The Latest News from the "Backdraft" Team

Keep up to date with all the news from the Backdraft Team HQ on the planet Bristol

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15th November 2003 - NEWS UPDATE

I have since taken the engine out of Backdraft and stripped it down. I was right about the bearing damage, but what I didn’t know, was that I had also bent and twisted the con-rod on number 1 piston! But we’ll rebuild it and be ready for the 2004 season, our 10th year of racing!! Looking forward to it already!


I was invited by the NSRA to display Backdraft on one of their stands at the International Classic Car Show at the National Exhibition Centre and I was really chuffed to be able to take part in the show.

I took the car up on the Friday afternoon, and picked up Sandra Johns, who helped me unload and push and shove the car to its position in Hall 8. Thanks a lot to Sandra for her assistance!! Backdraft was on show on one of the NSRA stands, with a Top Fuel Bike and a Tot Rod; and their other stands had some very nice hot rods. Dave Grabham had kindly lent us his home-made Christmas tree, which added great effect to the display!

Me, Claire, Lee, Mark and Mark’s friend Ryan all went up on the Sunday to the show, and Claire and I spent some time talking to some of the public, who were very interested in seeing our slingshot, particularly as it was so different to a lot of the classic cars and race cars on display. We enjoyed answering their questions and talking about drag racing in general. Many thanks to the NSRA for hosting the stand.

27th - 28th September 2003 - SPORTSMAN NATIONALS FINALS

This event was the first Wild Bunch round at Santa Pod for 2003, the Sportsman Finals. It was also Wild Bunch Series Round 6 (Final) and Real Steel Series Round 8 (Final). There was a field of 12 Wild Bunch cars competing this weekend, and Backdraft was one of 6 Slingshots taking part.

I had installed a spare gearbox and torque converter, which I’d borrowed from Scottie (as I had lunched the converter at the Hot Rod Drags), so I was hoping that this set-up worked okay.

Saturday was a qualifying day and there were 3 rounds of qualifying scheduled. Early on, I got scrutineered okay with no problems. But later I had another broken starter when I was warming up the engine. Many thanks to Dennis Hawkins, who loaned me a starter pinion, which meant I got it fixed in time for the 1st round of qualifying, just in the nick of time! Cheers, Den! I then ran a pass of 9.692 @ 133.61 mph on a 9.50 Dial-in to qualify safely in Backdraft. It had been a good strong wheels-up launch, so I was chuffed with that!

In the 2nd round of qualifying, I pulled another good wheelie off the line, but ran a slower 9.926 @ 133.01 mph, on a 9.55 Dial. This was partly due to driver error, because Scottie’s box had a reverse shift pattern to what I was used to, and I forgot! Oops! I then noticed a suspicious clunking noise at the top end, just as I shut the engine off. Later in the pits, after draining the oil, Mark discovered flecks of metal in the oil, pointing towards a spun bearing - I decided not to risk running the car again and possibly damaging the engine. So I sat out the rest of the weekend. I will strip down and rebuild the engine over the off-season, and rebuild the converter and box.

It was still a good weekend, and we enjoyed being up at The Pod. Many thanks to the track crew and marshals who worked hard as usual, and thanks to the SPRC for having us at the event, and all those who welcomed us there. A big thanks to Lee, Claire and Mark for crewing and Scottie for towing. Tom Coe has now won the Wild Bunch Series, so many congratulations to him on that achievement! Here is how I finished in these Series:

Wild Bunch Series
1Tom CoeWB 3343 pts
2Gareth KentWB 2136 pts
3Joe StevensWB 135 pts
4Tony SmithWB 235 pts
5Alec CoeWB 3432 pts
6Chris HartnellWB 328 pts
7Team Ram RaiderWB 5623 pts
8Tony Wynne-JonesWB 2920 pts
9Team Destiny’s AngelWB 4416 pts
10Mark CoulsellWB 2015 pts

Real Steel Series
1Alec CoeWB 3443 pts
2Tom CoeWB 3343 pts
3Gareth KentWB 2140 pts
4Tony SmithWB 237 pts
5Chris HartnellWB 335 pts

This means I get a Top 10 Trophy for the Wild Bunch Series, so I’m pleased with that! Can’t wait for 2004!!!

6th - 7th September 2003 - Hot Rod Drags

This event was not any Series rounds, but there were Spot Prizes available. Backdraft was one of 4 slingshots in a field of 10 Wild Bunch cars, specially invited by the NSRA as being the Ten Fastest Wild Bunch from the Nostalgia Nationals! (In fact I was lucky enough to have been the fastest at that event, with my 9.578 run, so I was really chuffed with that!) We had hoped to put in some quick passes this weekend, maybe getting near our PB or Fastest mph marks.

Saturday was a practice day and the weather was pretty good, apart from a thundery shower which stopped racing for about an hour. Sunday was another practice day, and the weather turned out pretty good again!

