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27th - 28th September UK NATIONAL FINALS

This weekend was the sixth and final round of the Wild Bunch Series and the tenth and final round of our Real Steel Series, and I was sitting in 3rd place in both Series! I was one of 6 Slingshots in a field of 8 Wild Bunch cars taking part. Me and Claire left Bristol early, around 9:30am and arrived at the track around quarter to 1. We were lead in through the pit gate by Darren Prentice, who was marshalling the pits and we were well chuffed to find out that the Wild Bunch were pitted near the fence, around about the 1000ft mark! So we would be able to see some great racing by the Sportsman classes and the extra Pro Fuel shootout that was added to the event. We drove towards the fence, where Mark with the Pony Express had already arrived. We got the car out and backed the trailer and bus onto the fence, putting the car in between the two, and set up our pit. And just then Darryl and Sarah arrived with Chemical Reaction. We went to sign on, and waited until scrutineering time, around 3pm. Once again, Sarah kindly towed us up to the scrutineering area with Chemical Reaction, but we went up the trackside road, which was the usual way to get there, only to find that everyone else had queued up through the pits! A couple of friends in other classes kindly let us push the cars in from there, as it would have been real difficult to get through the queue, and we couldn’t go backwards! This all went smoothly and we were both scrutineered fine. Claire and I pushed Backdraft back to the pits, as it was a nice day for it! We then finished setting up, and had a really nice laid back afternoon. The weather forecast was sun and more sun, which made a nice change of late, so we were really optimistic for the weekend. Especially as there was an outside chance, if I was able to win the Final, that I could actually win the Wild Bunch Series! We had a nice chilled out evening, and Mark arrived around 8pm, on his own this time, as Chloe, Joey and Kim were all busy.

We were scheduled to have 3 qualifiers on the Saturday, so hopefully a chance to Dial the car in well, and with the weather prediction being good we had no worries! But we were really surprised when we woke up Saturday to be greeted by dense fog! We could not even see the bank, though it was only about 30 or so feet away! This took a while to clear, as it was hanging in the air for some time, but once clear, the track crew got to work getting some heat in the track, and qualifying started around 11am. We were 17th on the running order, so had some time to wait, including a round of the Pro Fuel shootout, so we did not get on track until about 4pm for our first qualifier!! We Dialled in at 9.00 even for starters, and wouldn’t have minded a breakout! There was some trouble with the tree settings on this run, and after being in stage for a while, we got shut down and pushed back against the barn. We re-fired the car and went to the line against Andy Cresswell, who was running better this event as the team had repaired their gearbox. I pulled a massive wheelie on this run, and recorded a 9.099 @ 140.66 mph, so was quite pleased to still be within the 9.0’s! This also proved to be the Quickest E.T. of the event for the Bunch, so pleased with that too! It then looked less likely that we would get 3 runs in that day, but it looked promising that the second qualifier may turn out to be a night run, if we were lucky! We waited around, and watched the Pro Fuel Shootout round in the dusk, with some cool flames, especially from the Funnies. Time was getting on and it actually got dark before we were called for the second qualifier, which was held at 8:15pm! Wow, our darkest run ever! We raised the Dial very slightly, to 9.05 for the run, and I was getting pretty excited in the pairings lanes! We pulled round and this time we were paired with Ed, who was also producing some neat blue flames! I pulled quite a big wheelie and ran a 9.188 @ 142.91mph with wicked flames at the top end! I really enjoyed that one, as it was my quickest and fastest and darkest night run! All of us the Wild Bunch were buzzing at the top end! It was late when we got back to the pits, so I left the oil change for the morning. I had qualified in 5th place overall, so not that great, and it meant that I would be facing Dave Rowlands’ Destiny’s Angel in the first round the next day! And he had been running really well most of the year! We had a nice evening, including chatting to Lyn and Les Harris, with the Supertwin streamliner, when we went down to buy his 5th annual calendar. Guess what? I’m featured on the April page in full mask and helmet in the cockpit! Well chuffed with that, and thanks to Les for again producing a great calendar!

Sunday, Sunday, Sunday!!!
The last Race day of the year, and there was a lot riding on the day’s result if I won the event I would be WB 1 for the first time ever, so all to play for!

Again the day dawned foggy, but this cleared a lot quicker, and there was not much of a delay at all, only around half an hour. But we were not due up til fairly late on the running order so a while to hang around. A real bonus of the day was that our great friend and former crew Ron turned up for the first time this season! It was really great to see him, and to have him hanging out with us and cheering us on! Well chuffed! So we hoped for some wheelies and even a round win or two, so that he had a few runs to enjoy!

Our first round was the Quarter-finals, and all 8 Wild Bunch had qualified, and I was paired with Dave, the #1 Qualifier! What a start! The round took place around 1:30pm, and there was plenty of excitement around the team! We decided to Dial in at 9.09, being the number we had run first on the Saturday, and an achievable goal, if I could get my reaction right. Dave dialled in at his usual 9.70, and he was almost always on the numbers! I pulled a big wheelie, and caught him by three quarter track, and I managed to stay just in front to take the finish line first, posting a slowing 9.297 @ 120.52 mph, to Dave’s 9.880 @ 141.10mph. Phew! Surprisingly I had won this one on a holeshot, so was well chuffed with that! Fair play to Dave too, as this run meant that he has won the 2008 Real Steel Series! A great achievement in his first full year of racing!

It seemed a long time since I had won an elimination race, so I was real pleased with that, and to be able to make it to the Semi-finals, for another run! This meant I was paired up with Ed in the RamRaider, always a good match up! This round was at about quarter to 4. We decided to keep the same Dial-in, as we thought the car was capable of making it on a full charge. Ed opted for a 9.23, and he was running pretty close to that on most runs. He left the line first and posted a good 9.266 @ 143.79 mph, the fastest speed of the Bunch for the weekend, as he was on a top charge, as luckily I had managed to get past him around three quarter track and he was chasing me down. I managed to judge it okay and slowed a bit, with a 9.137 @ 123.44 mph, not far off Dial, and getting the win light with another surprising holeshot! Thanks to Ed for another great race! I was really thrilled to make my first final of the year, and now the pressure was really on: if Terry won, he would be 2nd in Wild Bunch, Tony and Dave would be 1st, and I would stay in 3rd; if I won, then I would win the Wild Bunch Series, with Tony and Dave 2nd, and Terry 3rd! So it all came down to the last race of the season! And I had to hope for another good reaction, as Terry had been real close to Dial-in in the quarter-finals (three thousandths off!) and was really on form! It was going to be another great all-slingshot race, and real close! And I was really looking forward to it!

The Final took place around quarter past 5, and it lived up to the billing! Terry kept his 10.18 Dial-in, and I kept my 9.09 Dial. I pulled another good wheelie, and unknown to me at the time, the Best Reaction of the weekend for the Wild Bunch, an .046, and one of my best ever!! Whilst Terry was nearly four tenths off this. I then caught him up by two thirds track! I was going too fast, I thought! I braked, then hit the throttle again. Then completely lost the plot! I thought I was going to break out, so braked again! It was sooo close at the finish line that I didn’t know who won until I saw Terry’s win light come on! I had recorded a 9.553 @ 121.40mph, to Terry’s 10.207 @ 125.49 mph! I was gutted! I drove round to the collecting area feeling lower than I ever had before at drag racing. I had lost the race by just three thousandths of a second! Fair play to Terry on a great race by him, as he never gave up and stormed through for the win, which was his first ever win in an MSA or a RWYB event! Many congratulations to him and the whole team on some great racing, well deserved. And commiserations on tying the Wild Bunch Series on points, but not winning by having one less second place! (I know that feeling well, as the same happened between us and the Dog’s Bollocks Team with RamRaider back in 2001!). As soon as I got back to the bus, I rang Tony to let him know that he and Dave had won the Wild Bunch Series again (third time in a row! And fifth time for Tony! A great achievement). He was pleased with the call, and genuinely offered his commiserations, which was much appreciated. [I’ve been through the run a few times since then, as writing this on the Wednesday after, and I’m okay now!! And more determined than ever to do my best again next year, with big help from Claire and Mark!].

We were chuffed at our trophy presentation to be awarded the Best Appearing Team Spot Prize by the commentators, who were the retiring Graham Beckwith (many thanks to him for some great commentary over the years) and his new colleague Colin, who had said that our car reminded him of 25 years ago, and especially the slingshot Shirley Muldowney was shown driving in Heart Like a Wheel! Wow! What a compliment! Real chuffed with that! And thrilled to have evoked some nostalgic memories! Well cool! That made our day!

And we were pleased to go to the SPRC prize presentation (for the first time in over a year and a half) at the back of the grandstands on the podium, and even more glad that Ron could share it with us!

So we finish the season 3rd in Wild Bunch, which is really more than we could have hoped for earlier in the year, when we had several breakages, so we are pleased with that! And it’s our third time being WB 3! Many congratulations to Tony and Dave for the win, and to Terry in 2nd place, his first ever Top 4 finish, so a great year for him too. And big congrats to Scottie, who has finished in 4th place with the Tiki Munki his first ever Top 4, and we know he’ll be over the moon with that! Fair play!

We are also really pleased and surprised to finish in 2nd place in the Real Steel Series this year, the same as last year, this time behind Dave Rowlands who has had an excellent year. Congrats to him, and to Terry who has finished 3rd in this Series and Darren Law who finished 4th, despite his late breakage in The Wicked Lady. Over the weekend, Bob bought our old Strange axle to install in The Wicked Lady for next season, so we wish the team the best of luck with that, and hope they can put it to good use, and run some more good numbers again in their dragster!

Well done to all the Wild Bunch racers at the Finals, who put on a great show. It was as always, a pleasure to race with them all! And many thanks to the always hardworking track crew and marshals at Santa Pod, we are as ever grateful for their efforts! And thanks to all at Santa Pod for the warm welcome real glad this event turned out sunny! And really enjoyed watching all the racing, especially the close and exciting Sportsman finishes and the 300mph funny car of Spuff storming past the back door of our bus!! Awesome to see the Fuel guys run the numbers right near the top end!

