The Latest News from the "Backdraft" Team

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4th November 2006 - Flame & Thunder & Santa Pod



This was the first time that we had ever raced at the Flame and Thunder event, and we were looking forward to it. (About 16 years ago I had crewed for Zane Llewellyn at this event, and it had been so cold, that I didn’t think I’d ever go there again!) As it turned out, it wasn’t anywhere near as cold and we wrapped up warm so were okay! We arrived on the Friday evening, Claire, Mark, Lottie and I and set up near the back end of the pits, and hibernated for the evening! There were 6 Wild Bunch teams who had taken up the invitation to do demo runs at the event.

The weather was quite sunny on the Saturday morning and we got the car ready. We got a tow from Phil Sweeney and Tony of the “Antisocial” team, and went down to the fireup road about 10 am. I was paired with Mark Coulsell, and ran a 9.867 @ 141.04 mph. We soon went for another run, this time against Phil, and I posted an off-pace 10.115 @ 141.90 mph.

We changed the oil and went for another run after lunch, this time matched with Ed in the “RamRaider”. I ran a 9.881 @ 141.96 mph. For the fourth run, I again paired up with Mark and ran a 9.944 at a slightly better 142.31 mph.

One of the bonuses of the event was that we got to do a ‘night race’ (well, it was getting pretty dark around 5pm!). I matched up with Ed again, with our two methanol-injected slingshots hoping to see a bit of a flame show! When we fired up and drove round to the start line, there were loads of coloured disco lights playing on the start line, which was cool! We had some header flames too! Which I watched most of the way down the quarter-mile! Wicked! (That’s only the second time in 12 years that we have been able to do that, so it was a real highlight of the weekend!). I also ran my best pass of the day, a 9.651 @ 141.96 mph. And I enjoyed that run the most!! And won the “Quickest E.T.” Spot Prize.

On the evening, we decided to challenge the Dog’s Bollocks team to a mini ‘cacklefest’ (well, actually a ‘popfest’ as we are both on methanol!). We waited until just after the fireworks and positioned “Backdraft” and “RamRaider” next to each other in the pits. Gos and I both fired up at the same time, and tried to keep running as long as possible. I have to admit that the header flames from the “RamRaider” were bigger than ours, so much so that I was actually watching their flames instead of mine! The cars sounded great together, and we had drawn a small crowd of Bunchers and friends, who cheered when we shut off! The next day, the Dog’s Bollocks were awarded the ‘Mr Bolt’ Spot Prize for “Best Flames”! Fair play! Another bonus of the weekend was that I finally won a ‘Mr Bolt’, for “Best Appearing Car & Team”! Yee-haaaa!! Really chuffed with that!

Thanks to Tony for towing us, and to Mark and Claire for crewing. Thanks also to all the marshals and officials and track crew for their hard work again, and for making us feel so welcome! And congratulations again to all the Wild Bunch for another great year!! Roll on 2007!!
30th September - 1st October 2006 - UK National Finals



This event was the Finals of our Wild Bunch, Real Steel and Roy Wilding Nostalgia Race Cars Series, and there was a possibility I could move up from 7th place in the WB Series if I did well. We all drove up in the bus to Santa Pod late afternoon on the Friday, and got pitted and set everything up. I had installed some new spark plugs in “Backdraft”, hoping to cure a slight misfire we had had at the Hot Rod Drags, so was hopeful. We were one of three slingshots in a field of 6 Wild Bunch cars competing.

There were scheduled to be three qualifying rounds on the Saturday, which started off cloudy and cool. A wet track first thing meant the start got delayed til around 11:15, despite at least 5 hours of work by the track crew! (Many thanks to them for getting it ready, at all, after huge downpours!) We were 5th on the running order, and were confident of one run, before any more clouds dropped their load! For the first qualifier, I dialled in at 9.04, and although the car launched well with a small wheelie, the misfire was still apparent and there was a drop in performance, and I recorded a 9.605 @ 133.06 mph. We then towed back to the pits, and made some more changes to the ignition system, hoping to cure this for the next round. Unfortunately at the start of the second cycle of qualifying, the rain came down again, and eventually wiped out the whole of the rest of the day’s qualifying! I ended up qualifying in 5th place.

Sunday began cloudy and cool and there had been heavy rain in the early morning. The officials had planned to complete the second cycle of qualifying, but this was not too be, as the track had not dried by 9am, despite the best lengthy efforts of the track crew, so the second qualifier had to be scrapped and all racers, barring a couple pairs from a few classes, were due to go straight into eliminations.

According to the ladders, I was matched against Roy in the quarter-finals and this was not going to take place until about 3pm, due to the rain delays and the running order of eliminations of some of the bigger classes. Racing finally began at 11:30, when the track was dried out, but during the eliminations of the very first class, some more rain fell. The track was re-dried but no sooner had a pair of cars burned out, than the rain came back. This time it was much heavier and continued. There was then a river of water on the track, and yet again the valiant track crew started clearing this and started the drying process once more. By about quarter to 2, it was clear that there was still a lot more drying to be done, and a few more rain clouds threatening, so unfortunately the Race Director was forced to make the decision to call time on the event. Such a shame for all the racers involved! And for the crew who had worked so long and hard to try to make it happen! Huge thanks to all of them who tried so hard to turn the track around so everyone could race. We really appreciate their efforts!

Many congratulations to Tony Smith and Dave Williams in “The Cunning Plan” who have won the Wild Bunch Series (for a record third time by Tony). Congratulations to them also for winning the Roy Wilding Nostalgia Race Cars Series. Fair play! Congratulations also to Roy Wilding who has won the Real Steel Series in his “Chariot of Fire”. And big congratulations to our Mark who has finished in 5th place in the Wild Bunch Series, while I finished in 7th place! Well done, Mark!

Thanks to Mark and Claire for crewing, and Lottie for her support. Thanks also to all the marshals and officials and track crew for their hard work, which is always appreciated! We are now looking forward to our holiday in California, as we are leaving on Wednesday to go to the “California Hot Rod Reunion” at Bakersfield! We are really excited about that!

And when we come back, we will be looking forward to the ‘Flame & Thunder’ event at Santa Pod on 4th November, where the Wild Bunch will join in with the demo classes! That will be our first time racing at that event, so that will be fun!
16th - 17th September 2006 - Hot Rod Drags



This weekend was not a round of any of our Wild Bunch Series, but we did have Spot Prizes and were hoping for a chilled weekend! Me and Lottie drove up in the bus and Claire, Mark and Joey towed Mark’s car up. There were 19 Wild Bunch cars participating in the event, and me and Mark were two of 10 slingshots in attendance. Luckily, both Saturday and Sunday turned out mild, though cloudy.

On Saturday I started the weekend off with a tyre-lighting 10.261 @ 135.24 mph in “Backdraft”. I then decided to sit out the rest of the day, as the queues were quite long, and I was planning on a relaxing weekend. Mark was back out hoping for some more good runs in his “Awesome 4-Some” slingshot. He began the weekend with a 14.809 @ 100.19 mph, with a missed shift. He later put in a 12.581 and had queued up for a third run when a big oil down occurred, so he returned to the pits for the day.

Over the previous weeks, I had been working on the chassis that Darryl Howells had donated to the safety teams at Shakey, and which I had modified for training purposes for the fire and ambulance crews. (I had cut off the front, and cage and sleeved it so that it could be taken on and off. In the evening after racing had finished, we all took the chassis over to the medical centre, and I took part as the driver (in full racewear) in a practice extraction from it, with the chassis lying on its side. (I even sustained a mild injury – they had laid me on the grass and there was a patch of stingers there which got under my silversuit, and onto my wrist!). The whole thing was a bit unnerving at first, but it was great to see the safety teams at work, in their serious, dedicated manner. Our thanks as always to them all for their professionalism and dedication.

On Sunday, we queued up in the morning, and I posted a run of 9.458 @ 139.90 mph. Later in the day I recorded a better 9.315 @ 140.62 mph, and then packed up for the weekend. Mark’s first run of the day on Sunday was a 12.356 @ 105.89 mph, his best run ever at Shakespeare County. His second run was a pass of 12.787 @ 106.82 mph, a new Personal Best Speed. He then went out for his third run of the day, but unfortunately a sticking clutch caused the engine to over-rev, and Mark pulled over off the racing line and had to be recovered to the return road, where Claire met him and towed him back to the pits. On this pass, Mark had posted the Best Reaction of the Bunch for the weekend, an .006!! Back in the pits, he checked a few things and fired the car up – it still sounded terrible so he shut straight off. Hopefully there will not be much damage to the engine or box!

We were lucky with the weather at this event, but unlucky with the queues and oil downs! Thanks again to all the very hard working marshals and officials and firecrews for their constant efforts to get the track back to a ready condition every time. Well done to them all! Thanks to Claire for towing, and Claire, Joey and Lottie for crewing.

