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26th - 27th September UK NATIONAL FINALS

We were really looking forward to this event, the MSA “UK National Finals” at Santa Pod, for the Wild Bunch “Fall Nationals”, which was the 6th and Final round of the Wild Bunch Series, and I was leading by an aggregate of 2 points over the Dog’s Bollocks team with the “RamRaider”, with Ed driving this weekend! It was also the 10th and Final round of the Real Steel Series, and I was currently in 2nd place in that. It was also the Final of the 5-round MSA Challenge, and I was in 3rd place in that. The car had run pretty well at the Hot Rod Drags, and I was hoping to maybe run another 8-second pass over the weekend, with the cooler air, seeing as I had run just 5 thousandths off the weekend before! There were 5 Wild Bunch teams entered this weekend, as two of the entered teams had to drop out before the event, Dick Sharp and team had not taken delivery of the piston they needed to rebuild the “Dorset Horn” engine, and Keith Crampton could not make it with his nice slingshot, the “Soultown Shaker”. That was a shame, as we were hoping to run against Dick again at the Pod, but hopefully will again next season! And hopefully Keith will get to some more events with us all. The weather was forecast to be good all weekend so we were looking forward to enjoying it all!

Claire had the Friday off for this event, so that we could go up early, and we left Bristol, towing “Backdraft”, at around 10:15am, had a good journey, and arrived at the Pod at about 1:45pm, where we were pleased to find that the Wild Bunch were again pitted against the fence. We slotted in around the 1000ft mark, leaving room for Dave Rowlands and “Destiny’s Angel” next to the “Wicked Lady” team who were already there. We got set up in the pits, steadily unloaded “Backdraft” and went down to sign on. When we returned, Bob and Darren kindly gave us a tow towards scrutineering, and we were all done and dusted by around 4pm, ready to have a relaxing evening. Mark and Joey and Kim arrived later that night, and they were staying in the trailer and Mark’s car. We had an early tea, and wandered around the pits, chatting to friends in lots of different classes, including Tig and Cath Napier with their wheelying 9-second purple Dodge Challenger. We also talked to long-time friends Dave and Hils Grabham with the “Freddy’s Revenge” blown alky-burning altered, who run with the NFAA. Dave used to run with the Wild Bunch for several years, with an earlier incarnation of the car, and I joked with him that I remember when I used to run quicker than him! His current best is now an impressive 7.12 at over 178mph! Dave asked if I would like to sit in the car, and I said I sure would! He then kindly offered me a fire up the next morning, whilst they warmed the motor, and I jumped at the chance! We carried on talking to other friends in the pits, and had quite an early night.

Saturday dawned a bit cloudy, but fine, and it warmed up a bit later in the day. The Wild Bunch were scheduled to do 3 qualifiers on the Saturday, and we were around 16th on the running order. We got the car ready in the morning and had a fire up, and all was well. Around 10am, Dave Grabham came along and asked if I was available for the fire up. Claire reckoned we had plenty of time til our first round, as there had been some slight delays, so I grabbed my mask and goggles and we made our way down to Dave’s pit area, where the crew were all waiting. I had to climb up high to get into the car, through the hole in the top of the Topo body, and got settled. Dave explained where everything was and what they wanted me to do, and the list was getting longer! I had to operate the clutch, and the travel was shallower than I expected, and they also explained the fuel shut off and gear change. I asked Dave for a re-run of the instructions! The starter was already on, and TC, Dave’s good friend and crew chief, fired the car! Wow! What a great experience! I managed to operate the clutch successfully once, and had assistance from Dave on the gear change. TC checked the timing, and I had to operate the clutch again, but stalled it! Oh boy! Sorry about that guys! Many thanks for the experience, and trusting me with your pride and joy! We wished them luck for the weekend, and went back to our pits buzzing!

We still had a while to wait when we got back to our pits, and there was a bit of downtime, but then we got the call-up at about noon. We towed down to the pairings lanes, and were not far behind the NFAA, so did not get to see them run, as we were at the back of the grandstands in the pairings lanes. I was matched up with Darren in “The Wicked Lady” for this run. I wanted a Dial-in in the 8’s, so decided on an 8.98, saying that I would leave the rest of the day’s Dials to Mark and Claire! I had a nice wheelie on this run, and posted a 9.102 at 143.39 mph, to Darren’s 9.30 on his 9.21. At this point we were in number 2 spot, so not too bad. Meanwhile Ant Harris had a great run, he’d run his first 8 at the Nostalgia Nationals, and dialled in 8.95 on this round, and went and ran an 8.648 at 150.13 mph! His first time over 150! Congratulations to the team! Welcome to the club, Ant! It’s a great feeling, ain’t it!

We waited around for the next qualifier, and watched some racing in the meantime. Mark and Claire discussed Dial-ins, and one wanted 9.06, and one 9.04, so they settled in the middle at 9.05. We got called down at around 3pm, and made our way to the pairings lanes. This time I was matched with Ed, and he ran a slightly troubled 10.17 on his 9.22 Dial as he had been experiencing some sort of problem with a mystery vibration. I had a good wheelie again on this run, and the car ran a strong 9.046 at 141.70mph! A breakout of just 4 thousandths! Real close! And we figure if we had dialled in 9.04, we may have run a 9.03! You never know!

We went round to Ed and the team to see what the problem was, and they were puzzling it out. They had to replace the inner tubes after a puncture at a previous event, and wondered if it was something to do with that, though they had checked it all thoroughly and all pressures good. We all gave some suggestions, as did other teams, and they tried to figure out what to do. Don’t know if any of our advice helped or not, or they sussed something else, but they made a change. And we hoped that things would improve, as we didn’t like to see them not completely happy with the setup, and running off their recent pace.

We had a shorter wait for the next qualifier, and got called out just after 5pm, so about 2 hours earlier than expected according to the running order, so at that time, no night run was on the cards! But not long after, there was some down time, so we started to wonder. Claire suggested I go back for the red light for the back of the car whilst we were waiting, just in case! And as I wandered back to the pits around 5:30pm, some of the other drivers asked if I knew something they didn’t! But I just replied that I was being prepared. The track was then nearly ready, but some more fluid needed to be cleared up, so some more down time. Claire went back to the bus, and collected the SPRC “Most Professional Appearing Team” trophy, which we were due to return this weekend (we were awarded it at the joint SPRC/APIRA do in February this year, and were so thrilled with the honour!). We took a few photos of us by the car with the trophy whilst we were waiting. Meanwhile, it was getting just a little darker!

By the time the queue moved down, and it was our turn to run, it was around 7:10pm! And dusk! Just around 10 or 15 minutes off from being ideally dark enough. But when I fired the car up, I could still make out some alky flames! We had dialled in at 9.00 even for this round, thinking the car may go a little quicker with the cooler air. This time I was paired with Dave Rowlands and he ran a 9.61 on his 9.75 Dial, so had a good run, maybe with the good air. Well, our run was something special this time! I pulled a small wheelie in the burnout, which I had done before, but when I launched I pulled a real nice wheelie. Nothing unusual there! But when I came down from this one, the tyres gripped, and up she went again! A full second wheelie! The car came back down nice and straight and I didn’t lift, powering on down the track, where I had some more header flames near the top end! Not so high as at the Thunderball, where I had experienced that run in the Final which I felt was my best run ever! But they were still good flames! And I gotta say that this was THE most exciting run I’ve ever had! A real buzz! And I ran a 9.183 at 142.93mph, so still pretty good on times. I was really chuffed with that one, and on a high all night, reliving the run! And I’ll remember that one forever! Mark made a real nice comment too, in that he reckoned it was the most nostalgic run he’d ever seen me do! And Claire enjoyed it too!

We came back from the run and packed up for the evening, where we went down to chat to Paul and Sam Marston and team, and then some other friends, and had an earlier night.

On Sunday, we were not scheduled to be out until about 2pm! But knowing that things sometimes move quicker than expected, we still got ready pretty early, and fired the car up again, to check everything was fine. Lots of different friends came by during the morning and we chatted to them and watched some racing. Ivan Sansom also stopped by and said he had a cool photo of me on the previous night’s run, where he could see the ‘whites of my eyes’, so I look forward to seeing that! Some spectators also came by, and we got talking, and they said how much they had enjoyed the double wheelie run! And they would remember it for a long time! One of them also had a young son with him, who had sat in “Backdraft” years ago when he was a lot smaller! He didn’t remember it, but his Dad told him all about it! We were really chuffed to have such nice comments! And to think that someone else enjoyed seeing the run, while we were also enjoying doing it, was a real nice feeling! And it makes it extra special!

We eventually had lunch and waited around, enjoying a glorious sunny day! We watched some more close racing from our good viewpoint, including a round of NFAA and the first 6-second pass from Bob Glassup and the team in the Xtreme Topolino alky altered, a 6.79! We have know the team for quite a long time, and Lee and Rich as well as Bob used to run altereds in the Wild Bunch, so we were really chuffed to see their achievement after so much hard work and effort and many ups and downs! Fantastic! We really were enjoying the day.