I went out Saturday morning and ran a pass of 9.804 @ 133.53 mph, against a ’56 Chevy. On the second run, I ran a 10.056 @ 128.94 mph, with an unexplained drop in performance. I then changed the spark plugs later that day, and hoped to tune back up, but on the first run on Sunday, I lost drive after my burnout, and thought the trusty gearbox might have gone. I parked the car after this and planned to investigate back home in the garage. After this, I was quite surprised and pleased to win the Best Burnout Spot Prize, chosen by the commentary team. This was partly due to doing about 4 or 5 burnouts over the 3 runs, after having to shut down a couple of times in between the burnout and run! My burnouts had been quite strong and I did produce some smoke a few times. So we were very happy to win that award! Many thanks as always to all the hardworking marshals and officials. Thanks as always to Claire, and special thanks to Lee and Mark for crewing, and Gareth for stepping in and helping crew and tow.

Over the weekend, I did have an amazing experience. Neil Townson asked me if I’d like to sit in his blown alky altered Northern Spirit while he fired it up. Of course I said ‘yes’ and listened carefully while Neil and Jed told me what I’d have to do - just put the clutch down, flick the mag switch when told, watch the oil pressure gauge and hold the brake lever. Well, I’ve been around drag racing for a fair while now, been next to Top Fuel dragsters fired up, and helped crew when Wendy & Paul were running the Krypton Top Methanol car, but nothing had prepared me for this experience!! When Neil and Jed blipped the throttle WOW what a buzz! It was awesome! I hadn’t realised what the sheer power of the engine would feel like sat right behind it! I went from ‘want one’ when I got out the car, to ‘need one’ in a matter of half an hour! Claire even said I had a glazed look in my eyes!! Thanks to the Townsons for the experience and for possibly costing me a lot of money one day in the future, it’s a nice dream to have!! [Neil went on to run 7.91 @ 181 mph later that day, so fair play to him!].

Also congratulations to Pete ‘Rad’ Radcliffe, who ran a new PB of 8.284 in the Burning Desire altered that Sunday, and Congratulations to daughter Fay who turned 18 the week before!

Back at home I stripped down Backdraft’s gearbox and discovered that the problem was a broken torque converter! I now hope to borrow a shared spare gearbox and converter from Scottie (In the Dog House Again) Durrant to put in the car just for the last event at the Pod, and rebuild the box and converter over the winter.

So our recent gremlins are continuing, but I’m pretty chuffed to still be in the Top 5 in the Wild Bunch Series, and the Top 4 of the Real Steel Series.

We’re really looking forward to the next event in a couple week’s time, the Sportsman Nationals Finals at Santa Pod Raceway on September 27th/28th, which is the final of both Series. That will be really close racing again! Can’t wait!!

23rd - 25th August 2003 - Ultimate Power Series Allstar Nationals

This weekend was the Allstar Nationals, Ultimate Power Series Round 3, the finals, as well as Wild Bunch Series Round 5 and Real Steel Series Round 7. “Backdraft” was one of 9 Slingshots in a field of 19 Wild Bunch cars taking part, our biggest MSA field ever!

We arrived on Friday about 12:30 pm and parked down in Wild Bunch village. It was just Jade and Mark with us, as Lee was following on later after work. We were the first Wild Bunch team there and we unloaded and set up our pit area, and I checked Backdraft over. The car was scrutineered Friday afternoon and everything was a-ok, so we settled down for a chilled evening. On Saturday morning we fired Backdraft up and everything sounded good. We had an extra crew member this weekend, Fay Radcliffe, of the Burning Desire team, so there was an extra pair of hands!

Saturday, what a day that was! We were the 8th class out for qualifying, and I was paired with Tracey Froome in the Sunburst funny car. He was in the left lane, due to his turning circle. I dialled the car in at 9.20 for the first qualifying round and ran a 9.499 @ 137.20 mph, so that was a good run for starters! In the other lane, Trace didn’t fare so well, as he chucked the conrods out of his motor on the pass! There was a big oil down, so thanks to the F.A.S.T. crew for a major clean-up on that one! And good luck to Tracey and the team for the engine rebuild! Dick Sharp was next up in the right hand lane, and near the finish line the ‘Horn’ turned left at about 140 mph and rolled 4 times! It was quite a shock to all of us and we waited anxiously for news. We wish to add our thanks to all the F.A.S.T. crew and the medical teams for all their efforts in looking after Dick, who was taken to hospital and thankfully came out of the incident with relatively minor injuries: mild concussion, a broken wrist and lots of bruising. It was really great to see him back at the track the next day, much to the relief of everyone. The car was in a very bad state but Dick and Bunt are already talking about rebuilding their car, as ever with the support of Carol and Dinah, who are such a vital part of the team. So we wish the whole team good luck with that! And look forward to seeing Dorset Horn Mark 007, surely another award-winning car!!

It had been a hard day; after Dick’s crash, I decided to park Backdraft for the day. Tomorrow is another day.