We are now looking forward to the National Finals at the Pod which will be the finals for all our Series.
26th - 28th August 2006 - Open Nationals



The August Bank Holiday Open Sports Nationals at Shakespeare County Raceway was the tenth round of our Real Steel Series. I was one of 5 Slingshots in a field of 8 Wild Bunch cars taking part. It was my birthday on the Friday and me and Claire had the day off, and left home around 11:30am. We drove up in the bus and reached the track about 1:00pm, nice and early. So we set up at one end of the Wild Bunch pits, in the middle of the pits on the right hand side looking towards the track. Sarah and Darryl turned up shortly afterwards and parked next to us. They had bought me a wicked new Raleigh chopper for my birthday and for working on Darryl’s new chassis. I’ve already started to have fun on that! Claire had got me some new front slicks and these were already on the car at last week’s truck event! Mark and Lottie and Joey drove up later and arrived about 8:30 that night. And Claire made me a chocolate cake and we had a few friends round on the bus and had a good night!

I had made a change since last weekend’s Truck Event at Santa Pod. I had been thinking about when I had altered the barrel valve setting a few events previously, and double-checked it and readjusted it to its previous setting. So I was hoping for some lower 9’s or even high 8’s again.

On Saturday there were scheduled to be three rounds of qualifying and the Wild Bunch were running 19th on the first cycle. The weather was cool and cloudy and stayed that way for much of the day.

For the first qualifier on Saturday, Claire had suggested a conservative Dial-in of 9.10, but I had thought the changes would improve the car more and wanted to get a safe qualifier in the bank and not break out, so we decided on an 8.90 Dial. We went down to the fireup road around 1pm. I was paired with Terry Clifford in the Ratcatcher Resurrection slingshot on this run, and I put in a pass of 9.160 @ 145.92 mph! This was an improvement on the previous event, so it was encouraging! I made another change, putting the high speed leanout back into the fuel system. We then went down for the second qualifier mid-afternoon, as there had been some delays with oildowns and a few sprinkles of rain. We had just gotten to the pairings lanes just before the Blue Hut, when unfortunately it started to rain. It was light, so we sat in the car for around 20 minutes, hoping it would let off, but the showers came down again, and we turned back to the pits, just getting there and covering the car up before an almighty downpour, which caused the officials to call time on qualifying for that day. This was a shame, as we were keen to see what the car would run, but would have to wait for the next day.

On Saturday night we went to Lynne Coulsell’s 40th Birthday party in the field by their camper. It was a 60’s theme party, and I wore my slingshot shirt, and Claire wore a mini skirt and mod jumper. Lynne wore a cool funky zebra print minidress and thigh boots, and Mark’s Mum and Dad were dressed as hippies (as was Ed Yates!!). A few other people were in costume, and they were playing some 60’s music, and had some pics of Lynne growing up! We all had a good time and went back to the bus, stopping off at Darryl and Sarah’s bus for a while before going to bed.

Sunday morning the weather was a little better, sunny and cool at first but fairly cloudy throughout the day, but most importantly, dry! We decided to Dial in at 9.04 for the first run of the day, thinking that the fuel change would make a slight improvement. I was matched up against Helen Smythe in the Hell’s Belle on this run, and posted a slightly off-pace 9.235, which was a bit surprising. On returning to the pits, we checked a few things and (Mark) noticed that a fuse had gone. This turned out to be the fuse for the MSD! So we replaced that and expected it to make quite a difference, and Claire suggested a Dial-in of 8.94 for the next round which was the third round of qualifying. In the fireup road, we noticed we were near Neil Ward with the Andromeda slingshot, and he had been running in the 8’s again, and had just achieved his first 150 mph pass the run before, so congratulations to him!! (Although it’s 16 months since we did it, we still remember that amazing feeling, so we’re really chuffed for him and the whole team!!). We arranged the cars so that in front of us Sarah and Helen paired off and me and Neil paired up. Sarah and Helen had a cracking race and both ran PB’s! Sarah with a 9.401 @ 146 mph, and Helen with her first 140 mph pass! Congratulations, girls! And then mine and Neil’s passes were a great ‘race’ with side-by-side 8-second runs! I ran back into the 8’s again, recording an 8.965 @ 147.58 mph, just .025 off my Dial-in! I was thrilled with this run! We didn’t know who had got to the top end first as it was so close, and we had to wait til we saw the timing tickets to find out! Neil had run 8.935 @ 150.73 mph, and he had just gotten to the finish line first by .032! So thanks to Neil a great match race, cracking fun! Luckily this run also put me into the Number 1 Qualifying Spot and I stayed there for the rest of qualifying, so I was really pleased with that too!

For the fourth qualifier, we decided to lower the Dial-in very, slightly to 8.92 just in case we ran a bit quicker. This time I was paired with Ed in the RamRaider slingshot, a meeting of two injected slingshots. I ran another 8, at 8.988, again at 147.48 mph, so better E.T.’s and speeds than we have been running of late, and another fun match race. For the last run of the day the track was getting cooler, and we modified the Dial-in just a bit, to an 8.95. I was again paired with Ed, who this time ran a new PB of 9.336 @ 145.76 mph! So congratulations to him on that one! I recorded a 9.112 @ 145.74 mph, an almost identical speed to Ed! I was really chuffed to have run a few 8’s again that day, and that Backdraft was back on form!

On Saturday and Sunday we also had the second challenge round with the Paul Marston Racing team. This was based on qualifying, with points for each position out of all the 12 drivers and bonus points for #1 in class and reaction times. I was equal second out of the 6 Marston and 6 Wild Bunch cars taking part. This time they won by more than they did at the Summer Nationals! 58 points to 36! It was a bit of fun, and we enjoyed presenting them with a couple of trophies for each win! We have ‘Round 3’ at the Sportsman Finals, and we hope to improve our qualifying and get a bit closer!!

On the Sunday night we had another great film show of the day’s racing, and previous events, thanks to Darryl and Sarah, so that was really good! We also hung around our bus and had a good evening, looking forward to the eliminations the following day, where I was drawn with Helen!

We weren’t due out til around lunchtime, but the day had started wet, and just as it was drying, another rain cloud emptied its contents. So racing didn’t start til around 1 o’clock, and we weren’t called til about 3 o’clock! I was facing Helen, who opted to go flat out, with a 9.45 Dial, which was slightly better than her new PB of 9.464 which she had run on the Sunday. We decided to go for somewhere in the middle of what we had been running, and chose a moderate 9.04. Helen left first and had a small reaction time advantage and recorded a 9.549. I chased her down but was unable to catch her, and just backed off very near the top end, running a 9.151 @ 140.49 mph. Oh well! Fair play to Helen, especially as she went on to win the APIRA Championship for 2006! Sarah finished Runner-up this year, so congratulations to her too! And congratulations to all the Wild Bunch racers for some good performances over the weekend with loads of PB’s!

Thanks to Mark and Claire for towing and crewing, and special thanks to all the marshals and officials and track crew for their hard work all weekend and a great track to run on. And thanks for all their efforts to clear up the wet track after each downpour! It was much appreciated. All in all it was a good event which we really enjoyed!

We’re now really looking forward to the ‘Hot Rod Drags’ on 16th & 17th September at Shakey, which isn’t a round for Wild Bunch, but it should be a lot of fun and a good chilled out weekend!
19th - 20th August 2006 - UK Truck Event

This was a brand new event, the first ever UK Truck Event at Santa Pod Raceway, and it was the sixth round of the Wild Bunch Series, and the ninth round of our Real Steel Series. Me and Mark were 2 of 8 Slingshots in a field of 19 Wild Bunch cars participating. We left home around 5:20pm and I towed Backdraft with the bus with Lottie, and Claire, Mark and Joey followed behind towing up Mark’s slingshot, Awesome 4-Some. We arrived about quarter to 9 and got our tickets from the exhibitor’s check-in. (We had been amazed to find out that the Wild Bunch were to be given 4 free entry tickets (plus signing on) for each team taking part in the Drag Racing Showcase, along with other classes of racers. What a bonus!). The pit area for the Wild Bunch was in the centre of the hardstanding, about 100ft further on from the finish line. There were already quite a few cars there and we joined in on the end of the WB front row, pitting between Steve Field and the Outlaw Anglias, whose pits began with Paul Wright! We got set up and had a nice evening. Mark was especially looking forward to the event as it was his first time at Santa Pod, and I was hoping for Backdraft to be back to normal with the old axle!

Saturday morning began wet and cloudy and the start was delayed, but only by about an hour. There was no scrutineering at this event, and we went straight to signing on around 9am. We were scheduled to take part in each of the Santa Pod Showcase of Drag Racing demo rounds and the first of these was at 12:30. Some Bunchers went down for an earlier practice run, but we waited for the showcase, as we may not have been able to turn around straight away. We later discovered that we could go down for practice in between the 2 scheduled showcases if we wanted to. Once again, Claire, Joey and Lottie were going to be crewing for the two cars, and good mate Darryl Howells also pitched in to help. On the first run Saturday, I was paired with Roy Wilding in his Chariot of Fire altered. I ran a 9.265 @ 141.96 mph, so was pretty pleased with that! The car felt right again. Just after this, Mark was paired with Mark Coulsell in the Limited Funz slingshot and he ran a 12.549 @ 104.44 mph, which was a good start.