We were then called out at about quarter to 3, and once we got to the pairings lanes, we hardly had any wait at all, as things were going through quite quickly by then! I was due to face Darren in “The Wicked Lady” in the first round, and he had been running really consistently this season. Claire and Mark spent ages deliberating the Dial-in, and with Mark swaying it, they came up with a 9.08, which sounded good. We got settled and fired up and pulled round to the start line. Darren had chosen the left lane, as he was a higher qualifier, but I did not mind either lane. I did the burnout and a nice launch, but Darren had cut a better light, by .068. I chased him down the track, and I think we both came out of it at the same time at the top end. He recorded a 9.303 at 138mph, on a 9.21 Dial, and I waited to see if the win light came up in my lane........Yes!!! It did!! I was well chuffed, and Mark and Claire were jumping around on the startline! I couldn’t believe it when they said I ran 9.081 at 136.59mph, just one thousandths of their chosen Dial-in! Wow! And the ticket also told the tale, that there had been just .024 in it at the top end. Thanks to Darren for another great race, really enjoyed it!

Meanwhile, Ed had run a strong Bye run with a 9.26 on a 9.33 Dial, to move to the next round, so their car was back on form! The way the ladder worked out meant that I had now won a Bye run in the Semi Finals! Well chuffed! And after much checking, Claire worked out that if I could run or even stage the Bye in the Semis, progressing to the final, I would win the Wild Bunch Series (for the first time!) if I could just stage in the Final, even if Ed got through his Semi final race! So we were all getting pretty excited! But not counting our chickens!

It was only around an hour and a quarter until we were called up for the Semi finals, and we had been having quite a banter all morning with Ed and Andy and Emma, and even the young Goslings, Ben and James, were joining in! They wanted to know all the possibilities, and if their team could still win the Series! Fair play to them, lovely to see their excitement and interest!

I towed down first of the Bunch, with Dave and Ed following on down. Again, there was not much of a wait, but we ended up just behind the Fireforce 3 jet car. We could hear it and smell it and see the smoke, but not the run (as we were around the corner). This time, we again dialled in at 8.98, as I wanted to go for it, and see how well the car would run, and get an idea for a Dial for the Final. And any run we get is always a bonus! I went in the left hand lane and did my burnout. I was a bit fired up for this one, and I launched quite strong and sort of went off towards the centre line during the wheelie, so had to back off while landing, but still powered on down the track to a 9.838 at 140.19mph.

But then, just about 100 feet past the first fire crew in the shutdown area, I heard a real bad clanging noise! The engine stopped, and I instantly clicked the shifter into neutral, and coasted round into the collecting area, stopping as soon as I could on the bend, instead of round the corner. The fire crew were immediately there to check out the problem, as they had noticed some oil coming out of the engine about 50-100 feet before where I stopped! I got out and looked at the front of the engine, where I saw that the timing chain had ripped a gash out of the Weiand timing cover! And there was a small trail of oil coming out of it! Gutted! It meant there was now no chance of making it to run in the Final! Plus, it was gradually starting to sink in that there could be massive damage inside the engine, as it looked like we had dropped a valve! Not long after, Claire, Mark and Joey arrived on the scene, and I gave them the thumbs down! Their faces said it all! We were all in disbelief! The woman from the fire crew gave us a T-shirt to tie round the front of the timing cover (thanks to the owner!), so we didn’t drop any oil on the tow back, and she started to apply the ‘green stuff’ to the thin line of oil just behind us. She checked everything was okay and reassured us that it was easily and quickly cleaned up in that area, and it was, in less than 10 minutes. Many thanks to them all for their calm and professional attitude, and all the hard work they do, so us racers can enjoy racing! We really appreciate everything they do!

We quickly hitched up and were about to tow back, when Claire got in the tow car! Think she was a bit distracted, as she then got back out and into “Backdraft” to tow back. The track crew quickly cleaned up at the top end, and got underway real quick, just as the car towed back into the pits. The next pair down was of course Dave and Ed, and I ran to the fence by the scrutineering barn, and Claire, Mark and Joey ran to the fence by the pits to see who won! Because if Ed did not get through, then we would still win the Wild Bunch Series, by 1 point! Ed dialled in at 9.25 and ran 9.348 and Dave had a better reaction, but ran 9.80 on his 9.62. It was such a good close race that there was only .017 in it at the top end! And Ed was the winner! Fair play, Ed! Great race, Dave! This now meant that all Ed had to do was stage in the Final to win the event, and the Wild Bunch title!

I made my way back to the pits, and we were all pretty disappointed for a few minutes, and couldn’t quite put it all into words! But I soon started to realise that we had actually been real lucky that the damage had not happened on a run! Not long after, Dave and Hils came by, and they had real bad news of their own: they had also only had to stage in their 3rd/4th runoff to earn some points, but when they fired their engine in the collecting area, it threw a rod! And will have done untold damage, including, we hear, a cracked block! We are really gutted for them, as we know how much effort, time, money and most of all love they put into their car, and how much it means to them! We wish them all the best, and hope they will be back out real soon!

Shortly after, on the way back from their Semi, Ed and the team stopped off in the pits, and came over to see what had happened, and they were really devastated to see what had gone on! They realised that it was serious and unfixable! The announcers had already been calling all finalists, so they towed on down to the start line, where they dialled in 8.95! Ed took the start light and the win, and the team took the Wild Bunch Series win. Fair play to them all!

We really are pleased to say a big congratulations to the whole team on the win, as they really deserve it, as they have worked really hard this year, been real consistent, the car has run exceptionally well, with Ray and Gos running well, and Ed also running PB’s! It has been a pleasure to compete with them, in such a close finish! And they are very worthy winners, as well as good friends! Well done to them on what is now their third Wild Bunch Series win (hey, we came second the last time they won!). And we’re already looking forward to the challenge with them and the whole of the Bunch next season! There were such close races at this event, well done to all the Bunchers! Everyone is great to race with and we enjoy racing them all!

We are now really chuffed to have finished in 2nd place in the Wild Bunch Series, as it’s one place up on last year! And it’s been a fantastic season, in every way! We have really enjoyed every race meeting, and all the extra shows we’ve done, especially Beaulieu and of course the Cacklefest and debuting the canopy at the Hot Rod Drags! A great way to celebrate our 15th year, and the 40th anniversary of the car! Gotta be one of our best season’s yet!

The Dog’s Bollocks team have also won the Real Steel Series, and I have finished in 2nd place in that one, so again, real pleased with that! As it equals last year’s finish. I have also finished 3rd in the MSA Challenge, so not that far off. Guess what, the Dog’s Bollocks won that too!

Thanks very much to Mark, Claire, and Joey for crewing and towing and dialing in! And huge thanks to all the marshals and officials for their hard work all weekend! The track crew did a brilliant job as always, and I especially thank the top end crew for their concern and professionalism and calm action. They do such a great job, and we’re very grateful for all they do! Thanks to all at Santa Pod for a great event and a great year! Best wishes to them all!

We’re now looking forward to the Wild Bunch Annual Dinner Dance and Prize Presentation at the end of November! Another great night! (And in between we’re lucky enough to have a great holiday including Bonneville and Bakersfield! Wow! Really excited about that!)

And of course, we’re then looking forward to another great season next year!

PS. Fantastic news! I got in the trailer the next day to start the strip down, to see what the damage might be, and I gotta say we are the luckiest unlucky people out there!!! The damage is nowhere near a tenth as bad as expected! With the problem happening a fair way into the shutdown area, this had meant that the timing chain let go on virtually idle, and I’d clicked into neutral as soon as I heard the (nasty) noises! And this all probably saved real big engine carnage! And also we’re really lucky that it did not go on a run, with any resulting consequences, so cause for huge celebrations for that! And very grateful to say the least!

When I got in the trailer, I started to take things apart, removing first an undamaged set of plugs, then tentatively removing a head! Hey presto, no mangled head! And no mangled pistons! Just a few witness marks on some, and a not quite a full circular dent mark on another. And the cam was intact! Then later, I realised what had happened. A valve had not let go, it was a broken spring and a 1 inch piece of this had gone down into the timing cover, caught on the timing chain and snapped it, and the engine stopped pretty quick, and I selected neutral instantly after. So are we relieved or what! Chuffed to bits! We all are – Mark could barely believe it too, as we expected worse! I have yet to strip the bottom end, but that will be later. So basically it will be a winter rebuild, with a twist, and some strengthening, and maybe some new bits, depending on further inspection! So we are thrilled! And feel as good as winning! Whilst I was having a break from the strip down, Ed popped round to see how it was all going, and he was also glad to hear it was not worse. We’d like to say a big thanks to Ed for his very kind donation to start off the rebuild fund! It really means a lot! And thanks to Dean for the donation of a new timing cover! Much appreciated! Cheers guys!

