The Latest News from the "Backdraft" Team

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29th - 30th September 2007 UK Sportsman Finals, Santa Pod Raceway

This was the sixth and final round of the Wild Bunch Series and the tenth and final Real Steel Series Round of the year, and I was one of 4 slingshots in a field of 7 Wild Bunch cars competing. Me and Claire left Bristol around 11:15am towing Backdraft up with the bus. Lottie followed us in her car, her furthest drive so far! We were glad to get to the track early at around 2:45, and got in the short queue to get into the pits. We could see Ed had already gone in, and Sarah and Darryl phoned us from the queue behind! We all got in quite quickly and set up in the pits. It started to rain again, and Sarah towed down the three slingshots for scrutineering. (Thanks, Sar!) There was not much of a queue for scrutineering around that time as it started to tip down, and we all got pretty wet, but at least we’d gotten signed on and scrutineered for the next morning! We went back to the bus and the other Bunchers arrived and set up, and we all had a pretty good amount of space. But it barely stopped raining all afternoon and evening, so we hibernated in the bus, and went to bed real early, not long after Mark and Joey arrived. The weather forecast was okay for the weekend, so we were hopeful of some good runs with the new gears in the axle, and now that Mark had rewired the whole car. We were lying in joint 4th place in the Wild Bunch Series, with Darryl and 2nd in Real Steel so hoped we could improve or maintain those!

Saturday dawned cool and cloudy. We were scheduled to do 3 qualifiers on Saturday, with the first one around quarter to 11, but because of the heavy rain the night before, and early morning, there was a lot of standing water. The track crews worked hard to clear this, and had to battle a few problems so the track did not open until about 6 hours after they started work, at around noon. And with further delays for oil downs and other damp conditions, we had our first qualifier around 4:30pm!

After some deliberation, we Dialled in at 9.25 for the first qualifier, not entirely sure what to expect, but hoping the car would run quicker than the 9.5’s it had achieved on only a few occasions this year. I launched okay, and picked the wheels up a little, and recorded a 9.615 @ 133.06 mph, on a solo pass. This wasn’t that spectacular, so we checked the timing and put more advance in it, and changed the fuel settings. We fired the car up and it sounded okay, after some adjustments, so sat and waited for the next qualifier. It was getting later and later, and it seemed like we were gonna get a late run, in the dark. We made sure the red light was working for the rear of the car, and hoped to be called down around 7 / 7:30pm. There were more delays with downtime, and an oil down, and the temperature was getting colder and colder. We were about 2 or 3 classes away from being called, when the news came that conditions had gotten too cold, and damp was starting to creep in, so the Race Director had to call it a day, just after 8pm. We were all disappointed not to get a run in the dark, but understandably, the conditions would not have allowed it.

So we were due to be up early for our second and final qualifier. Sunday started off cool and cloudy again, but improved during the day. We ended up being about 4th or 5th out and were on track about quarter past 10. We raised the Dial-in to 9.45 for the second qualifier, and recorded a slower 9.737 @ 132.74 mph, again on a solo pass. We had a few wet cylinders, so decided to put the fuel setting back how it was on the 9.6 run, but leave the advance in the ignition. After all the Bunch had qualified, I ended up 6th overall, and found out that I was due to face Darryl in the first round, the quarter finals! Oh no, what a shame! As we didn’t want to meet in the first round! Oh, well!

During the morning, we heard the sad news that Wally Parks, founder of the NHRA and legend, had passed away. We were particularly sad to hear this, as we had the honour of meeting him last October at his Museum in LA. He was such a true gentleman and an inspiration and this is a great loss to the world of Drag Racing. In tribute, we added an inscription in shoe white on the nosecone of Backdraft reading 'For Wally', and dedicated our next run to him, and celebrate his great life and achievements. Thanks, Wally! We’ll never forget you!

We were not due out til around 2 or later, and it ended up being around 3pm when we actually had our first round. We decided to Dial in at 9.60 as we had nearly run that on the Saturday, and thought the setup was about the same. Darryl dialled in at 10.10. He managed to pull out a better reaction than me by about a tenth, and ran close to his Dial with a 10.140! Unfortunately, the car did not hook up like we’d hoped and Backdraft ran a 9.812 @ 132 mph, flat out. So Darryl beat me fair play to him! It was a bit disappointing to not run quicker, and to go out in the first round again, as we’d had high hopes for some improvement, but in the end only gained a few hundred rpm at the top end.

At our prizegiving, we were really chuffed to win the Best Appearing Team, awarded by the commentators, so that was a bonus. Congrats to Darren Law and the Wicked Lady team, who won their first MSA event, and to him and Phil for some great PB’s!

Thanks very much to Mark and Claire for crewing, and towing. And many thanks all the marshals, track crew, officials and organisers for their hard work all weekend, including some frustrating conditions on the Saturday, which they had to work hard to overcome.

Darryl finished Runner-up at the event and won the Real Steel Series, so big congratulations to him, well deserved! I finished in second place in the Series, so am really chuffed to do so well despite some problems this year. With their Finals placings, both Darryl and Darren overtook me in the Wild Bunch Series, and Darryl finished 3rd and Darren 4th, so I have finished 5th! Not in the Top 4, but still 2 places better than last year! Congrats to Tony Smith and Dave Williams who have again won the Wild Bunch Series, and to Ant who finished Runner-up. Well done to them all!

We’re now really looking forward to the Annual Wild Bunch Dinner and Prize Presentation on 24th November at Drayton Manor. It’ll be another great night, so can’t wait!

25th - 27th August 2007 Open Sports Nationals

This was the ninth Real Steel Series Round of the year, and the Finals of the Roy Wilding Nostalgia Race Cars Series and the APIRA Series and I was one of 6 slingshots in a field of 9 Wild Bunch cars competing. Me and Claire left Bristol about 10:30am towing Backdraft up with the bus. We were glad to get to the track early at around 12:15 to set up and have a nice chilled out start to my birthday weekend! Our pits were down at the far end, right up against the fence by the market, and we were parked next to Darryl and Sarah, in what turned out to be ‘slingshot corner’, as all 6 slingshots ended up pitting in that area! We were able to get scrutineered around 3:30pm and signed on later that evening. The forecast was good for the whole weekend, and we sat in our pits on the Friday afternoon and just soaked up the sunshine! Mark and Joey followed up later in Mark’s car, which we were going to use to tow. We had an early evening and looked forward to the weekend.

We were scheduled to do 6 qualifiers over the first two days, so quite a good chance to see how the car was running. We were hoping for some wheelies and mid 9’s in Backdraft, which was about the best she’s run all year. My early birthday Mickey Thompson rear slicks were by now pretty well worn in!

Saturday dawned sunny and warm, a great start to my birthday! We had a bit of a wait, as we were 18th on the running order and got the first run around 12:30. We had a new Dial-in board for the weekend, courtesy of Fay Fischer, and I Dialled in at 9.61 in the first qualifier. I recorded a 10.141 @ 124.49 mph, against Terry Clifford in the Ratcatcher Resurrection, who ran a 10.243, a new PB for him. We raised the Dial-in to 9.81 for the second qualifier, at nearly 4 o’clock, and recorded a slightly slower 10.155 @ 125.69 mph. I was again paired with Terry on this run, who ran another PB of 10.195, so again, we were fairly close in E.T. As the car seemed to want to run in the 10.1s, we decided on a 10.11 for the third qualifier, which was around 6:30pm. Backdraft pleasantly surprised us all by pulling a nice wheelie, and running back into the 9’s with a 9.755 @ 130.07 mph! We didn’t mind breaking out with that, as the run showed better performance. This run was against Darryl, who ran a 10.198 so Chemical Reaction was running well. We packed up for the day, and started celebrating my birthday! We also had a nice presentation from Sarah and Darryl to Bernie, who was leaving for Norway on the Monday. She had made him a giant card with messages from loads of the Wild Bunch, and some nice presents from her and Dar, and he was really chuffed! We had a nice night, with a cake later on and some good presents and great company! And looked forward to better runs the next day!