We went out for our second run of the day around 3pm, and this time me and Mark paired up, which was really cool! I ran real close to my first run, a 9.254 @ 142.52 mph, which was pretty consistent! But Mark had a small problem with a sticking clutch and posted a 13.599 @ 102 mph. He soon set about adjusting this and cured the problem. Our next scheduled round came around 5pm, and this time I matched up with Neil Ward in the Andromeda slingshot. On previous form this would have been a real close race, but I lit the tyres off the launch and lost traction off the line, recording a 10.191 @ 141.93 mph, whilst Neil ran a 9.014 @ 147.96 mph! Fair play, Neil, as that turned out to be fastest of the Bunch for the weekend! Meanwhile, Mark was paired with Martin Holgate in Paranoia, and Mark ran his best run of the weekend, and his third best run ever, a 12.339! So he was pretty chuffed with that one!

There had been some grey clouds around all day, but nothing more than a few spots came til after our third runs! So pretty lucky there. It eventually rained a bit in the early evening, but dried up in time for the 60th Birthday party of Team Twisted’s Christine, Helen’s mum. And son-in-law Dean managed to get back in time to help set up as he’d been on a 5-hour round trip to get their old dizzy after the Belle wouldn’t fire up on the morning! Helen had decorated their pits and put up pics of her Mum when younger. We enjoyed the party, and then went to bed pretty early, as it had been a long day!

Early Sunday morning there had been some more rain, so another damp start, but the track crew were working hard to get it dry and ready for opening. Claire suggested a Dial-in of 9.25, as that was around where I ran twice on the Saturday. We were called down to the pairings lanes for open practice, but this got delayed with diesel downs, rain, and a stranded truck, and we were there for around an hour and a half, and eventually this ‘blended in’ to the time slot of the day’s first Drag Racing Showcase around 12:30. I ended up running a solo in this round, and the car hooked up well, with a bit of a wheelie, which was great! When Claire, Lottie and Joey got to us at the top end, they were flashing the lights, and jumped out and told me I’d run a 9.253, just three thousandths off my Dial-in! Wow! That was a good start to the day!! We got back to the pits, and I changed oil and refuelled, and we all went down for the second round of the day around 2pm. This time I was paired with Steve Field in The Black Pig, and there was no wait at all in the fireup road! Another wheelie, and the car was well on the way, with a 9.211 @ 142.40 mph. I didn’t realise it at the time, but this put me in temporary first place! Not long after we got back to the pits, the skies were grey and threatening again, and we could see a wall of rain in the distance. We were hoping to squeeze one more round in before a downpour and the Truck trophy presentations at 4 o’clock, so all left the pits about 3:30pm. We suited up and got strapped in, in the pits and got down to the pairings lanes and the marshals were waiting for us, so we had to hurry to get ready. On this round, I matched up with Mikey Cresswell in the Living the Dream slingshot. I lit the tyres on the launch and lost traction, but feathered the throttle and got back on it to record a 9.593 @ 143.39 mph. Although off the Dial-in, I did enjoy this run, as it was well-controllable and Backdraft was well and truly back! Because a lot of drivers were very consistent this weekend, this time put me down to 7th place overall, but I still had a great weekend and really enjoyed driving the car!

Meanwhile, Mark had decided to Dial-in in at 12.33 for the rounds, as his car had a habit of running even better on the Sunday! In the first round, he paired up with Martin Holgate, but had to wait as Mark Coulsell had to be pushed back after his launch. He handled this well, and got on with it alright, and posted his best 330ft time on the run. He recorded a 12.436, which he was a bit disappointed with as it was around a tenth off his Dial-in. On the second round, the queue worked out well in that Mark was at the back of the Wild Bunch queue and he able to pair up with Liz Malcolm in her and Iain’s Pinto-powered Just 4 fun rear-engined 11-second Pro E.T. dragster, who were also taking part in the Drag Racing Showcase. They had both been wanting to have this Pinto match-up for a while and this had been the first opportunity to do so. Mark posted a creditable 12.453 against Liz’s strong 11.437, and they both enjoyed the race, so thanks to the Malcolms for the chance and deferring lane choice! On the third round, Mark’s car hovered around the mid 12-second mark, and he ran a 12.498 to finish in 8th place overall. He had been consistent, with a spread of only .062 over his three runs, but always just over a tenth or more away from Dial. Mark did enjoy getting the chance to race at Santa Pod for the first time, and his car performed well again.

Overall, another good weekend, with 6 runs each, which was half a dozen more than we’d thought we would get after seeing the weather forecast, and the dark grey skies! Very interesting to see race trucks on the quarter-mile, and some great show trucks all around the pits. And it was great to get the chance to be part of the demo cars in the Drag Racing Showcase. So thanks very much to Darren Prentice for making this possible, and to the Truck event organisers for providing the free entry package, and having us as part of this unique event. It is much appreciated.

Thanks to Claire for towing, and Claire, Joey and Lottie and Darryl for crewing. And thanks very much to all the marshals and officials and track crew for their hard work keeping the event running and getting us as many runs as possible! Congratulations to all the Wild Bunch for another really good performance over the weekend and some increasingly close racing!

We’re now really looking forward to the Bank Holiday Open Sports Nationals at Shakey in one week’s time, where we have a nice field of 8 Wild Bunch cars entered! It should be some real hot competition! And a great event!

5th - 6th August 2006 - York Summer Showdown

This weekend was the fifth round of the Wild Bunch Series at Shakespeare County Raceway, and the eighth round of our Real Steel Series, as well as the second round of the Roy Wilding Nostalgia Race Cars Series. Me and Mark were the only two Slingshots in a field of 7 Wild Bunch cars taking part. We left home around 12:30 lunchtime and I towed Backdraft with the bus, with Claire, Mark and Joey following behind towing up Mark’s slingshot, Awesome 4-Some. Our first stop was the Tamworth Services, where we waited to meet up with Daz Selwyn and his Pandemonium AFX car and Ian Atkinson and The Menace car who were going up to York for the first time. We formed a convoy and were joined at the Doncaster North services by Sarah and Darryl Howells who were supporting the Bunch at the weekend, and ended up crewing for me, Daz and Ian! We all arrived at the track at about 7pm and me and Mark got set up in The Wild Bunch pits in the Midway. We organised our pit area and had a pretty early night.

Saturday morning began cool and cloudy and was reasonably warm and remained cloudy throughout the day. Claire and Joey were going to be crewing for the two cars, and Darryl joined in to help out. Me and Mark got scrutineered okay and got ready for the day’s runs. The Wild Bunch were running in a group in four allocated slots, to be arranged throughout the day, so that was really good. Claire towed me down for our first run about 11, with Joey pushing Mark’s lighter car, as our pit area was pretty close to the pairings lanes. For the first run of the day, I asked for a solo pass, as I wanted to check out the new axle, and had really been looking forward to seeing what it could do. I performed the burnout, and didn’t quite get the tyres to light fully. I then launched as usual, but the car turned hard left. I corrected this and put the power down again, and still veered towards the centreline. I then had to back off, as something wasn’t quite right, and coasted to the shutdown area with a 14-second pass. We went back to the pits to investigate further. Later in the day I made a modification on the front end, and had to adjust the gear linkage, but managed to get back out on track for what turned out to be the Bunch’s fifth run of the day. I again asked for a solo and chose the right hand lane, launched and again started to turn left. It wasn’t so harsh this time, but something was still not quite right, and I coasted to a 12.0-second run. After this I decided to park the car for the rest of the weekend, as it wasn’t handling right, and to take it home and do more investigation. This was a great shame, as I’d really been looking forward to running at York, and doing some wheels-up runs, and joining in with the Wild Bunch show.

As for Mark, it was his first ever trip to York with his Awesome 4-Some slingshot, and we didn’t really know what to expect, but he was raring to go from the moment we got inside the gate! His first run Saturday was a ‘checkout’ pass of 13.002 @ 103.05 mph. And all the rest of the runs at the weekend were over half a second or more quicker than that! He recorded 4 more passes on the Saturday of 12.424, 12.479, 12.495 and 12.392 @ 105.20 mph, very close to a PB. For Sunday the weather was pretty similar and although the clouds looked threatening at times, it didn’t rain! Mark dialled in at exactly 12.445 for Sunday’s rounds and went quicker on each and every run, starting with a run exactly equal to his last run the day before, a 12.392! Who’d have thought that?! In the second round he ran a new Personal Best E.T. of 12.345 @ 106.30 mph, and we were all amazed! Then, in the third round he posted a solid 12.395 in the third, still under his Dial-in, and then, even though he backed off a bit, he ran yet another new PB in the fourth round, a 12.333! (The carbs sure seemed to like that low altitude air around Pennine!). And he also acquired a cheering squad of Marjorie and Christine in the timing ticket office! (Thanks to them for their support and enthusiasm!). Mark had been close throughout the rounds, and was lying in 3rd place after the first and second rounds, but everyone was so consistent that he finished in 5th place overall! This result was good enough to improve Mark’s position from 8th in the Wild Bunch Series to 5th, and he leapfrogged over me, as I am now in 7th! He had done so well on the last run, and it was still fairly early (around 3pm after the 4th round) that he later went out for another test run, and recorded an amazing new Personal Best E.T. of 12.185, nearly two tenths off his previous PB recorded at the June Shootout! Wow! He was over the moon! And the icing on the cake was that Mark was awarded the Best Slingshot Mr Bolt Spot Prize by the commentators! Fair play! Very well deserved, and a great York debut for him.