Also thanks to everyone who expressed concern and support and for their kind words. And special thanks to our Mark for the note that was waiting for us when we got home! Very special.

So, basically, we’re really happy with the outcome! And both amazed and pleased at the small extent of the damage. And I’m looking forward to that off season rebuild!!

19th - 20th September HOT ROD DRAGS

We were looking forward to the Hot Rod Drags as it was gonna be a nice chilled out weekend, and I was planning to run with the canopy on “Backdraft” for the first time! So I was real excited about that! Also, we were going to be running in the Cacklefest again, so really looking forward to that! The weather was forecast to be sunny and warm, so a real bonus!

I left Bristol at about 10am Friday, because I knew the pits would be filling up fast! I travelled up by myself because Claire could not get the time off work. I arrived at the track before 12, and parked up midway in the pits, opposite where the train carriage was (it has just been removed), next to Scottie and Gina and Beau who were running Tiki Munki in its old body, as they are selling it to build a new car. I got “Backdraft” unloaded, and set up the pit area. And did some maintenance on the car, putting some new oil in, and giving it a clean!

Helen and Dean popped by for a chat. They were going to be running a stall this weekend, with a new line of handmade handbags and embroidered T-shirts from Helen’s business, Belle Designs. Helen brought me another delicious cherry bakewell! Mmmm!

Later in the afternoon, Dominic Romney of Modernpics came by, and asked if I would mind bringing “Backdraft” down to the start line for a photo shoot for his calendar! So, of course, I jumped at the chance! Helen and Dean came down to help pushing and shoving, and Dean took a few photos to record the shoot. Helen flashed at me (she was holding the flash gun! Ha ha!). And Dominic staged a few shots, including a wheelie shot, on axle stands, and some time lapse photos. So really can’t wait to see how they all turn out! He’s a real talented guy!

We got back to the pits around 8pm and I had some tea. Not long after that, Claire, Mark, Joey, Kim and friend Sarah arrived. We had lots of friends round and chilled out for the evening.

Saturday morning was sunny and dry as expected. We got “Backdraft” scrutineered and went down to sign on, where it was already really packed. The pits were heaving, and there turned out to be a massive crowd that day! Really great news for the NSRA organisers, and for Shakey! We went back to the pits, and fired up the car, with the canopy on, to check everything was fine. I had already practiced getting in and out with it on, so I was happy with that, and the engine seemed fine.

Mark brought the car round, and we joined the queue, which was a fair way back into the pits. In the end it didn’t take that long, as it was just under an hour, which was better than we expected. I asked for a Bye run on this run, as it was the first one with the canopy, and we wanted to make sure everything went well. Jeni of Yawning Cat Photos asked us which lane we would be in, and we chose the far lane. Claire lowered the canopy at the last minute, and we fired up. Wow!!! It’s like having two different race cars! If feels so different, but very good! I drove round and did the burnout and staged. I launched a good wheelie, and was so excited about having the canopy on, I nearly forgot to change gear! I ran a 9.315 at 138.93 Mph! Very cool! We towed back to the pits, and started to get the car ready for the next run.

I then did the valve lash, as we needed to check out why one cylinder was a bit wet. I had to adjust one of the valves, and we got the rocker boxes back on and got ready for another run, after lunch time. But in the meantime, there was a huge oildown, which took over 2 ˝ hours to clear up! We really felt for the track crew, as it was a real big effort! And a shame for all the drivers waiting in the queue! By the time the track was open, it was nearly 3pm, and we had to go to a drivers’ meeting at 4pm, for the Cacklefest, so I decided to call it a day for racing, and wait for that, and make the car ready for the cackle afterwards. We had a look round the pits and trading areas for a while, and went and saw Norm Wheeldon’s new twin-engined slingshot! An awesome machine! We also had a good look at the Osgathorpe’s Excalibur fuel slingshot, an absolutely stunning car, a work of art!

We had the Cacklefest meeting in the clubhouse, and found out the running order for the evening. I then went and put the ‘cackle’ tuneup in, and fired the car up to test this, and it sounded just right! And then we went and watched some of the racing. Due to the oil down, the officials ran a little bit over the curfew, to try to make sure everyone in the fireup road had another run. We then went back to the pits and got ready to tow down, which was around 20 past 6. We assembled with all the other cars, in the first part of the fireup road, and waited for them all to get there, and for it to get just a little bit darker! The stands were packed!

It was around 7:30 when the fun all started! I got in the car, with my good old silver suit on, and when it was nearly time to go, Mark lowered the lid down. We waited for the signal and fired up, and instantly we had flames! Big constant flames! I drove slowly down the fireup road, and made my way round past the Christmas tree and the nearly half dozen cars already on the track, and took up position diagonally across the centre line. I ran for as long as I dared, with Mark monitoring the temperature, and Claire and Mark taking pictures! What an awesome experience, and again different with the canopy on this year! Really cool flames! Really enjoyed it all! Then there was another good firework show, right above our heads! When these were finished, we towed back down to the fireup road. The crowd really seemed to enjoy it all too. The guys from the NSRA gave us all ‘Cacklefest participant’ stickers, for this year and last year, which we thought was a really nice touch.

We didn’t get back to the bus and have tea til after 8:30. We had a late night, wandered round the pits, chatting to friends til around 1am. And Nick allowed me a quick sit in the cockpit of Excalibur! Wow! And we were still buzzing from the excitement of the Cacklefest!

Sunday, Sunday, Sunday, was sunny again, so we were really looking forward to a chilled day, with a couple of runs, even if we had to sit in the queue for a while. I was doing some maintenance on the car, and changed oil, and was putting the race setting back in the setup, and fired the car up and did the timing, and started getting everything ready. More friends came by, including Nikki and Steve, with kids Sean and Jake and a friend. They had a great day spectating. While it was still early, we decided to go down to see Norm’s car again, as he had offered me a sit in it, seeing as I was a ‘slingshot man’! It was great timing, as he wasn’t busy when we got to his pit area, and I jumped straight in! Wow, what a view! Well impressive! And a real amazing car! (We later saw it fired up for the second time that weekend, and it sounded incredible!). Well done to Norm, and all the crew on a lot of hard work and several years in the making. Really look forward to seeing it run on its next outing! Then we went over to Nick and Sue Osgathorpe’s gorgeous ‘Excalibur’ fuel slingshot. Nick had said I could sit in it, as I had said how much I liked the car. Another awesome view, and a true work of art! Picture perfect, and such attention to detail. Fantastic! I was away off in a dream, and I really can’t imagine what it would be like to drive a car like that. Thanks to Norm and Nick and Sue for the experiences. A real treat! And more bonuses to the already great weekend!

We made our way back to the pit, and continued to get “Backdraft” ready to race for the day. Then suddenly I looked up and saw our Ron coming towards the bus! It was absolutely brilliant to see him, as it was the first time he had been able to come to the track this year. We chatted for a while and filled him in on Saturday’s events. He had also brought with him an amazing treasure trove of goodies, from his collection of over 45 years, of books, magazines, videos, and most precious, his early scrapbooks, which he gave to us. We were lost for words! And he knows how much we will treasure and appreciate it all!

We then gave Mark a ring to bring the car round so that we could get in the queue. This was around 11:30am, and the queue went down passed the road to the pit entrance. Claire jumped in the car, and I lowered the canopy down. The queue moved really slowly this time, a few yards at a time, with quite a wait in between. I kept going back to check if Claire was okay in the cockpit, and she was quite happy in her own little world! I then took the opportunity to go off to the “Crazy Horses” book signing. I had bought a copy earlier in the year, from Brian Taylor, and brought it back to get some of the well known past drag racers to sign it. (Well some are still active! Like Gerry Cookson, and Barry Sheavills). There were quite a few people there: Liz Burn, Russ Carpenter, Brian Sparrow, Ken Cooper, Chris Pattison, Norm Wheeldon, Sam Connell, Maurice Takoor, and of course I got our Ron to sign it, as he had contributed some of the early colour photos, from the 60’s! (I think I am lucky enough to have the only copy Ron has signed, unless Brian has also grabbed him!). It’s a great book!

I went back to the queue, and we hadn’t moved much! I saw that Neil Townson was a few places ahead of us in the “Northern Spirit” 32-bodied altered, and it was his first time at the track this year. He’d had a new paint job and stickered lettering, as well as all the mechanical bits! I asked him if he wanted a match race, and he was really up for it! We thought that he might get pulled forward a bit, and shortly after the queue moved quite a bit so we were up at the head of the fireup road. We got in and got suited, whilst a gap built up in the lane we were in, and we towed down to about 4 cars before the end of the pairings lanes, and waited for our turn. He fired up, and so did I. He momentarily lost fire but got going again quickly, and we both drove round and did our burnouts. We were all pretty excited about the race! It was a Blown Hemi 500ci versus an Injected Small Block Chevy 377ci, both on alcohol! He had run deep into the 7’s before, but you never know! I had the best wheelie anyway!! Neil blasted off an 8.25 at 190mph, really pulling away at the top end; mine was a 9.124 at 141.81 mph! Well cool! We both really enjoyed it! And it was great to have the chance to run against each other!

