During a typical weekend at The Drags, crewing starts as soon as we get there, ie. unloading "Backdraft" from the trailer, putting up the awning and generally getting set
up for the weekend ahead. After everything is set up, I normally retire to the clubhouse for a few beers.|
I get up in the morning around 8:30 - 9:00 am. The first thing I do is take the tyre pressure down to 4.5 psi. Then I check the fuel level. Then I basically wait until racing starts. Depending on how many cars are in the fire-up lane determines where I strap Dad in. Before strapping Dad in I have to pull the fuel mask tight. As soon as the mask and helmet are on, communication is impaired. The only real way to communicate is for Dad to point at things. A lot of things run through my mind at this point - mainly stuff I know I have done but am trying to recap to make sure. At this point in the fire-up road, when we are getting close to the front of the queue, I'm slightly on edge, my blood racing slightly; and a few last glances at certain parts. As soon as Dad gives the signal, I take the Fairy Liquid bottle (full up with petrol) and squirt some down each of the trumpets. The engine is fired and I follow Dad around to the burnout box. As Dad accelerates I run after him and when he's stopped, I back him onto the tracks he's just made. When he has backed up, I point at Dad to make sure the car is in neutral so I can remove the parachute pin. When the pin is removed, I wave the pin in Dad's face for his peace of mind. Dad brings the dragster up to the line, then he's on his own! When we go to the top end to collect him, the first thing I do when I get there is tell Dad the E.T., then we tow him back.
We change the oil every other run, and fill up the tank with methanol when needed. Then after all the work is done, it's time to drink beer, eat food and socialise.
P.S. . I ran my own Rover-powered altered, “Dazed & Confused” and raced with the Wild Bunch during 2004 (when I won a “Best Altered” Spot Prize) and 2005, running a best of 12.14 at 113mph. I really enjoyed running against Dad and Mark at a few events! Since then I have taken a few years off whilst raising a family, , and we had a new addition last May, a daughter to join our two sons! In the last year I have been building up a blown engine for my altered, so we hope to be back in the not-too-distant future!
Hobbies: Racing my own car!
What do I do in the team?: I have been doing quite a lot of crewing for the past couple of years, though when my own race car, a Pinto-powered slingshot called 'Awesome 4-Some', was running, I was only a part-time crew member for Backdraft.
I changed jobs last year, and now work as a police garages vehicle technician.
I feel very passionate about Drag Racing, the more I go, the more addicted I become and the more ideas I get for my own car. I finished my second complete season of racing my slingshot in 5th place in the 2006 Wild Bunch Series, and 4th place in the Roy Wilding Nostalgia Race Cars Series. I also lowered my PB to 12.185 @ 106mph! I rebuilt an engine for 2007, which took a lot of time out on my third season, and due to other upgrades, time and money, I only made one event during the season! 2008 was a lot better, as I ran at 3 Wild Bunch events and 5 RWYBs, as well as the Flame n’ Thunder at Santa Pod. I also ran my first ever 11-second passes at York Raceway, and lowered my PB to 11.85 @ 110.90 mph at Shakey, so I’m really pleased with that! Another highlight of the year was when Dad let me run Backdraft at the October RWYB at Shakey. I had 4 runs in one day: 10.13 @ 136, 9.8 @ 143, 9.26 @ 145 and 9.24 @ 143. Wow! It was awesome! Cheers, Dad!
In 2009, I made it to 4 events, and had two 3rd place event finishes, just beating Dad into 4th place at both events! But then I broke the diff and a half shaft at the Mini event so was out for the rest of the season. I finished in 9th Place in the Wild Bunch Series, so I was chuffed to make the Top 10 for the year, my 5th season of racing!
Since then I have been taking a few years out, to save up again. I am also building up a new engine for “Awesome 4-Some” (which involves a certain ‘belt-driven item’!). I have recently made some progress with the new set-up but it will be at least another season until I’m back out on track. This season I will be out crewing for “Backdraft” whenever I can! As well as working on my 1967 Volvo Amazon Estate to get it back on the road.
As for crewing, I don’t really do much, but I do go Drag Racing and enjoy myself. And if I’m honest I only really watch my family and friends race. I enjoy watching my Dad and brothers beat their fastest times! Other than that, I enjoy the social side of Drag Racing, like the night life, and I’ve made a lot of friends through going racing. Last year I introduced my boyfriend Ben to drag racing and he really enjoyed it!
Some people think Drag Racing is just cars going down a track; but it’s more than that! Honestly, they don’t know what they’re missing!
Age: over 40!