On Sunday, the weather dawned sunny and warm again, and this was another bonus! Claire and Mark put on their ‘nostalgia’ crew outfits, with the red polo shirts and the white jeans, with cowboy hats for good measure! Our fourth qualifier was around 1pm, and I dialled in at 9.72 for this. It was a bit disappointing when the car ran a 10.424 at only 122 mph. This had been against Neil Ward, and his Andromeda slingshot was only a little off its normal pace, with a 9.218. Our fifth qualifier was around 4pm, and we had to raise the Dial-in to 9.92. The car did not sound great on the run, and recorded a slow 10.518 @ 121 mph. Again, disappointing, and no wheelie. This was against Ed in the RamRaider who posted a 9.319 @ 142 mph. On investigation back in the pits, we checked the timing, and discovered that the dizzy had moved on the run, by about 7 degrees! That explained it, and we quickly put this back to the normal mark, and also richened the fuel system up a little to try something else. We fired the car up and it did sound better, so we were hopeful of a sixth qualifier, to test what it would now run. Unfortunately time ran out for the day, and we did not get to check out the changes. So we would have to Dial in blind for Monday. I finished in 6th place overall for qualifying, which was not too bad considering the variation in the runs.

Monday started off with some cloud and a bit cooler, but still the weather held all day, so we were really thrilled with that! All 9 Wild Bunch cars had qualified for eliminations and I was due to race Terry in the first round, so it was going to be a good race! We deliberated on the Dial-in, and finally chose a 9.91, as that was achievable given that we hoped for improvement. We were ready from about 11am, as the running order seemed to be going through quickly, but due to some small delays, we got called up just before 12:30. Terry’s reactions had not been too good all weekend, so we hoped for some advantage there, but he pulled out a holeshot on the run, with a .321 to my .409 reaction! He dialed in at 10.20, and ran a 10.418, whilst I ran 9 thousandths closer, recording a 10.119 @ 125 mph, my closest to Dial all weekend! With the better reaction, Terry took the win, so fair play to him! It was a bit disappointing to go out in the first round, but at least the car had run a bit better again on this run.

We were later really chuffed to win the Best Appearing Car and Team, awarded by the commentators, so that was good. We have also finished Runner-up in the Roy Wilding Nostalgia Race Cars Series, behind Darryl, so we’re chuffed with that result! Congratulations to Darryl on the win, which is in fact the first Series he has ever won, so fair play to him! Congrats to Roy, who won the event, and the APIRA Series, and to Terry who went on to finish Runner-up in the event and the Series. Well done to all the Wild Bunch for a great weekend of racing and to Roy, Terry, Darren and Phil for their PBs!

Thanks very much to Mark and Claire for crewing, and towing. Also many thanks all the marshals, track crew, officials and organisers for their hard work all weekend. We really enjoyed the event!

We’re now hoping to get some different gears for the axle, in the hopes of bringing back the E.T.s and speeds. We hope to have these in for the next race, the National Finals at Santa Pod on 29th & 30th September, so we’re really looking forward to that! Hope the weather’s good! And that we can get some good runs in and more wheelies! We are currently in second place in the Real Steel Series, behind Darryl, and guaranteed of a Top 2 place in that one, so really pleased with that. We are also in equal 4th place in the Wild Bunch Series, jointly with Darryl, so we hope to do well at the finals!

4th - 5th August 2007 York Summer Showdown

The annual trip North to York Dragway saw the fifth round of the Wild Bunch Series, and the eighth round of our Real Steel Series, as well as the third round of the Roy Wilding Nostalgia Race Cars Series, and I was still lying in 4th place in the Wild Bunch Series and 2nd in the Real Steel and Roy Wilding Series! I was one of 5 Slingshots in a field of 10 Wild Bunch cars participating, and was really looking forward to the event, and hoping for some good straight runs! We left Bristol about 12 noon, and me and Claire drove up in the bus towing Backdraft and Mark and Joey were towing Awesome 4-Some with Mark’s car for its first outing of 2007, and Mark’s first time towing his car to a race event, some 230 miles! (Mark had a very delayed start to the season, as he’d had a new block machined, heads ported, diff rebuilt, half-shafts repaired, installed a water system, upgraded the carbs to 45 Dellortos, and made several other modifications and improvements to say the least! And over the week before the York event, there had been more hiccups with the rebuild, including misfires, but he had gotten the diff back from Zane of Zannetec, nicely rebuilt, and had Bob Lees of Bristol Transmissions inspect the gearbox, which looked okay.) So, he had finally made it to a Wild Bunch event, just in time! Once on the road, we stopped briefly about halfway at Tamworth services, where we were due to meet up with Scottie and Gina, and the Cliffords. They had all been delayed, so we carried on, and were due to link up with Sarah and Darryl just after this. The traffic on the M1 was bad, the worst we have had over all the years of going up to York, with congestion before and after every single junction! So Darryl and Sarah never caught up with us until Doncaster North services, just 30 miles short of the track. They arrived soon after, and we waited a short while for Scottie and Gina. We all set off together and arrived at the track about 7:15. We were pitted in the midway of the pits, behind the nice Wild Bunch banner, and we were next to arrive after Sid Slattery. The weather was warm for the first time this year, it seemed, so we all had a nice relaxed evening.

Saturday dawned warm, with some clouds, and looked like remaining good throughout the day. We had heard the weather forecast for the Sunday had been more heavy rain, and had come up with a proposal, to avoid yet another complete rain-off of an event. We proposed to all the teams, that we have 3 or 4 practice rounds on the Saturday, and then choose a Dial-in and run the first of the four Series rounds late on the Saturday afternoon, in order to guarantee a result for the event. If the weather turned out okay on the Sunday, then we would continue with as many of the three remaining rounds as possible. We discussed this amongst the individual teams on the Friday night, and took a vote on it before racing started on the Saturday. The overwhelming majority of drivers voted in favour of the proposal, so we all knew the plan for the weekend.

Mark went out for an early run in one of the Run-What-You-Brung sessions, with the plan of getting in as many testing runs as he possibly could, and raring to go to see what the car would run with the new engine and setup. Gina also wanted to do lots of practice runs in the Tiki Munki altered, being her first time ever at the track. So finally the two Pinto-powered cars got to match up, after waiting all year! This turned out to be a close ‘race’, as Mark recorded a checkout 15.374 @ 69.33 mph, against Gina’s 15.400 @ 84 mph! Mark’s launch had been strong, but the clutch had stuck twice on the run, so he had slowed towards the end. In the first allocated Wild Bunch session, we towed Backdraft down the midway towards the track, and Joey pushed Mark’s car. I ended up on a solo pass. I had planned to do a transbrake launch, to get the revs up on the startline. This worked a treat as I had my biggest wheelie of the year! The car ran straight, and I posted a good 9.699 @ 132.62 mph, so I was really pleased with that one for starters! Meanwhile, on Mark’s second run, he was paired with Darryl, and he slowed to a 19.439 @ 40 mph! Unfortunately, the clutch had disintegrated on the run! Such a shame after all his months of hard work, and something he had not even considered going wrong, in the long list of items he had fixed or improved! He remained philosophical though, as he had been pleased to actually make it to an event, and have the chance to finally run the car! The engine had sounded strong, so he was also pleased with that! For the rest of the day, he ended up taking his Focus down the strip, just for fun! And then picking me up at the top end after his run! And he recorded a 17.7 @ 77 mph!