We went back to the pits and had some lunch, as it was now nearly 2pm. We got the car ready again, and Mark installed a new plug in one of the cylinders which was running a bit wet. We got into the queue around 3pm. This time the queues were a lot shorter, and we moved pretty steadily towards the fireup road. By the time we got to the start of the pairings lanes, there was a big gap on the left hand queue, and couldn’t see the reason why, so we just towed on round the corner, and got a long way down the fireup road. Tony Frome’s funny car was ahead of us, so we stayed back a bit to give them some space. In the end, he was towed round, and it worked out really well, as the marshals fired us up whilst he got ready. So we really didn’t have long to wait that time. We were paired against a hot rod this time, and again I had a good wheelie, and was getting more used to the canopy. The new plug assisted on this one, as the cylinder was not wet. I ran a 9.004 at 143.33 mph! Really cool run, and close again! Well, that just means Ron will just have to come back again, next year, to see his first “Backdraft” 8!! (Still trying for you, Ron!). Really brilliant to see him at the track again.

We then started packing up slowly, and saying our goodbyes to lots of people. Helen and Dean came by, and we were chuffed to hear they had a good weekend with the stall, selling lots of bags and shirts. She makes some brilliant stuff, including our cockpit, canopy, injection and parachute covers, bar stool cover, bus seat covers, loads of shirts, a lovely flamed washbag to mention a few. They’ve got a website on: so check it out!

Thanks very much to Claire and Mark and Joey for crewing for me and towing, and to Ron for coming, and sharing Sunday with us! Also huge thanks as always to all the marshals and officials and track crew for their hard work all weekend, and to all at the NSRA for their organisation, and arranging another great Cacklefest! Well done to them all! We think it’s the best Hot Rod Drags we’ve ever been to! Really enjoyed it! (Can ya tell?!!) And to top it all, we won the “Quickest Wild Bunch” trophy supplied by the NSRA, a lovely glass etched diamond! With some vouchers to follow. Many thanks to them for the prize.

We’re all now looking forward to the Final Wild Bunch and Real Steel Series rounds of the season, the “National Finals” at Santa Pod, next weekend, 26th & 27th September. We are currently in the lead of the Wild Bunch Series, and it’s the first time we have been leading going in to the final event! It will be a close battle with Ed driving “RamRaider” as the Dog’s Bollocks team are just a couple points behind! Can’t wait for that one!

21st - 23rd August OPEN SPORTS NATIONALS

We were really looking forward to this event, the MSA “Open Sports Nationals” at Shakey, for the 3-day weekend. The car had been running pretty well, and I had made a new, stronger throttle arm, so pretty sure that would work well. I also topped up the gearbox oil, as the car had been a little hesitant on the gear change at the last event, so I hoped that would do the trick. There were 9 Wild Bunch teams entered this weekend, so it was gonna be a good event.

Though Claire had the Friday off for this event, because it was not on the Bank holiday as usual, and instead Friday to Sunday, I was not able to get the Thursday off work to travel up early, as have very few holiday days left this year! Also, our Mark was not able to get the Friday off to crew for us, for the same reason, so we were disappointed he was not going to be around (as it turned out, probably the first time in 15 years that he has not been at the track when we were running the car, which was a big shame!). I did manage to get off an hour and a bit early, so we were able to leave Bristol at around 4:45pm, and had a really good run up, considering we thought the traffic was going to be worse, and we got to the track by about 20 past 6! We were the last of the Bunch to get there that day, apart from Terry and Ruth who could not get there til the Friday morning. We were surprised to find we were pitted right up the front of the pits, on the left, near the entrance to the fireup road, and directly opposite the Fuel Altereds! Pretty cool spot, even though the dodgems were about 20 feet behind the back of the bus!! (We had earplugs, so didn’t mind!). We got set up in the pits, unloaded “Backdraft” and hoped that we might get scrutineered that night, which would make it easier in the morning. We did, and we were probably the last car to be scrutineered, before dark! We then chilled out and had a good evening. Joey and Kim arrived later that night, and got the caravan out. Joey was going to crew and tow for us on the Friday, so we were grateful for his help!

The Wild Bunch were scheduled to do 3 qualifiers on the Saturday, and amazingly we were third on the running order! This was nice as we could get an early run in. The weather was meant to be a bit iffy, so we thought at least we should be able to get one qualifier in, as we were one of the first classes out. We got called quite early, a bit before 10am, and towed down to the fireup road. The dial-in board had been on 9.10 from the Summer Nationals event, but we changed it to 9.15, as that is what we had last dialled in at up at York, and had run that time at the Mini weekend. But then we had another think, as the air was quite cool, so changed it back to 9.10. On this run, I was paired against Ed in “RamRaider” so that was a good run to start the day. He recorded a 9.945 having to back off to 103 mph, as he was a little out of shape. I had a pretty good reaction on this one, of .091, and a nice wheelie launch, running 120mph at the eighth, and recording a 9.126 at 142.37 mph! When we were towing back it started to drizzle a bit, so we got back to the pits just in time to cover the car up. We were well chuffed to have been pretty close to Dial-in (and to have lowered it from that 9.15!). It turned out that this made us #1 Qualifier after that round! Only 5 of the Bunch had made it out for the round, as Terry still waiting to be scrutineered, Neil waiting to be chassis-tagged, Andy Cresswell had not been able to get the day off work, and Dave Rowlands was under the weather. But we were still a fair way ahead of the next closest qualifier, which was Phil Sweeney with a .178 off!

The drizzle delay did not last long, and qualifying was underway again. We had a bit of a wait til the next run, but got called a little before 1pm. We rang Mark at work to discuss Dial-ins for the round, and offered him a choice of 9.08, 9.07, 9.05 and 9.02, all of which we were considering. He suggested the 9.08, as we thought it may go a little quicker, but not that much. This time we were paired with Phil Sweeney in the “Bone Idle” altered, and he ran a 10.615 at 107 mph, as he was still getting re-acquainted with the car and some changes he had made since his last run about a year ago. Again I had a good launch and ran 120mph to the eighth, and at the top end 9.090 at 142.98mph! Well chuffed! Great Dial-in choice, at just .010 off! And even better for #1 Qualifier! This time 7 Bunchers had run, and Roy was next closest at .134 off, in Roger Sinclair’s S&K rear-engined dragster. (Roger has been a Wild Bunch member since Roy signed him up in 1995, and he always hoped to run his car with the Bunch, and now that Roy has been driving for him for the last year, they thought this would be a great time to enter an event with the Bunch! We were pleased to have them with us!). This time, at the top end, when we had almost all assembled, and were getting ready to tow back, Bob from the “Wicked Lady” team pointed at the clouds and said we better get a move on as some weather was coming our way! Claire got in “Backdraft” and we put Helen’s car covers over the roll cage and engine, and started to tow back just as the rain came, and it was lashing it down! By the time we got back to the pits, Claire was soaked, but she didn’t mind at all! Especially with such a good qualifier!

This rain delay was a fair bit longer, maybe an hour, and poor Ed had been the only one of the Bunch to not get the run in, so had to wait it out by the back wall down behind the start line. But the track crew worked really hard, and using the jet track dryer, manpower and a bit of wind and sun, the track came around a lot quicker than we all expected. We had a lot of waiting around to do, and by around 5pm, we were not at all sure that we would get our next qualifier in that day. But just then we got the call to the fireup road. We again debated the Dial-in, and again thought the car might go just a little bit quicker, so chose a 9.05, instead of keeping the 9.08. We were matched with Ed again, and he ran a 9.235 at 145 mph on a 9.33 dial. I had an even better launch on this one, and ran 121mph at the eighth, and a 9.086 at 142.01 mph! No better, but still real close to Dial-in, and the next closest was Dave Rowlands with .102 off. So a good way to finish the day! We realised that we would not be out all that early on the Saturday, as they had not gotten very far into the third cycle of qualifying, but still further than we thought at first with the weather that had been predicted! So we covered the car up for the night and had a nice evening having a wander round the pits and chatting to friends. We were also having a look at campers, as really want to get an American camper, for next year, for some added comfort at the track, though we still love the bus! We looked at a few, including the Marstons’ Winnebago, which I’ve always loved for its cool looks! Mark arrived mid-evening and we caught him up with the stories of the runs, though we had phoned him after each of the first two and texted after the third! We got to bed before midnight, barely even noticing the dodgems!