We were the first class to run on Sunday for our second qualifier, as time stopped the session late Saturday. We started queueing about 10:15 am. I dialled in at 9.40 and ran a 9.651 @ 134.33 mph, and improved my qualifying place to 10th spot. We had a long wait for the third qualifier, so we refuelled the car and chilled for a while. Claire had been cycling up the pits, and suddenly noticed that I had a flat rear slick. We changed the valve and pumped the tyre back up. We were then called for our final qualifier and I queued up, asking Lee to keep an eye on the slick, which was staying up well at that point. I did the burnout, and the tyre started to go down again, so we shut down. We got it back to the pits to find out that we were due to have our first round of eliminations that afternoon! There was no time to change the inner tube at that point, so I thought I might be out of competition. Luckily, I had a Bye in the first round, so inflated the rear slicks to 20 psi and went down the pairings lanes and Dialled in at 24.00 seconds, close to my FIRST EVER E.T. with the car! I just staged the car, broke the beam and got pushed back, in order to make it through to the second round the following day! Once we took “Backdraft” back to the pits, I went on the scrounge for tyre levers, etc. A big thanks to Danny Cockerill for the loan of some tyre levers and an unnamed driver for the loan of some other vital equipment!! Also, many thanks to Tony Wynne-Jones for an inner tube and Paul, Wendy, Tony and Mike Wynne-Jones for helping me put the inner tube in! Backdraft was ready to go for Monday now. Phew!!! Another close one!

Monday was my 43rd Birthday!! (Funny how a lot of people say my birthday comes more than once a year!!). I was looking forward to a great day! One funny incident that happened that morning was that while towing down for our round, Tony Smith had driven under our awning (with the body up on The Cunning Plan) and had just managed to catch his bodywork on the corner! Oops!! He came over to me in the pairing lanes to apologise for bending the awning, but I was more concerned with the chunk of fibreglass he’d taken out of his recently-painted body! He repaired it with gaffer tape, but a small fragment of fibreglass stuck in the corner of our awning framework – I have now removed this and kept it as a souvenir!! And Tony won the Cockup trophy for this incident!

In the second round, I was paired against Andrew Gibb in his great-looking brand new slingshot. He had already had his first competition win in Round 1 against Ray, on only his second ever full pass with the car!! Thankfully I managed to beat him with a 9.767 on a 9.60 Dial-in, to his 12.522 on a 12.28!

In the Quarter-Finals, I faced Gareth Kent in the Hot Dog altered, who had made it past the first round for the first time ever in MSA competition! Gareth had crewed for us on a couple of occasions a few years ago, so it was a real interesting matchup! I dialled in at 9.60 again and ran a 9.720 @ 132.74 mph. I’d had a very slightly better reaction, but Gareth was closer to his Dial-in, a 12.439 on a 12.42, so he beat me. I lost by .072, gaining the Closest Runner-up Spot Prize! It was a really good close race, so fair play to Gareth! He also went on to win the event, so many congratulations to him, a very well-deserved win! And also congratulations to the whole team on their Best Appearing Team award and all their hard work which paid off!

A big thanks to Claire, Lee, Mark and Jade, and also special thanks to Fay for being our crew! And many thanks to Tony Wynne-Jones again for the inner tube, which meant I could go on racing. The Ultimate Power Series was really close in the end, and I am really chuffed to say that I have finished in 2nd place overall for the Series!! And by only 10 points to Gareth in 3rd, and 20 to Ray in 4th! So it couldn’t have been closer! Alec Coe has won the Series, so many congratulations to him on that achievement! Also huge thanks once again to all the track crew and officials who worked so hard as always to get the track prepped and ready, and make the race meeting run well. Thanks also to promoter Lee Child of LA Performance for putting on the Series we really enjoyed it!

Here is how the Ultimate Power Series finished, and my points standings in the WB & RS Series still close!!

Ultimate Power Series (Final)
1st Place WB 34 Alec Coe 1480 pts
2nd Place WB 3 Chris Hartnell 1390 pts
3rd Place WB 21 Gareth Kent 1380 pts
4th Place WB 56 Ray Ford 1370 pts

Wild Bunch Series (after 5 of 6)
1st Place WB 33 Tom Coe 32 pts
2nd Place WB 2 Tony Smith 27 pts
=3rd Place WB 1 Joe Stevens 26 pts
=3rd Place WB 21 Gareth Kent 26 pts
5th Place WB 3 Chris Hartnell 22 pts

Real Steel Series (after 7 of 8)
1st Place WB 33 Tom Coe 37 pts
2nd Place WB 34 Alec Coe 35 pts
=3rd Place WB 2 Tony Smith 34 pts
=3rd Place WB 3 Chris Hartnell 34 pts

We’re looking forward to the Hot Rod Drags where we are one of the 10 Fastest Wild Bunch Cars from the Nostalgia Nationals, who are invited by the NSRA to attend the event. We’re also really looking forward to our trip to Santa Pod for the “Sportsman Finals” at the end of September – can’t wait for that one!!!

9th - 10th August 2003 - Summer Showdown at York

(Wild Bunch Series Round 4, Real Steel Series Round 6 & Roy Wilding Nostalgia Race Cars Series Round 3)

We left at 11:00 am Friday to get to York Dragway late afternoon, for our 4th trip to the Northern strip. This time we had Lee, Mark and Josh from the “Dorset Horn” team crewing for us. We met Darryl and Sarah at Tamworth Services and went up together. We made good time and got there before the gates had opened, to find Ron Roper and both Coe teams already there waiting. Steve Murty came and opened up the gates for us about 20 past 5, and we went in and got set up in the area of the pits which leads from the return road diagonally to the pairing lanes. Murty and the PDRC had a lovely banner made for us reading “Wild Bunch Nostalgia Drag Racing Club”, and we all parked in a row behind this, making a good show. I was one of 8 slingshots of 17 Wild Bunch cars taking part - our biggest WB field ever at York!