Thanks to Claire for towing, and Claire, Joey and Darryl for crewing. Thanks very much to all the PDRC marshals and officials and track crew for their efforts and their warm welcome, and to Steve Murty for running the event. And congratulations to all the Wild Bunch for some really close racing and to our Mark for some more PB’s!

We’re now looking forward to the UK Truck Event at Santa Pod in two weeks’ time!

PS. It seems that our chassis does not like a spool. So we got Backdraft in the garage at home, and I have re-installed the old axle for now. And I hope to have some good runs at Santa Pod!

15th - 16th July 2006 - Mini Showdown

This weekend was the fourth round of the Wild Bunch Series at Shakespeare County Raceway, and the seventh round of our Real Steel Series. I was one of 8 Slingshots in a field of 18 Wild Bunch cars taking part. We left home around 6:15pm and I towed Backdraft with the bus, with Lottie and Joey and Claire followed behind towing up Mark’s slingshot, Awesome 4-Some with Mark. The Wild Bunch were pitted in the centre section, opposite the loos, so we joined in on the end of the row of cars that were already there, and got our two pits set up.

Saturday morning started cloudy but once again turned hotter during the day, into the low 90’s! Claire, Joey and Lottie were going to be crewing for the two cars. Me and Mark were scrutineered and Claire towed us down for our first run about quarter past 11. The Wild Bunch were running in a group on four allocated slots, so that was really good. For the first run of the day, I was paired with Andy Murphy in the B-Sting altered. I ran a 9.381 @ 146.06 mph. Mark was paired with Darren Law in The Wicked Lady rear-engined dragster and he ran a 12.656 @ 104.38 mph.

My second and third runs of the day turned out to be quite consistent, to within 6 thousandths! I ran a 9.269 @ 145.05 mph against Helen Smythe in the Hell’s Belle altered and a 9.263 @ 143.83 mph against Phil Sweeney in the Antisocial slingshot. It was then time for an oil change, so I decided to call it a day, especially as it had been so hot! Meanwhile, Mark had runs of 12.540, 12.870 and 12.585, so he was quite pleased being in the mid 12’s, as the weather had been so hot. Each time the Wild Bunch went out for a round, Bruno and the track prep team put some extra grip juice down around the start line and launch area which really helped, so that was much appreciated!

After we’d finished racing, we started getting ready for the Hawaiian Beach party in the Wild Bunch pits. Sarah and Darryl had bought some beach scenery, and we added to this with a couple of sharks, a paddling pool (with shark fins) and a fish net, plus some palm trees. I had made a Styrofoam surfboard, with a shark bite cut out of it, plus a T-shirt coloured red to match the bite mark! I also had some very Dayglo shorts and a bright shirt on! Claire also had trousers and top in bright Dayglo colours and a lei. Whilst Mark and Joey went the whole hog and dressed as hula girls! They had grass skirts, proper coconut bras and wigs and leis! Sarah wore a grass skirt and Darryl and Bernie bright shirts, whilst Helen, Dean and Christine of Team Twisted joined in with purple skirts, shirt, and flowers, of course!! Plus some cool coconut drinks. Phil Sweeney had brought 6 crew members this weekend and the three girls all wore pink grass skirts, 2 guys in pink Hawaiian shirts and 2 in blue! Other guys in grass skirts included Ed, Gos (in an improvised cut up bag) and Alec (complete with string vest, which Kev also had, bar the skirt!). The Mad R’s ladies also had grass skirts and everyone had a great time!!

Sunday morning, the weather was pretty similar, and it eventually turned out even hotter than Saturday! We decided to Dial in on the numbers I’d run in the second and third passes, so we chose a 9.26 for the rounds Sunday. In the first round, I was paired with Steve Field in The Black Pig, and I went straight under my Dial-in, with a 9.124 @ 145.26 mph! In the second round, I matched up with Andy Gos, who was having his first ever drive of the Dog’s Bollocks Team’s RamRaider. He had jumped straight in the car and was running PB after PB, and this was no exception, as he ran a personal and team best of 9.195 @ 146 mph! I recorded my quickest run of the weekend, with a 9.054 @ 145.37 mph, so it seems we both fired each other up on that one! Great race! On the third run, I was paired with Mark, and I lost traction on the launch and posted a 9.414, again at 145 mph. I finished in 6th place overall, which wasn’t too bad, considering the car had been a bit inconsistent.

Meanwhile, Mark had been hoping for some more consistency after his great success at the ‘Nostalgia Nationals’. He dialled in at 12.50 for Sunday’s rounds, but was really unlucky as there was a tree fault on his first run, against B-Sting, and no time was recorded for either car! It had looked to be a good run, and may have been around the mid-12-second range. He was really disappointed, but the officials then offered them both a re-run, as it had been an electronic problem. We met Andy Murphy and the team at the first return road and they towed Mark straight back round to the fireup road to put in another pass. Unfortunately, on this run, Mark missed a gearshift and posted a 14.868, which was really bad luck! (He did post a good reaction of .024 on this pass, his best ever, and that held as Best Reaction of the day, til Mark Coulsell’s .014 in the third round). Mark and Andy then got back in synch with the rounds, and Mark then recorded close runs of 12.551 @ 105.87 mph, just .055 off his Dial and 12.467, just .033 off, but the first run spoilt his average and he finished in 9th place overall. This was such a shame, as the original first run could have put him in contention. At the end of the day, after the rounds, he went out for a testing run and put in his best pass of the weekend, a 12.431, which would have put him right in the Top 4 if it had counted! But this run was a bit of fun, as he was the one and only car in the fireup road, and the poor marshals had to get suited back up for it! And the other cool thing was that I got to press the start button for the Christmas tree, and send him on his way! He was happy with that run, and how the car had run over the weekend! I really enjoyed the weekend’s racing too.

Thanks to Claire for towing, and Claire, Joey and Lottie for crewing. Thanks very much to all the marshals and officials and track crew for their hard work in the heat once again, which is greatly appreciated! And thanks to Jerry Cookson for organizing the event! Congratulations to all the Wild Bunch for a really good, slick performance over the weekend and some great racing!

We’re now looking forward to the UK Northern Nationals at York in three weeks’ time!

PS. The Tuesday before the Mini event, I received the outstanding half shaft in the post, so Backdraft went in the garage Sunday night, and I have been full steam ahead into installing and building up the new axle! We’re really looking forward to getting this in and seeing what the car will do!!

1st - 2nd July 2006 - Nostalgia Nationals

This weekend was the third round of the Wild Bunch Series at Shakespeare County Raceway, and the sixth round of our Real Steel Series, as well as the first round of the Roy Wilding Nostalgia Race Cars Series. I was one of 12 Slingshots in a field of 23 Wild Bunch cars taking part, the biggest field of the season. We were able to leave a bit earlier this time, so left home around 3:30pm and got to the track around 5:15. I towed Backdraft with the bus, with Lottie, Nige and his girlfriend Emma and Joey and Claire followed behind towing up Mark’s slingshot, Awesome 4-Some with Mark. There were already several Wild Bunchers pitted down the far end by the market so we joined the group and set up camp in the middle section, and had a nice long chilled evening.

Yet again, Saturday morning was warm and sunny and got hotter during the day, into the low 90’s! The track temperature was also very high, so hard work for all the marshals and firecrews! Me and Mark were scrutineered fairly early, and Claire towed us down for our first run about 10:30am. Claire, Nige, Joey and Lottie were crewing for the two cars. I had fabricated a new throttle pedal so had hoped that would work well. For the first run of the day, me and Mark were paired together. I pulled a wheelie and recorded an 8.965 @ 147.04 mph, so was really chuffed to start the weekend with an ‘8’!! Mark also started quite well with a 12.970, so he was pleased to get a baseline to improve on.

Almost every time we went down to the track, we were surprised to only see small queues, so suited up by the blue hut again and carried on towing down the pairings lanes. On my second pass I ran a 9.120 @ 145.62 mph, so not too bad, and it was getting hotter! Mark’s second run was an improved 12.637, so he was pleased with that. For the third run of the day I recorded a 9.04 @ 146 mph, so I was chuffed with that one too. Mark had a slight problem with deep staging, and by the time he had reversed and got going forward again, this put him slightly out and he ran a 13.4-second pass. For our fourth runs of the day, the track had become really hot and some surface rubber had started to lift. This didn’t really cause us a problem, but I had an uneven burnout, so only recorded a 9.602, and I also redlit by just .009! For only the third time in 12 years! I had run Mark on this one and he posted a good 12.492 @ 105.57 mph, just .01 better than his best speed, and he also took the ‘win’!