Hi! I’m Claire, Chris’ fiancée and partner of 24 years! I didn’t know much about Drag Racing before I met Chris, but I grew to love the sport and have been really enthusiastic ever since; especially after we bought “Backdraft” way back in ’92 (In April this year, we will be celebrating the start of our 20th season of racing this fantastic car, and what a privilege it’s been!!!) . It’s been great watching Chris rebuild the slingshot and develop the car and progress to where we are now. (I started off just watching videos of American racing and then Chris took me to Avon Park and Santa Pod and I used to love just watching all the big fuel cars; but since we had our own racecar, nothing compares to actually being involved in the race team! Of course I still also love watching all the racing too!) There have been a lot of highs along the way and it’s been really exciting! We are very much a team and I do a lot at the racetrack, with the team and also with The Wild Bunch, who are a great bunch of people with some really nice racecars!
I am really interested in everything about the dragster and understand the basics of the engine, etc, but I don’t do very much in the line of maintenance with the racecar itself. For race weekend preparation, I do a lot of packing and unpacking the gear! Ever since the video camera broke and the kids got older, I have been able to be a bit more involved in the actual crewing, which has been great! I have filled up the tank with methanol once or twice! And I’ve sat in “Backdraft” and fired her up quite a few times (Wow, it’s a real beast now!) and I’m almost always the ‘return road driver’ while it’s being towed back from the strip, and while loading and unloading it in the trailer (that’s all wild enough for me at the moment!). Chris and Mark do most of the routine crew work nowadays, with others sometimes helping and towing. And with Lee and Mark having their own cars, I did a lot more crewing in 2005, pushing the car down the fire-up road, firing up the car with the petrol squeezy bottle, running round to the strip and backing Chris up after the burnout, and pulling the chute safety pin before the run. For the couple of events where the 3 of the guys raced, it was pretty hectic, but a lot of other usually people pitch in and help, which is great. I’ve really enjoyed being more involved in crewing, as well as cheering and supporting!
Chris does all the maintenance, repairs, etc himself. There have been a few breakages along the way (notably the three engine bangs!), but Chris never gets down about them, he just gets on and fixes the problem or rebuilds; although I could see him itching to get back out there the second time he blew the engine only half-way through the season!
The whole family cheers Chris on, and there probably aren’t many people as loud as me when he does a good run!! (It’s known amongst our friends as ‘doing a Claire’!). Chris’ first 10, 9 and especially the 8-second runs were pretty amazing! It was great to see him realise his dream of running 150 mph on the first run of 2005! The car really is launching hard and running a strong charge down the quarter these days – it looks great with its metalflake paintjob, sounds great with the 379 cubes and smells great with the alky! Chris runs real strong now, and we’re looking forward to “Backdraft” running more wheelying 8’s again in 2014, after some more new PB’s in 2013, and breaking the 150mph barrier again.
We’re also both very involved with the Wild Bunch Nostalgia Drag Racing club and Chris has been the Chairman for the last twelve years. I started off gradually, first by being the Treasurer and collecting the money for our trophies and Spot Prizes, and a few years later also became the Race Co-ordinator and Timekeeper which I really enjoy. At Run-What-You-Brung events I collect Dial-ins and E.T.’s and work out the winners by closest average difference to Dial-in. You may have seen me whizzing up and down the pits on my bike to organise the rounds, collect timing tickets, etc! The Wild Bunch are a great group of guys and girls and we really enjoy the social side of Drag Racing as well as the friendly rivalry. Everyone helps each other out which is really nice. It’s really good when someone has run their best time; and the competition is pretty close! We were pretty pleased to finish back in the Top 10 again in 2013 and hope to be back in the Top 10 again this season. We're looking forward to competing with all the Bunch again in 2014. It’s a lot of fun!
And, at the very end of 2005, at the Halloween Showdown, I had my first experience of actually racing on the quarter-mile! I drove 4 runs in Mark’s slingshot, “Awesome 4-Some”, with a best E.T. of 16.40 @ 91 mph! What a rush! It was amazing and I really enjoyed it; and you can read my full write-up on our ‘News’ page on 29th/30th October! It may even become an annual thing! But mostly I just love watching and supporting Chris and the boys, and being involved with The Wild Bunch!
I have won a couple of trophies of my own too, like when the Pennine Drag Racing Club awarded me the Tony Murry Award for “Grafter of the Year” in 2006. I was really thrilled to receive this honour, so thanks very much to all at York Dragway! I was really chuffed! And in 2008, the Avon Park International Racers Club awarded me the ‘Shakespeare County Ladies Award' trophy! Another great honour! And thanks to them!