In a fortnight, we will hopefully be taking Backdraft out again, with a stand-in driver, our Mark! And then we will be running again at the Flame and Thunder at Santa Pod, with our Mark driving his Awesome 4-Some.

And look out for an update to our picture gallery, with pictures of big wheelies, cacklefest pictures, crew pictures, and more big wheelies!! Yeehah!

13th - 14th September HOT ROD DRAGS

This weekend was not a round of any of our Series, but it was the 20th Anniversary Hot Rod Drags and was set to be a really special event. The organisers had planned a Cacklefest for the Saturday night, and I was due to take part with “Backdraft”! So we were really looking forward to that! As another birthday present, Claire had bought me something really special: Tony Densham’s crash helmet! I really could not believe it, and was in awe of this, and feel more like a custodian of it. “The Commuter” was always my favourite slingshot, and it had been a dream come true when I got to sit in it a few years ago at the Goodwood Festival of Speed. I spoke to Antony Billinton, who had allowed Claire to buy the helmet (way back at the Easter Thunderball, it turned out, to my surprise!), and I had asked him if he minded if I wore it during the Cacklefest, as our personal tribute to Tony. I was really honoured that I was going to be able to do this.

For this year’s Hot Rod Drags we wanted to take the Hot Rod up to the track for the first time, and run it on the special Friday afternoon drags, and use it to push “Backdraft” for the Cackle. So the only way to get everything up to the track was for me to tow the racecar trailer with the bus, as usual, and Claire to drive the Hot Rod up. She had only driven it around a local trading estate before, so we had another practice, and a quick ride on the M5 on the Wednesday before the event. We both had the day off on the Friday, so were able to leave early, around 9:30am. We planned that she would go in front and I would follow in the bus to make sure everything went okay! Well, it sure did, as once we were on the motorway, she started pulling away! And even overtaking, so my view of the car from behind was blocked by a lorry for a good few miles! We stopped at a layby near Ashchurch to refuel, and her grin said it all!! She was really loving it! We got to the track okay at around 11:30 and set up not far down from the train carriage, in the middle of the pits.

We then went to get both cars scrutineered, with Claire towing me in the Hot Rod. There was only one car ahead in the queue and we could see only around 10 cars waiting for the track to open (which was planned from noon til 6pm), so we were looking forward to having several runs each in the Hot Rod. We also bumped into Nobby Hills, who had brought his Fuel Funny Car to the track on display, for some fireups, and to sign autographs in his new book (which I had just finished reading! It’s really interesting and written in a very readable style, with some great pictures). Just as we were finished getting scrutineered it started to drizzle, so we got back to the pits quite quick, and covered the racecar up. It later rained more heavily, then stopped and started to dry up, so we hoped for some runs still, but the rain came back around 3pm and didn’t really stop til around 7pm or so! So we didn’t get to test the Hot Rod out! (Maybe next year!). Our Mark and his girlfriend Chloe arrived a bit later on with “Awesome 4-Some” and we managed to get the slingshot and his old caravan into our pit area, so it all looked pretty cool, with the bus next to “Backdraft”, then the Hot Rod, then “Awesome 4-Some” and our trailer. So it was nice to pit all together. It was Chloe’s first time at the drags, so we were hoping she enjoyed it!

That night, a Drive-in movie was scheduled for 8pm, where everyone had to drive up in their Hot Rods to a space behind the middle grandstand. We got all dressed up in warm clothes, as it was quite cold and still damp, and drove down the pits towards the fire-up road. When we got near the bar, Alan Martin called out to us to stop, saying that unfortunately the movie had had to be postponed due to the weather! That was a shame as it was a great idea, and we’d been looking forward to trying to see the movie through a steaming up small windscreen, with our tiny wiper blade, and the sound playing from a nearby car stereo (it was going to be on an FM station, and we didn’t have a radio in the Rod!). Oh well, we drove back and had a chilled out night on the bus, chatting to friends, and looked forward to the next day.

Saturday morning was pretty dry and sunny! So things looked good for the day. The pits gradually started to fill up, and the whole place was heaving! They had to extend the pits 3 times, due to volume of cars arriving! It was great to see so many Hot Rods, and a fair few race cars, and the programme was packed. That morning I decided to uncap the headers, to see what the Rod would sound like! As soon as I did this, me and Claire took a drive round the pits. Oh boy was it loud! And it completely resonated throughout the cab and our bodies!! We parked up, waited for her to cool down, and I promptly put the caps right back on! It was good to do it to see what it was like, but will be a one-off!! I then installed the push board on the front of the car, ready for that night’s pushing duties, as we had decided not to try to run either car, due to the lengthy queues! And just go and watch our Mark run, and some of the race classes. I did a test fireup of “Backdraft” in the pits, with the ‘cackle setting’ dialled in, and there were some faint daytime flames, so I was pretty sure we’d get some on the night!

Slick tyres were not allowed on track to start with Saturday morning, as the previous day’s water meant there was still some dampness around, so there was a wait for Mark til around 1:30pm, and he ended up with just 3 runs on the Saturday, queueing for quite some time! His first run was a 12.056 @ 109.96mph, his best so far at Shakey. His second run was nearly 3 hours later at 4:15pm! But it was well worth the wait, as he recorded a great 11.915 @ 109.22mph with a bit of a wheelie! His first 11 at Shakey! His third run, nearly 2 hours later, was an even better, Personal Best E.T. of 11.862 @ 109.73mph! He was well chuffed with that, and was really on one for the rest of the weekend!! Fair play, Mark!

Racing finished later than planned, at 7pm instead of 6, as there had been a delayed start. We were due to be down at the fireup road entrance at around 7pm, to assemble all the cars, for the Cacklefest to start at 8pm. We were all really looking forward to this! There were quite a few cars taking part from different classes, including 6 from the Wild Bunch: ourselves, Sid Slattery’s new Jag-powered powder blue slingshot, Darryl driving “Chemical Reaction”, Sarah driving “RamRaider”, Martin Holgate with “Paranoia” and Simon and Paul Williams’ new slingshot. Some cars were planned to be static, set up after the Christmas tree and diagonal across the track. The first of these was Wendy and Paul’s new Funny Car. There was also “The Mob”, Vic Hammond’s slingshot, Alec and Kev’s “Shy Talker”, Jon Best’s Nitro slingshot, and a couple of others, with the rest of us driving round to the track, including some Outlaw Anglias like Paul Wright, Gassers like the new blue metalflake Willys, and some NFAA cars including “Venom”. All in all around 20 cars were in the lineup!

We got set up in the pit, and I got my silver suit on. Me and Mark pushed the slingshot out into the pits. Mark and Joey lifted Chloe and Kim into the dickie seat of the Hot Rod, and Claire drove the ’32, gingerly pushing the slingshot down the pits, around the corner and back up through the main section of the pits. It looked really wicked! Just as we arrived at the entrance to the fire up road, the push board gave up the ghost! (I will have to adjust the mountings for next time as there had been too much flex!). But it had got us there, and looked really cool. Meanwhile Sid’s crew had also pushed him down with a green station wagon, which looked great too! We were getting everything sorted and discussing the running order, when I turned around to see water pouring out from the Rod! The bottom hose had split! Claire mentioned we still had around 40 minutes, so I sent Mark back to the pits to grab some duck tape and stuff to try and make a temporary repair! He did this, and we were back in business!! Things were getting exciting! The arrangements were that those with period push or tow cars could follow the cackling cars down the fireup road, and two crew were allowed on the track to supervise the fired up cars. We were supposed to have around 30 seconds gap between each car, but this all went out the window as soon as things started! Right on 8pm, when it was really dark, Barry Bohannon in the tower gave the command ‘Ladies and gentlemen, start your engines’! And the static cars all fired up at once. Then the rest of the cars began to fire up and move off, sometimes a couple at once! But it all worked out fine! We fired up and queued at the corner, then I drove down the fireup road, watching the flames! Claire drove the Rod behind and also watched the flames, while Chloe filmed it on her mobile! Thanks, Chloe! I drove round the Christmas tree and slowly down the track into position, just after Simon Williams, and before the blue Willys. Mark jumped over the Armco, to monitor the engine temperature, and Claire parked the Rod and joined us on the track, trying to take pictures, which did not come out. By now, the slingshot was flaming well, and I was really chuffed watching the flames! At one point, the left rear header was glowing red, which Mark was pretty amazed with! Mark checked the head a few times, and eventually told me to shut off, which I reluctantly did! Then after the last car finished firing up, the fireworks started! Wow, what an experience! We all really enjoyed it, to say the least! Many thanks to a few photographers who later sent me pictures of the car with the flames: Jeni, Mark Butterworth and Kirstie Tramm. Really wicked pics! (And will get them posted on the gallery as soon as we can!). So thanks to all of them! Really buzzing after the Cacklefest! And great to be a part of it all!

That night we had a walk round the pits, and checked out the band in the marquee for a song or two. We then wandered over to Nobby Hill’s pit, where we stayed chatting for quite a while. It was great to talk to him, and hear some of his stories, and great that he is back out at the drags!

The next day’s weather was again good, and more cars were still coming in through the gates! So it was going to be even busier. Mark had a fireup in “Backdraft”, as I had put the settings back to ‘race setting’ for the next event! Meanwhile Joey got Mark’s car in the queue, and we all went down to catch up to the slingshot, which by then had a crew of 6, including Harrison from the Thatadoo team! Mark’s first run of the day was an over-excited 12.186 @ 109.06mph, after a queue of 2 ˝ hours. He got straight back in the queue, for another 2 hours, and later ran another 12.188 @ 108.61mph, still trying hard! He was still real pleased with the whole weekend, and glad to be regularly running 11’s and wheelies, two of which were captured by photographers. The last run was around 4:30pm, and we had not started packing up yet! And we wanted to get going before dark, with Claire driving the Rod home. We still didn’t leave til around 6:30pm, so she drove all the motorway driving in the dark! And still enjoyed it!