The next morning, the weather was pretty similar. I dialed in at 9.00 even hoping to run either side of this. Unfortunately on my first pass I had smoked one wheel more than the other, so left the line at an angle and only ran a 9.257. It was a similar story on the second round, where I was matched up with Andy Solley in the Repeat Offender altered, but I had to back off after the launch and only posted a 9.552. And, although I got in a better pass on the third round, of a 9.091 @ 146.08 mph, this round ended up not counting as a big rain shower fell in the middle of the Wild Bunch who were queued up and only half of us got the run in, which was a shame!

Meanwhile, Mark had dialed in at an optimistic 12.45, and on the first round, recorded a 12.524, just .074 off his Dial-in, and at that point was in 7th place overall for the round. In the second round, he ran an even better 12.474 @ 106.49 mph, his best speed ever, and topping that made by the Dog’s Bollocks with the car as Nutcracker, another one of his goals achieved! And well done to Emma for noticing the speed! This was even closer to his Dial-in, just .024 off, and with this consistency of an average of .049 off his Dial-in, he finished in a brilliant 2nd place overall, his highest result yet! He was really surprised as he hadn’t realized how close this had made him! And there was a big cheer at the prize presentation, which was really nice! [His third run of the day had resulted in his second best E.T. ever, a 12.402 at a new Personal best speed of 106.61 mph. At just .048 off Dial this may also have also kept him in the running for a Top 4 place!]

Thanks to Claire for towing, and Claire, Nige, Joey, Lottie for crewing, and Emma for her support. Thanks also to all the marshals and officials and track crew for their hard work in the heat, which is much appreciated as always! Congratulations to Mark on his second place! And congratulations again to all the Wild Bunch for another great showing with a great Bunch of 23 cars!

17th - 18th June 2006 - Summer Nationals at Santa Pod

The Summer Nationals at Santa Pod Raceway was the fifth round of our Real Steel Series. I was one of 3 Slingshots in a field of 6 Wild Bunch cars taking part. Me and Claire, Mark and Lottie drove up in the bus on the Friday afternoon and reached the track about 5:30pm. We set up in the Wild Bunch pits by the fence just a hundred feet down from the finish line, and with a great view of the racing!! The weather report looked promising, so we were looking forward to a great event!

On Saturday there were scheduled to be three rounds of qualifying and the Wild Bunch were running in the middle of each session. Claire sat in the hotseat to fire the car up in the morning and everything sounded fine. The weather was warm and sunny and became really hot during the day!

After I had fixed the oil pickup and pump, we had great oil pressure so thought the car would run well, so we decided to Dial in at 8.90. We towed down for the first qualifier and I had a solo run of 9.194 @ 139.34 mph. I hadn’t thought the timing was at its normal mark, so readjusted this and changed the spark plugs. I kept the Dial-in the same, and was paired against Sarah who ran a 9.711 in the Destiny’s Angel altered. I ran a 9.006 @ 145.28 mph, which was very encouraging and turned out to be the Quickest E.T. of the weekend for the Wild Bunch. We went back to the pits, jacked the car up and started to change the oil for the next qualifier. It was shortly after this that Jim of FreQ Racing noticed that the left rear slick looked a bit low, and on inspection, it turned out that we had a puncture! This was about 2:30 in the afternoon, and I decided to go off site to find a tyre garage in the hopes of repairing this! Me and Mark went out and luckily the second garage we found was open, and they were able to repair the inner tube! We headed back to the track and were amazed that when we got there, I hadn’t missed a qualifier. I put the wheel back on and we had time to spare when we were called out for the third round! We raised the Dial-in to 8.99, and this time it was a matchup of two injected slingshots, as I was paired with Ed in the RamRaider, who ran a new PB of 9.392! Congratulations to him and all the Dog’s Bollocks team on that one! (And there’s a great pic on the net of a closeup of the RamRaider injection system, with our injection in the background!). The third qualifier had been a good ‘heads up’ race and I was really pleased to run a 9.008 @ 144.65 mph, just two thousandths different to the run in the second round, so pretty consistent! I was even more chuffed when this ended up making me Number 1 Qualifier! Wow! That was a really good surprise!

We’d also had a little challenge going with the team from Paul Marston Racing, as they also had 6 entries. This was based on qualifying with points for each position out of the 12 drivers and bonus points for #1 in class and reaction times. They beat us by 51 points to 36! It was a bit of fun, and we hope to do it again at the next MSA event! On the Saturday night we had another great film show thanks to Darryl and Sarah, so that was really cool. We also hung around our pits with several Bunchers and had a really good time on the summer’s evening.

Sunday started sunny and warm, and became a bit overcast, and slightly cooler than the Saturday had been, which was good news for all those in racesuits and firesuits!! As the ladder had worked out, I was due to face good friend Sarah Howells in the first round! Oh, boy! We weren’t due out til around lunchtime, so were able to watch a bit of racing in the morning, which was good. We got the call for the first round around 1 o’clock and all towed down to the pairings lanes. We were the last of the three Wild Bunch pairs out and I dialed in at 8.99 again, and Sarah had dialed in at 9.65. I left the line a bit out of shape, but stayed with it and, although I recorded a closer to Dial-in 9.069 @ 143.25 mph, to Sarah’s 9.817, I couldn’t catch her as I had a bad reaction time of .536, and Sarah took the win! Well done, Sar! Fair play! (I later found out that there had been a problem with my throttle pedal loop, which had caused it to give a bit as I planted my foot – needless to say, I had fabricated a new one by the following Tuesday!! But I was quite pleased to find this out, as the reaction had not all been down to me being asleep!). After this we slowly loaded up during the day, and watched the other racing. The Wild Bunch final was a rematch of a Shakey final with an all-girl race with Sarah in Bernie’s Destiny’s Angel against Helen in Team Twisted’s Hell’s Belle. It was real close, and only a thousandth in it on difference to Dial. This time Sarah took the win, and Bernie leapt in excitement, which Sharky got a great pic of! Fair play, Bern! And congratulations to Sarah and Helen for a great showing over the weekend and an exciting final! And to all the Wild Bunch racers for some good close racing!

Thanks to Mark and Claire for towing and crewing, and Sarah for the loan of the tow car, and special thanks to all the marshals and officials and track crew for their hard work all weekend in the heat! You’re all stars! It was another great event which we really enjoyed!

We’re now really looking forward to the ‘Nostalgia Nationals’ on 1st & 2nd July at Shakey, where there should be a big field of Wild Bunch.

10th - 11th June 2006 - June Shootout

This weekend was the second round of the Wild Bunch Series at Shakespeare County Raceway, and the fourth round of our Real Steel Series. I was one of 12 Slingshots in a field of 20 Wild Bunch cars taking part, the biggest field so far this year. And as it turned out, I was one of 4 injected slingshots participating this weekend! I drove up in the bus towing Backdraft about 7pm with Jade and Lottie, and Claire followed behind towing up Mark’s slingshot, Awesome 4-Some with Mark and his friend Joey. We arrived at the track about 8:30 pm and unloaded the cars, and got set up right in the middle of the pits opposite the loos, and next to Helen and Dean with the Hell’s Belle altered.

Saturday morning was warm and sunny and the day got hotter! Me and Mark both got scrutineered fairly early. Claire was towing both of us and Claire, Joey and Lottie were crewing for the two cars. We also enlisted the help of good mate Darryl Howells to help with battery lugging and other crew duties. (And he even managed to do a lot of videoing over the weekend as well! Fair shout!). We were hoping to repeat the form of the last event, the ‘American Car World Nationals’ a month before, where we ran a few 8’s and were lucky enough to finish as joint winners with Sarah Howells.

We towed down to the track for our first runs around 10:30am. My first run was a promising 9.080 @ 144.12 mph with a bit of a wheelie, so things were looking good. We then went down for our next run at around 12:30. Most times that we headed down to the track, we were surprised to only see a very small queue, so had to pull over by the blue hut to get race ready, before proceeding down the fire-up road! (We don’t fully suit up in the pits, as there’s generally plenty of time to get all the gear on while we’re waiting in the queue, and this weekend was especially hot, so we sure weren’t gonna get suited too early in that heat, especially in the middle of the day!). For my second run I was paired up with Roy Wilding. I did the burnout as normal, and noticed a slight dip in oil pressure, but when I blipped the throttle, this went back to normal. The run was a little quicker, with a 9.036 @ 145.71 mph. But towards the end of the run, I noticed the oil pressure reading going lower again and shut off fairly quickly. We then got back to the pits, and I fired the car up, and although the pressure was reasonable, it was a bit erratic, going down not up when I throttled up. I decided it best not to run the car like this as there was obviously a problem, and I didn’t want to take the sump off in pit conditions, as I prefer to do the work in the clean environment of the garage. We were a bit disappointed, but hoped it would turn out to be something straightforward, like an oil pickup or oil pump problem, which all the signs pointed to. So we then turned our attentions to watching Mark racing, and helping out a couple of other racers. And I loaned the Dog’s Bollocks team my distributor as they’d been having a bit of trouble with something ignition-related and suspected it might be a problem with their dizzy on RamRaider. It did in fact work so they were chuffed to confirm the problem, and got it sorted for the next event at the Pod!