Saturday dawned nice and sunny, so we were hopeful of at least two more qualifiers, and maybe three if things went really well! (Though the schedule only promised two, being realistic). Lee and Liam arrived about 10:00 that morning to spend the day spectating again, which was nice! This was Liam’s third time this year, and he was getting more and more used to it! He had a look round all the Wild Bunch cars, especially “Backdraft”, which he was in and out of about 10 times that day! The running order was going through quite well, and we started to get on standby about 11am, thinking it would not be long. But then unfortunately there was a huge oildown the length of the track, which took around 2 hours for the hardworking track crew to clear up! So again, once racing started we were hopeful of being called out soon, and still maybe having two qualifiers in the day. Racing was going for only around half an hour, when there was another incident which involved around a one hour cleanup! Commiserations to the racers involved in both of those! And thanks to the track crew for working hard to get racing going again.

They completed the third cycle of qualifying, and we got called out for the start of the fourth, around 3:15pm. I really wanted to Dial-in an 8 at some point this weekend, as I had made a change to the high speed, so we went with an 8.99 for this run. Whilst we were in the fireup road, there was a problem with the previous oil and antifreeze creeping back up through the surface, so instead of delay racing for another long while, the officials decided to run one lane only qualifying for the rest of the day. Can understand why, as they were keen to get through the fourth cycle and not keep the racers waiting any more. So we ended up going solo. This time, it was the best launch of the weekend, a 1.297 60ft. And I ran a 9.108 at 142.47 mph. So not an improvement, but still in the ball park! This run was about 4pm, and due to the single lane, it took until around 6:30pm to complete the fourth qualifiers for everyone, so that was it for the day, and we had qualified #1! Well chuffed. And to top that, it meant we had the Bye in the first round on Race Day, so the pressure was off! We had another nice evening, with lots of friends chatting in the bus, and in bed before the dodgems finished for the night!

On Sunday, we were scheduled to be 2nd on the running order! And this meant we would get called out just after about 10:15am. So we were ready quite early. I had changed the high speed back to the setting where we ran 9.08, as thought the car had run smoother and better with that, and we knew where we were with it. We decided to dial in at 9.05 for the first run, and we wouldn’t have minded if we broke out!!

We towed down first to the fireup road, and waited to go forward in the fireup road. There was a short bit of downtime for a small cleanup, but we got going again fairly soon. I chose the far lane, and fired up fine and drove round. I did the burnout, which sounded a bit off-key, and then reversed back. As I was pulling forward to stage, the engine was spluttering, and I was struggling to keep it fired up. Just then one of the track crew saw some fluid on the track in front of me and quickly cleaned it up. But as I tried to move forward again, the engine died! I tried to re-fire, and then again, as Claire put more petrol down the stacks. It wouldn’t fire! We pushed back, and carried on trying at the back wall, as the rest of the Bunch were still to run, and we were desperate to get it going long enough to just stage and break the beams! But it was no luck, it just wouldn’t go! So unfortunately we had to push over to the side, and get towed back to the pits! Gutted! Back in the pits, we diagnosed a failed coil, and as soon as we tried the Wicked Lady team’s spare coil, it fired up instantly! Gutted again, as if we could have just staged, we could have borrowed it and gone out for the second round! And this would have been against Roy, which would have been a great race! Oh, well, that’s racing! [And I have since ordered, received and fitted another coil, ready for the Hot Rod Drags!].

So there was little we could do, other than go and watch the Wild Bunch race the quarters, semis and Final! And it was really enjoyable to get a chance to watch the others, as there was some good close racing! Congratulations to Roy and the whole S&K team on taking the win! They had a real ball, and were so surprised to win! Congrats also to Ed who was runner-up in a very good race, where he broke out by a small margin, and ran his best E.T. for a couple years, a 9.177! This means that he and the Dog’s Bollocks team have taken the lead in the Real Steel Series again, by 6 points (7 if you include my one round to drop). And I am in second place, just 2 points ahead (3 if you include the dropped round) of Dave Rowlands. So not too bad! The Dog’s Bollocks team have won the Roy Wilding Nostalgia Race Cars Series, so well done to them. And I finished in 5th, just behind Roy who took the last of the Top 4 places, so well done to him! The “RamRaider” team have also won the APIRA Series, with Roy Runner up! I finished 4th in that one, but they only give trophies for the Top 2. But the Big One will be at the end of September for the National Finals, with the Finals of the Wild Bunch Series, and Real Steel Series, so really looking forward to that, as we’re leading Wild Bunch!!

Thanks very much to Mark, Claire, and Joey for crewing and towing! And many thanks to all the marshals and officials for their hard work all weekend! The track crew did a brilliant job again, and everyone worked hard to run the event. We’re looking forward to the Hot Rod Drags now for a chilled out weekend, where we hope to have a debut run with the canopy!


We were really looking forward to the Wild Bunch Summer Showdown, at the York Dragway ‘UK Northern Nationals’, our only event of the year at York, and we always enjoy that! The event was the 5th round of the Wild Bunch Series and the 8th of the Real Steel Series. The weather looked rainy for Saturday and sunny for Sunday, so we were hoping we would get all the rounds in on the Sunday. There turned out to be 8 Wild Bunch cars participating at the event, and they were a great group of cars!

We all had Friday off and left home at noon towing “Backdraft” with the bus, and Mark, Joey and Kim following in his Kuga. It was a shame he was not able to bring “Awesome 4-Some” as he loves racing at York and usually runs his best times there. But hopefully, next year!

We made pretty good time throughout the day, with only a short holdup at one spot. We arrived at the Doncaster North Services about 4:30pm, and met up with Team Gridlock with the “Go Hard or Go Home!!!” Topolino who were going to York for the first time. Scottie and Gina arrived soon after with “Tiki Munki”, and we left the services in convoy about 5:30pm for the last leg of the journey. We got to the track around 6:15 and drove onto the site. As we got nearer we could see the ‘Wild Bunch’ banner which had been put up in the middle of the main pits. Steve Murty was there, marking out our pit area, which was massive, and he told us how he would like us to pit, with the race cars on show. We were planning to do this anyway, as we always like to make it a good show in the pits with the Bunch. We lined up on the right hand side of the pit area, just behind the sign, with Adz and Team Gridlock next in the row, and Scottie and Gina started the row on the other side with “Tiki Munki”. Dave Rowlands with the “Destiny’s Angel” altered arrived not long after, and Terry and Ruth Clifford pitted their “Ratcatcher Resurrection” slingshot between ‘Tiki’ and Dave’s altered, with Ant Harris and “Frantic” arriving next during the evening, and Paul and Andy with the “B-Sting” parking next along the right side. No sign of Sag and family with the “Daddy Cool” rear engine dragster, but we hoped they would turn up during the weekend sometime. After we got set up, I fired the car up briefly to check that the engine idle was correctly adjusted, and everything was fine. We all got set up and had a good night, chatting to friends from York, and the rest of the Bunch.

Saturday morning dawned rainy, and the rain carried on off and on during the day. The track crew had been out early clearing the standing water off the track, and we hoped there would be a weather window mid to late afternoon. We waited around, chatted to people, drank tea and coffee, and kept an eye on the sky, and it started to dry a bit after about 2pm. At 3:15 the track was dry enough for street cars and RWYBers to race, and they got underway. We went to the start area to watch them, and they ran between about 13 and 20 seconds. In both lanes there were a couple of splashes past the finish line, as the cars went through, and on into the shutdown areas, so we knew it was not yet dry enough for slicks! The RWYBers went round and round, and northern Ben got 4 runs in 15 minutes in his Golf! We hoped that it might dry out a bit, and around 4:30 I was nearly ready to get the car out, but Des reckoned the track had not come around as yet. The Street Racer challenge guys voted not to run their championship race, and postponed it til Sunday morning. And not long after that it rained again, so that was it for Saturday! We then had a nice evening, and eventually a rainbow and a great sunset! We took some pictures of “Backdraft” reflecting in puddles! We went down to see Jason who crews with the Orange Pop, as it was his 21st, and then went to bed quite early.

The weather was nice first thing on Sunday! And the track crew were out early preparing the track. Claire went to the tower around 9:30am to give Graham Beckwith the commentary information and discuss the round times with Steve Murty. This was interrupted by a plane landing at the top end of the strip, which held up the start of the racing, just before the first cars were about to run in the street car challenge, including CJ Murty! The plane parked over in the collecting area until the street car round was finished and then took off again a while later!