We went out for another run, around quarter to 2, and I was in the right lane, against Darryl, who ran a 10.708 @ 132 mph. I had to back right off on the launch, as the car headed right towards the Armco! I ended up posting an 11.367 @ 114 mph. So back to the drawing board! We pushed down for another run around 3:30pm, and again I paired with Darryl, and he ran a 10.489 @ 133 mph. I got a better launch than the last time and ran a 10.008 @ 127 mph.

So we decided to Dial in at 9.80 for the rounds. The first round took place about quarter past 5, and this time I was paired with Sid Slattery in his Destiny slingshot. I was again in the right hand lane, and unfortunately had to back off the launch again, as the car headed right! I recorded an 11.432 @ 119 mph, so was a huge 1.6 seconds off my Dial-in! Oh well! Hopefully things would improve in the morning if the weather stayed with us! I changed the oil again after this run, and we all packed up for the day. We had a relaxing evening again, and went to bed hoping for good weather on Sunday!

Well, yes, it was! When we woke up there was not a cloud in the sky, and it was already getting warm! This promised that we would at least get one or two more rounds in, so were really looking forward to the day. The Wild Bunch were actually scheduled for three rounds on the Sunday, 11:30, 1:30 and 3:30, according to the programme, so this would work out ideal. Some of the teams went for an early RWYB session, and we got ready for the second round.

Me and Darryl had a chat in the pits, and he said he didn’t mind which lane he was in, so we arranged to pair up, so I would give the left lane a try! Well, I went left this time! But luckily, I did improve in this round with a 10.164 @ 131.79 mph, so not quite as far off the Dial-in! Darryl ran a 10.523 in the other lane, not far off his Dial-in, so the lanes had not made any difference at all to him. For Round 3, I was paired with Sid again, and went back in the right lane. This time, I decided not to use the transbrake off the launch, and this netted me a 9.986 @ 127.03 mph, with a reasonably straight launch. Sid ran a good 10.684 @ 124 mph, not far off his best, and his best run for a couple years, so well done to him! In the fourth round, I ran Sid again, in the right lane again, and improved to a 9.915 @ 132.80 mph, my fastest speed of the weekend! I finished in 7th place overall for the weekend, out of the 7 Bunchers who had made all four rounds! Oh well, at least I had run all four rounds! And had a great time! Congrats to event winners Team B-Sting and Runner-up Tony Smith. Congrats also to Darryl in 3rd place and Gina in 4th place, her first time in the Top 4! Fair shout!

Also, Daz with the Pandemonium Dodge and Ian with The Menace had come to York again, after having such a great time last year! Me and Daz had been talking about racing each other for ages, and had not yet had the chance, and with him emigrating to New Zealand later this year, and taking the car with him, this was probably going to be one of our last chances to race each other! He had had some tuning problems all weekend, and was only running in the 11’s, with a bit of head scratching! On Sunday morning, we talked about pairing up, if time and track permitted, so after the fourth Wild Bunch round, we went and chatted to the officials to see if there were any RWYB slots that we could run in and pair up! We went back around 4:30 to see how the schedule was running, and were told that we could come down then and there! We quickly went back to our cars, suited up and pushed down to the pairings area. We both headed for the burnout boxes and did our burnouts, and then noticed that our Mark was on assistant starter duties! Daz had a little trouble staging due to the strong sunshine getting in the way of the start beam! I got the reaction advantage by nearly half a second, and left well off the line, recording a 9.949 @ 126.59 mph, against his 11.294 @ 116 mph! It was a fun race, and we were chuffed to finally get the chance to match up! Cheers, Daz! One of the highlights of the weekend!

Thanks to Claire, Mark and Joey for crewing! An many thanks to all the marshals and officials and track crew for all their hard work! Thanks Des, Alan, Angie, Marjorie, Abbie, Dave, Reg, Carol, Graham, Jaime, Carl and Steve & CJ Murty to name just a few! And big thanks to all the PDRC for their welcome and assistance. We really enjoyed the weekend, as always! Thanks to them, SNS Racing, Roy, and the Wild Bunch, there was quite a bit of prize money, which got shared equally amongst all the participants, so both me and Mark ended up with Ł25 each, which was a nice bonus! I am also still second in the Real Steel and Roy Wilding Nostalgia Race Cars Series after this event, right behind Darryl, and now equal 4th in the Wild Bunch Series, alongside Gina and Darryl! Fair play to them!

We are now really looking forward to the Open Sports Nationals MSA event at Shakespeare County! This will be Real Steel Series Round 9 and the Final of the Roy Wilding Nostalgia Race Cars Series! And we hope for good weather at that one too!

21st - 22nd July 2007 Victory Wheelers Show at Broadlands

We had been invited to the Victory Wheelers 30th Anniversary show, down at Broadlands in Romsey, Hampshire. Terry Clifford of Ratcatcher Resurrection fame is the Chairman of the club and was heavily involved in the organising and running of the show, and he had arranged for 7 Wild Bunch cars to attend. The weather had been pretty bad during the week, and still was on the Friday, and there was trouble on some of the roads. We monitored the traffic site, and finally decided that we would drive down on the Friday night, around 8:10pm. Mark was also taking his car, Awesome 4-Some, and it was going to be his first time ever towing the car! He now had the slingshot running, with the new carbs and a borrowed dizzy, although still had a problem with the diff. He had installed a spare one, just to get it rolling for the event! Me and Claire drove down in the bus, and Mark and Joey were in his car. We had a smooth trip, and arrived about 10:30pm. We were greeted at the entrance, by the site of some poor rodded pickup which had broken a shaft and got bogged down in the mud at the gate! We were able to drive round, and got about 100 yards, and then got stuck in the mud with the bus! Luckily we got towed out by a 4x4 and got to our spot in the field, where Helen and Dean and Hell’s Belle and Darryl and Sarah with Chemical Reaction were already parked. Sarah and Darryl had taken 9 HOURS to get there, due to bad flooding on the M42 and then the A34! What a terrible journey! Whilst we were stuck in the mud, Mark had gone on ahead and found a spot. We towed up, and stopped just behind everyone, then unhooked, and had another surge to park a bit closer! Steve and Lesley Field had already dropped off The Black Pig across the field, and gone out for dinner, but returned not long after we got there. We set up, and left the car in the trailer, and had a fairly early night!

In the morning, we got Backdraft out of the trailer and parked her just a few feet behind! Due to the flooding round Reading, Scottie and Gina had decided to wait til the Saturday morning to drive down, and this was a good choice for them as they had a good journey in daylight, arrived mid morning and got the tent up before the first bout of rain on the Saturday! We then went for a wander round the trade stands, and luckily took an umbrella, as it hammered down! We both had wellies on again, and dodged the showers! We later had a trudge round the field, and saw some nice hot rods! We also watched a few cars try to struggle in across the muddy fields! During Saturday, we had two group fire-ups, with Claire, wearing the silver suit, in Backdraft, Mark in Awesome 4-Some, Sarah in Chemical Reaction, Gina in Tiki Munki and Lesley in The Black Pig. Terry had provided boards for us to raise the cars on axle stands and this worked well. Unfortunately, Helen and Dean could not fire-up the ‘Belle’, as when loading on the Friday, they discovered some ‘lumps’ in the sump, which turned out to be a broken oil pickup, just like we’d had before! Luckily they had seen this in time, and there was minimal damage, but it meant they were ‘static’ for the weekend. It was great to see the ‘Belle’ again though, and she got some nice comments! The fire-ups turned out really cool, as we were all fired up together and it sounded great. Mark and Gina kept running for the longest, as they were water-cooled, and it turned out to be a ‘Battle of the Pintos’! We had a good night, and went round a couple marquees with all the gang, and went to bed pretty early!