It was a great weekend, even though we didn’t run Backdraft on the track! And once again, the car is still ‘ready to roll’ and we are really looking forward to the UK National Finals on 27th & 28th September at Santa Pod, as this will be the final round of both the Wild Bunch and the Real Steel Series, where I have a slight chance to move up from 3rd place in each! Can’t wait!

23rd - 25th August 2008 OPEN SPORTS NATIONALS

This weekend was the ninth round of our Real Steel Series, and the third and last of the Roy Wilding Nostalgia Race Cars Series, as well as the second and last of the APIRA Series. I was one of 6 Slingshots in a field of 10 Wild Bunch cars taking part. Me and Claire left Bristol early, around 11:00 and arrived at the track around 12:30. Our pit was way down in the extended market area, and Mark and Karen from the “Pony Express” had already arrived. We got the car out and backed the trailer and bus onto the field, and set up in the pits. Thanks again to Sarah for towing us up to scrutineering with “Chemical Reaction”. This was up by the fireup road entrance this time, and we were glad to get all sorted early in the afternoon. We then chilled out for the rest of the afternoon and evening! Mark and friends arrived and set up camp mid evening in the field behind the train carriage.

Saturday morning’s weather was pretty good, and the track opened just after 9:00am. We were 20th on the running order, so were out around quarter to 12. We were pretty hopeful for this event, as the car had been running well, and we had had two wins in a row! So hoped to translate the RWYB form and be consistent in the MSA racing too. On the first run of the day, we paired up with Ed in “RamRaider” so that was gonna be fairly close! We dialled in at 9.04, as that was our quickest run of the year so far (at York!). We were pretty pleased with the resulting 9.146 @ 142.61 mph, with a nice wheelie to start the day! Ed posted a breakout 9.23 @ 144 mph and finished just two hundredths behind, so was on a charge! We decided to keep the same Dial-in for the next round, which did not take place til about 4pm! This time I was paired with Andy Cresswell in the FreQ “Living the Dream” slingshot, which was having some gearbox woes. I was really surprised to post a breakout run of 9.020 @ 145.82 mph, quickest and fastest run of the year so far! So really chuffed with that, despite the breakout! That was it for the day, as time ran out before the next qualifier, but we would be out early the next day. We packed up for the day and had a chilled out evening, as it was quite cool for August!

Sunday’s weather started off a bit damp after an early morning shower. So this meant racing was delayed until about 11:30. We were out just before noon for our third qualifier, and decided to lower the Dial-in to 9.00 even (and boy would we have been pleased with a breakout!). This run was against Andy again, and he ran 13 seconds with his gear box problems. Again the car surprised us, as we went 9.150 @ 143.84 mph, nearly the same as the first run Saturday! The running order seemed to go through quite slowly again, and we were not back out til quarter past 4! This time I paired up with Darryl, who ran a 10.9, still trying to tune the injection system. We had raised the Dial-in slightly to 9.02, being our best time of the year, and didn’t really expect to break out, but hoped the car would go quicker than the morning run. It sure did, and I recorded a 9.013 @ 145.97 mph, breaking out by just 7 thousandths!! Another surprise, but pretty chuffed with the E.T., our best run of the year so far!! And another wheelie! There was no time for any more qualifiers, so no chance to go even lower this weekend! I had qualified in 6th place overall, so not too bad considering the up and down Dial-ins! We had a fairly quiet night, and looked forward to race day, which was my birthday!

Monday dawned quite clear and dry so it looked good for a full day’s racing. We were not out til about 11am, and I had again drawn Mark in the “Pony Express”. My reactions had been okay in qualifying, and I was hopeful of being fairly close to Dial-in, so looked forward to the race. Mark had been running PB’s during the weekend, and he ran a close 9.598 @ 138mph on his 9.55 Dial-in. I had Dialled in at 9.10, as this was what the car seemed to run first run of the day. My reaction time was a little slower than usual and I charged down the track trying to catch Mark, and could not quite get there, but still broke out with a 9.066 @ 146.81 mph! Fair play to Mark for another good race! This speed was my fastest of the year, so I was pretty pleased with that, and how the car had performed over the weekend. After this run, Claire gave me one of my birthday presents: an awesome original red Fremont Drag Strip jacket that she had found on eBay! I was pretty stunned with this! I tried it on for size and it fitted perfectly. And it comes complete with burn holes, and I’m sure would have a lot of stories to tell! Really cool!

The rest of the Bunch had a 6 ˝ hour wait til the Quarter-finals! With an immediate turnaround for the Semis and Finals, which were completed for all classes. Our prize presentation took place after 7pm! And we were chuffed to be awarded the “Best Appearing Team” Spot Prize, chosen by the commentators.

It had been a really good weekend, and great to again run on my birthday and pull a big wheelie! Congratulations to Phil Sweeney for the win, and Dave Rowlands as Runner-up! Commiserations to Darren Law and team who broke parts in their diff in “The Wicked Lady” dragster. Hope they can get it fixed in time for the Finals!

Congratulations to Dave who won this year’s Roy Wilding Nostalgia Race Cars Series, and to Mark Richardson, Terry and Darryl who finished 2nd, 3rd and 4th. Congrats to Phil, who has won the APIRA Series and to Mark Richardson, who is Runner-up!

Many thanks to all the marshals and officials, track crew and safety crew who worked hard all weekend, especially as they managed to complete all the eliminations! Fair play! And thanks as always to Claire and Mark for crewing and towing!

Once again, the car is still ‘ready to roll’ and we are looking forward to the 20th Anniversary Hot Rod Drags at Shakey, where we hope to take part in a ‘Cacklefest’! Silver suit time again! And loads of Nostalgia!

2nd - 3rd August 2008 YORK SUMMER SHOWDOWN

This event was the fifth round of the Wild Bunch Series, and the 8th round of our Real Steel Series, at our annual trip to York Dragway’s ‘UK Northern Nationals’ and we were really looking forward to it. Me and Mark turned out to be two of the 3 Slingshots in a field of 7 Wild Bunch cars taking part. We had a major last minute problem when I went to move the bus on the Friday morning, to load up and hitch up. It would not start! This turned out to be a broken cam belt! We spent a couple hours ringing round trying to get a van that would tow the trailer, then Mark realised that Jade’s boyfriend had a Mercedes Sprinter with a tow hitch, which he kindly let us borrow! Phew! We went round and collected it and loaded up, and were on the way around 1pm, only an hour later than scheduled. The light van did not like towing around 60mph, so we kept under around 55, and it went well. We stopped in the last services where we bumped into Terry and Ruth with their “Ratcatcher Resurrection”, so we ended up with a Wild Bunch mini convoy (of all 3 slingshots!) and arrived at the track around 7pm, an hour after opening. We were the first of the Bunch to get there, but were joined not long after by Scottie, Gina and Mark and Tiki Munki and Dave Rowlands and crew with Destiny’s Angel. Smithy and Dave and Linda arrived late that evening with The Cunning Plan. We got set up and settled in for the evening, where we even had a game or two of pool in the extended clubhouse! We were keen to see what Backdraft would run after the win at the Mini Showdown, and were hoping for some wheelies which we weren’t able to run last year at York!

Saturday started off dry and cool, though there were some clouds around and it was a little windy. We were trying to get in around 4 practice runs, to suit the schedule, and Claire arranged the first one for around 11am. The 6 of us all towed or pushed down, and we paired up with Terry, Mark with Scottie and Tony with Dave. This worked out really well and we stuck to this order all weekend, as it was an easy tow from the pits, all in a line. Our first run was a wheelying 9.100 @ 144.18mph! So real chuffed with that for starters! And it turned out to be the fastest speed of the Bunch for the weekend. Meanwhile, Mark had put the big carbs back on his engine, and bought a new electronic ignition system, and was hoping for some good runs at the track where he ran his PB 2 years ago. In the first pass of the day, he ran a promising 12.287 at a new Personal Best speed of 109.94mph! So he was real pleased with the speed, and his best run of the year so far!

There was then some rain around 11:30am, but the track dried really quickly, and we were able to go out for another run around 1:30pm. This run was even better for Backdraft, with a 9.066 @ 143.71 mph. In the very next pair, our Mark was on a stormer, and he posted his long-awaited first ever 11-second pass, with an 11.907 @ 110.83mph, another new best speed! We were all over the moon for him! Well chuffed, and well worth all the hard work and the wait! This was an improvement of a huge .278 second over his previous PB! Congratulations, Mark!

The third run of the day came around 3:15pm, and we were both consistent. I recorded a 9.063 @ 142.86mph, and Mark backed up his 11, with an 11.945 @ 109.80mph! On our 4th run of the day, I posted a 9.092 @ 141.47 mph, so was well pleased with the consistency for the day and how well the car had run. But shortly after this, Mark’s run of form came to an end, as unfortunately, he snapped a half shaft on his next launch, which was his best ever 60ft time of 1.576! He coasted to a 16.5, but still at 97mph. This was a great shame, as the car had been running so well and sounded really strong. He then went to get his spare shaft, only to find he had brought the broken one! Oh boy! He asked around the pits, and Michael Murty kindly took him and a couple of shafts to his workshop and welded them up! He then had to grind one shaft quite a lot to get it to fit, thanks to the loan of a grinder from Lee Gallimore, so he had a chance to run the following day. We went to bed fairly early, and looked forward to Sunday’s racing.

Sunday’s weather was pretty much the same, but there was a short drizzle around 11am, just before the first round. We waited for a while, and the track again dried quickly. We decided on a Dial-in of 9.07, which for once was quite an easy choice, as the car had run so consistently. Mark dialed in at 11.95 seconds, hoping that the shaft would hold for a few rounds.

In the first round, I recorded a 9.136 @ 143.23 mph, my slowest E.T. for the weekend, but still not that far off, so a fairly good start, with another nice wheelie! But Mark’s half shaft did not hold, as it broke again on the launch, and he cruised to a 20-second pass. But at least he ‘made the show’ on the Sunday, and overall had a great weekend!

