th April 2005 - POWER NATIONALS

This weekend was the first event of our 11th season and we had really been looking forward to it, after only getting 3 runs on the new engine last year, and not really seeing what performance it could produce. Over the off-season, I had changed the rings and bearings, and we were all raring to go! I was one of 2 Slingshots in a field of 7 Wild Bunch cars taking part in this the first round of both the Ultimate Power Series and our Real Steel Series at Shakespeare County Raceway. Me, Claire, Lee and Sarah drove up to the track Friday night, with Mark driving up beforehand with a group of friends. We set up in the Wild Bunch camp down by the market end of the pits. We were scrutineered fairly early in the morning, and had the roll cage inspected by Glenn Stockton, who was doing a routine check of all race car roll cages. We were then hoping for some good weather so we could get out on the track and have some fun!

On Saturday there were scheduled to be three rounds of qualifying and racing was delayed until about noon, after a damp start to the day! I had fired the car up and checked the timing, and everything seemed to be fine; although I had had a bit of a problem with the gearbox, in that I could not get reverse gear! (I had rebuilt the box over the winter, and something was not right). So, as time had run out to re-strip and rebuild it, I planned on doing runs without burnouts, and just performing some ‘dry hops’ and blips to warm the tyres. The engine had sounded really strong and powerful! On the first run, I decided to Dial in at 9.10, as this was just under my PB of 9.126, and if we broke out, we’d be pretty happy with that! (I was still looking for that magic 8-second pass and trying to break the 150mph barrier, my long-time dream. After chasing away some mechanical gremlins, and hoping for the 150 all last year (and getting only 3˝ miles an hour away) we hoped this would be the year we did it!). Lee towed me down to the fire-up road, and I was due to be in the second pair out, but Dave Ward in the “Rampage” funny car had shut down, and then so had Sarah Howells in Bernie Nicholas’ “Destiny’s Angel” altered, as a plane had suddenly landed on the strip!!!! As it turned out, Dave was a bit too hot to run straight away, so I paired up with good friend Sarah in the other lane. I did a few blips of the throttle and launched well, but with no wheelie. Well… we have often heard other racers talking of the legendary ‘off the trailer’ great runs, and never experienced anything like it. And on this run we not only ended up with an ‘off the trailer’ run, but also a ‘straight out of the container from Finland’ run (must be even rarer!) as I recorded an 8.885 @ 150.03 mph pass!! I was absolutely over the moon, and Claire was ecstatic, deafening half of the fire-up road in the process! Lee, Mark and Claire drove down to the top end to meet me, and Lee had all the hazards flashing and the horn blaring, joking ‘Did you have the brakes on, Dad?!’! And I couldn’t believe it when they told me what I had run! Also at the top end joining in the celebrations were good friends Sarah and Darryl, and we were all really chuffed, to say the least!

The run caught us all by surprise, probably because we had spent so long last year hoping that it might happen, and not thinking that it would on the first run of the year! It’s still only starting to sink in now, a few days after! Many thanks to all the people who came up and congratulated us, phoned, texted, and e-mailed, and got almost as excited as us!! Thanks also to Sharky for that great pic of the scoreboard at the top end with those magic numbers – that’s really something to treasure, along with the timing ticket, which we keep having to look at!! Wow! What a feeling, achieving two big goals with one run, it’s a dream come true! Absolutely thrilled!

We still hadn’t come down to earth when it was time for the second qualifying run, and Dialled in at 8.80 this time to try and get a better qualifier in. This time, I lit the tyres off the launch, and one tyre grew more than the other, causing me to back off before getting back in the run. I recorded a 9.590 @ 149.06 mph, so still pretty high on the speed, and ‘backing up’ the earlier speed. I was then a fair bit off my Dial-in, so qualified in 7th and last place overall! But that didn’t matter one bit!!