On Sunday, which was public day, the weather improved, and stayed dry all day! We had been due to take all the cars to the big marquee, but as it was still muddy, we decided, along with Terry, to keep all the cars where they were, by our field ‘pits’ and fire them up there again. Terry towed his car over, on its trailer, to join the Wild Bunch display. Our first fire-up ‘show’ was around 12:45, and we were chuffed to see a big crowd forming! All the girls and Mark really enjoyed the fire-up, and Mark and Gina performed theirs to a ‘tune’ with one finishing off the other’s ‘notes’! Meanwhile, Lesley got to use the throttle for the first ever time in the altered, and she was really chuffed with this! Sarah was also chuffed to be in the hotseat of Chemical Reaction and also wore part of their silver suit! We had another fire-up for the end of the day, around 4pm, and all thoroughly enjoyed the experience. The ‘Battle of the Pintos’ ended a draw, with Mark running the longest twice and Gina also twice! This was great fun and cool to watch! There had been a lot of interest in all the cars, which was great!

We had not moved Backdraft further than about 4 feet from the back of the trailer, so it was quite easy when it came time to load up and go! But, again, the bus got stuck going out of the muddy field, and had to be towed out by a tractor! Ha ha! We had a good time at the show, so thanks to Terry and the Victory Wheelers for inviting us! Hope they all had a good time, too!

14th - 15th July 2007 British Mini Showdown

This event was the fourth round of the Wild Bunch Series, and the seventh round of our Real Steel Series, and I was still lying in 4th place in the Wild Bunch Series and 2nd in the Real Steel Series! I was one of 7 Slingshots in a field of 17 Wild Bunch cars attending. Me and Claire drove up in the bus and arrived around 8:15pm. Mark, Lottie and Joey drove up in his car. Unfortunately, Mark had hit some more snags with his rebuild and had to finish some college work for his apprenticeship, so was unable to get his car finished for the event, which was a shame. We were due to be pitted in the middle of the pits, and we got a good spot, opposite the loos, and next to Phil Sweeney, who had finished his altered and was debuting it at the event. They had a similar bus to ours and we both parked lengthways across the pits. We unloaded the car, left the trailer hooked up, and put the car between the two buses, and set up for the evening. Not long after, Helen and Dean and Christine arrived in their van and parked next to our trailer. The weather was not that good on the Friday, and the weekend’s forecast was not good either!

Saturday dawned okay, and we were hopeful of a few runs. We towed down in the queue and had our first run about 11am. This was against Darryl in Chemical Reaction. I didn’t get the revs up real high for the launch, and recorded a 9.726 @ 134.06 mph, against Darryl’s 11.308 @ 132 mph. The conditions were not all that great due to the previous rain we’d had, and the track temperature not getting very high with the poor weather. We went out for another run, just before 2pm, and I posted a 9.747 @ 138.11 mph. We towed down for another run just before 4pm. This time I didn’t hook up well off the line, and recorded a 9.936, but at 141.11 mph, with the revs up at the top end. This was one of my best speeds so far this year!

On the evening, there was the annual Wild Bunch fancy dress party. This year the theme was Pirates of the Caribbean and we had really gone to town on it!! I had made a cardboard pirate Galleon to fit on to the bar stool, and kept it hidden in the trailer til the night! I put it all together, and had a plastic mast with a Jolly Roger on it, and some skull and crossbones bunting. Claire had even found me a toy cannon, which I mounted on the front! I also had a parrot on my shoulder, and wood-patterned sticky back plastic on my jeans for a wooden leg. Claire dressed as a lady pirate and got right into character! I ‘set sail’ around the pits at the start of the party, which was by the B-Sting/ Black Pig barn awnings. We then ‘sailed’ round the pits with a few ‘aarrrs’ and joined the other 40 or so pirates and wenches for a great night! I shot a few people with the toy cannon, and Claire waved her sword and pistol around a bit! I even drove the ship into the door of Mark’s caravan in the field! We later went down to the clubhouse, and again, sailed onto the dance floor with around 20 Wild Bunch pirates!! This was a great laugh! Everyone really got into the spirit of things and there were some great looking pirates and wenches around! We all had a great night, and went to bed hoping Sunday’s weather would be okay!

On Sunday, there was some rain first thing, but the track crew started work early, and they hoped for an early start. I dialled in at 9.73, hoping for the weather to hold for at least one round. Almost as soon as the track crew had got the track nearly dry, it rained again, and kept raining on and off all day. The crew worked in between showers, but unfortunately the officials were forced to call off the event. Sadly the second Wild Bunch round in a row that did not happen. Such a shame!

Many thanks again to all the marshals and officials and track crew for all their efforts! Again, we really appreciated how hard they tried to get the event going on the Sunday!

We’re now really looking forward to the ‘Summer Showdown’ at York Dragway on 4th & 5th August, for our annual trip up to Pennine! We’re hoping for some proper summer sunshine at that one, and a full day of rounds on the Sunday!

30th June - 1st July 2007 Nostalgia Nationals at Shakey

This event was the third round of the Wild Bunch Series, and the sixth round of our Real Steel Series, and I went to the event in 4th place in the Wild Bunch Series and 2nd in the Real Steel Series! I was one of 6 Slingshots in a field of 17 Wild Bunch cars attending. Mark and his friend Joey again went up to the track early to sort out their caravan, and me, Claire and Lottie drove up in the bus around 6:30, arriving about 8pm. We drove round the pits and were about to park in the middle, when Darryl suggested a nice spot down by the fence, just before the pit extension. This was crossways to the pits, and Dar and Sar had already set up their van and Chemical Reaction along there, so we parked next to them. We unloaded the car, separated the trailer, and put the car between the bus and the trailer, and set up for the evening. The weather was not at all bad on the Friday, but the weekend’s forecast was not at all good! For this weekend I had fixed the transbrake, so hoped to be able to pull wheelies again!

Saturday dawned okay, but the rains soon came, and although the track crew were out on track making efforts between the showers, the rain never did really let up!! (When it did, I broke out my yellow waterproofs, added a marker-pen Moon Eyes logo on the back, put on my red wellies, and went off round the pits on the bar stool!!! I met up with Martin Holgate, who had brought his, and we drew quite a bit of attention, with everyone saying they wanted one!! Meanwhile, back in the pits, Claire had blown up a paddling pool and put it under Backdraft, as a ‘flotation device’ with all the rain!! The rain kept on in the afternoon, and the officials were forced to call off the day around 4 o’ clock, and it still rained after that, and occasionally during the evening! Mark Coulsell took part in another practice extrication in the training chassis, with the PB Fire crew. They did another great job, so well done to all of them, on gaining some more valuable experience!

On the early evening, we went over to Scottie and Gina’s Tiki Munki pits to watch the Space Hopper racing they’d organised (in the wet field!!). We missed the first round, but this soon turned into a ‘let’s chase the kids with a muddy Space Hopper game!! Zak got me a good ‘un on the side of the head, and I gave him a nice muddy facepack!! It was all a bit of fun! We later went over to the marquee again, for another band! Who were very good! And later there was a bit of a tussle to see who would end up in the small muddy lake that had been created by the rain! It turned out to be Gos!! It was a bit of a laugh! Then we rounded off the evening with a couple of rides on the dodgems! We all had a good night, and hoped Sunday’s weather would be better!

On Sunday, there was more early rain, but the track crew started work about 6:30am and kept going. The plan was to open the track early to try to get in some racing if possible, and they managed this at quarter to 10! Fair play! There was then about 45 minutes of racing, albeit with no slick-tyred vehicles, due to the conditions. Then, just after they had sprayed the track with grip juice, the rain came again! After it stopped, the crew were back out again trying to dry the track! They once again succeeded, only to have only 2 more cars run, before the next rain shower. They tried again, but it was still raining, and with most cars being packed up back in the pits, and the clouds still looming, the officials were forced to call off the event.