Our first round was at about 11am, so we fired up early to check everything was okay. Scottie had asked to borrow our trailer to get ready, and we were curious until all was revealed – he was dressed as Elvis for the day, in a spangly white jumpsuit! Cool! As we were closest to the front of the pits, we towed out first, and Sag and family had arrived that morning and were raring to go, towing down early, and they paired up with me in the other lane. We didn’t really know what to expect, so we dialled in at what we had been running at the ‘Mini Showdown’, a 9.15. I pulled a wheelie off the line, and went fairly straight, but was a little disappointed with a 9.484 at 139.66 mph. But luckily, most of the Bunch were some way off, and this made me third after the round! Sag had run a 10.50 at 136 mph in the other lane. We went back to the pits, driving slowly down the return road, as there was further to go to get back to the pits than when we are parked in the midway area. I changed the fuel system, as I discovered the high speed had wound itself out, so the fuel was going straight through. So with no way of re-adjusting the pressure at that time, I blanked it off for the next run. We fired up to check everything, and waited for the next round. By now, Helen and Dean had arrived, and they brought my newly covered bar stool seat, in red pvc, embroidered with my name! They also brought a delicious home-made cherry bakewell pie! Thanks, Helen! They were in the area, visiting Christine, and had come to support the Bunch, take photos and enjoy the racing.

The second round was about 1pm and again I was us paired up with Sag, and in the left lane. Another good wheelie off the launch, but still only a small improvement, to a 9.421 at 137.51 mph, so strangely down on the speed. Sag ran a good 10.08 at 133 mph. Still, I was third after this round, as everyone else was mostly a fair bit off over the two rounds. We towed back to the pits, and I changed the oil, and checked the fuel system again. I borrowed Dave Rowlands’ compressor and re-set the high speed spring pressure for the next run. Thanks, Dave!

Our third round was not til 3pm, so there was a bit of a wait. We had lunch and chatted to friends, and were raring to go by 2:30pm! We towed down, and paired with Sag, who was real keen to race me again! He ran a 10.22 at 138.95 mph, near his best speed, and near my best speed of the day! I pulled a good wheelie on this run, and again there was some improvement in time, as I ran a 9.350 at 139.01 mph, but still two tenths off Dial-in. I was surprised to find out I was still third in the running, behind Dave who was leading by around four tenths and Gina who was second, though I was starting to catch her up a bit.

One of the comments of the day was when Elaine from the “Daddy Cool” team saw Claire’s white trousers had circular marks from leaning against the headers, she said it showed ‘signs of the Mysterons’! Great to see the whole family at the weekend, and Happy Birthday to Prudhomme, one of the family’s dogs!

Our fourth round was then at 4:30pm, giving everyone enough time to cool down, and for maintenance. Once again, I paired with Sag, who had been hoping to get back into the 9’s, though on this run he ran a 10.12 at 133 mph. Great to race with him again! I really went for it on the burnout, and this resulted in a wild snaky one! I launched another good wheelie and went flat out, but still didn’t crack the 140mph for the weekend, recording a 139.34 mph. But I again improved on ET, to a 9.307. I wondered if I had still done enough to stay third, or even move up, and it depended on what the rest of the Bunch had run. I heard that Dave pulled a redlight in “Destiny’s Angel”, by just three thousandths! (I know that figure well!). He had again run close to his Dial, but this meant he was out of the Top 4! So I thought me and Gina had a chance to move up, if no-one else had overtaken us.

Not long after, it was time for the Top 4, and we went down to the startline where Graham read the winners from the tower, and Claire presented the trophies with Des. We were all chuffed to be awarded the “Best Appearing Team” Spot Prize by the commentators! And amazed to learn that only one thousandth separated Sag in 3rd and Andrew in 4th places over the four rounds! Fair play to them! And when they read out that Gina had won 2nd place, I thought I might have blown it, as I knew I was over 9 tenths off over the three rounds! So I was really surprised when I found out I had won!! By just .027 over the four rounds! Absolutely amazed! And well chuffed! And even better, this meant that I moved up from 3rd in the Wild Bunch Series, to leading, so well pleased with that! I have never led the Series going into the last event, and it’s a great feeling!! Also, I am guaranteed a Top 3 finish in the Series! Incredible! And I also moved into 1st place in the Real Steel Series, by just 1 point over the Dog’s Bollocks team with “RamRaider”, and 3 points over Dave Rowlands! And on working out the points, this means I will definitely get a Top 3 finish in that Series too! Wow!

Congrats to Gina on her PB of 13.950 seconds and her 2nd place at the event, which means she and Scottie are currently 2nd in Wild Bunch, and guaranteed a Top 4 finish again! Sorry to see the altered running its last race as it is, but exciting to hear their plans for a new tagged chassis, and a new configuration! Look forward to seeing that! Commiserations to Dave on the red light, we know how that feels! Well done on the strong runs though, a great performance! Great to see young Adz doing so well, and running a huge PB of 11.2 in the team’s Topolino, in its last time with the chassis, as they are also getting a tagged chassis built for next season! More tough competition! There were in fact three Topos up at York, with “Frantic” and “B-Sting” both doing strong smoky burnouts. Nice to see Terry and Ruth winning “Best Appearing Car” with the “Ratcatcher Resurrection”, a really lovely car! And every one of the Bunch put on a great show, which was great to be part of!

We stayed over at the track on the Sunday night, not wanting to do the long drive late at night this year! We had a quiet evening, after all the teams had left, and we were the only racers on site. In the morning we had a slow start, and Des Brown, chief starter, arrived about 9am to clear up the site. He brought some great photo albums of pictures his friend had taken in the 70’s and 80’s at York, Santa Pod and at car shows. Very cool!

Thanks very much to Mark, Claire and Joey for crewing and towing. Also huge thanks to all the PDRC marshals and officials and track crew who tried to get the track ready for racing Saturday. And did a great job on Sunday too! Thanks to Steve Murty for all his hard work. Great to see him and his family win a place in the ‘British Drag Racing Hall of Fame’ earlier in the year, in recognition for their many years working for the sport! Thanks to Al and Angie, Richard and Marjorie, Charlotte, Karl, and CJ, and all for their very warm welcome at the track. And many thanks to Des, a real star! Thanks very much to the PDRC for the prize money, much appreciated! When we got home, Claire worked out that this had been my 11th time racing at York! Really love racing there!

We’re now really looking forward to the ninth Real Steel round of the season, the “Open Sports Nationals” at Shakey on 21st – 23rd August, so hoping for good weather and a bigger field of Wild Bunchers there! It will also be the Finals of the APIRA and Roy Wilding Nostalgia Race Cars Series, so that will be loads of fun. (We’ve heard there are already 9 entered, so really can’t wait to race them all!).

11th - 12th July MINI SHOWDOWN

We were really looking forward to the Mini Showdown, as it should be a big field of Wild Bunch cars, as well as the annual fancy dress party! The event was the 4th round of the Wild Bunch Series and the 7th of the Real Steel Series. The weather did not look too promising for the weekend though, so we hoped for at least a few runs. There turned out to be 14 Wild Bunch cars participating at the event, so not as many as expected but still a great Bunch!

Claire was able to get the afternoon off work, so we left around 3pm, towing “Backdraft”, arriving at the track at around quarter to 5. We set up around half way down between the fireup road and the crossroads, in the middle of the pits, and left room for Mark to put his car, trailer and caravan in between us and the RamRaider, who had already arrived. Helen and Dean and Christine arrived not long after and set their van and awning up on the other side of the bus. Mark had managed to fix the rear end of “Awesome 4-Some”, installing a spare half shaft, and new planetary gears in the diff, but he had been waiting for some machining work to be done on his cylinder head seats and valves. This went back and forwards for a couple of days, and the head only got delivered back on the Friday, so he was bringing it up with him to rebuild on the Friday night! He and friends arrived around 8:30pm that night, and set up their caravan and awning and started work to install the head. We had a fairly early night, just chatting in the bus with Helen and Dean and Christine, and other friends.

Saturday morning dawned rainy, and carried on intermittently through the morning. During the rain delay, Mark was adjusting the cam timing on his engine, with the help of Andy Gos, who had a degree wheel and other tools, just right for the job! Mark then fired the car up, but it still didn’t sound that good. He did another compression check, and found that the compression had deteriorated again on a couple of cylinders, so he decided not to risk running the car, so that he did not cause any more damage. Such a shame after all his efforts to get to the event, and get the car running again! But fair play, on a good, but tough decision! He thinks he will now have to park the car for the year, save up, and rebuild the engine for next season. A shame to see him not finish the Wild Bunch rounds, especially York, where he usually runs so well! But best of luck to him to rebuild and come back stronger next season!

The rain carried on for a bit during the morning, but stopped around lunchtime, and the track crew worked hard to clear the track and dry it. Amazingly, it did dry up mid afternoon, and the track opened around quarter to 3 and the rain held off for the rest of the afternoon! Fair play to the Shakey crew for getting the track in a go condition! We went down to the queue not long after, and it had really caught us by surprise that we were going to be able to run that day! So we ended up forgetting a few things in the pits! But we went back and got them, and were ready to run! I was paired up with an I-class Mini for the first run, at about 4:15pm. I ran a 9.156 at 145.33 mph, so was pretty pleased with that for starters. I didn’t tinker with the injection system before the next run, as still was not sure we would get a second in.