There was a slightly heavier shower just before the second round, around 1:30pm, and we had to hold in the pairings lanes for a while. But once the track had quickly dried, it was still in good condition, and I posted a 9.109 @ 142.51 mph in Round 2. Still fairly close. The third round was around 3:15pm again, and the skies were clear. I then ran my best ever pass at York, a wheelying 9.044 @ 144.17mph, so we were all really chuffed with that one! It was also low E.T. for the Bunch for the weekend, and I think low E.T. for the track that weekend, as other quick classes were running 1/8th mile passes. So close to the 8’s again now, and I’d really like to run one at York! In the fourth round, around 4:30pm, I ran a solid 9.084 @ 142.86mph, which turned out to be “Closest to Dial-in” for the Bunch, being just .014 off. Real pleased with that one! I could not believe it when they announced that I had won the event! It turned out to be quite a big margin this weekend too, around three tenths overall, thanks to how well the car had run! We also won the Best Slingshot Spot Prize, awarded by the commentators, as well as the Best Appearing Team! Wow! What a weekend! Well worth the 460-mile round trip! (Mark thought so too!). One of the photographers said they had never seen so many wheelies, as all 8 were real good ‘uns, and I enjoyed every one! Claire got 3 of them pretty well on camera!

This result meant I moved up from 8th in the Wild Bunch Series to 3rd! Amazing! I was really surprised with that. And I improved my points in 3rd place in the Real Steel Series.

It had been a great weekend, with the gold old Northern hospitality, improved facilities, including improvements to the track, like the launch pads, and track prep. Many thanks to the promoters, officials and marshalls for all their hard work and assistance, especially Des on the start line, Alan and Smithy for marshalling, Angie, Abby and Marjorie in the timing office, and the whole Murty family (including CJ for being a good sport!). And big thanks to the PDRC for the organisation, and the prize money which really helped with the fuel costs for all of us!

Congratulations to Terry in 2nd place, Scottie in 3rd, and Tony in 4th. And a big congrats to Sag and the family on the fantastic PB of 9.5! Brilliant to see the car running so well after so much hard work and so many years of trying (28 to be exact!). Fair play!

We’re now really looking forward to the Open Sports Nationals on 23rd - 25th August at Shakey! This will be Real Steel Series Round 9 and the Final of the Roy Wilding Nostalgia Race Cars Series, as well as the Final of the APIRA Series. And my birthday event! Can’t wait!

12th - 13th July 2008 MINI SHOWDOWN

This event was the fourth round of the Wild Bunch Series, and the 7th round of our Real Steel Series at the Mini Showdon at Shakey. I had rebuilt the coupler shaft, welding it and building in a bit more strength to the unit, so I was hoping that would work well. I was one of 6 Slingshots in a field of 13 Wild Bunch cars taking part, and pleased to say that our Mark was another one, as he had finished rebuilding the gearbox on his car! Me and Claire left Bristol around 6:30, arriving about 8:15pm. Mark had left before us and there was a good space in the middle of the pits to set up together. He was using his old caravan for the weekend which worked out okay. We set up our pits and had a good night, chatting to friends in the bus.

Saturday started off dry and cool and there were a few clouds around. I fired Backdraft up in the morning and she was ready to roll. But Mark had a problem, Awesome 4-Some would not fire up! It turned out that the ignition module had failed! So he was pretty despondent about that to start with, especially as the car had sounded good in the garage a few days before! Luckily, next door Scottie had a spare points distributor and coil which he kindly loaned Mark. He fitted this and was back in business, though the car didn’t sound 100%. Me and Mark then paired up and went out for a run late morning, to get one in before the weather! Helen was helping with the crewing, as was Mum Christine! I was one of the first Wild Bunch cars down the track and recorded a 9.303 @ 141.46 mph, with just a little waver around three quarter track. Mark meanwhile posted a checkout 14.507 @ 77.23 mph, which he wasn’t too pleased with, as the King lead was not suited to the size of the coil.

The track was about to be prepped for the middle of the day, but then the entire contents of the clouds finally fell about 1:30pm. The track crew tried to dry the track in between, but there was more rain around, with the track later opening for about an hour, but only for treaded-tyred vehicles. There was a bit more rainfall, and later a unique line-up of around 50 Minis parked on the track up to the eighth mile! This included my mate Spud’s old Mini, so he was pretty chuffed to get on the track even if he wasn’t racing! Mark sorted out the King lead fitting later in the afternoon and was ready to run for the rounds on Sunday.

That evening was the eagerly awaited Annual Wild Bunch fancy dress party and this year the theme was Cowboys and Indians, and we had several costumes lined up! The Wild Bunch pits turned into the Wild West, complete with a saloon on Steve and Lesley’s barn awning. The FreQ racing team had even built a hitching post out of wood, and Claire made some Wanted posters for several of the teams who were running that weekend! She started the evening off as an Indian Squaw, and turned into a cowgirl with red glittery hat and gold boots, and I started off as a cowboy, and turned into a sort of Clint Eastwood, with ‘bullet-proof’ vest under the Poncho, and finished off as a Mexican bandit! And of course the bar stool was turned into a cardboard horse for the night, courtesy of my mate Spud who drew the outline! This was a lot of fun as usual! Best costume of the night has to go to Dean, who was transformed into a 7-foot cactus for the night, complete with waistcoat, hat and 150 spikes! Dean had supplied the ideas, and Helen the brilliant sewing, with help from Christine with the prickles! Fair play! There were at least 30 cowboys and cowgirls altogether with a few horses and Mexicans! A great evening!

Sunday’s weather was much better, dry and turning out quite warm by later in the day! We decided to Dial-in at 9.20, as we thought the car would run a bit quicker in the better conditions. This turned out to be conservative, as every run turned out quicker! The first was a 9.163 @ 143.11 mph, against Darryl, and the second a good 9.051 @ 143.75 mph also against Darryl (this ended up as low E.T. and high speed for the Bunch for the weekend!). The third run was a 9.147 @ 143.03 mph against Terry Clifford and the fourth was a 9.088 @ 143.23 mph against our Mark (pretty consistent on the speeds there!). And all four runs were real good wheelies which I really enjoyed! I couldn’t believe it when this average turned out to be the best of the day, and I won the event!! Absolutely over the moon! And to top it all off, I won the Best Slingshot prize, awarded by the commentators!

Meanwhile, Mark dialled in at 12.42 for the rounds, not really knowing what the car would now run with the temporary ignition system. He ran a 13.069 @ 104.59 mph in the first round, launching too hard and bouncing a bit. In the second round, he ran better, with a 12.594 @ 105 mph. And improved again in the third and fourth rounds, posting a 12.454 and a 12.433 at a new Personal Best Speed of 107.05 mph! This was just .011 off his Dial-in and he finished in 6th place overall! Mark was the only driver at the event to improve on his previous best speed, by only .23 of a mph, and so he won the Wild Bunch Most Improved MPH Spot Prize! He also won the Driver’s Choice award voted for by all the drivers attending, and was pretty consistent on the last two runs. So he was pretty pleased with the event overall, and it was good to see him back out running!

I am now in 3rd place in the Real Steel Series after this result, so real chuffed with that. And I moved up from 12th to 8th in the Wild Bunch Series, so real pleased about that too, to be back in the Top 10 for the first time this season! Really chuffed with how well the car ran, and the coupler! Thanks to Claire and Helen and Christine for towing and crewing! And thanks to all the marshals and officials and track crew for their hard work! Well done to Smithy in 2nd, Darren Law in 3rd and Scottie in 4th, and our Mark for his Best Speed! Really looking forward to the next event, which is the York Summer Showdown, our annual trip up North in 3 weeks’ time!

28th - 29th June 2008 NOSTALGIA NATIONALS

This event was the third round of the Wild Bunch Series, and the 6th round of our Real Steel Series, as well as the second of the Roy Wilding Nostalgia Race Cars Series, at the Nostalgia Nationals at Shakey. I was one of 5 Slingshots in a field of 11 Wild Bunch cars taking part. Me and Claire left Bristol early afternoon, but there was a delay on the motorway, so it took us longer than usual to get to the track. We arrived around 4:30ish, and got set up near the middle of the pits. Mark arrived later on, but there was a big blow for him, as when he went to collect his caravan from around the back, it was gone!! It also had our generator in it! We were all pretty gutted about it! Such a shame, as he and Joey had bought it earlier in the year, and made it comfortable, and useful. He and Joey had to settle for sleeping in the trailer for the weekend. And he hadn’t yet got his car fixed.

Saturday morning was okay, though there was a bit of cloud around. Unfortunately, the track was not open for slick-tyred vehicles until nearly 1pm! So this was going to cut down on our testing time that day. I was looking forward to running some more wheelies in Backdraft, and hopefully making more progress after the 9.1s at the Pod. And on the subject of the Pod event, we would like to say a big thank you to Richard Stirling of www.topnitro.co.uk for the following quote under one of his website photos of us at the Summer Nationals at the Pod... 'Crazy' Chris Hartnell has, at last, found out where his "wheelying" tune-up went to, as his front wheels return to the skies, where they forever deserve to be! Well done, Chris! Many thanks, Richard! You really made our day with that one! Real chuffed to be back up there doing it!

As this event was the Nostalgia Nationals, Claire had a surprise treat in store for me, as she dressed up in a ‘Jungle Pam’ style outfit, with red metal-flake top, long white boots and white shorts! She was on backup duty for the day, and I thought it might be hard to concentrate!! She was very pleased to see that it didn’t put me off, as on the first run Saturday, I pulled a big wheelie and recorded a season’s best 9.065 @ 144.68 mph!!! Which was quicker and faster than I’d been for over a year and a half! We were all well chuffed with that one, especially as it eventually meant that we won the NSRA ‘Quickest Wild Bunch’ of the weekend award! A really nice spark plug trophy! Many thanks to the NSRA! The next run was a reasonably consistent 9.117 @ 142 mph, so again pleased with that one. The third run started well with another good wheels-up launch, but when I landed, the revs went up and I lost drive and coasted over to the side of the track. The track crew had to recover me to the first return road, and took the mickey whilst doing so, as they said it was really unusual to have to pick me up! When we got back to the pits and had a better look, it turned out to be that the pinion coupler shaft had broken! (Something that had happened several years ago). We were not able to do this at the track, as it meant the engine and box had to come out, so unfortunately that was it for the weekend, and we wouldn’t be racing on Sunday again! This was a shame, but we were pleased with how well the care had run on the first two runs, and the last one had started off a stormer! We also ended up winning the Best Appearing Team Spot Prize, awarded by the commentators, so real pleased with that one, and I suspect it may have had something to do with Claire’s outfit!!