Many thanks to all the marshals and officials and track crew for their hard work! It’s much appreciated!

We’re now really looking forward to the ‘Mini Showdown’ at Shakey on 14th & 15th July. Hope for sun!

16th - 17th June 2007 Summer Nationals at Santa Pod Raceway

This event was the fifth Real Steel Series Round of the year, and the second for the Roy Wilding Nostalgia Race Cars Series and I was one of 5 slingshots in a field of 6 Wild Bunch cars competing. Me and Claire left Bristol about 11am towing Backdraft up with the bus, and reached the track around 2:15pm, after having a good run through the traffic! We were the first of the Bunch to arrive and were directed to our pit area, which was trackside at about the 1000 ft mark! Which was going to be great for some in-between-round spectating! The rest of the Bunch arrived quite soon, and we all managed to get in the allocated space. We unloaded the car and set up our pit area, just before a huge downpour! So we lucked out with that! I then went and signed on, and Sarah kindly towed us, along with Chemical Reaction to get to scrutineering. The queue did not take too long, and we were back in the pits about an hour later. Mark and Lottie and Joey had then arrived in Mark’s car, which we were going to use to tow. And Joey was helping out crewing for Chemical Reaction. We were pleased to see the arrival of the Mad R’s team with their new engine in the Shy Talker slingshot, and Janet was especially pleased to see all of the Bunchers, after so long away! We all settled in for a fairly quiet night, and hoped for some good weather and more good wheelies, and sub 9.5 passes, using the newly installed transbrake!

We were scheduled to do 3 qualifiers on Saturday, but the weather report had not been good. It was dry when we woke up and the track crew were already hard at work, and got the track ready for opening at 9am. However, just as they were about to start, a huge rainshower fell, and the rain kept falling for some time. The crew then tried to dry the track again, and were well on the way, when another storm hit! They managed to dry it again for about quarter past 2 and we did get to see 5 classes of racing, from the other side of our bus! But then the rain came again! And whilst the track crew worked hard again, and we tried to stay optimistic, we must have seen about 12 different kinds of cloud formation, most of which dropped water! And though the crew kept working, it kept raining intermittently, so the Race Director was forced to call it for the day, about 6pm. The track was still saturated, and it did still rain quite a few times during the evening! So we packed up for the evening, and hibernated a bit in the bus, and did a bit of bench racing with Terry Clifford from the Ratcatcher Resurrection team, and had another fairly early night!

Sunday dawned cloudy and mild, but dry! The track crew had been working since long before 7am, and had to work a bit longer when the water seeped back up! Well, there had been vast quantities of it!! So racing started about 9:30am. The plan was to give all the classes who hadn’t been out on Saturday a one-shot qualifier, and go into eliminations from noon. We didn’t have too long to wait, and were called up before 11am. We towed Terry’s slingshot behind Backdraft and I paired up with him for this run. I Dialled in at 9.50 for the qualifier, hoping to be in the ball park. I came up to the line after the burnout and went into pre-stage and then stage on the handbrake, pressed the transbrake button, and let the handbrake off, went to build the rpms up, and the car rolled forward! No transbrake! ‘Noooo!’ I shouted to myself in the cockpit!! This meant I redlit, and all I could do was carry on with the run and hope for a time! Luckily I did record a time, although it was a 10.921 @ 128.95 mph! Whilst Terry ran a 10.855 in the other lane. But the luckiest part of the run was that the redlight was by -.399 (on a .400!) so I had been just one thousandth away from not recording a time, and not qualifying! Phew! That was a close one! We got back to the pits and took the bodywork off, and fired up the car. Still no transbrake! After further investigation it proved that there was a dead short in the solenoid, which had blown the fuse! So we disconnected it and had to go back to the old way of launching, off the brake! I ended up qualified in 5th place, but didn’t mind at all, as at least I had qualified!! We then waited around for the first round, which was to come some four and three quarter hours later!

We were scheduled to be out for our quarter-finals at around 5pm, due to the delayed running order, and I was due to face Ed in the RamRaider in that round. Due to the late scheduling of the round, unfortunately Ed and Ray had to leave early, as Ray had to get to work later that evening! A tough call for them! As it would have been good to race Ed! But I didn’t really know what the car was going to run, so it was quite lucky I ended up with a Bye run! I didn’t know if I’d be able to get a good launch without the transbrake, so dialled in at 9.80. The run felt better than the first one, although I didn’t pull a wheelie, and I was really surprised when Claire and Mark told me I’d run a 9.627 @ 133.48 mph.

This meant I was paired with good mate Darryl Howells in the Semis, which would be a rematch of our final at the Thunderball! This turned out to be a really good close race! Darryl beat me off the line with a .203 to my .251 Reaction time, and I was in catchup mode as I’d dialed in at 9.60 and he’d dialed in at 10.25. I ran a 9.691 @ 132.36 mph, as flat out as I could run, whilst he ran a 10.342. So this meant I was .091 off Dial, and he was .092 off! But he took the win by pulling the holeshot! Fair play, Dar!! Great racing! We were also chuffed, as he went on to win the event, which was the first ever time he had won an MSA event, so really pleased for him! Congrats also to Terry who was runner-up in only his first full MSA event! And I was pretty pleased to finished in 3rd place overall!

It had been a good event despite the rain on Saturday! Thanks very much to Mark and Claire for crewing, and towing. Also many thanks to all the marshals and officials for their hard work, especially all the relentless track drying on the Saturday! Fair play to them all! Their dedication is much appreciated! Thanks also to all at Santa Pod for making us so welcome again! And well done to all the Wild Bunch for a good show!

We’re now looking forward to the Nostalgia Nationals at Shakey on June 30th and July 1st, so hope the weather’s good, as it should be a great event! Hopefully Mark will be finished rebuilding Awesome 4-Some in time, as he is raring to go! Lee’s also working on his engine in his Dazed and Confused altered, so he is hoping to be out sometime soon as well! Stay tuned!

2nd - 3rd June 2007 June Shootout at Shakey

This was our third event of the season 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, which I was luckily leading at this point! I was one of 5 Slingshots in a field of 14 Wild Bunch cars taking part. Mark and his friend Joey again went up to the track early to sort out his caravan, and me, Claire and Lottie drove up in the bus around 6:30, arriving about 8pm. This was the first time out for our new trailer, which I have been building almost non-stop over the last three months. It towed and handled really great, so I was chuffed with that. It was also easy to manoeuvre in the pits. We unloaded the car, separated the trailer, and set up in the pits in the middle, opposite the loos. The weather was not bad, although rain was predicted for Sunday. We were still tuning the car and trying to get a handle on the setup, and this weekend I had wired in the transbrake in order to get some better revs off the launch, so I was hoping that would help!

Saturday dawned quite warm, and the day looked promising. There was quite a lot of track time, so I was able to get four runs in on the day. The first couple of runs were still very lacklustre with the first one being a 10.742 @ 118 mph, and the second a 10.279 @ 126 mph. I was getting to grips with the transbrake though! There was still loads of fuel coming out the headers, and we were running pretty rich, so we were not back to our normal settings. Our Lee and Sarah and Liam came up to the track for the day, and Lee, Mark and I got our heads together and decided to lean out the fuel system, so I changed the pill. On the next run, I got the wheels up again, which I was well-chuffed with! And I ran a 9.605 @ 136.58 mph, which was a lot better. The fourth run of the day was a 9.621 @ 135 mph, so fairly consistent. So we left the settings as they were!