As for Mark, this was his second Wild Bunch event of the season, and the third including the cold March RWYB! At the last event, the ‘American Car World Nationals’, he had blown a head gasket on the Saturday, and fixed this on the night, only to break his gearbox on the Sunday! In the meantime, he had cured the problem that made the gasket blow, by getting some ARP head studs for a better fit of the head to block, and he had managed to buy a nice T5 Cosworth box (many thanks to Matt!). He installed that and would have been nearly ready to run, but then the Pinto starter did not fit on the bellhousing. He got a new Cosworth starter which fitted nicely on the bellhousing, but did not engage with the flywheel! He then luckily spotted a Cosworth flywheel for Ł15 (inc p&p) from eBay, which got collected from the post depot at 8pm on the Tuesday before the event! Luckily this was steel, so Chris was able to weld and drill it to adapt it for the 6-bolt Pinto crank. Great! But then the clutch did not fit! So on the Wednesday Mark ordered a standard Cosworth clutch from his work and got this back on the Thursday. He took the day off work to finish assembling everything, and eventually got the car fired up at 3pm on the Friday of the race weekend! Fair play!! So he got to the track just hoping to get the car to run for starters, and then get back into the low 13’s!

Mark started off Saturday with passes of 21.5 and 20-seconds, but then did some tuning in the pits (he put the timing to advanced instead of retarded, changed the fuel pressure and carburettor jets). He then went back out and ran a 13.479 @ 99.15 mph!! Great, and back on the numbers, with hopes of some more improvement. For his fourth run of the day, he clocked a more promising 13.021 at a new Personal Best Speed of 104.03 mph. Excellent! (The scoreboards weren’t working all day Saturday until the last half hour, so each time we had to wait to see the timing tickets). He was really chuffed to get the car running right again, and that would have been enough satisfaction after all his really hard work this last week or two, but the story gets better…..! He then lowered the tyre pressure a bit (Gos had pointed out that he had spun off the line on a previous run) and dropped it from 18 to 15. [Now at this point, he had only ever run one 12-second pass, last October, a 12.927, and his ambition for this year was a 12.7 to beat Nutcracker’s best of 12.85 with Gos driving]. He went out for his fifth run of the day about 4:30pm, and imagine everyone’s delight when Chris met us at the pit end of the return road with a ticket that said 12.635 @ 104.73 mph!!! We couldn’t believe it!! We all went wild!! We went back to the pits, and he decided to have one more run, about quarter to 6. By now, the timing boards were working (many thanks to Wayne & crew!). So we were able to instantly see the time come up at the finish line, and it was incredibly even better, with a 12.562 @ 105.28 mph!!! We were again all pretty stunned, and thrilled with that one!! And he had taken four tenths off his PB in one day! We all had a great evening, including another brill film show courtesy of Darryl and Sarah!

On Sunday the weather was pretty similar and Mark dialed in at 12.60, as that was a rough average of the last two runs. But then none of us were at all disappointed when he went straight out and ran a 12.407 @ 105.56 mph!! Even Jade screamed on that one!! Wow! On the next run, he played conservative to try to get nearer his Dial-in and didn’t launch so hard, and ran 12.909, which was still not bad. Then he decided to go for it again in the third round, and to top it all, he ran an amazing new PB of 12.376, way beyond his expectations!! We were all over the moon! In the fourth round, he was chuffed to pair up with Ray Ford in the RamRaider slingshot, Ray being one of the four previous co-owners of Mark’s car. They really enjoyed this, and Mark recorded another great 12.461, and even finished in 6th place overall for the event! And even more icing on the cake was that he won the Driver’s Choice Spot Prize voted for by all the WB drivers attending the event! We are all so chuffed for him, and it still hasn’t sunk in with any of us! Really thrilled, and especially how it kept getting better and better. His modifications and adjustments and building have finally paid off, and ‘Awesome’ is really living up to it’s name! Many congratulations, Mark and well done on all your hard work!

Thanks to Claire for towing, and Claire, Joey, Lottie and Darryl for crewing, and to all the marshals and officials and track crew for their hard work in the heat, from the early hours each morning! Much appreciated! And congratulations again to all the Wild Bunch for a great showing over the weekend, and a great bunch of cars, including three new members and the return of Paul Bambrick in a beautiful stars n’ stripes injected slingshot called American Pie, which along with Backdraft, RamRaider and new members Mark and Viv Fullard’s ’66 Race Cars Specialites’ slingshot made up a quartet of injected slingshots this weekend! A brilliant group of 20 Wild Bunch cars! It’s great to be part of it all!

PS. Once we got home, we got the dragster in the garage, and on the Monday I ordered a new oil pickup and pump, hoping that this would be the answer to the oil pressure problem (and quickly, as the next event was the following weekend at the Pod!). That night, I took the sump off and found the source of the variable oil pressure - it was a detached and mangled oil pickup! This was good news as it meant I was able replace this, with a bit of modification for strength, and install a fresh oil pump. I fired the car up on the Wednesday, and not only was the oil pressure back to normal, but it was actually better than it had been for a while, so we think the oil pump was also a bit tired! Anyway, the car is now all loaded and we’re really looking forward to the ‘Summer Nationals’ next weekend, the 17th & 18th June, at Santa Pod Raceway which should be another great event.

13th - 14th May 2006 - American Car Nationals

This weekend was the second round of the Ultimate Power Series at Shakespeare County Raceway, and the second round of our Real Steel Series, and the third MSA meeting in April! I was one of 4 Slingshots in a field of 7 Wild Bunch cars taking part. Me and Claire drove up in the bus, with Mark and Lottie going up earlier in Mark’s car. Lee and Sarah also came up on the Saturday and stayed overnight. We set up in the Wild Bunch camp down by the market end of the pits, and were scrutineered that evening. We were hoping for some good weather and to get some power down on the track.

On Saturday there were scheduled to be three rounds of qualifying which turned into five! Claire sat in the hotseat to fire the car up in the morning and everything sounded alright. The weather was cloudy and cool, but okay.

We towed down for the first qualifier with Phil Sweeney behind, giving him a tow this weekend after all Abby’s towing at the Thunderball. Again we were pitted right next to them, which was good. I dialled in at 8.90, to get a run in the qualifying bank the right side of the Dial-in. I was paired with Neil Ward in the Andromeda slingshot for this run. I ended up losing some traction off the launch again, but ran a 9.367 @ 139.91 mph, and was in third place after this round. We got ready for the next qualifying run, and I did a compression check as both me and Lee thought we had heard something about three-quarter track. This was fine, as were the gaskets, so we towed down for the second qualifier, where I matched up with Ed Yates in the new RamRaider slingshot. I did the burnout and got into stage, but as soon as I launched, something went ‘bang’ and the engine was straight up on the rev limiter. I quickly lifted off the throttle, and pulled over to the side of the track, and had to push back. We towed slowly back to the pits, with Claire hearing a loud grinding noise from the prop shaft area. When we got back to our pit, I took the prop shaft cover off and we quickly saw that I had sheared the male pinion coupler shaft! This had been in the car for around 6 years, so has done us proud. It was a little disappointing, but I knew that I would be able to weld it back up. But this could not be done properly at the track so we had to park the car for the rest of the event. On the evening we had another cool film show courtesy of Darryl and Sarah, so that was pretty good. It was really cold, so we went to bed early.

Sunday had started wet, but the clouds held off, and all the eliminations were held. It was a shame we missed out on all the qualifiers and race-day, but luckily the damage was not too bad. I had qualified in 4th place overall, and when the pairings ladders were done, we saw that I would have been paired with Ed in the quarterfinals, which would have been a good race. Many congratulations to him and all the Dog’s Bollocks team for running their first 9’s with the car, with a PB for Ed of 9.899, which was also a team PB in any car, well-deserved! Fair play! The Wild Bunch final was an all-girl matchup with good friends Sarah Howells in Bernie’s Destiny’s Angel and Helen Smythe in Team Twisted’s Hell’s Belle. Helen took her first ever event win, after being #1 Qualifier, and won Best Altered, and Sarah won Closest to Dial-in and Fastest mph. Congratulations to them both for a great showing over the weekend and an exciting final!

Thanks to Claire for towing, and Mark and Claire for crewing, and to all the marshals and officials for their hard work all weekend getting in five qualifiers and all the eliminations. Fair play!

We’re now really looking forward to the American Car World Nationals on 13th & 14th May at Shakey, where there should be a big field of Wild Bunch.

PS. I have since stripped out the pinion coupler and welded it back up, so all systems should be go!

PPS. Also, the first batch of axle parts have arrived, so I am looking forward to getting that together!