On Saturday, we had our first run about 11:30 (and yes, it was getting hot already, and stayed that way!). Mark was crewing, with Lee overseeing and Josh helping with the pushing and shoving. I was real happy with this run, as it was a 9.727 @ 134.96 mph with a wheels-up launch. It felt good. We ran against Ron Roper on this run. Between runs, me and Lee adjusted the ignition timing to 36° and went down for the second round. Wow, it was a good one! Big wheels-up launch with a 9.493 @ 136.71 mph. This was against Joe Stevens, who ran his first PB of 10.772 on this run. We got back to the pits and Mark couldn’t get the oil drain tray under the sump; then he noticed the front end was very low. I stripped the front end down and found we had split open the suspension arm, oops! We had a walk round the pits and thankfully the scrutineer, John, had brought his mobile welder, so I was able to weld up the arm. So many thanks to him!! We went out for a third run and I pulled another wheels-up launch, running 9.561 @ 136.59 mph against Darryl Howells, who had cut a good .599 light. I called it a day after that run and gave the car a check over. The rest of the Wild Bunch went down for another scheduled slot and we went down to watch – they looked real good. The track crew at York Raceway worked real hard in the heat and kept the event running really smoothly, even having to repair the track at one point, so many thanks to all of them! We were all looking forward to Tom Coe’s first ever magic show Saturday night and we weren’t disappointed. He was hoping to perform in front of 20 people but it ended up more like 100! He entertained all, so fair play Tom! We had another surprise afterwards, with the NRS Racing team film show, which was a video of the day’s racing projected onto their yellow trailer. It was brilliant guys – thanks again!

On Sunday I Dialled in at 9.55 and crossed my fingers! The weather started off hot, but turned windy and overcast. The first run was a 9.534 @ 136.98 mph (which won the “Fastest MPH” trophy) against Ed in the “Ram Raider”. (I had cut a fairly good light, .580 on a .500 tree, and I was just .016 off my Dial!). I thought I was fairly close with this, but found out I was just behind Joe Stevens and Tony Smith, who had both run exactly .012 off their Dial-ins!! The second run was a 9.581 @ 134.87 mph, against Joe again, who ran another PB 10.709. I was doing quite well at this point, only being .015 off my total after the two rounds! (I didn’t know at the time, but this meant I was running second behind Ed). There had been a slight delay for the third round, as there had been some drizzle, and after a driver’s meeting, we decided to wait half an hour to see how the weather went. We then went for it at about 2:30 and queued up. I fired up and went round to do the burnout, and it started drizzling again, so Des and a couple of other marshals shut me down, to be on the safe side. We had a drivers meeting again after this, because of the rain, and decided to try and run again at 3:30 if the weather had improved. It did thankfully, and I went out and ran a 9.613 @ 135.47 mph on a solo pass. After this, the weather looked a bit iffy still, and we all decided not to wait to try for a 4th round.

I finished in 3rd place overall, so was quite pleased with that; and we also won “Best Appearing Team” for the second time at York this year!! Real chuffed!

Thanks to Claire, Lee, Mark and Josh for crewing (and for wearing the red & flamed shirt, Josh!), plus thanks to everybody’s favourite air-conditioned tow-car driver, Sarah Howells!! And thanks once again to John for the loan of the welder - it saved the day! It was a really good event once again at York. Thanks also to all the crew at York and to Murt and the PDRC for the great sign and all the hospitality. We all had a great weekend and can’t wait to go back to York Dragway again next season!

I am really pleased to have finished 4th in the Roy Wilding Nostalgia Race Cars Series for the 2nd year in a row. And I have now moved up from 7th into 4th place in the Wild Bunch Series, so I’m happy with that. I also remain =3rd in the Real Steel Series, and a bit more in touch with the leaders, so chuffed with that too! Here are my positions in the Series to date:

Roy Wilding Nostalgia Race Cars Series (Final Result)
1st Place WB 1 Joe Stevens 19 pts (One 1st + One 2nd Place)
2nd Place WB 33 Tom Coe 19 pts (One 1st + Two 4th Places)
3rd Place WB 2 Tony Smith 15 pts (One 2nd Place)
4th Place WB 3 Chris Hartnell 15 pts (One 3rd + One 4th Place)

Wild Bunch Series (after 4 of 6)
1st Place WB 2 Tony Smith 24 pts
=2nd Place WB 1 Joe Stevens 23 pts
=2nd Place WB 33 Tom Coe 23 pts
4th Place WB 3 Chris Hartnell 18 pts

Real Steel Series (after 6 of 8)
1st Place WB 34 Alec Coe 33 pts
2nd Place WB 2 Tony Smith 31 pts
=3rd Place WB 56 “Ram Raider” 30 pts
=3rd Place WB 3 Chris Hartnell 30 pts

As you can see, things are getting really close in the points now. We’re really looking forward to the next event, Ultimate Power Series final “Allstar Nationals”, August 23rd-25th, my birthday weekend! That will be exciting as I am currently 3rd in that Series as well, and am hoping that “Backdraft” will run really well! Can’t wait!!