I’d also like to say a great big thanks to all involved in making Drag Racing happen – especially all the marshalls, officials and the safety crews at Shakespeare County Raceway, Santa Pod Raceway and York Dragway as well as the track owners, managers and promoters – we really couldn’t do it without you great people!! Drag Racing is such a great, exciting sport and we love being a part of it!
One of the highlights of 2011 for us was a very special honour: we were asked to do a Push Start Demo, right before the First Round of Top Fuel (!) at the Euro Finals, to celebrate the 45th Anniversary of Santa Pod. The idea being to show ‘this is the way it used to be’ and ‘this is the way it is now’. We couldn’t bring the Suburban to the track, but Mark brought his 1967 Volvo Amazon Estate, and we used that. We were all nervous in front of the packed crowd, but we successfully performed the show, and it was a truly amazing experience - I couldn’t stop saying “Wow!” for at least an hour afterwards! Another fantastic memory for all of us!
We had another great highlight in 2013, when we were again asked to do a demo, before the first round of Top Fuel at the Euro Finals! This time, Chris got to push start “Backdraft”, with Mark driving the Suburban pushing him all the way down the ‘old fireup’ road alongside the track. Chris then fired up by the stands and drove round the tower to pair up with Ian Turburville for a race! An added bonus was that I got to ‘flag start’ them off! After instruction from Chris and further tips from legendary Santa Pod starter Stu Bradbury, I leaped in the air and flagged them off with our own Union Jack! What a buzz! Chris had the holeshot, and they wheelied to a pair of strong 8-second runs! We then drove up alongside the track to collect him, waving at the huge crowd! Many thanks to all those who caught photos and videos of this, a very special honour and thrill!
We’re really looking forward to the 2014 season starting at the Easter Festival of Power at Santa Pod, where the Wild Bunch will be running as a class and having a great time!
Best of luck to all racers around the world for the coming year, especially all of the Wild Bunch and our friends in California! We hope you all have a great fast, safe season, and a lot of fun!
Age: Old enough to know better (least that's what my wife says)
General details: -- I first caught the sickness in 1964, seeing Don Garlits and Tommy Ivo try to outdo each other at Woodvale, Southport, Lancs, The First
International Dragfest. Having only read about dragsters (Hot Rod Magazine), to see these and other 'Greats' was mindblowing.|
The Second Dragfest, Santa Pod opening and regular events, some 'on tour'meetings and shows, I was there until about 1973.
An attack of 'normality' meant that the sickness was only fed with magazines until I discovered Avon Park in the late 80's. It doesn't go away (maybe lies dormant occasionally), so I guess it's back to Intensive Care.
Assisted Tony Nancy at Woodvale, during the Second International Dragfest. While I was stood transfixed by his fuel slingshot, watching him approach, he asked me to help him lift the front end up onto a couple of oil drums, so he could see under the engine. I naturally gave assistance, then wandered off babbling to myself (like you do).
After meeting Ian Garbutt (High Fever Altered), I frequently 'hung out' at his workshop, and on occasion crewed, and drove push car for him at Santa Pod.
Dabbled in building a small dragster, until an accident (non drag racing) put things on hold. The momentum halted, I realised I still needed a few incidentals, (transport for the dragster, parking for same, fuel for same, and entry fees). The project was suspended. Maybe one day?
Having witnessed 'Malibu Express' (late 60's) at Santa Pod and 'on tour', I became involved with its reincarnation as 'Backdraft'.
Having served an apprenticeship under Trev 'the Rev', the following is mandatory when crewing for C & C Racing:-
The one instruction that C & C Racing INSIST IS MANDATORY is ENJOY!
Yes Boss, and thanks for the opportunity to play with your toy
|Trev "The Rev" Merrett
Former Crew Chief, Much missed and fondly remembered
Just a few words from an ex-crewchief:|
I helped (or hindered) Chris on the buildup of the dragster from pretty much the time he bought it. Many long late nights either helping out or wiring up. Probably the most prominent memory was when it was fired up for the first time, in a cramped workshop, Chris sat in the "armchair", myself operating the throttle and Claire and the kids watching from the doorway. After one or two backfires and flames, it fired up. After several minutes of noise and cans falling off of shelves we shut off and evacuated the workshop, Claire, the kids and myself with tears in our eyes from the fumes, but Chris just had an ear-to-ear grin, obviously very happy!
Other interesting memories: every time we went racing the front and rear axles had to be removed from the car so it could be squeezed through the gateway at the side of Chris's house - it's a good job we didn't have meetings as often then as we do now!
Meetings at Avon Park were always fun, they didn't always go as planned: headgasket problems (first meet), battery problems, conrods not wanting to stay where they were meant to! But it was always fun!
That's about it, thanks to Chris for having me along for the ride, and Good Luck in the future!