29th - 30th April 2006 - Ultimate Power - Shakespeare Nationals

This weekend was the first round of the Wild Bunch Series at Shakespeare County Raceway, and the third round of our Real Steel Series. I was one of 9 Slingshots in a field of 19 Wild Bunch cars taking part, the biggest field so far this year. I drove up in the bus about 1:30 on my own as Claire was later towing up Mark’s slingshot, Awesome 4-Some. I arrived at the track about 3pm and unloaded the car, and went round to collect Mark’s caravan. After this, the heavens opened for a good few hours, drenching everything. Claire, Mark, Lottie, Nige (Mark’s crew) and Emma came up around 8:30pm in Claire’s car, and unloaded Mark’s car and Mark and his friends set up their caravan and awning, which proved invaluable with all the weather over the weekend. We all set up according to the pit plan down by the market end of the pits again, which turned out to be like old times, with the area turning into a real Wild Bunch village! With the weather being stormy, we had a quiet night in and turned in early.

Saturday morning was grey, but dry. Me and Mark both got scrutineered, and were keen to get down to the track early to get in some testing, as I was hoping to get some power down and get back into the 8’s, whilst Mark was hoping to improve after the tuning he had done on his car at his college. Claire was towing both of us and Claire, Mark and Lottie were crewing for the two cars. As Backdraft had still been running rich, we fired her up and I adjusted the barrel valve to take some fuel out, and we headed down to the track. We were surprised to only see a very small queue! I paired up against Mark and ran a 9.975 @ 134.59 mph, and things didn’t sound good at all. Mark’s car didn’t sound well either and he struggled to an 18.579 at only 71 mph. So back to the pits we went! I put the barrel valve back to its previous setting and richened up the fuel system. The next run resulted in a much-improved 9.030 @ 146.08 mph, the best E.T. of the year so far!! The car had also pulled a small wheelie which felt good, and I was really pleased, as we were finally going in the right direction with the tuning! Meanwhile, in the other lane, Mark’s run had been an even worse 20.5 second pass. We headed back to the pits and I richened up the fuel system again. We both went out again around mid-afternoon. On this run I pulled a big wheelie, the biggest of the year so far, and this proved to be a sign of the power in the engine, as I ran my first ‘8’ of the season, an 8.990 @ 145.04 mph!! Well chuffed!! But once again in the other lane, Mark had an even worse run of 22 seconds, which was very discouraging. After this run, I decided to take the third main back out of the fuel system, as it was now no longer needed, and we figured that the Total Seal rings had totally bedded in now. We towed back to the fire up road again, and went down for the fourth run of the day around 4pm. This was not to be, as there were a few spots of rain. Some cars towed back but we waited, as it was only around 4:30pm, but then the report came from the top end of heavy weather on the way, and the commentator advised everyone to return to the pits. We then towed back to the pits and got the cars covered just in the nick of time, as once again the heavens opened, this time with hail amongst the torrential rain, thunder and lightning, which lasted for a good hour or so! Our Mark spent about 2 ˝ hours working on his car under the caravan awning (very useful!), as he’d discovered a blown head gasket. He then fired the car up and it sounded much better!! Sarah had organised a mass Wild Bunch BBQ, but this ended up being lots of small ones under people’s gazebos, due to the weather, but we still all had a good night, especially as we were back in the 8’s and Mark’s car seemed good to go for the morning!

Sunday, Sunday, Sunday As we had just dipped back into the 8’s, we decided to Dial in at 8.99, being quite close to the second and third runs Saturday, and having an ‘8’ in the number!!! Mark dialed in at 13.50, hopeful of getting back to where he was at the March RWYB. We towed down together for the first round and paired up again. We both did our burnouts, but unfortunately Mark had to shut down as he had broken his gearbox! I then soloed, and pulled another big wheelie and ran an 8.974 @ 147.77 mph, just .016 off my Dial-in! Really pleased with that one! Back in the pits, Mark stripped the cover off his gearbox to find 1st and 2nd gears with hardly any teeth left on them, ouch! He then joined in crewing for me for the rest of the day. In the second round I paired up with Neil Ward who had run his first ever 8-second pass just the day before. We were both well up for this matchup! I ran my best pass of the weekend, an 8.941 @ 147.11 mph, with another big wheelie, to Neil’s 9.156 @ 147.42 mph. We also paired up for the third round, and this was even closer, as I ran a wheelying 9.009 @ 145.85 mph, whilst Neil ran a 9.071 @ 148.04 mph. He had cut a better light than me, and we didn’t know who had crossed the line first until we saw the timing tickets! It turned out that I had got there first by just one thousandth of a second!! We both really enjoyed this race, and look forward to doing it again soon! That turned out to be the last round as it was getting late in the day. I had run just .019 off my Dial-in, but there had been about 4 other drivers who had run a hundredth and less off their Dial-ins during the day, so I really hoped I might make third or fourth. Claire read out those places and I wasn’t amongst them, but then she announced that there had been an exact tie for first place! With good friend Sarah Howells in Bernie’s Destiny’s Angel and me having exactly the same average difference to Dial-in! I was amazed and it still hasn’t sunk in yet! A great weekend! And many congratulations to Sarah for being joint winner, it is a real thrill to share first place with her! And Congratulations to Ray Ford and the Dog’s Bollocks team for running a great 9.503 at over 142 mph in the RamRaider slingshot, and to Neil Ward for his first 8’s! Fair play guys!

Thanks to Claire for towing, and Claire, Nige, Mark and Lottie for crewing, and to all the marshals and officials and track crew for their hard work, and for preparing a great track! Fair play! And congratulations to all the Wild Bunch for a great showing over the weekend, it’s a privilege to race with such a great bunch of people!

We’re really chuffed to be back in the 8’s, and we’re now really looking forward to the June Shootout on 10th & 11th June at Shakey, where there should be another big field of Wild Bunch.

14th - 17th April 2006 - 40th Easter Thunderball at Santa Pod

This was a very special event, as it kicked off the 40th Anniversary celebrations of Santa Pod, and it was the first time that the Wild Bunch had raced at the Easter Thunderball as a class. It was also the 30th Anniversary of the first ever event I had attended as a spectator, at the age of 15. And to say we were excited about the event is a big understatement! Me, Claire, Mark and Lottie left home about 1:30pm on the Thursday, and drove up in the bus, arriving about quarter to 5. We set up with the Wild Bunch at the back of the pits, almost level with the finish line, about 100 yards from trackside. The first thing we did after unloading Backdraft was to sign on, then we pushed the car straight up to scrutineering, which it sailed through about an hour and a half later. Still, I did get chatting to Nigel in Super Pro ET, who had a rear-engine dragster with a Ford 9 in it, which I hoped to take some measurements from, to help with the buildup of the new axle! We had tea and then an early evening, hoping for good weather the next day. We were scheduled to do 7 qualifiers over the first three days and we wanted to do them all! (These later turned out to be 9 qualifiers as two were accidentally missed off the running order! Bonus!).

Paul Stubbings had brought me up another check valve as I had put a third main into the injection system to take more fuel out of it. (Since I had fitted those Total Seal rings, she was running much richer!). I changed this and we fired her up, with Claire sitting in the hotseat so I could check the timing, etc. Ed had brought up a new sticker for the front spoiler, which read C & C in big bold defractive gold. Ed stuck it on and it looked real good! Cheers, Ed!

On Friday there were scheduled to be three rounds of qualifying. We didn’t have a tow vehicle with us but asked around, and Phil Sweeney’s girlfriend Abby had said she’d be happy to tow us behind Phil’s Antisocial slingshot. We were next to them in the pits so this worked out very well. We were out for the first qualifier at about 10 to 2 in the afternoon. I had decided to Dial in at 9.50, as the rings were still bedding in, and I did not yet have much of an idea how the car would run after the rebuild, only having done one squirrely run at the Power Nationals. For this run I was paired with Roy, and I recorded a breakout 9.256 @ 144.18 mph. When we got back to the pits, I changed the pill again in the third main, as she was still running rich.

The second qualifying run was around half past five, and I Dialled in at 8.90 this time to try and get a qualifier in on the right side of the Dial. I was paired with Roy again and recorded a 9.122 @ 146.09 mph, which actually turned out to be my best run of the weekend. Back in the pits I changed the pill again, and checked the plugs. The third run of the day came at about quarter to 8! I kept the same Dial-in and paired up with Alec Coe, which I was really looking forward to. Late in the day, with the track cooling, we both lost a bit of traction off the line, and I was ahead til after the 1/8th, when Alec went by. I ran a 9.654 @ 142.81 mph to his 9.271 @ 164 mph, and we both enjoyed the race! To top the whole day off, Darryl and Sarah had been videoing the day’s racing and projected it onto a big white screen in the pits, so we had a great film show!