Our Liam was really interested in all the cars, which was nice to see, and in between rounds, he came and sat in the cockpit with me in the pits. Proud Gramps, that’s me!! After racing, Sarah didn’t want to leave, as she was having fun riding around on the bar stool! We later went over to Scottie and Gina’s pits for another mini-Tiki party, celebrating more PB’s from Gina in their Pinto-powered Tiki Munki altered! After that we all went over to the marquee where Chris Orthodoxou’s band, Executive Relief, were playing. They were great, so we really enjoyed that. Our Mark even joined in for a chorus of ‘Johnny Be Good’ with them! We had a good night!

Sunday, Sunday, Sunday! Well, the morning dawned bright and sunny, and stayed dry all day! So that was a real bonus! We dialled in at 9.60 for the day, and started off with a 9.701 @ 134.40 mph. This was against Joe Stevens, who ran an 8.68 @ 152 mph. Fair play! In the next round, I got another good wheels-up launch and recorded a better 9.580 @ 135.53 mph, this time against Gina in the Tiki Munki, who ran a 14.746, very near her best time. For the third round, the pairings worked out that I was going to be matched up against Roy in his Hemi Hunter blown slingshot, which was back out for the first time in a couple of years, and running in the mid-8’s. I was really looking forward to this, so was disappointed when Roy was forced to pull over after the burnout, with a minor problem! I then ran a 9.714 @ 135.04 mph on a solo pass. In the fourth round, I went closer to Dial-in again, with a 9.642 @ 136.03 mph. I had been paired up with Neil Ward in his Andromeda slingshot, who had gotten back down into the 8’s again. This was a good matchup, although he got to the line four tenths before me. It was all good fun!

I finished in 4th place overall, and have managed to keep my lead in the Real Steel Series, so that was a really good result! The commentators also awarded me the Best Slingshot Spot Prize, which I haven’t won for a while, so I was really chuffed with that! And especially chuffed to get the wheelies back!!

Thanks to Mark and Claire for towing and crewing, and to all the marshals and officials and track crew for their hard work and assistance! Well done to Shakey for all the improvements, and thanks to Jerry Cookson for all his hard work and organisation behind the scenes. Congratulations to Tony, Joe, Ray, Gina, Liam, Ant, Darryl, Neil and Mark for running PB’s this weekend! And well done to all the Wild Bunch for another good show! Fair play to you all!

We’re now really looking forward to the ‘Summer Nationals’ at the Pod on 16th & 17th June. Can’t wait!

5th - 7th May 2007 Spring Speed Festival at Shakey

This was the third Real Steel Series Round of the year, and I was one of 5 slingshots in a field of 8 Wild Bunch cars competing. Me and Claire left Bristol about 2pm towing Backdraft up with the bus. It was good to get to the track earlier in the day so that we could set up in the daylight and chill out by about 4:30 pm! Our pits were down at the far end past the fencing, in the middle of the pits, and once again we were opposite Pro ET, as we had been at the Pod. We were also able to get scrutineered that night by Paul Satchell, and signed on too, so that was really good. Mark and Lottie and Joey followed up later on in Mark’s car, which we were going to use to tow. Backdraft was now sporting a brand new pair of Mickey Thompson rear slicks, which Claire has bought me as an early birthday present! (Many thanks to Lee Child of LA Racing Parts for getting the tyres delivered so quickly, which enabled me to get them fitted before the weekend! Many thanks also to our Lee, who helped me fit them!). We were hoping that the new tyres would cure the out of shape launches we had at the ‘Spring Nationals’. If not, then it would have to be Plan B! So fingers crossed our theory was correct!

We were scheduled to do 5 or 6 qualifiers over the first two days, and the forecast was good for Saturday, mixed for Sunday, and possibly okay for Monday. We were hoping for some straight runs in Backdraft! Saturday dawned cloudy and warmish, and we had a bit of a wait, as we were 22nd on the running order and didn’t get the call up until about 1pm! We decided to start the tyre pressures off the same as we ran with the Hoosiers. We fired the car up in the pits, and everything seemed okay. I Dialled in at 9.50 in the first qualifier and recorded a 10.127 @ 126.43 mph. But it had been as straight as an arrow, and I was really chuffed. This run had been against Terry Clifford in the Ratcatcher Resurrection, who had installed a new engine in the slingshot. We then raised the tyre pressures a pound, as the MTs were less bulbous than the Hoosiers, so we had been making a lot more contact with the track. We kept the Dial-in for the second qualifier, which was at about quarter past 4, and recorded a better 9.876 @ 129.91 mph, getting a bit closer to the Dial, and at least back in the 9’s! I was paired with Darryl Howells on this run, and he ran a 10.34, very near his best with the new chassis of his Chemical Reaction slingshot. We then waited around for the third qualifier, but oil downs and delays meant this was then scheduled for Sunday morning.

At the last event, I had seen Martin Holgate’s Moon Eyes bar stool in the pits. I had always wanted to build one, so this spurred me on. I had some of the running gear lying around in the garage, and to my surprise, the batteries still worked despite being stored for a few years! I bought a black bar stool off good old eBay, and fabricated the framework, and within 10 days I had a bar stool, complete with a JD tin for decoration! I got this out of the bus on the Friday and used it to go up and down the pits, and everyone thought it was great! I even took it into the clubhouse Saturday night, drove up to the bar, ordered a small JD, drank it, and went back to the pits! Loads of people were smiling or talking about it, and it was a good laugh! So we’re looking forward to barstooling round the pits with Martin!

On Sunday, the weather was okay, still a bit on the cool side, but dry. Our third qualifier was at around quarter to 11, and we did not have long at all to wait in the queue. Again we raised the tyre pressures slightly, trying to find the optimum pressure for the new MTs. I also leaned out the fuel system a tad, and took a bit of weight out of the front weight box as we had not been pulling wheelies at all. I ran a 10.561, also on a 9.50 Dial-in, at just 122 mph. This was against Terry Clifford again, who ran a new PB of 10.63 also at 122 mph! It was another 3 hours til the next round, and I kept the Dial-in again, and put the tyres up a bit more, and ran a 10.260 @ 124 mph, against Darren Law in The Wicked Lady rear-engined dragster, who posted a good 10.52. We changed the fuel setting again for the fifth qualifier, to richen it back up, as the car seemed to want more fuel. This run was around quarter to 4, and I ran a better 9.974 @ 127.74 mph, this time against Sarah Howells in Bernie’s Destiny’s Angel, who ran a 9.27. (She had run a new PB o 91.7 in the previous round, so congrats to her!). Little did we know at the time, that this was our last race against Sarah running the altered, as it was sold the next morning, as Bernie has a new job in Norway! Best of luck to him!

So, I finished the day in 8th place overall for qualifying. Not great, but I was just chuffed that the car had consistently run really straight. Now we just have to get a new tune-up to match the new setup with the axle and new tyres!

Monday started off with a heavy shower about 3am, and continued to be drizzly all of the early morning. This did not look good, but the track crew started work when the drizzle stopped, and managed to get the track nearly ready before another bout of drizzle. They tried again and all racers were called to the clubhouse for a drivers and riders meeting at 12:30pm. Richard Warburton, the Race Director, told us that the crew were still working on it, and that they hoped to dry the track to enable at least some rounds of eliminations to take place. This did in deed happen, and racing started about quarter to 2 in the afternoon. All 8 Wild Bunch cars had qualified for eliminations and I was due to race Sarah in the first round, the quarter-finals, and we were really looking forward to it! We all started to get ready, and hoped the weather would hold, but there were some dark clouds around, and despite everyone willing them to stay up in the sky, there was another short, sharp shower around 10 past two, after only 25 minutes racing! We dared hope this could be cleared up, but the forecast was for another storm front to come through, so unfortunately the officials were forced to rainoff the event! Many thanks to the crew for trying their best! Such a shame, as we were really looking forward to racing Sarah in Destiny’s Angel one last time. This was especially bad luck, as the clouds eventually stayed at bay for the next few hours! (We must remember to bring that crystal ball next time!).