28th - 29th June 2003 - Nostalgia Nationals

This event was Wild Bunch Series Round 2b, Real Steel Series Round 3b and Roy Wilding Nostalgia Race Cars Series Round 1b. I was one of 13 slingshots in a field of 26 Wild Bunch cars taking part, our biggest field for a few years! One of the highlights of the weekend was that our good friend and long time crewman Ron Fisher made a surprise appearance on Sunday. It was really great to see him back after 2 years, and of course he fitted right back in where he left off, towing us with his Land Rover, and assisting Lee with general crewing, plus taking photos. We really did want to welcome him back with the improved performance of "Backdraft" and hoped to get back to some more wheels-up launches and low 9-second passes!!

Saturday was a practice day and the weather was really sunny, the opposite of the predicted forecast. Sunday was Series Points Day, and the weather turned out to be a scorcher again! The track crew ended up working overtime Saturday and Sunday mornings as there were 2 oil downs both days, so many thanks to them for all their efforts to get the track back in good condition!! It did mean quite a long wait, especially Sunday morning, but once going, we had 2 Wild Bunch rounds.

I had again changed a few minor things on the car, including the HT leads and the dizzy cap, trying to chase the source of the recent inconsistent performance. I went out Saturday morning and ran an improved 9.626 @ 136.36 mph, against Joe Stevens in the other lane. (We had hoped to race Dick Sharp in the "Dorset Horn", who was next to us in the queue, but it didn't work out. It would have turned out to be our best match race to date, with Dick running 9.693 @ 139.75 mph!!). In the next round, we queued up together again (as Bunt was towing us both!) and hoped for a match race. Unfortunately on Dick's burnout a rose-joint in the front suspension broke, and when he staged and launched, the 'Horn' veered across the centre line towards "Backdraft". Luckily Dick had slowed the altered down, and peddled gently down the quarter, and we didn't come that close, although I could see quite a bit of yellow in my right eye!!! On this run I recorded a 9.578 @ 137.20 mph, which was much more like the car's previous strong performance. We had some wheels-up launches too, so I was real pleased with the runs!! (Thanks again to Lee for his electrical help!!).

On Sunday I Dialled in at 9.55 and like most of the racers waited about 2˝ hours in the queue in the fireup road, while the track crew worked their socks off to clean up the oil downs. After this wait, I was raring to go, so much so that in the first round I pulled only the 2nd redlight of my 9-year career! I ended up not recording any time for this run, but was quite happy how the car ran. (This was also against Dick, so we have still not had that elusive match race!!). I later ran a solo 9.727 @ 134.33 mph in the second round, and was still pleased that the slingshot was back in the Mid 9's again, after the recent gremlins. To put the icing on the cake, our team won the "Best Appearing Team" Spot Prize, chosen by the commentary team, so we were very happy with that! (We have now won this trophy once at each of the 3 tracks, so really chuffed about that!)

It was a really good event, being part of the biggest Wild Bunch field for the last few years! Many thanks as always to all the hardworking marshals and officials, without whom we wouldn't be able to have so much fun as we do! And special thanks to Lee for crewing and fixing the problems, and especially to Ron for making such a welcome return to tow us and crew for us. It was great to have him back!!

I am now 7th in the Wild Bunch Series at the moment, after 3 of 6 events, and 5th in the Roy Wilding Nostalgia Race Cars Series, after 2 of 3 events. Plus I am currently 3rd in the other two Series:

Real Steel Series (after 5 of 8)
1stWB 34Alec Coe31 pts
2ndWB 56Team RamRaider27 pts
=3rdWB 2Team Cunning Plan24 pts
=3rdWB 3Chris Hartnell24 pts

Ultimate Power Series (after 2 of 3)
1stWB 34Alec Coe1100 pts
2ndWB 56Ray Ford1020 pts
3rdWB 3Chris Hartnell890 pts
4thWB 20Mark Coulsell710 pts

We're really looking forward to the next event in over a month's time, the York Summer Showdown at York Dragway on August 9th/10th! That will be a load of fun again! Can't wait!!

14th - 15th June 2003 - Ultimate Power Series Round 1
Power Nationals

This weekend was Ultimate Power Series Round 2, the “Power Nationals”, and also Real Steel Series Round 5 and “Backdraft” was one of 7 Slingshots in a field of 14 Wild Bunch cars taking part. What can I say?! I thought “Backdraft” was going to fly this weekend!! Oh well, we still had fun and lots of luck!

We arrived on Friday about 8 pm and set up our pit area, down in “Wild Bunch village” as it is affectionately known. On Saturday morning we got scrutineered and fired “Backdraft” up and everything sounded good. After my old starter motor failed at the York event, I had fitted a mini starter, which I’d bought off Alec and Kev, so thanks to them. The weather was really warm and sunny on Saturday, and I hoped for some really good runs this weekend. I dialled the car in at 9.40 for the first qualifying round. I ran a 10.328 @ 125.70 mph, so wasn’t happy with that! I had fitted some gauze filters on the injector stacks (to stop stones getting down them while slowing down at the top end); and I thought the off-pace run was down to those, so I took them off for the second and final qualifier. I was paired with Ray Ford in the “Ram Raider” slingshot, who ran a solid 10.369. I ran a 10.147 @ 127.48 mph, and things were still not right, which was quite a surprise! That evening Lee fitted some heavy duty wire from the battery to the MSD unit. I changed the plugs and crossed my fingers for Sunday’s eliminations!