On the Sunday, the weather was okay, and the rest of the Bunch managed to get 4 rounds in, with Dave Williams winning in The Cunning Plan. Fair play to him, Dave Rowlands in 2nd, Steve Field in 3rd and Scottie in 4th places! And well done to Darryl, Gos, Scottie and Terry, as they all ran PB’s at the event! Thanks to all at Shakey for their hard work over the weekend!

It’s back into the garage again this week to fix the coupler, and I’ve got some ideas to make it even stronger, so hopefully that will work well! So looking forward to the Mini Showdown in a couple weeks’ time! Where hopefully Mark will also have his car back out!

14th - 15th June 2008 SUMMER NATIONALS at SANTA POD

Well, we made it !!! After several days thrash to fabricate and weld new brackets and mounts, Backdraft was rebuilt and in the trailer by the Wednesday night! Really chuffed! And many thanks to Roy for all his help with the chassis and front axle and for fitting us in between events, to give us a chance of getting to the Pod!

This was our second event of the year at Santa Pod Raceway, and the weekend was the fifth round of our Real Steel Series, and the first of the Roy Wilding Nostalgia Race Cars Series. I was one of 5 Slingshots in a field of 9 Wild Bunch cars taking part. Me and Claire left Bristol early, around 10:30 and arrived at the Pod at about quarter to 2, where there were already several Bunchers set up in the pits. We parked up at the end of the line and got unloaded. We were really thrilled to make it to the event, and could hardly believe it!

Thanks to Sarah for towing us up to scrutineering, with Darryl in Chemical Reaction. We were all set up and sorted before 3pm! I then made some adjustments to the steering and we chilled out for the evening. Mark and friends arrived early evening. We had a nice night in and were really looking forward to Saturday’s qualifying to see what the car would run! (Just going down the track would have been enough at this point!).

Saturday morning was dry, and fairly cool. On the first run of the day, we ended up paired with Darryl, so that was gonna be a nice race. We dialled in at 9.20, as we had run near that on one of the runs at Shakey a fortnight previously. I launched well, with a wheelie, but had some more adjustments to make with the steering, so when I landed had to correct, and cruised through to a 10.120 @ 137.66 mph. Once back in the pits, I made some further adjustments to the steering, as the layout had changed slightly. We had a little while to wait, but the weather was okay, so we didn’t mind! We towed down for the second qualifier, and were again paired with Darryl, who was running 11.3s. We kept our 9.20 Dial-in for this round, as we did not have a real idea what to go on, and the track was good, so the potential was there. I launched with a good wheelie, and the car ran straight to a 9.132 @ 141.54 mph!! The best run for over a year and a half!! And one that proved to be the Quickest E.T. of the event for the Wild Bunch. Well, we were all chuffed with that one, and from the tower, Tog noticed Claire jumping up and down by the start line! We really did not mind the break out on that one!! Nor the fact that we had qualified 8th! We were then hopeful that there might be a 3rd qualifier added to the schedule so we could have another go, but time did run out, though the officials and racers did complete everything on the running order, and racing finished about half an hour before a huge downpour!! Well lucky!

Sunday dawned sunnier than expected and the weather stayed with us all day, though not that warm. We were scheduled for a four-rounder, being a 9-car field, and I had drawn Mark Richardson in the Pony Express altered. I had not yet raced Mark, so was looking forward to it! He has been running really well, in the 9.6’s and 9.7s and had qualified 4th, so it was going to be a tough race! We were called out around 11:30am, and towed down to the pairings lanes. We decided to keep the 9.20 Dial-in as we were not that far off it. Mark dialled in at 9.75. I pulled another wheelie, and it was a really close race, but he had me on the lights and I was never able to make up the difference. We both broke out! He ran 6 thousandths under, and I ran 13 thousandths under, with a 9.187 @ 141.98 mph! Another 9.1! Claire was still excited that the car had run that well, even though we lost, due to the greater breakout! Gotta work on those reaction times! Oh, well! We were just really chuffed to get there in the first place, and the fact that the car ran so well was a real bonus!

It had been a really good weekend, which we really enjoyed taking part in! Congratulations to Darren Law for another win, and a great PB of 9.215, and congrats to Bob and the whole team for running The Wicked Lady’s best ever run! Well done to Dave Rowlands on another runner-up placing, and Dar in 3rd and Terry in 4th. Congrats also to Andy Cresswell for gaining his MSA licence in the Living the Dream slingshot – great to see the team back in the Bunch! Commiserations to Martin Holgate, who was only kept out of the eliminations with a broken starter, after his thrash to repair the Jag engine in his Paranoia altered after the last event, and now already putting in some good runs. And best of luck to the Dog’s Bollocks team to get their gearbox sorted for the next event!

Many thanks to all the marshals and officials, track crew and safety crew up at the Pod, who all do such a great job! Much appreciated! And thanks to all at Pod for the welcome!

This time, there’s no work to do, except adjust the height of the wheelie bar, take some weight out, and ‘tune those wheelies’! So then we’ll be all ready for the Nostalgia Nationals at Shakey! Silver suit time again! So really looking forward to the event!

31st May - 1st June 2008 JUNE SHOOTOUT RWYB at SHAKEY

This was our third event this year at Shakespeare County Raceway, and the weekend was the second round of the Wild Bunch Series, and the fourth round of our Real Steel Series, at the Yanks American weekend. I was one of 6 Slingshots in a field of 14 Wild Bunch cars taking part. Me and Claire left Bristol around 6:30, arriving about 8:15pm. Mark had left shortly before us. We parked up between Steve and Lesley’s The Black Pig altered and Neil Ward’s Andromeda slingshot, in the middle of the pits, opposite the loos. We unloaded the car, and set up our pit, and settled in for the night. We had quite a few people in and out of the bus, and had a good evening.

(Since our last event, Mark had been at Shakey for this third event of the year at the mid-May RWYB, hoping to tune the engine and carbs in his Awesome 4-Some slingshot. He had made 3 passes on the Saturday, including a 12.9 and a 12.511 @ 106.69 mph, trying some new jets. On the Sunday he made another 3 runs, including a 12.7 @ 106 mph, but on the third run of the day heard a grinding noise when the car would not shift into 3rd gear. Unfortunately, he has broken the T5 box! We were all gutted for him, as he was hoping to run well this season, and will now have to take some time out to save up and get a new box. So we were disappointed he was not running at this event. Best of luck on getting back out soon, Mark!)

Saturday morning was okay, though there was a lot of cloud around. I was looking forward to running some more wheelies in Backdraft. For the first run of the day, we arranged to pair up with Terry Clifford’s Ratcatcher Resurrection slingshot, and towed down to the pairings lanes mid-morning. The track officials had asked if I could give them some feedback on the track, so I arranged to go in the right lane. The track seemed good to us, as I pulled a big wheelie off the start and ran through with a 9.225 @ 141.02 mph, my best E.T. of the year so far!! So we were all chuffed with that one!

For the second run, we arranged to tow Darryl’s Chemical Reaction slingshot down, and pair up with him. There was a bit of down time when we got near the head of the queue, as unfortunately Bernie Newbury’s V Dub had a massive engine fire (thankfully he was unhurt, but commiserations to him on the loss of the engine!). Meanwhile, we got chatting to the racers around us, and started talking to this guy called Ole who had a bronze VW called Pink Panther! He was from Germany, and had come over especially to race with the Outlaw Flat Four. And his car had a very interesting history. It had been built in Mexico in 1974, and raced at Orange County International Raceway in the 70’s. He actually bought it from Mexico, and restored the paint to reveal stickers and paint work underneath. It turned out that he is a fan of nostalgia cars, and especially slingshots, and he really liked our car. (Found out later from pics on the web that he pulls mean wheelies himself!).

The track crew did a good job and we were back on with racing. Backdraft lifted the wheels again, but I was heading off to the right so backed off a bit, and landed a bit hard. On the way down the track, I noticed the right front wheel looked a little bent inwards. The car still ran a 9.486 @ 140.29 mph, so that was pretty good. At the top end, I had a good look round the front of the car and noticed a crack in the axle! Oh boy! We got her back to the pits and had a closer look, and then went down to see Roy to see if we could go back to his house to Tig weld it up, after racing had finished for the day, and he said that was fine. So in the meantime, we went and watched a bit of the racing, and wandered over to have a chat with Nobby Hills, who had brought his latest Houndog Fuel Funny Car to the track to do some demo fireups with his new driver, Simon Hayward, son of Owen. We talked to him for quite a while, and could have stayed there for hours, listening to his stories! While chatting, he mentioned the price of Nitro these days, and we were talking about fuel, and he happened to ask if we had 5 gallons of methanol he could buy off us, for some fire ups he was going to do at another event. Well, I was chuffed to give it to him, just for the privilege! But he insisted on giving me a T-shirt in exchange, so I was really happy with that. He has a book about his drag racing career coming out soon, so we’re really looking forward to reading that! While we were talking to him, Brian Thomas, the original builder of Paranoia was also there, and we got talking to him as well. Later on he wandered by our pit, and came on board the bus to look at our history albums. He was really interested in all the old photos and magazine articles, and how passionate we are about our car, and nostalgia drag racing. It was really interesting to hear about his drag racing career too, and hopefully, he may get the bug again, and build a new car for himself or his son!