We did manage to have another run later that day, at around 5:45pm, and this time I was paired with a C-class Mini. I ran a 9.100 at 144.78 mph, so was pleased to have gone a little quicker, and fairly consistent. We packed up for the day, and started to get ready for the party! The theme this year was Superheroes, Supervillains, Cartoon Characters!

I assembled the blue, red and white cardboard rocket I had made to fit on the bar stool and we had tea, and got dressed. We had bought costumes this year, and I was Captain America, with full muscle suit and mask and Claire was a sparkly Supergirl! I unloaded the ‘rocket’ from the trailer, and got on it to ride round the pits. I had installed an old fire extinguisher between the cardboard and the bar stool, and set this off a few times to give the illusion of a ‘rocket blast’. Everyone laughed whenever I did that! We wandered round the pits in search of Team Twisted, and we finally caught up with them, Helen, Christine and Stevie were dressed as Ghostbusters, and Dean as the Stay Puft ghost!! They had spent months making their costumes, complete with Proton packs, and they looked absolutely brilliant! We wandered round some more and met up with Batman and Wonder Woman, Dave and Linda Williams, and Storm and The Hulk, Ruth and Terry Clifford. Then we saw the whole of Team Gridlock dressed as the 4 Teenage Mutant Hero Turtles!! The “Frantic” team had navy blue T-shirts made which read the “Frantastic 4”! Very subtle! Mark and friends appeared not long after, and Mark was dressed as Zorro, and Nige as a Smurf, complete with blue body paint, blue stockings, white shorts and white Smurf hat! Not very warm, as the weather turned colder and started to drizzle! Their other mates were Joey as Scooby Doo, Steve as Superman, Kim as Alice in Wonderland, Emma as Betty Boop, Ryan as Top Gun, Galpin as an Outlaw cowboy, Sarah as Little Red Riding Hood, Dens as a Caveman, and several others. Ben and James Gosling were Superman and Spiderman, and Emma and Gos had Power Rangers masks! We all went to the bar by now, as the rain was getting heavier. Then along came the whole of the Tiki Munki team dressed as Ghostbusters, with Scottie as the Stay Puft ghost! They had cool green tubing from their proton packs, with working water pistols! And best of all, had made Beau’s buggy into the Ectomoblie! At first he was blissfully unaware as he was asleep! They looked great altogether! After a while I put the rocket away as it had got a bit soggy and started to sag. We had a good time in the clubhouse, but it was a bit of a shame that the outdoor fun got curtailed by the weather! We eventually went back to the bus, and were joined by Team Twisted for an hour or so. They had even made Pooky and Penny slimmer outfits! We had a nice time, and went to bed before midnight, with all the costumes scattered around!

The weather was sunny first thing on Sunday! But this did not last, as around 10:30am it started to drizzle. It got a bit heavier for a while, but eventually stopped around quarter to half past 11. The track crew worked hard again, and with a bit of wind and sun, and the track dryer, incredibly the track was open around 12:30pm! Well done to them all, and thanks for making it possible for us all to race! It was a great tribute to them that the first vehicle down the track was the Italian Top Fuel Bike, which ran a 6 on the well-prepped track! Fair play!

The Wild Bunch joined the queue just after the track opened, and by then it was half way down the pits, opposite the toilets, so we basically had to merge out from all our pits into the queue, which took a while. Our first round was then around 1:30pm. I was paired with Ashleigh Williams in the “Living the Dream” slingshot. She ran an off-pace 12.33 at 113 mph. We had dialled in at 9.15, and I was chuffed to run a 9.197 at 144.32 mph in the first round! Not that far off! All during the day Sunday, Claire wore her Supergirl costume again, and was backing me up, complete with the Captain America shield! The commentators thought this was brill!

We had lunch, and I changed the oil. We had to queue for a while for the next round too, so this took place around 3:30pm. It was cool to find out I was paired with Terry Clifford in the “Ratcatcher Resurrection” slingshot. He had not been running that well in the last few events, but had his best run for a while on this one, with a 10.68 at 125 mph! I was real pleased as I got a bit closer to Dial, recording a 9.189 at 142.40 mph, so I knew I was in with a shout for possibly finishing in the Top 4.

The queues by then were starting to go down, and we asked round the Bunch to see if we could get a third round in. Everyone was gonna be ready before the curfew, and we checked the queues and with the officials, so we went out just after 4:30pm, towing down to the fireup road. The round took place around quarter to 5. This time I was matched up with Adz Price in the “Go Hard or Go Home!!!” Topolino. He ran a 12.14 at a new best speed of 111 mph, so fair play! I was real pleased to get even closer to Dial-in, with a 9.165 at 140.90 mph! All the figures were in, so we waited to hear the results! At the prize presentation, we were chuffed to find that we had won “Best Slingshot”, and the commentary team who chose the award had written ‘for sheer entertainment and bringing Superwoman’!! Really chuffed with that, and to some more good wheelies! And to have Claire backing me up in that red sparkly skirt, cape and boots! Then it was time for the Top 4, and when Claire read that Ray was 2nd in the “RamRaider”, I held my breath, and was surprised and chuffed to find out that I had won the event!! Brilliant! Well chuffed!

This also meant that I moved up from 5th in the Wild Bunch Series, to 3rd, so well pleased with that! And I stayed in 3rd place in the Real Steel Series, but moved up a little in those points.

Adz ended up third for the event, the team’s first time in the Top 4, so big congrats to them, after all their hard work – nice to see them doing well! It was also good to see Neil Ward back for the event in his “Andromeda” slingshot, and he ran a couple of 8.9s at 151 mph, off the trailer. Hope to match up with him soon! And great to have Tony Smith making his one appearance with the Wild Bunch this year in “The Cunning Plan”. He was .009 off Dial in the first round, so he very nearly made a big comeback! Though unfortunately he had to miss the 2nd round due to officiating commitments. Good to see ya running Tone! Great also to see the nearly finished “Black Pig Too” black metalflake slingshot of Steve and Lesley Field. They had brought it to the event, after a huge slog to get it finished, and Steve just needs to do a few more adjustments to ride height, but the car looks real cool, with a fab swoopy tail. Fair play!

Thanks very much to SuperClaire and Mark and Nige and Joey for crewing for me and towing. Also huge thanks as always to all the marshals and officials and track crew for their hard work all weekend, and for enabling us to get so many runs in when the weather was against it. Well done to them all, great effort! Great track!! And thanks again to Shakey for the ticket deal, much appreciated by all of us. We really look forward to racing there again at the “Open Sports Nationals” in August!

We’re all now looking forward to the fifth WB round of the season, the “Summer Showdown” at York Dragway on August 1st & 2nd, so hoping for good weather and quite a few Wild Bunchers!


We had really been looking forward to the Nostalgias, for silver suit time again! The event was the third round of the Wild Bunch Series, the sixth of the Real Steel Series and the second round of the Roy Wilding Nostalgia Race Cars Series. The weather looked a bit mixed over the weekend, so we hoped it would be better than expected. There turned out to be 17 Wild Bunch cars participating at the event, our biggest field of the year so far, so that was great.

Claire did not have any time off that day, so I went up early, towing “Backdraft”, arriving at the track at around 3pm. I set up near the crossroads on the concession side of the middle of the pits, and left room for Mark to put his car, trailer and new caravan in. Helen and Dean were on the other side of us with their “Hell’s Belle” altered for their second event this year. Claire came up in Mark’s car later on, around 8pm, towing “Awesome 4-Some” with him and Joey, with Mark’s other friends in convoy. We were all set up for the evening, and chilled out in the bus.

Saturday morning dawned fine, then clouded over a bit. We wanted to get out early in case the predicted showers built up. We all got ready and had a fire up each, and signed on. Not long after that, our Lee and Sarah arrived, without the boys, as they were having a weekend away! So it was nice to see them and they already started relaxing. Me and Mark paired up for the first run at about 11:30am, and I ran in the far lane against the bank. I ran a 9.322 at 143.25 mph, and Mark ran a 12.634 at 102.48 mph, which he was a little disappointed with, though it was spot on to what he was running at the last event. He made some tuning changes. My time was quite a way off where I wanted to be, so I re-installed the high speed lean out, which I had taken off before this first run, and hoped that would do the trick.

We had lunch and both got ready and went down to the fireup road for our second runs. By now it was around 20 past 2. We were surprised throughout the day that there were not huge queues, as the pits seemed pretty busy. I ran a much better 9.082 at 143.91mph so was real pleased with that. We had both pulled wheelies, so that was cool. Mark ran a slower 12.777 at 102.44 mph, so he was not too chuffed, and made some more changes. Luckily all I needed to do was change the oil in ‘Backdraft’!