Saturday dawned with quite a thick fog (you couldn’t see the finish line from the start!) but racing was only delayed about half an hour. I had backed off the ignition for the first run, as an experiment, and the first qualifier of the day was just after noon. I kept the 8.90 Dial and was matched up with Phil Sweeney. I ran a 9.328 @ 138.11 mph, so decided to put the timing back to where it had been! While we had been queueing up for this run, Darren Prentice, the Race Director, had asked me to come and see him about the demo run we were hoping to do for the anniversary celebrations. This was to be a flag start with none other than Stu Bradbury, the original starter at the Pod, with two pairs of Wild Bunch cars, mine and Phil’s slingshots, and Roy’s and Helen’s altereds. The 4 of us towed down to the pairings lanes and when we got there, we were asked to get out of our cars to go and have a chat to Stu who would explain how the flag start worked. We had some pics taken with him and he explained that he would first point to each driver with the Stars ‘n Stripes to acknowledge that they were ready, then as soon as he lifted the Union Jack from the track, that was the signal to GO! This was a really big deal for me, being a nostalgia nut, not only having a flag start, but being flagged off by Stu Bradbury, and on the Pod’s 40th Anniversary. And to top it all, we had long cherished a special picture of Stu himself on the startline with Malibu Express at the Pod in about 1970!! So this moment was really special to us!! Wow! We then all got pushed round to just before the start line, behind the tower, where John Price was interviewing Stu. Helen and Roy went first so it was great to watch Stu in action! Then it was Phil’s and my turn. The car performed a nice burnout and I pulled up to about the Pre-stage line. Stu pointed the Stars n’ Stripes at me and I nodded to say I was ready, and then he did the same to Phil. Then as soon as I saw the Union Jack twitch, I was off! A real nice wheelie and the car hooked up better than it had done all weekend! The run was good and I reckon it may have been an 8 if the timers had been on it!! But that didn’t matter! Straight after this all the Hall of Famers were getting their Bootsie trophies, and we were chuffed to think they had been watching us! What a thrill! I felt really proud and privileged to be a part of it and would like to thank Darren Prentice and Stu Bradbury very much for organising the flag start demo. Still buzzing even now! For this run, Claire and Mark had changed into period gear of white jeans and our red polo crew shirts with Wild Bunch on the back, that Karen had embroidered for us, and they really stood out on the start line, fair play! And because of this, we even won the Best Appearing Team for the Wild Bunch for the weekend, which the commentators had chosen. That was even more icing on the cake!

Later on, at about twenty to six, we had our second qualifier of the day. I dialled in at 8.90 again, and ran a 9.300 @ 144.19 mph. Even later on, around quarter to 8 was the third qualifier, again on a cooling track and nearly in the dusk. Mark suggested a Dial-in of 9.20, as we thought it would be a slower run. This proved pretty spot on, as I ran a 9.232 @ 142.75, just .032 off, which earnt me the number three qualifying place! Cheers, Mark! It was then time for another late tea, about 9pm and another film show of the day’s racing, courtesy of D.A.S.H.! A good time was had by all. It was also Jan Mortimer’s special birthday and she had a party in the Mad R’s marquee. We didn’t stay too late as we were pretty tired that day, but we had fun while we were there! Many happy returns, Jan!

In the morning, Daz Selwyn had brought up a Ford 9 axle casing which I was buying off a friend, and it looked pretty good, Step 1 in the axle buildup complete! And later my luck was also in, as I bumped into Clive Bush who just happened to have some 4.30:1 Richmond pro gears with him, for sale! They also looked good, so I bought them then and there! And was pretty pleased with the progress so far on getting bits together for the new axle! So we’re hopefully on course for fitting that mid-season, or as soon as I can get it all assembled!

Sunday dawned fairly cloudy, and there were scheduled to be yet 3 more qualifiers! What a bonus! We had one qualifier around 10:30 in the morning, and I once again went back to the 8.90 Dial-in. I ran a 9.344 @ 143.21 mph, still having to back off slightly after the launch. We then waited for the next qualifier but unfortunately, the afternoon was plagued with a heavy rainshower, which eventually meant almost 5 hours of track time were lost. And our next round ended up being at 10 past 8 in the evening! Getting pretty dusky! Backdraft had some small methanol flames out the headers which was cool. I dialled in at 9.00 and ran a 9.585 @ 144.18 mph, not really expecting too much in the cool conditions. And again that night we had a great film show from Darryl and Sarah, with extra videos too!

On Monday morning, it was pretty cloudy and cool and we were not due out til about 1pm, so I was able to go and take measurements from Nigel’s Super Pro rear-engined dragster with the 9 in it. We then got ready for the round and were in the fireup road when a tribute to Terry Gibbs was being held. Roger Goring with the Firestorm jet funny car was on track, there were some speeches, and then a minute’s silence, followed by Craig Gibbs slowly driving down the track in his Super Mod car, very brave, fair play to him, and our thoughts are with him, Tina and the family at this time. Terry will be much missed in the world of Drag Racing and we will always be grateful for his contributions, especially for helping the Wild Bunch take part in MSA events and for all the events he organised and supported.

Our quarter-finals round was then around quarter to 2. And almost as if planned, I had Phil Sweeney in this round, and we’d been towing together all weekend! Phil is already a tough opponent and he had beaten me twice, so we had to give the Dial-in a lot of consideration! We decided on 9.26, being near the average of all the better runs over the weekend. Phil had dialled in at 12.54, so he left the line, and I waited and left on the green. Amazingly, we had exactly the same reaction times of .240! Phil had some problems on this run and posted a 13.399 and I caught him about three quarter track and backed off. I still recorded a 9.392, but at 112 mph!! It was such a thrill to actually win a round again (as the last time had been in August!). We have a feeling we may be having a few close races with Phil this year! We then went back to the pits, changed oil and fuelled up and waited for the Semi-finals, where I was due to face Darren Law in the Wicked Lady, and he’d been running consistently all weekend! As it happened, it started to rain, and the showers were on and off all afternoon! The track crew worked hard to dry the track in between and were frustratingly close a few times. Finally, several classes were called about 7pm! So we thought our luck would be in. Unfortunately, when they ran the B final of the Pro Fuel shootout, poor Leif Helander caught on fire, and there had to be a clearup. Luckily Leif was unhurt, which is great news. Then once the track was ready to roll again and they ran the Top Methanol and Pro Mod finals, it started to rain again. It was now 10 to 8 and sadly the officials were forced to call time on the event. They had made a valiant effort to complete as much as possible, so it was a great shame all their efforts were unrewarded. It had still been a great event though!

Thanks very much to Mark and Claire for crewing, they really did me proud, and thanks to Lottie for her support! Also many thanks to Abby for towing us all weekend, Darryl for doing some great video footage, and especially to all the marshals and officials for their hard work all weekend! And thanks to everyone at Santa Pod for making us feel so welcome and giving us the chance to do that incredible flag start, something to remember forever! And congratulations to all the Wild Bunch for a great showing at the 40th Easter Thunderball! What a wow event!

We’re now looking forward to the second Ultimate Power Series round, the Shakespeare Nationals at Shakey on April 29th & 30th. Hope the weather’s good!

PS. We have been progressing with the new axle build, after acquiring those bits at the Pod, and I have ordered most of the parts from California. So as soon as they arrive, I can get going on starting the build!

1st - 2nd April 2006 - Ultimate Power Series - Power Nationals

This weekend was the opening event of our 12th season of racing and we had really been looking forward to it. I had rebuilt the engine with a new block over the winter, and installed some Total Seal rings so we were eager to see how the car would run. I was one of 3 Slingshots in a field of only 5 Wild Bunch cars taking part in this the first round of the Ultimate Power Series at Shakespeare County Raceway. Me and Claire and Mark’s girlfriend Lottie drove up in the bus, with Mark and his friend Joey following in Mark’s car. We set up in the Wild Bunch camp down by the market end of the pits, and were scrutineered fairly early next morning. 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 four rounds of qualifying and racing was delayed until about 11:30, after a dampish start to the day! I had fired the car up and checked everything and it all seemed to be fine. The engine had sounded really strong!

On the first run, I decided to Dial in at 9.50, as the rings were going to be bedding in for a while and I didn’t really know what the car would run. I ended up losing traction off the launch, never really hooking up, and backing off to a 12.530 @ 100.46 mph! Hmmm!! The track had been fine, although a little cool, so this was disappointing. We got ready for the next qualifying run, but with a couple of showers and some track cleanups, this turned out to be the only qualifier, and I qualified in 3rd place. When the pairings ladders were done, it turned out that I was due to race good friend Sarah Howells in the first round in Bernie’s Destiny’s Angel altered!

Sunday morning we woke up in the bus and started discussing the run, and came to the conclusion that as the car was now making more power, that we were now more often overpowering the axle, so we really needed a new axle sooner, rather than later, as was planned for the future!

The day started off sunny and cool but became more cloudy and there were scattered showers. We all prepared for the semis, and we were called for the round mid-afternoon, after a couple of delays for more showers. We waited for a while in the fireup road, with intermittent showers, and Mark and Claire sheltered under the tarp which was covering the car, with me still belted in! We waited for the weather to improve but unfortunately the rain came down again, and although it dried a bit, it then rained again, and the officials were forced to call the end of the event, which was a great shame for the first race of the season.

Thanks to Claire for towing, and Mark and Claire for crewing, and to all the marshals and officials for their hard work all weekend trying to get the track ready!

We’re now really looking forward to the 40th Anniversary Easter Thunderball at Santa Pod Raceway, real excited about that one!

PS. I have since been finding out information on axles, and have decided to go for a Ford 9 axle, and use all Strange internals. I hope to build that as soon as I can get the parts together! And then we will look forward to hooking up that power!

That was the News