On Sunday the weather started off overcast and turned out really good and warm again! It was was race day, and all 14 Wild Bunch had qualified, so a very good field! Bill Sly had brought me an A3 picture of “Backdraft” with the wheels high in the air, to cheer me up as I hadn’t got the wheels up on Saturday!! Thanks Bill! My first round opponent was Dennis Hawkins in the “Wicked Lady” Rear-engine dragster, but he had unfortunately melted a piston on Saturday, so I ended up with a Bye run. I Dialled in at 9.30 and ran a 9.770 @ 133.93 mph, so thought we were getting there again. I’d also had a wheelie from the startline, which was a good sign. Mark had correctly guessed my E.T. on that round (he’d said 9.70) so I asked him for the Dial-in for the next round, where I was paired with Tommy Coe. He told me 9.60 so that’s what I dialled in. (After the run he told me he’d never been so worried about the result, as it was a lot of pressure on him!). I ran a 9.891 @ 131.58 mph, again slightly more off the pace, and Tom got there first; but he had broken out by only .017, so I won the race and luckily moved on to the next round! In the Semi-Finals, I faced Tony Smith. We always have fun racing each other, and he hasn’t beaten me yet! I dialled in at 9.90 this time, but ran a really sluggish 10.544 @ 123.29 mph, flat out!! Again, I still won the race because Tony had broken out, with another Personal Best E.T. of 11.870! Another stroke of luck!

I was through to the Finals, where I was drawn against Ray Ford in the “Ram Raider”! The problem was that “Backdraft” was not running right, and I’d experienced a slight drop in oil pressure on the last round. I decided not to run in the Final, not wanting to risk any damage, so that I could take her home and hopefully diagnose the problem. It would have been a close race with Ray, who was a worthy winner. Congratulations to the whole Dog’s B******s team! Although I couldn’t make the run, I had come 2nd and was really pleased with that! I would like to thank our Lee, Mark and Claire for all their hard work; and part-time crew for the weekend, Scott of the “Dorset Horn” team (co-owner of an altered with Dan Sharp which will hopefully be out at the track before too long!!). He had said he wanted to learn the joys of crewing and startline procedure, so hope he got a good idea about that. Also huge thanks once again to all the track crew and officials who worked very hard to get the track prepped and ready, and made the race meeting run well. Many thanks again!! It was a great event!

We’ve now got “Backdraft” in the garage, and hope to fix the problem in time for the Nostalgia Nationals on 28th & 29th June!! As we’re really looking forward to that event!

25th - 26th May 2003 - York Spring Shootout

This event was Wild Bunch Series Round 3 as well as Real Steel Series Round 4 and Roy Wilding Nostalgia Race Cars Series Round 2. I was one of 6 Slingshots in a field of 16 Wild Bunch cars taking part, and it was our third time at York Dragway! This weekend I’d just got some new flyers done, so thanks very much to Bill Sly for taking the pictures and designing the flyers! We again wore our red & flamed crewshirts and red overalls!

We left for York Raceway at 9am Saturday for the 235 mile journey and met Sarah and Darryl at Tamworth services, and carried on our way. Gareth Kent overtook us further north and got worried that he was on the wrong motorway (we’ve dubbed him Mr Sat Nav for leading us round some winding roads on the detour!). We formed a convoy and arrived about 3pm and set up camp and looked forward to the weekend. Most of us were scrutineered Saturday night, and everything was okay. Promoter Steve Murty had got some beer in and invited us all over to the clubhouse for a nice Northern welcome, which made us feel right at home! Thanks a lot Steve! [And would you believe, he had even named his world-record-holding smart red wheelie truck “Backdraft”, which was dubbed so by the Pennine marshals and spectators!]. He also chose some really good 50’s and 60’s rock n’ roll music to go with all the Wild Bunch runs!

Sunday was a practice day and the weather was okay, despite a brief shower in the afternoon, although clouds threatened all day. On the first run Sunday morning, the starter motor played up again (we’d had a bit of trouble starting the car at the last event, and wondered if it was to do with the timing). I put in a burnout followed by a dry hop to get better traction, which works for us. It was a nice wheels-up launch and I ran a 9.820 @ 135.71 mph, my highest speed to date at York! This was against Gareth Kent, who was having his first ever run at York in his “Hot Dog” altered. On the second run, the starter motor played up even more, but I put in a 9.831 @ 137.00 mph, against Darryl Howells, who was only on his second ever run in the Team Dog's B******s “Ram Raider” slingshot, putting in a solid 11.4. Our Mark was backing me up on this run, for the first time. By the third run, the starter motor had gotten even worse, but I eventually got the car fired up. I ran a 9.657 @ 137.09 mph (my highest speed ever at York!) and I was quite pleased with “Backdraft’s” performance for the day, and decided not to run again on the fourth qualifying round Sunday. But those that did run were caught in a torrential downpour at the top end of the track and got soaked! They were all waiting to be picked up when the heavens opened, but most were happy to have got an extra run in! After racing, Claire had booked a table for 13 of us at “The Steer Inn” (which we discovered last August) and we went for a lovely steak meal. Yum yum!