It had been a good couple days qualifying, and we were pleased with the tuning runs we had though, and especially chuffed as the car ran really straight! Thanks very much to Mark and Claire for crewing, and towing. Also many thanks all the marshals and officials for their hard work all weekend, especially Monday where they tried really hard to get the track dry for everyone to race! Well done to all the Wild Bunch for a good weekend of qualifying, and to Sarah, Darryl, Neil and Terry for their PBs!

We’re now looking forward to the June Shootout at Shakey on 2nd & 3rd June. Hope the weather’s good! And that we can get even more of a handle on the tune-up! Mark is also hoping to make it to that event and he is working on his car every day, so hopefully we will be a two-car team for the event. Meanwhile, I am working hard on the new trailer, so I am hoping to make good progress on that in the next four weeks.

21st - 22nd April 2007 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 18 Wild Bunch cars taking part. Mark and his friend Joey went up to the track early afternoon to sort out his caravan, and me, Claire and Lottie drove up in the bus around 6:30, arriving about 8pm. We unloaded the car, and set up in the pits in the middle, opposite the loos. There were loads of Wild Bunch teams already there, and it seemed like a mini Wild Bunch village again in the middle part of the pits! The weather was really good, and looked to be staying that way for most of the weekend.

Saturday morning was dry and sunny. I got scrutineered, and fired up Backdraft and checked the timing. We were keen to get down to the track early to get in some testing, as I was hoping to get some power back with a bit more tuning. On our first run of the day, at 10:30am, there was only a very small queue! We pulled up by where the blue hut used to be (but it has been removed and a small portakabin installed nearby), and I got suited up. The run was a 10.068 @ 133.83 mph, better than all the runs at the Pod, but still not sounding that strong. After this we went back to the pits, to make another change. I had decided to try the old Mallory dizzy, which I had repaired in between events, and Mark rewired it in. I checked over the car, and noticed a bit of play in the right rear wheel. We took it off and there seemed to be some play in the bearing. I had some spares at home, and we decided to go back to Bristol to get them. Claire and I left the track, about 1pm. We made good time and got home, picked up the bearings and headed straight back, arriving around 4pm. I then changed the bearing and tightened everything up. As we were running out of testing time, I decided to make another change in addition to using the old dizzy. I changed a pill on the fuel system to richen the car back up, and we towed down for another run, around 4:30pm! The engine sounded great, and the run proved to be an even better 9.505 @ 138.84 mph, so we were pretty pleased with the progress. I then changed the pill again, and what a ride! The run resulted in an out of shape 11.212 @ 100 mph, all over the shop, as I had to back off a couple of times! Should have got out of it altogether earlier, but hey, it was fun. (Sorry to Claire who didn’t think so!) But it did prove that the power was back! So I was chuffed with that! That night Gina and Scottie were having a Tiki party to celebrate the debut of their Tiki Munki Pinto-powered altered. The car looked great, Scottie had done 3 test runs, and things were going well. Thanks to them and the rest of the Bunch for a good night! We then looked forward to Sunday.

I put the fuel system back to how it had been after the 9.50 run, so we Dialled in at 9.50, hoping to repeat that performance. In the first round I paired up with Sarah Howells in Bernie’s Destiny’s Angel. We had been adjusting tyre pressures to compensate for the slight difference in tyre circumferences (five years of one-wheel burnouts have taken their toll!). And now with the power back in the car, this is a bit more noticeable. On this run, I had to back off after the launch, and ran a 10.379 @ 133 mph, a second behind Sarah. We overcompensated on the next run, which was against Roy, and once again I had to back off, as she turned left at the hit. I recorded an 11.792 at only 97 mph, slowing after the backoff. The adjustment was a bit better on the third round, where I was paired with Tony Smith. But still she did not run straight, posting a 10.926 @ 130 mph. The fourth round was against Joe Stevens, and I was in the right lane. On launching I had to get right out of it as I was heading towards the tree! I then coasted to a 13.7! I finished the event in 10th place, and have managed to retain my lead in the Real Steel Series. But due to the problems not being able to get straight off the line, we have decided that we need the new tyres sooner, rather than later, so are trying to get some before the next event! So fingers crossed for that, and hope it will do the trick!

Thanks to Mark and Claire for towing and crewing, and to all the marshals and officials and track crew for their hard work! Well done to Shakey the improvements. And well done to all the Wild Bunch for a great start to the Series, with many running PB’s. Congratulations to Andy Gosling and Sarah and Darryl H for running great PB’s at the weekend, and to Tony for winning the first event! Fair play guys!

We’re now looking forward to the MSA Spring Speed Festival on 5th - 7th May at Shakey, where we hope to be able to harness the power!

6th - 9th April 2007 Easter Thunderball at Santa Pod

This was the second time that the Wild Bunch had raced at the ‘Easter Thunderball’ as a class. And we had really been looking forward to this event! We were scheduled to do 8 qualifiers over the first three days, and the forecast was good all weekend, so plenty of runs to test out the car. Me and Claire left home about 1:00pm on the Thursday, towing Backdraft up with the bus, and arrived just before 5pm. Mark and Lottie had gone to collect Mark’s Pinto block from a machine shop in West London, and they arrived later that evening. We set up with the Wild Bunch at the back of the pits, in the far corner, opposite Pro ET. The first thing I did after unloading Backdraft was to sign on, then Sarah Howells kindly towed the car, along with RamRaider, up to scrutineering, and it went through fine about an hour and a half later. We had tea and then an early evening, hoping for good weather the next day, where there were scheduled to be 3 qualifiers.

After testing at the RWYB on 11th March at the Pod and seeing how the car went pretty straight, and then getting the new dizzy, we were hoping for some really good runs in Backdraft. Friday dawned sunny and warmish, and for the first qualifier I optimistically dialled in at 8.94. I was on a solo for this run. I was really surprised to struggle to an off-form 12.323 at only 107 mph! And the car just didn’t sound right. Not what we expected at all! I then spent the rest of the day in the pits trying to find the cause of the drop in power, firing the car up several times in between changes, but it still never sounded very good. Paul Stubbings and Wendy Baker had come up for the day, and we discussed a few possible problems. Me and Mark and Paul and Wendy went through the wiring, the plugs, and leads, thinking it was some kind of electrical problem. I later even went looking for someone to see if I could get the MSD checked. Luckily I found Steve Johnson doing some tuning on his Super Pro ET Motor Mouse dragster. I asked him about whether it was possible to check if the MSD was working okay. And he said he had an MSD tester and could bring it up to the car and do it in situ. I apologised for the walking distance from his pit to mine! We went back to Backdraft where he attached his tester to the unit. To our surprise, the MSD showed to be working fine! So there was another theory squashed. Many thanks to Steve for taking the time to do this, and saving me going down another false trail! I later changed the springs on the new dizzy and we fired her up, with Claire sitting in the hotseat so I could check the timing, etc. The car seemed to sound a little better, so we packed up for the night, and prepared to try again the following day.

There were scheduled to be 2 more qualifiers on Saturday and the day dawned with sunny, mild weather again. We were called down to the pairings lanes around noon for the fourth qualifier, which took place about 1pm. I was paired with Darren Law in The Wicked Lady. I still had problems and recorded a 12.727 @ 106 mph on a 9.24 Dial-in. Some more head scratching followed and I made another change. The fifth qualifier was about three hours later. This time I was paired with good mate Darryl Howells, in the Chemical Reaction slingshot. I had yet more problems, and slowed to a 12.889 on my 9.24 Dial. I was still trying everything I could to trace the gremlins, and it was then time for some more work, and another late tea, about 9pm. We advanced the timing, and had fired the car up again, and she seemed to sound better, so looked forward to testing the theory the next day.