Sunday dawned cool but dry, and I was due to face Tony Smith in the first round. He had been running really consistently, and had been tuning “The Cunning Plan” pretty well at the first two RWYB’s, so I was getting pretty excited about the race! In the morning, I had a bit of trouble getting the car fired up, after the freezing cold night, and I then changed batteries. The engine was a bit wet on one cylinder, so I changed that plug, and it seemed to clear, and the car sounded really strong again! Not long after, we were called down to the pairings lanes by new marshal and good friend, Fay Radcliffe, of the “Burning Desire” team. Tony had Dialled in at 11.60, and I opted for an 8.80, thinking that the track would be pretty good, and that conditions might be about the same as they had been the day before, and knowing that I was just going to run flat out, to try and get another good time and speed. Tony ran an 11.720 and I just couldn’t catch him, as I was too far off my Dial-in, posting a 9.172 @ 146.83 mph. There had been a good battle on the startline though, as I recorded a .193 to his .196 Reaction time! Real close! Fair play, Tony!! I had also had a nice wheelie off the line on this one, which I enjoyed, and Sharkman got a few good pictures of!

Although I didn’t get any further in the ‘illuminations’ (thanks to Heidi of “The Black Pig” team for this new title, which we like much better than ‘eliminations’), there was a bonus, as I was lucky enough to win the “Best Slingshot” Spot Prize, which I was really chuffed with, and we also won the “Fastest MPH” Spot Prize, which is something special to commemorate my first 150+ mph run!!

Congratulations to Mike Cresswell for winning the event in the “Living the Dream” slingshot and to Dave Ward in the “Rampage” funny car, who ran his first 9-second pass, and repeated two more runs within a hundredth!! And many congratulations to Sarah for running some excellent numbers of her own, with a best of 9.548 @ 145mph in the “Destiny’s Angel”, and thanks to Darryl for videoing Sarah and me, and at the end of our side-by-side run whizzing the camera over to my scoreboard, being so excited, and promptly forgetting to film his wife’s time!! (Oops, sorry about that Sar!)! Kiitos, Dar!!

Thanks to Lee and Mark for towing, and Lee, Mark, Claire and Sarah for crewing, and to all the marshals and officials for their hard work all weekend! And fair play to all the Wild Bunch for a great start to this, our 10th Anniversary year!!

We’re now looking forward to the first Wild Bunch Series round this year, at the American Car Nationals on 14th & 15th May at Shakey. And with any luck, a repeat of those magic numbers!! Also, at that event, our Mark hopes to debut his slingshot, so we’re all really looking forward to that, and to crewing for him!!

PS. After the weekend, we brought the car into the garage to work on the gearbox, and to sort out a breather issue, that was causing the breather tank to overflow, after an oil surge at the top end. I have since done a compression check and leakdown test, and discovered one cylinder down! So I will have to strip the whole engine to investigate this further! It may be a spun bearing, broken ring or similar problem, so hope it will not take too much to fix it!! As we can’t wait to get back out there and run some numbers again!

PPS. We have now done a stripdown of the engine and box, found the problems, ordered a few parts, and are well on the way to rebuilding it all, so really excited for the next event!

25th - 28th March 2005 - AMERICAN CAR SHOW in HELSINKI, FINLAND

We were very honoured to be invited to display “Backdraft” at the American Car Show at the Fair Centre in Helsinki, Finland. Helsinki, Finland. Chris, Claire and Mark flew out Easter to join the slingshot which had been shipped over to We had a brilliant time showing the car at the front of a dragstrip display, paired up with Daz Selwyn’s awesome “Pandemonium” Dodge AFX car, and ‘launched’ on the Alastaro Christmas tree! We also had a DVD playing at the front of this, with footage of our car as “Malibu Express” in 1969, and “Pink Panther” in 1973ish, plus loads of footage of “Backdraft” over the years at Shakespeare County and York Raceways. We were warmly welcomed by Tapio Valja and the good folks of the FHRA, and really enjoyed being a part of an excellent show which featured 100’s of Hot Rods, Yanks, custom bikes and ‘tuning cars’. We hear they had record attendance for the show’s 28th year, and the 30th Anniversary of the first official drag race in Finland (and for good measure, the first drag car from Finland, a Mark I Cortina, was also on display!). So fair play to all the organisers who worked really hard to put on a very professional, diverse, and exciting show with a very high quality of machinery on display! You can see some pictures from the show on Zane Llewellyn’s website.