Monday was Series Points Day, and the weather turned out pretty good, and it didn’t rain all day. First thing in the morning I was playing about with the timing in the pits, hoping that I could get the car to start easier, but the starter motor completely gave up! I tried a few others, but one of those was also broken, and the other didn’t fit, and we were starting to look like we might miss the first round! Tony Smith came over and said he’d had the same problem before. It was the clutch on the starter dog, and he soaked it in WD40, which cured the problem, even if only temporarily. Thanks a lot Tony!! We got our new red “Backdraft” overalls dirty on that thrash, but eventually made it comfortably in time for the first round! Phew!!

We dialled in at 9.70, and throughout the rounds I continued to do a burnout, followed by a dry hop. Lee and Mark were both crewing again, taking turns to back me up and pull out the parachute pin, etc. On the first round I was paired against Darryl, who unfortunately blew a transmission pipe on the burnout. I soloed and put in a 9.739 @ 135.26 mph, which I was very pleased with!! The second round came round fairly quickly, and I ran a 10.088 @ 132.07 mph, against Darryl, who had fixed the pipe. In the third round, I ran against Paul Martin in the yellow and flamed Topolino. I was back in the 9’s again, with a 9.988 @ 131.49 mph. In the fourth round I paired up with Tom Coe, and I ran a 10.090 @ 131.05 mph.

I came 4th overall for the weekend (happy with that one!), won Ł20, and I also won “Fastest MPH” with the 135.26 mph and “Quickest E.T. “ with the 9.739. We were also awarded “Best Slingshot” by Steve Murty and the control tower crew, and also finally won the “Best Appearing Team” Spot Prize! Well chuffed with that!

A big thanks to our Lee for showing Mark the start line routine and a big thanks to Mark for doing all the oil changes, as well as being on the start line for the first time! And thanks to Sarah for towing (us, Darryl and Smithie!). Thanks also to Claire for looking after us all. And a special thanks to all the hard working track crew, starter and all the officials, Cath Napier for her race and entry secretarying, and to Steve Murty for his hospitality and doing so many different jobs throughout the weekend! Cheers everyone!!

And congratulations to Tom for winning the event, Alec and Ron for 2nd and 3rd places, Smithie for running all those PB’s with the Minivan body off, Ron for his first 11’s, Gary for his first 11, Chris for his 8.5 @ 160 mph and Darryl for his great 10.3!! And welcome to Sid, we’re looking forward to seeing the “Destiny” run!!

It’s was really great to be back at York again and we had a brilliant time with the Wild Bunch on Tour!! We thoroughly enjoyed the weekend and are really looking forward to going back in August again!!

We’re now also looking forward to the next Ultimate Power Series event, Round 2, Power Nationals” at Shakey on June 14th & 15th! That will be close exciting racing once again!!

3rd - 5th May 2003 - Ultimate Power Series Round 1
Excitement Nationals

This weekend was the first ever Ultimate Power Series event, the “Excitement Nationals”. This was Real Steel Series Round 2 and “Backdraft” was one of 7 Slingshots in a field of 17 Wild Bunch cars taking part (the second largest car field at the event!). The weather didn’t look promising for the weekend, but thankfully the forecasters got it wrong again! We unloaded in the dry, which is always a good start to the weekend!

On Saturday we went down for our first qualifier and we were paired with Ray Ford in the “Ram Raider”. We had the “Badboysimagin” stickers on for the first time, so I thought I’d better do well so Bill could get some good pics of the car! I dialled in 9.50, not really having any idea what she would run! I smoked the tyres on the launch, so I pedalled a bit and ran a 10.326, but the MPH was 132.74 so I was happy with that! Is the beast back? YES IT IS!! Thanks to Lee!! We were due to have another qualifier that day, but due to the showers, that was it racing wise, and we all had to be content with the one run. I did get my chassis re-tagged (as I had added the helmet guard tubes in the roll cage) so was happy about that.

Sunday was due to be another qualifying round, and maybe a round of eliminations, and the weather started off with blue skies and turned out pretty good! The track was getting a lot better (after how cold it had been the day before) and the crew had worked very hard on it after all the showers on Saturday. I kept the Dial-in the same for this run. We had a lovely wheelie from the startline, which just got higher and higher – Wow! I loved it!! We ran a 9.559 @ 138.89 mph! Well chuffed, the first ‘9’ for 8 months!! I also improved to Number 2 qualifier on that one!! There was a bit of down time during the round, and I had time to RUN back to the fire-up road and watch while Scottie got his car out for his first observed run. He did a burnout and his car looked great! He didn’t get to make a run, but was really chuffed with getting the car down to the track after all his months of hard work, and even an extra trip down to Bristol on Saturday night!! Fair play Scottie, and Congratulations! Also congratulations to Chevy for running an 8.54 in the “Alkymist” and lowering the team’s E.T. set by Dad 3 weeks before! And commiserations to the whole “Dorset Horn” crew who spun a bearing after another brilliant pass of 9.607! What a shame! Hope they’re back really soon, because I’m sure looking forward to some good match racing with them this season!! Unfortunately, due to volume of entries and some down time, there was only time for the 1 run for everyone on the Sunday, but meant we were left with the all the excitement of eliminations to come the next day!