Just as Brian was leaving the bus, Roy came by, ready to go, and we left the track around 7:30ish. He kindly let me use all his gear, and I welded up the crack in the axle and put a strengthening patch on it, for a temporary measure, with the plan of going up to Roy’s the following Friday to fabricate a new one! Many thanks for that, Roy! We got back to the track around 10pm, and had a fairly early night.

When me and Mark had been disassembling the front end Saturday afternoon, after taking off the nose cone, we noticed that the front of the chassis seemed a little bent. We carried on with the plan, and hoped it would be okay, but on re-installing the axle, tightening everything up, and trying to put the nose cone back on, I realised that there was a definite bend upwards near the front of the chassis! Absolutely gutted! That was us done for the weekend and beyond, and we were real sad to have damaged a part of the remaining original Malibu Express chassis. It had been a great well-built car back in the day, and we are always grateful to the original owners for building it so strong and lasting the test of time! We had to step back and take stock for a while, and decide what to do.

(This did not take real long, as we were soon on the road to a plan of action, which involved Roy again, but more later!)

There was a bit of rain around Sunday morning, and this delayed racing for all, and the rest of the Bunch got on track around 2:30pm. While I had been at Roy’s, Ole had come round to the bus, to ask whether he could pair up with us for a run! Claire ended up showing him some of our history book photos, including the ones of our car when it was Pink Panther! Also, Enzo from the Outlaw Flat Fours, had some great video footage of our wheelie, and came round to show us. He also said that Ole wanted to run with us, and sadly we couldn’t because of the breakage. But later on, Ole pushed his car round to our pits, and we took a few pictures of his car by ours, which was cool. Hope he got the ferry back okay that night!

One highlight of the weekend was seeing the very first checkout run of Nobby’s Houndog, with Simon at the wheel. They hadn’t planned to run the car at all, but the opportunity came up, and Nobby was well up for his first test. Simon had never driven a drag car before, and the run was just a planned cruise down the strip to check a few things out, and give him some familiarisation time. They left the body off, as they were still making some alignment finishing touches, and it literally was ‘just a Sunday drive’ of around 30 mph, but it was a great moment to see the car fire up and take to the strip, with the team pickup following it all the way down. Well done, and congrats to Nobby and the team on the maiden pass!

Overall, it surprisingly wasn’t that bad a weekend, considering! And we did end up winning the Best Slingshot Spot Prize, awarded by the commentators for the big wheelies!! Thanks to Claire and Mark for towing and crewing, and thanks to Roy for the use of his welder to try to get us back in the running. Thanks to all the marshals and officials and track crew for their hard work! Big commiserations to Martin Holgate who had what looked like big engine damage in the Paranoia altered such a shame, as he has been hoping to run some good numbers for some time now, and has put a lot of work into the car. Hope he can fix it quickly, and be back out racing with us real soon. Congrats to Darren Law who is continuing his winning ways in The Wicked Lady dragster, taking the top spot by just a thousandth of a second over Dave driving The Cunning Plan! Good to see the team doing well again! And good to see Neil Ward back on track and so nearly in the 8’s again. And Scottie running PB’s in the Tiki Munki and finishing in a strong 3rd place. Well done also to Terry and Ruth for rounding out the Top 4.

Now, back to the plan: Roy very kindly offered to help and we arranged to go up to his workshop on the following Friday, to build a new front half together! (As well as a new front axle!) In the hopes of having a chance of making the Summer Nationals at Santa Pod on the 14th & 15th June! The Monday after the event, Mark helped me get the car in the garage and start to strip the car down and we made good progress. [Now, since writing this, I have been up to Roy’s, and we worked all day on the Friday, and Saturday morning, and I returned home by around 2pm, in the bus with the new front half on our car, which is now just a little bit more Backdraft than Mali!! (And rest assured, we will be doing something special with the old front end, which will have pride of place somewhere in our home)].

There’s a lot of work to do, so I’ll be really going for it this week, and we’re really hoping to make the Pod next weekend!!

3rd - 5th May 2008 SPRING SPEED FESTIVAL at SHAKEY

This was our second event this year at Shakespeare County Raceway, and the weekend was the third round of the Real Steel Series as well as the first of the APIRA Series. I was one of 5 Slingshots in a field of 9 Wild Bunch cars taking part. We were pretty excited as it was going to be a 3-day event, so hopefully lots of time for qualifiers. And the best part was that it wasn’t at all cold!! And no sign of snow anywhere! Me and Claire had the afternoon off, so drove up around 2:30pm, arriving just after 4:15 pm. We were due to be pitted in a different place this time, on the left hand side, just up from the concessions and toilets, so a lot nearer the track than before. The only thing was, this meant we did not have much space for each team. When we got there, two of the Riot racing cars were at one end of our pits and Phil had his bus at the other end. We ended up just driving the whole bus and trailer rig straight onto the grass, so that just the dragster would be on the tarmac. We also tried to leave room for Terry’s Ratcatcher Resurrection slingshot between us and Riot Racing. This ended up working out really well, as Darryl and Sarah parked similarly next to us when they arrived and Ed set up the Dog’s Bollocks trailer and awning next to Phil’s. This meant that by the time we were all in, there were 7 cars all in a row, with the 3 Riot Racers with Destiny’s Angel, Pony Express and Wicked Lady, and then the four slingshots in a row, Ratcatcher Resurrection, Backdraft, Chemical Reaction and RamRaider; with Phil’s Bone Idle between the DB trailer and his bus and Keith Crampton’s new slingshot, Soultown Shaker on the other side of that under his awning. What a great display! Many of the Bunch couldn’t help but take loads of pictures of this over the weekend! We were all looking forward to the racing! And it was really great to see Darryl’s and Terry’s cars back out after the incident at Easter, really chuffed. Also, our pits were opposite the NFAA pits, so this was good, as we had a few friends amongst the teams there. And we were talking to Pete Radcliffe with the Burning Desire altered and casually mentioned something about firing up, when he asked if I would like to fire his car up! Well, of course I said yes, straight away, but waited to ask Fay if it would be okay by her too! We arranged to do this sometime on the Saturday, depending when we were all racing.

Saturday morning was not too bad for temperature, and there was some cloud, but the weather was settled all day, so this was good news! After the last event, where we had only had one run, we were keen to see how well Backdraft would run in the slightly warmer weather, without the headwind. We fired up in the morning and everything sounded fine. This weekend we were also towing Terry’s car, as Ruth was the only crew, so we teamed up, and this worked out pretty well. They had arrived on Saturday morning so were not quite ready for the first round. We towed down for the first qualifier, which was around 11am. We decided to Dial-in at 9.30 and hoped to be thereabouts. The car pulled a real small wheelie, going into 2nd gear on the launch, and I ran a 9.654 @ 141.74 mph. Back in the pits, I re-adjusted the shifter, and it seemed fine, so again we dialled in at 9.30 for the second round. We had been in two minds whether to lower this a bit, but decided to keep it the same. We went down for the run at around 2pm. I was paired with Phil Sweeney who ran a 9.219 on an 8.80 Dial. On the burnout, I pulled a small wheelie, and that seemed to get some people’s attention, not to mention Mark and Claire! We were all really chuffed when the car launched really well, and pulled my biggest wheelie for over a year! (Many thanks to several of the photographers, who got some really good pics of this, and thanks to Grace Roaf for choosing it as one of the pics on the Eurodragster ‘end of day’ gallery! (Thanks to the guys at Eurodragster, for what has to be now one of my favourite captions Chris Hartnell carried the front wheels forever! Wow, what a line! And what a buzz to be back doing a wheelie like that one!). We were even more pleased when the car recorded a 9.284 @ 142.46 mph! (If this had been heads up, it would have been really close with Phil, as I had a small reaction advantage! Don’t think that’s happened before!). I really enjoyed everything about this run, and we were all happy that the car was well and truly back!! Later in the afternoon, we were called for our third round, and were in the pairings lanes around 10 past 5 with the sun shining. Unfortunately, Kev Slyfield went out of shape on the burnout with his Pro Mod and crashed into the tree, showering bulbs everywhere, and sending the tree about 40ft down track. He ended up in the barrier of the other lane. We were all relieved to hear that he was okay, and from what we have heard, the damage is not as bad as it might have looked, so hopefully he can rebuild soon. Good luck to him and his team! After this, there was a lot of clearing up to do, so the organisers called time on the day, as it would have taken quite a while. This was a shame, but we were hopeful of being out early the next day to pick up where we left off. We retired to the bus for the evening and had a great night, with loads of friends popping in and out of the bus.

Sunday dawned cloudy, but initially dry, so we thought there was a good chance of us getting on track as we were going to be first or second out. We waited around, but it started to rain so the track crew sprang into action. In the meantime, as we had missed the chance to fire Rad’s altered up on the Saturday, he kindly came over and arranged to do it on the Sunday morning, if we were not all out at the same time. So this turned out to be the best time. I got by suit, mask and helmet on and climbed into the car (via a chair!). It was amazing how much visibility I didn’t have in their cockpit! Fay went through some instructions with me, and Rad and the team fired the car, and ran it for a while. It sounded great, but they had been experiencing problems with drive, and they shook their heads as it still wasn’t right. I enjoyed the fireup, and many thanks to Rad and Fay for the chance – well cool!

The track crew dried the track and it was nearly ready for action when another heavy shower poured down. The crew again set to work, and put in a lot of effort. Then a really strange incident happened when the jet track dryer crashed into the Armco near the start line! Luckily no one was hurt, and the crews then tried to modify it to get it back into action. This they did and everyone of the marshals and crew worked hard again. We were then pretty excited to get called out around 4:20pm, and were sitting in the fireup road ready to go around 4:30, only a few minutes away from starting, when it started to sprinkle with rain again! Tony Smith, who had been Assistant Race Director for the weekend, came over and said that they would have to call it for the day, and it started to rain a bit harder! What a shame after everyone’s hard work, and with all the potential of all the racers hoping to have that third qualifier! Many thanks to all at Shakey for trying so hard! With the results after the first two rounds, I ended up qualifying in 4th place overall, so that was not too bad. But guess where that placed me in the ladder?! Facing good buddy Darryl in the first round again! Oh well, it would be a good race! We packed up for the night, and had heard the weather was due to be good for Monday, so we were hopeful of a full day’s racing. We had another good night with friends, and were really pleased that it was no longer cold weather!