There were scheduled to be yet 3 more qualifiers on Sunday, and I was going to need all three to try and sort out the problems! The day started off sunny and cool and warmed up. The car had sounded good Saturday night, but when we fired it up first thing, it sounded wrong again. We made another change, and while waiting to fire up, the rest of the Bunch were called down for the sixth qualifier. We fired up about 10 minutes later, and the car sounded better, so Claire cycled down to see if there was any possibility of still making the round, but the Bunch were round the corner of the pairings lanes, and by the time she got back to the pits, they had started running. Then, it was a real long wait for the seventh qualifier, which took place just after 6pm! I was paired with Roy Wilding in his Chariot of Fire altered, and I ran a better 10.153 @ 130.05 mph, on a 9.50 Dial-in, to improve greatly against Dial, but still I remained as fifth place qualifier. Our next round, the 8th and last qualifier, ended up being about 8:15 at night, on a cooling track and nearly dark. I paired up with Roy again, and ran a 10.214 @ 127 mph, on a 9.50. I had thought it was a much better run than that! Meanwhile, on that night run, Ed had a great pass with a big wheelie and great header flames, and recorded a new Personal Best E.T. for the whole team of 9.140! Congratulations, Ed! Darryl ran a new PB for the new chassis of 10.529, so we were pleased for him, too! We settled in for the night, and hoped that on a warmer track the next day, we would improve a bit.

Monday started off sunny and cool again. All 5 Wild Bunch cars had qualified for eliminations and Ed had qualified #1, so had the Bye in the first round, the quarter-finals. This took place just before 11am, so we did not have too long to wait! Darryl took the win against Darren with just .028 off his Dial, so we were chuffed for him. The next race saw me facing Roy. Roy is always a tough opponent, and runs consistently, so we had to give the Dial-in a lot of consideration! We decided on a 9.50, as we just thought the car might run a little better than Sunday. I caught him about three quarter track and backed off. Roy posted a small breakout of just .005, carding an 11.555 on an 11.56, so close, whilst I managed to recover some form with a 9.503 on a 9.50 Dial-in, but with no speed recorded, and amazingly, I moved on to the Semis! On that run, I won the Closest to Dial-in Spot Prize too! And it was such a thrill to actually win a round again, as it had been some time!

We then went back to the pits, changed oil and fuelled up and waited for the Semi-finals, where I was due to face Ed in the RamRaider, and he’d been running good numbers all weekend! After the quarter-finals, there were quite a few classes of eliminations to run, and we got called to the pairings lanes just before 3pm. This time, Darryl had the Bye, and he ran a 10.763, making it to the Final for his first time with the car. Fair shout! For the Semis, we decided on a Dial of 9.99, as that was achievable, as the car was still not back to normal yet. Ed had a great run of 9.289, but broke out on his 9.30 Dial, which handed me the win, as I ran a 10.202 @ 120 mph on the 9.99, to make it to my first Final since August 2005!

So, I was due to meet Darryl in an all-slingshot Final! We decided to keep the 9.99 Dial, and go for it. I ran a 10.074 @ 125 mph which took the win over Darryl’s 11.254 on a 10.51 Dial, with a missed shift. It was great to win an event again, and looking back, it’s my first MSA event win since the 2004 Summer Nationals! Really chuffed! And really pleased that Darryl also made it to the final on his first time with the new chassis! And it was great to get up on the Santa Pod podium with him!

Thanks very much to Mark and Claire for crewing, they really did me proud, and thanks to Lottie for her support! Also many thanks all the marshals and officials for their hard work all weekend! And thanks to everyone at Santa Pod for making us feel so welcome! Well done to all the Wild Bunch for a good weekend! What a great event, despite all the gremlins!

We’re now looking forward to the Spring Nationals at Shakey on April 21st & 22nd. Hope the weather’s just as good! And we can make more progress!

11th March 2007 Run What You Brung Test & Tune at Santa Pod

Over the off-season, I had decided to re-install the new Ford 9 axle back into Backdraft and give it another go! This meant a lot of re-measuring, cutting and shutting, and a few weeks work to get it all lined up and back in. (Big thanks to Roy for all his help with this!). At the end of the year I had also discovered a slight blow on one of the head gaskets, and as I was planning to look at the engine anyway, I got the head skimmed. I also freshened up the whole engine and rebuilt the gearbox, fitted new brakes, upgraded the front suspension and made some other minor modifications. We fired the car up for the first time this year on the 3rd March, and she’d practically never started so easily! She sounded great! And it sure blew out the winter cobwebs! I was really keen to test the axle before our first event, the ‘Easter Thunderball’ at Santa Pod, and when Claire saw I was making good progress, she reminded me that there was a ‘Test and Tune’ on 11th March at Santa Pod, and that as this was her birthday, and she’d never been Drag Racing on her birthday, it would be a great chance to test the car 4 weeks before the big event, to give us time to make any necessary adjustments! And in fact it was only on the Thursday before the event, when everything was pretty much ready to roll (and the weather forecast looked promising) that we definitely decided to go!

Mark drove his car up and followed Claire and I in the bus, and we set off for the Pod about noon on the Saturday, and arrived at 3:05pm, our quickest journey ever in the bus! (Not much traffic, luckily!). We set up in the middle of the pits, near where the fuel and methanol cars usually pit, and hitched the car up to get used to towing her with the new axle. We all had a go and things seemed good, so fingers crossed! We then settled in for a very quiet night to be up early to get ready for the testing on Sunday.

We woke up to lovely sunshine and blue skies! Happy Birthday, Claire! We got the car ready to fire up with Claire in the hot seat to go through the gears, levels, timing, etc. Backdraft sounded good! We towed round and got in the queue about 10 am. We fired her up, and the engine sounded a bit flat, but okay to run. I did a small, straight burnout, then launched as usual. She didn’t lift the wheels, but did leave the line straight! I backed out at about three-quarter track as it was a bit skatey. (They had laid new tarmac a few weeks earlier, and were still in the process of sledding, laying more rubber down, and gradually bringing it back to great condition, so the traction was ‘still in development’. No doubt this will come around soon, and be excellent by the time of the Thunderball weekend). On this pass, I ran a 10.987 @ 112 mph. But the great thing was that I could control and steer Backdraft again, so the new axle has been cured! Yee-haa!

We got the car back to the pits, and fuelled up, and changed another pill. We went back down for another run about noon, and this turned out to be quite lacklustre, to say the least, an 11.312, again at 112 mph. And still a bit flat. It reminded us of some of our previous electrical problems, so on checking wiring, etc, Mark found a dizzy wire which was a bit frayed, and he replaced that. We fired her up and she sounded better. We went down for a third run at around 2pm, thinking we had solved the lack of power problem. The burnout went well, and there was some smoke off the tyres, but when I put it in second gear, the engine went flat again. Again the run was pretty straight, but due to the lack of power, I backed off to a 14-second pass at 73 mph! We towed back to the pits and investigated again, only to find that the advance and retard springs in the dizzy cap had broken off! That explained it!

But we weren’t disappointed with the off-pace runs. We had found the electrical and mechanical problems, and Backdraft had gone straightish, so that was good enough for us!! Chuffed to bits!

Thanks to Mark for driving up and towing, and Mark and Claire for crewing. And thanks very much to all at Santa Pod for all their ongoing hard work on the track and behind the scenes, and for being so welcoming and accommodating! We really appreciate their efforts!

We’re now really looking forward to the 41st ‘Easter Thunderball’ at Santa Pod in three weeks’ time!

PS. Got the dragster back in the garage, and have now got a new MSD dizzy, and will be wiring that in this weekend, so we’ll be all set for the Thunderball! Can’t wait!

That was the News