Whilst in Finland we also got a chance to do some sightseeing, with our good friends Sarah and Darryl Howells of DASH Racing, and new friends Daz Selwyn & Sarah. It was amazing to see snow piled high everywhere and the harbour frozen over! We went round the city on a lot of trams, and saw some highlights of the city, and even got to watch a Junior Ice Hockey tournament at the ice hall in the 1952 Olympic complex! We also went to a cool Tractor restaurant (like what it says on the box!), and Claire tried out some ordering in Finnish (could be why the steak wasn’t as well done as I’d hoped!). It’s a very interesting city with very nice people, who were very welcoming and generous. It was a great experience!

Thanks to Zane for all his efforts in arranging the 6 English cars (3 of which won “Top 10 in show” trophies!!) and many thanks to the FHRA for having us all there! Kiitos!! We hope they enjoy the anniversary celebrations all year, and best of luck to them all for their Drag Racing season!

The car is now safely back home in the garage, after its long voyage to and from Finland and we are looking forward to our first event of the year, the “Power Nationals” at Shakespeare County, and chasing those magic numbers again! Can’t wait!

19th - 20th February 2005 - XTREME WHEELS at ALLY PALLY

We had a great time at the Xtreme wheels show at Alexandra Palace displaying “Backdraft” and meeting drag racing friends, and making new ones, and seeing all of the great machinery on display. Once again we met up with one of the original owners of the car when it was built as “Malibu Express” and had a good chat with him and his wife, who was one of the first full female crew members in the sport back in 1970 and used to pack chutes for 4 teams! We also received some great pics of the car when it was “Pink Panther”, given to us by Junior Olley (whose Dad was the second owner of the car) and who is soon due to drive Nobby Hill’s “Houndog” Funny Car. And we enjoyed seeing the wide variety of cars and bikes on display. And we were especially chuffed to see so many drag racing vehicles at the show! We would like to say a huge thanks to Terry & Tina Gibbs, Bob & Cathy Glassup and all of the many people involved who worked so hard for many months to make the show such a great success. Fair play and best of luck for “Xtreme Wheels 3”!

The highlight of the weekend for us came at Sunday’s Xtreme Wheels International Prizegiving ceremony, where we were really surprised to be presented with the “Anya Yates with you all the way Memorial Trophy” by MC John Price. For anyone who does not know her story, the paragraph read out at the awards sums up just a part of it:

Anya Yates was a marshal at Shakespeare County Raceway who died aged 21. Her parents purchased this trophy and asked that we [Sophie & Bruno Sanderson-Brown (Sophie being Anya’s sister)] - present it in her memory. We try to choose people we believe she would have wanted it to go to, she loved the characters of Drag Racing and those who, like herself, put so much time and effort into a sport she loved.

We remember Anya fondly and with great respect and are very privileged to receive a trophy dedicated to her memory. We would like to say a heartfelt thank you to all of Anya’s family for this honour which we were truly overwhelmed and humbled to receive. It is quite something to receive an award as special as this for participating in a sport we love so much and are passionate about and enjoy working hard for; and we would encourage anyone who had ever thought about taking part to have a go and get involved in any way, be it from driving, to crewing to marshalling, or simply cheering on the racers, and just to have fun being part of the quickest and best motorsport on earth! We would like to wish all Drag Racers in Europe and indeed all across the world a safe and quick season. All the best and see you at the drags!

1st January 2005 - HAPPY NEW YEAR

HAPPY NEW YEAR - From us all

That was the News