Monday was race day, and we had 15 out of the 17 qualified, so a very good field of Wild Bunch! In the first round, I was paired with 2002 Wild Bunch Series Champion, Joe Stevens in the “Back in Black” altered. He Dialled in at 11.91, and again I kept mine to 9.50. I had another good wheels-up launch and a good run. I broke out (!!), but it was less than Joe, so I took the win with a 9.479 @ 139.32 mph! (And, yes, Claire was shouting in the stands!). The next round was against Dennis Hawkins in the “Wicked Lady”, and this was set to be a good close race, as he was running mid 9’s also, but unfortunately he had to leave early, so I had a bye! I posted my 9.50 again, and ran a 9.597 @ 139.32 mph. I got back to the pits and our Mark was in our new team overalls (also embroidered by Karen, thanks again!) ready and waiting to change the oil after the run!

I was through to the Semi-Finals, where I was drawn against Mark Coulsell, which is always a good race (in fact Baz was building this up on his commentary!). He had Dialled in a 10.50 and I once again kept the 9.50. I had another good wheels-up start, and was in chase mode. I broke out again! And ran a 9.346 @ 141.96 mph!!! WOW!!! My first ever run over the 140 mph mark!! Well chuffed!! (Been waiting for that one for a while, and had hoped with the new taller tyres, that it would come naturally! So really “on one” after that!!). And although I’d got knocked out, I came 4th and was really pleased with that! I would like to thank our Claire for all her hard work; Lee for bringing the “beast” back; Mark for all his pit work; and part-time crew for the weekend, Dan Sharp on Sunday, and Matt Lee on Monday. Many thanks again!! Also huge thanks once again to the track crew and officials who worked very hard to get the track ready, and coped with more gremlins in the electrics, and even a runaway gazebo! Cheers again guys and gals!!

I would like to dedicate my 4th place in memory of a great mate and former crew chief Trev Merrett, 1968-2003.

12th - 13th April 2003 - Season Opener

This weekend was the long-awaited Season Opener. “Backdraft” was now sporting the number WB 3, having finished 3rd in the Wild Bunch Series in 2002. I hadn’t had a run since the End of Season Bash in November, which had turned out to be a 12-second pass, due to the wet, cold weather influencing track conditions. I had also not had a representative run since I had put the new Hoosiers on; and, about 4 weeks before the event, I had had a setback when the engine block developed cracks in 3 bores (when I performed a pre-season test fire of the car). Luckily, I was able to get liners fitted in the trusty block (which has been in the dragster 4 years already) and I got it repaired ready for the season. I had also changed a few minor things on the car, including the ignition, so I was really looking forward to seeing what the car could run now!! The first event was Wild Bunch Series Round 1 as well as Real Steel Series Round 1. I was one of 10 Slingshots in a field of 21 Wild Bunch cars taking part, and I was raring to go!!!

Saturday was a practice day and the weather was very good – cool but sunny. On firing up, we had another technical hitch when a fuel fitting broke. Fortunately, we were able to borrow one from Chris Round, so many thanks to him for the loan of the fitting! I then put in a test and tune run during the early afternoon, of 10.306 @ 126.76 mph. The car had not sounded ‘right’ and there was no real pull to the run. Lee and I then spent a couple of hours in the pits playing about with the timing, ignition and fuel system, and checking the compression and valve lash, but I decided not to run again on Saturday.

Sunday was Series Points Day, and the weather turned out pretty good again. (In fact there was no rain all weekend!). I had hoped to tune the car back up and Dialled in 9.90. In the first round I ran another off-pace 10.534 @ 123.63 mph, but with a fairly good reaction of .590, just one-hundredth slower than Alec Coe’s winning Reaction Time. I then ran a 10.443 @ 125.70 mph in the second round, and decided to park the car for the day, and take it home and diagnose the fuel or ignition problems we were still experiencing.

Although we had some teething troubles, we thoroughly enjoyed the weekend and we debuted our wicked new team crew shirts, red of course, with yellow flames (what else?!), beautifully embroidered by Karen of the Dog Squad, so many thanks to her!! Also many thanks once again to the track crew and officials who worked very hard to get the track ready, and coped with gremlins in the electrics, and got the show going! And thanks to Lee for crewing and towing (with his own car for the first time!). It’s really great to be back Drag Racing again and the year ahead looks like being another great one in our 9th year of racing “Backdraft”!

We’re now looking forward to the first ever Ultimate Power Series event, Round 1, the “Excitement Nationals” on May 3rd-5th! That should be really exciting!!

PS. News update: we had the dragster in our garage over the Easter weekend, and, after trying several things with the old Mallory ignition and the new MSD unit, and re-setting the distributor, Lee finally worked out that there might be something wrong with the wiring, and he rewired the whole car. Then, after firing up once again, things seem to be back to normal so, fingers crossed, we will get some good passes in again and try to improve on “Backdraft’s” Best E.T.!

That was the News