On the Monday morning, to everyone’s disappointment, it had started off wet overnight and was still raining! With the cloud cover so heavy, and not much breeze, things were not looking too good around 11am. But the officials remained optimistic, and once the rain stopped at 11:30, they all started to dry the track again. This they did by around 2:20pm, and racing started then! We had heard that they might have an extension after the usual 5pm curfew, so became hopeful that we would all have a run. It turned out to be a long day and a long wait, but we were called down, and in the pairings lanes for our first run at about 10 past 5!! Me and Dar were the first pair, and just as we fired up and drove round, we had to shut down for a track check from one of the fuel bikes. This didn’t take long and we were back on! Darryl had dialled in a 10.10, for what would be only his second run on our old Enderle injection system, which now looked great on his slingshot. We dialled in at 9.20, so we hopefully wouldn’t break out. Darryl had a slightly better reaction than me, and went off first, recording an 11.603 @ 120mph. I managed to get past him and backed off, recording a 9.389 @ 130.50 mph. I was real surprised it had been such a good time, as the speed was over 10mph down. It was great to be back racing Darryl again, and real glad they all got the car fixed in time for the event!

We got back to the pits and waited for the next round, where we were due to meet Darren Law, which would be a re-match of the Semis we had at the Easter Thunderball. Darren had been having trouble with his transbrake at the weekend, but was always good on the lights, and The Wicked Lady had been running really well lately, with Darren running a PB at Easter, so it would be a good race. We got called out around 6:30ish, and got down to the pairings lanes. Whilst we were half way down, the call came over the tannoy that the fireup road was now shut for the day, so we knew this would be the last round for everybody! I decided to just ‘go for it’ on the run, even if I was going to break out! We kept the 9.20 Dial-in as we thought that would be achievable, given I’d backed off on the last round. This time, unusually, I beat Darren off the lights, as he still had the transbrake problems. He recorded a 9.856 @ 131 mph on his 9.54 Dial-in, whilst I ran a time close to my last round, with a 9.386 @ 140.32 mph, taking the win! I was real chuffed as it was some time since I have won a couple of rounds! It was then a shame that we all ran out of time, as in the Semis I would have paired up with Ed, and that would have been a great race, with us running similar times this weekend.

Because the eliminations were cut short, and there were 3 of us who had made it to the Semis, the WB results were based on which of us was the closest to Dial-in without breaking out, in the quarter finals. This meant that Ed took the win, and I was second, with Mark in the Pony Express third as he had broken out on the last round! Congrats to Ed on the win on that great run! I was real pleased with the second place, and it means I am now second in the Real Steel Series, so real chuffed with that too. But most of all, we are all happy that Backdraft is back on form, and I am back doing the wheelies that I love!

Thanks to Mark and Claire for crewing and towing, and to all the marshals and officials and track crew for their hard work throughout the weekend in the difficult conditions! And congratulations to all the Wild Bunch racers who put on a great show over the weekend. It was great to be part of the lineup! Welcome also to newcomer Keith Crampton, whose car really looks great. Sure he’ll get a handle on it quickly and have a great time racing with the Bunch!

We’re now really looking forward to the June Shootout at Shakey on 31st May and 1st June, where we hope to be carrying the wheels some more!

19th - 20th April 2008 SPRING NATIONALS RWYB at SHAKEY

This was our first event this year at Shakespeare County Raceway, and the weekend was the first round of the Wild Bunch Series, and the second round of our Real Steel Series. I was one of 5 Slingshots in a field of 11 Wild Bunch cars taking part. Mark and his friend Joey went up to the track early afternoon to sort out his caravan, and me and Claire drove up in the bus around 6:00, arriving about 7:45pm. We unloaded the car, and set up in the pits in the middle, opposite the loos. There were not that many cars there, and this may have been down to the poor weather forecast.

Saturday morning was pretty cold and there was quite a lot of cloud around. I had been looking forward to putting in some more improved runs in Backdraft after the encouraging start we had in the cold and windy conditions at Santa Pod at Easter, running two and a half tenths better than the whole of last season! On Saturday, we towed down around late morning, whilst Mark drove down, trying to get some heat into his engine. We paired up to run together for the first time in ages. The car did not leave the line that well on the cold track, and I put in a run of 9.907 @ 138.74 mph. Not too disappointing.

Mark was out for his second event of the year in his Awesome 4-Some slingshot. He had not raced at Shakey since 2006, since he only made the York round last year, where he destroyed his clutch. Before that event he had installed a new Pinto/Cosworth hybrid engine in the car, and made a lot of upgrades to other equipment, including rear wheels which he bought from Daz Selwyn in the Pandemonium gasser. He had been at the previous Shakey test and tune two weeks earlier, in the the snow and put in 6 test runs, including a couple of 12.4’s which he was quite pleased with. On our first run together, Mark’s car seemed to bog off the line, and he only ran an 18-second pass at 91 mph. A closer look at the top end revealed he had broken a half shaft! He then drove the round trip home to Bristol to collect a spare, and fitted this by about 4pm, during the rain delay, and only for the rain to rule out his chances of a test run. He did drive the car around the pits to check it out, and it seemed to be fine.

That was it for the day, and we had an early tea. It was again real cold on the night, so we just hibernated in the bus, and had a fairly early night. We then looked forward to Sunday’s rounds.

We Dialled in at 9.80, hoping to be thereabouts, as the track was still gonna be pretty cold. Mark dialed in at 12.20, hoping for improvement. There was real low cloud Sunday morning and a lot of damp in the air after some early rain, and it proved to be too cold and damp to run slick-tyred vehicles that day, so this was pretty disappointing. We packed up early and headed for home, with the cars both now still race ready for the next event.

Thanks to Claire for towing and crewing, and to Dean for assisting and Helen for photographing. Thanks to all the marshals and officials and track crew for their hard work! And congrats to Scottie and Gina on the debut of their cool new Austin Ruby body on the Tiki Munki altered - it looks well wicked!

We’re now really looking forward to the MSA Spring Speed Festival on 3rd to 5th May at Shakey, where we hope to be able to make some good runs!

21st - 24th March 2008 EASTER THUNDERBALL at SANTA POD

This was the third time that the Wild Bunch had raced at the ‘Easter Thunderball’ as a class. And we were really looking forward to this event after the long winter layoff! We were scheduled to do 8 qualifiers over the first three days, and the forecast had mentioned there was a possibility of some snow on the Sunday, with some rain on the other days, so any runs we had at all would be a bonus after this report. Me and Claire left home about 11:30am on the Thursday, towing Backdraft up with the bus, and arrived around 3pm after making good time. Mark and Joey had just got a new caravan, and they left earlier, stopping along the way and arriving about 4:30pm, and getting stuck in the muddy camping field! Meantime, we had set up with the Wild Bunch at the back of the pits, towards the middle, opposite the Junior Dragsters. We unloaded Backdraft and started to get our reconditioned awning sorted. Darryl and Sarah had arrived earlier with Chemical Reaction and were really looking forward to testing their new fuel injection system (which had been our old Enderle system). They had repainted the chassis and had a new front axle, and chromed up all the axle and steering arms and everything. Ed had then arrived with RamRaider and Sarah kindly towed us all down to sign on and get scrutineered. Luckily there wasn’t much of a queue when we got there and we were done in no time, and back at the bus, with the awning set up, just before a small rain shower. We then had tea and a fairly early evening, and hibernated in the bus because of the cold. We hoped the weather might be better than expected the next day, so we could try out our old Sherpa axle and the freshened motor and see if Backdraft would run as well as we hoped. We had a restless night due to the heavy wind, and the awning was flapping about so much we thought the bus might take off! Chris nearly got out in the middle of the night to do this, but we put up with it in the end!

Friday dawned very cold and cloudy and with a strong wind. We fired up the car in the pits. She sounded fine, so I went over to Darryl’s pits for his first fire up. We were called up before we expected it, as there was a heavy head wind and cross wind, which meant the bike classes could not run. For the first qualifier we dialled in at 9.50, which was quicker than all our runs in 2007, so we wouldn’t mind if we broke out! I was paired with Darren Law on this run, and he ran a 9.608 on a 9.62 Dial-in. On our run, I had a nice wheels up launch, and the car pulled quite well. I was really chuffed when Claire and Mark told me I’d run a 9.234 @ 141.24 mph! That was well worth all the off season wait, and we were all happy with that one! Never mind the breakout!

Back in the pits, we fuelled up and got ready for the next round, and I then went back over to Darryl’s pit to see how he was getting on. He did another fire up, going through the gears, and did not have reverse. Meanwhile, the next round crept up on all of us, as they were really going through the schedule quickly, with no bikes or Pro cars running. We hurried back to get hitched up, and were towing Terry Clifford in his Ratcatcher Resurrection slingshot, with Ruth as single crew extraordinaire. Darryl got all his bodywork back on and hitched up with Ed to tow down behind us. This time we raced Ed, who recorded a 10.251 on a 9.43 Dial-in, as he had a gear change problem. We dialled in lower on this one, with a 9.15, as we were trying to get a run in on the right side of the Dial. The car launched well, but to my surprise, the rev limiter cut in about half track, and I slowed to a 10.081 @ 113 mph. Back to the pits for some headscratching.

But then, a really bad incident occurred. Darryl had paired up with Terry behind us, and fired up the car okay, and blipped it to clear it. But when he put it in gear and moved forwards, the throttle stuck, and no matter how hard he steered and braked, he couldn’t avoid Terry’s front wheel. Luckily Terry braked too, otherwise he would have been hit on the side. Chemical Reaction then hit the new garage doors on the new barn at the back of the collecting area! This did a load of damage to the wheels, brand new front axle, steering arms and rods. Thank goodness no one was hurt though! Claire stayed behind with Sarah, while Mark drove up to get me at the top end. It was a real sickening moment for all concerned. The Santa Pod crew were brilliant, and got the two cars safely stored away in the garage to be collected after racing. Once back in the pits, everyone rallied round, and went to check if Darryl and Terry, and Sarah and Ruth were okay. It was all a shock, and a bad incident. But the positive side is that nobody got hurt, and by the time of writing this, both cars are well on the way to being repaired and restored to their former glory, with help from friends. The Wild Bunch is a really great group of people! Best wishes and best of luck to Darryl and Sarah, Terry and Ruth.

After this, we were a little shell shocked, and kept busy trying to find the problem with Backdraft. I went looking for Steve Johnson with the Super Pro ET Motor Mouse dragster, to see if we could borrow his MSD tester again, just as we had done at last year’s Thunderball! He attached his tester to the unit, and once again, we found out that the MSD was working fine! He was kind enough to lend us his spare coil, which I installed and we then fired the car up. The car now ran well, so we found the problem! Many thanks to Steve for taking the time to do this, and saving me from going and buying a new unit! We had heard there was an MSD seller on site at the weekend, so prepared to go look for them to see if they had a coil for sale, when we happened to mention the problem to Bob Callander from the Wicked Lady team. He had a spare coil the same as my old one, and said we could borrow it for the next run to see if it worked. I then pondered whether to do it then, or take down the awning. Claire suggested we get on and do it in case there was time for the third qualifier. So I did, and we proceeded to change the oil. We were just finishing adding the new oil when they called the Wild Bunch down, so we quickly put the panels back on and towed down to the fireup road. It turned out that we were the only ones to make it to this round, so I had a solo! We dialled in at 9.05, thinking the new coil would improve the performance. That it did, and the car left well and picked the wheels up, though I had to back off away from the wall somewhat, so recorded a 9.348 @ 142.40 mph, but we were chuffed with that one, as she was back on form again, and amazingly high speed of the Bunch for the weekend – haven’t done that for a while! (The 9.2 was low E.T. as well, and we would have been pleased with just that run over the whole weekend!). Big thanks to Bob, as he later kindly donated the coil to us! Much appreciated! And luckily, and surprisingly, this last run had put us into the #1 Qualifying Spot at the time! So we were pleased with that too!

There were scheduled to be 3 more qualifiers on Saturday, but the day dawned cold, windy and cloudy again, and developed into snow during some parts of the day. This didn’t stay around, though gave everything a good soaking, and racing was called off for the day, despite the best efforts of the track crew to get everything in a go condition. In the mid afternoon, they had realised that the track temperature would just be too cold to hold enough traction.

There were scheduled to be yet 2 more qualifiers on Sunday. But on Sunday we awoke to 2 ˝ inches or more of snow covering the whole of Santa Pod. We took loads of pictures of the car covered in snow. And watched some giant flakes still falling, then some small hail, horizontal blizzard snow, and large hail throughout the morning. There was so much snow around, the race director had to call the day off early. But the track crew got to work with the tractor clearing off the track, and with many crew also on shovels and brooms to get the snow off, so that it did not freeze overnight. By midday, there was starting to be a bit of a thaw. I decided to have some fun, and fitted a plastic box lid, taped up and cable tied to the front of the bar stool, so we could go do some ‘snow ploughing’ in the pits! We drove around for a while and took some pictures on the start area, by the snow marshall that had been built, complete with extinguisher! There were a few more like him around the pits, and a bit of random sledging going on, so everyone was making the best of the unusual conditions. The track team worked hard throughout and got the track cleared enough, so that they could concentrate on it again for finals day! Ever optimistic! We had a chilled afternoon to say the least! And later Helen and Dean kindly brought us back some delicious fish and chips, on their way back from a visit to Sharky’s. (Sharky had been at the track this weekend, for a few hours each day, taking photos, so it was great to see him back). We had a nice relaxed evening in the bus and went to bed pretty early. At least the wind had now dropped, and the weather forecast said that there may be some better weather the next day.

On Monday, we knew we would have a long wait to the start of our eliminations. Five Wild Bunch cars had qualified for eliminations and we were still qualified in the top spot, so had a Bye in the first round, the quarter-finals. This was a relief, as we still had no idea what to Dial in. The snow flurries in the early morning had delayed the start of racing, so we just tried to relax and wait. We then contacted Brian Taylor, who is writing the Crazy Horses book about the history of British Drag Racing. We had arranged to meet for a chat if there was any downtime (!). We showed him our history books of Malibu Express, Pink Panther and Backdraft, and had a good talk about nostalgia drag racing in general. We also talked about the project that he is supporting to get the Beaulieu Allard dragster restored and turned into a ‘cackle car’. This would be very exciting, so we hope that all works out well!

Just after Brian left, Antony Billinton of G-Max arrived, with some copies of a magazine with articles about Malibu Express that Claire had thought we might not have seen before. They turned out to be from a familiar old article, but we really appreciate them, as they are in a very nice condition. We had a great chat about ‘The Commuter’, the old days, our car, nostalgia racing and the great Sammy Miller. It was really good talking to Antony, about stuff we are all so interested in, and a good way to pass the time, whilst we were hoping for a run.

By about 2pm, we were starting to get a little edgy, as we hoped we would be out on track soon. We had a bit longer to wait, as we didn’t get called til shortly before 4pm!! Claire and Mark braved the cold, and put on our new crew jackets for the day (on top of a few layers!). These are some nice red jackets we bought from RT Retro, with white racing stripes down the front. We sent them off to Karen of Busy Bee Embroidery, with our Backdraft cartoon logo on a picture, and a design of the font we wanted. She did a brilliant job, and they really look great, and stand out a treat, with Mark and Claire wearing those white jeans again, like they did for the flag start run at the Thunderball in 2005. Helen took some nice pics of these in the fireup road, so cheers to her! (As it had been too cold to pose for group shots back at the bus!). For this run, I had the Bye, so was really pleased, as we still were not sure what to Dial-in. We chose a 9.05 again, as with the new coil, the car might run well. On this run, the car launched hard, but off to the right, so I had to feather it away from the wall steadily, so lost a bit of time, and recorded a 9.409, but still at 141.64 mph, so I was pleased with that. And the track temperature still was not very high, and in fact by then, was cooling down again.

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 in The Wicked Lady rear-engined dragster, and his reaction times are always good! We got called to the pairings lanes around 5:30ish. This time, Dave Rowlands had the Bye, and he ran an 11.153, making it to the Final for his first ever MSA event. Well done, Dave! For the Semis, we decided on a Dial-in of 9.40, as that was what we had run on the last round, and the track was getting even cooler. True to form Darren had a good reaction of .139 and ran a 9.602 on his 9.45 Dial-in. I ran a 9.466 @ 141.55 mph and was pleased with the run, as I won the Closest to Dial-in of the day. But I had lost out due to Darren’s holeshot. Well done to him and all the Wicked Lady team, as they really put on a great performance over the whole weekend, and went on to win the event! (Well, later after yet another snow flurry!). And well done to Dave for making it to the final on his first MSA event.

We’re really chuffed with the car’s improved performance again! Thanks very much to Mark and Claire for crewing, they really did me proud, and thanks to Helen and Dean for their support, and for managing to weather the whole event, despite the cold. Also many thanks to all the marshals and officials for their hard work all weekend! Looking back it is even more amazing, given the weather, the fantastic job that the track crew did, and that they and the marshalls and officials managed to complete the whole event – a great feat, even into the late evening, clearing up oil downs so the last few pairs could race. We thank them for their dedication and determination. And thanks to everyone at Santa Pod for making us feel so welcome! Well done to all at Riot Racing for also sticking it out in the cold wintry conditions!

Our Mark is still working on his slingshot, trying to get ready for the RWYB at Shakespeare County on 5th & 6th April, to do some testing. And we’re all now looking forward to the Spring Nationals at Shakey on April 19th & 20th, for the first Wild Bunch round of the season. Hope the weather’s better! And we can do some more tuning for consistency. Can’t wait.

16th & 17th February 2008 BRISTOL CLASSIC CAR SHOW

Phil Mitchell of the Bristol Hot Rod Club has asked me a number of times before now, whether I could take Backdraft to the Bristol Classic Car Show, held in February, at the Bath & West Showground, near Shepton Mallet, to display with a dozen Bristol area Hot Rods. In the past, our car has always been apart at this time of year, so I haven’t been able to do it! But this year, as I only had routine maintenance and a few other jobs to do, I made sure I was ready in time!

This time the show was to be held on 16th & 17th February. I towed the car down to the showground on the Friday afternoon, and got there about 3:30. (Thanks a lot to Ed, who let me borrow his Chevy van for towing duties - the bus does not like hills, so this made the trip there a lot easier!) I got to the Exmoor hall, and set Backdraft up at the end of the hall by the door, jacking up the front, and putting her on axle stands to simulate a wheelie! I put the big Wild Bunch banner behind on the wall, and set up a table with some Shakey and Pod handouts and our flyers, and Claire had made a poster with some of the car’s history and pictures on it. The 10 Bristol Hot Rods were along each side of the hall, and they looked great, so I was real chuffed to be part of the display.

I gave my son Lee, partner Sarah and grandson Liam tickets for the Saturday, and they thoroughly enjoyed the show. As soon as Liam saw the dragster, he wanted to look after Gramps’ car! Claire and I drove down on the Sunday at about 11:30, and went to the hall to check on the car first. Most of the flyers and handouts were gone, so we re-stocked them and dusted off the car. We then went for a wander round the show, which had hall after hall of cars, with all the classic marques represented.

We returned to Backdraft after lunch and sat down to chat to the public. Claire did her usual PR job, and answered a lot of questions, including the standard 'How much are the tyres?' One person even asked how much the driver got paid! (If only they knew!). But the best quote of the day was by three different groups of people who said that they had 'never been so close to ‘one of these’ before!' This made our day and made it all worthwhile! So hopefully we reached a new audience, and interested some of them in going to the tracks to spectate or even join in!

We had loads of fun, and really enjoyed the show. Many thanks to Phil for the invite!

That was the News