It was kinda cloudy at that point, but luckily it all passed over and it stayed dry. We went out again at about quarter to 4, and I ran a better 9.035, at 143.35 mph, so it was all going in the right direction! Mark ran another slower 12.893 at 101.21 mph, and was pretty frustrated. But he had pulled a really big wheelie on that run, and Ivan Sansom got a great picture of us both wheelying together, which he used in the ‘Drag Racing Online’ website report. Cheers for that, Ivan! Lee also bought Mark a great photo of him wheelying, from Eclipse photos, so he was chuffed with that, especially as most of the photographers had been in my lane as they were expecting me to do wheelies! Thanks as always to them all for catching some great shots!

Later on, around quarter past 5, we went down for our fourth runs of the day. I was again in the far bank lane, and Mark in the grandstand lane. I launched as normal, but quickly realised I had lost power as the throttle pedal cable bolt snapped! I coasted the whole way down the track, and there was nothing I could do about it! I crossed the line in 23 seconds at 22 mph! But I did make it to the first turn off. Meanwhile, Mark also broke! He lost drive shortly after the launch and pulled over before the 60ft mark and had to get pushed back! Claire and Mark’s friends came to collect me, whilst Mark and Joey pushed his slingshot back to the pits.

Back in the pits, I started to fix the throttle pedal, and drain the oil and do all the usual stuff. Mark had to park his car for the rest of the weekend, as he suspected some damage to the diff, or possibly half shaft, plus the engine was not running right, so he would have to investigate further at home.

Meanwhile good friends Helen and Dean had been having a good day, despite some niggly problems, which Dean easily fixed. Helen was running well, including a PB of 9.041 at 147.24 mph on her second run of the day! As we got back to the pits after our fourth run, she was in the fireup road, and shortly after her run, returned to the pits, having run another amazing PB of 9.010, so close to that magic number!! Claire had thought they had gone back to their pits, but they had decided to ‘lap’ and try to get that 8, as the fireup road was still open and the air was good. About 10 minutes later, we heard the bad news over the tannoy that the car had gotten out of shape and rolled onto its ‘roof’. We were real worried, but thought it better to stay put where we were for then, and not get in the way of the safety crews doing their job. Not long after, Janet, the site caretaker, let us know that Helen was fine and out of the car. Brilliant news!! Many thanks to Janet for being so thoughtful to pass on the good news so quickly! Claire then walked to the medical centre to wait to meet her, and she walked out the ambulance and got checked over by the medical team. We were all so so relieved to see that she was a-okay! And of course everyone wanted to stop by and see how she was. Not long after, a group of us went down in Scottie’s truck with Dean to recover the car on to the trailer. There was a lot of damage to the front wheel, and of course the injector trumpets, and a deep scrage on the roll cage, but amazingly, there was only one tiny 1-inch scratch on the beautiful purple sparkly body! And the safety cell was of course intact and did its job well protecting Helen. It was all a bit of a shock and we are so gutted for them, as they have put so much time and effort and loving attention into their gorgeous altered, and its performance was amazing. But we are so thankful that Helen is completely fine!! And in such good spirits as always!

We didn’t really do much that night, and had a bit of a quiet evening, going to bed fairly early.

Sunday dawned quite pleasant and soon became quite warm. It was disappointing that Mark was not going to be able to run that day, but I was hopeful that I had sorted the throttle problem out. The track was due to open between 10 and 10:30am, and we were going to queue up for our first round at about quarter to 11, to get in before the queues really built up. 14 Wild Bunch cars towed down for the round, and I ended up at the front of the Bunch. This was just as well, as when I fired the car up, to pair with Adz Price in the “Go Hard or Go Home!!!” altered, the throttle hung open a bit, and Mark, who had come down to help crew, noticed that there was something that the front throttle lever had worked loose. He legged it back to the pits to get a spanner and some other tools, and cycled back to try and get it fixed. Terry from the “Dorset Horn” team also helped, and with only about 4 cars left to run in the round, we managed to get fixed, checked and fired back up, and paired up with Ant Harris in the “Frantic” Topolino! Just in time! I launched well, but was not able to get full throttle, as we had not been able to fully adjust the setup, only to check that it was safely connected. This resulted in a 9.265 at 143.38 mph, which still ain’t bad for less than a full pass! This meant that I was still in with a chance of making the Top 4, if I could bring my average down by running better and closer over the next 3 rounds. Many thanks to Mark for his running and fixing!!

Back in the pits I re-adjusted the throttle setup and checked that I was able to get full throttle. We waited for the next round, which was at about 12:30pm. This time I was paired up with Adz in the “Go Hard or Go Home!!!” Topolino. He ended up running his first 11-second pass on this run, an 11.856 at 109 mph, so fair play to him! I launched well and ran a much improved 9.023 at 142.82 mph, so not too far off the Dial-in, and I was pretty pleased with that one! We went back to the pits and I changed the oil and got ready for the next round.

The third round of the day took place at about 2:30pm, and I was paired with Andy Gosling driving “RamRaider” on this run, and he was doing well. We were both pretty fired up and he ran a 9.34 at 141 mph. I had a pretty good 60fit of 1.31, and ran a 9.068 at 142.62 mph, so even closer to the Dial-in this time, which improved my chances of moving up into the Top 4.

The last round of the day was about 4:15pm and the fireup road was pretty empty. I paired with Terry Clifford in his “Ratcatcher Resurrection” for this run, and he ran his best pass of the weekend, with an 11.06 at 123 mph. But just as I launched I could tell that something had broken in the throttle linkage at the front of the injection system. Frustratingly I again coasted down the track, this time to a 16.22 at 41 mph. I again made the first return road, trying to clear the track as soon as I could. This was a real shame, as it put me out of the running for the Top 4. Hey ho, I was still able to collect 4 points for doing all the rounds on the day, so in the end I actually moved up from 7th in the Wild Bunch Series, to 5th, so that wasn’t too bad! And I stayed in 3rd place in the Real Steel Series. And I knew the problem would be fairly easy to fix for the next event, as it turned out to be the front throttle arm.

We had our prize presentation by the bus at the end of the day, and this time, neither of us won any spot prizes or Top 4 placings! But I was glad to do rounds and pull wheelies! Oh well, hopefully we’ll both be fixed for the ‘Mini Showdown’!

Gos was the winner this weekend in “RamRaider”, and fair play, as that means three in a row for the Dog’s Bollocks team, with their three different drivers! Mark Richardson was the runner-up, with “Pony Express”, and that was a close run thing, as he ended up nearly shearing his front wheel off after the finish line on the last run! Well done to him for a good event up til then, and hope he can get that fixed soon. Gina finished in third in “Tiki Munki” so her and Scottie were well pleased with that! Ant was surprised to be fourth in his “Frantic” altered, and big congratulations to him and the team, as they ran their first 8-second on Saturday! We sure know how good that feels, so well done to them!

Thanks very much to Claire and Mark and Nige for crewing for me and Joey for towing. Also big thanks as always to all the marshals and officials and track crew for their hard work all weekend. And thanks to Shakey for the ticket deal, much appreciated. And special thanks to the safety and fire and medical teams for their care of Helen.

We’re all now looking forward to the fourth WB round of the season, the “Mini Showdown” at Shakey on July 11th & 12th, so hoping for good weather and an even bigger field of Wild Bunch. It will also be the annual Wild Bunch fancy dress party, so that will be loads of fun! In the meantime, there’s Scottie and Gina’s annual charity show at The Lamb Pub in Theale, so that should be good fun!

PS. Since this news item, I have fixed the throttle problems. And we had some fireups at Scottie and Gina’s show. (We gave one fireup as a raffle prize, and Gina’s niece Nicole won it and passed it on to her other niece Sam. We think she really enjoyed the experience!). I have again adjusted the linkage so I put less strain on the components, and so that I get full throttle!!

PPS. Also, Mark had his rear axle apart, and discovered that not only had he sheared off one half shaft straight through, but he had also broken two teeth off two of the planetary gears in the diff! Luckily, Lee and he had some spares for the diff, and he has repaired that, and he had a spare half shaft, so that part is all back together again. He also traced the cause of the drop in performance of his engine, which turned out to be multiple problems, including some slightly mushroomed valves. He has sent the valves and valve seats away for re-facing, and hopes to be able to put it all back together to make the Mini Showdown – fingers crossed!

13th - 14th June SUMMER NATIONALS

We had really been looking forward to our second event of the year at Santa Pod, the “Summer Nationals” MSA event, which was the first round of the Roy Wilding Nostalgia Race Cars Series, as well as Real Steel Series Round 5, and the third round of the MSA challenge. We hoped that the weather might be good again! We knew there were only 7 Wild Bunch teams competing this weekend, as one had to withdraw before the event, but then Neil Ward also did not turn up with his ‘Andromeda’ slingshot, so it was a shame not to see him and the team running. Hope they’ll be out at the Nostalgias!

Claire got the whole day off so we left Bristol around 10:30am, towing “Backdraft”, arriving at the track at around 2pm. We were really chuffed to find that we were pitted next to the fence again, around the 1100 ft mark. Martin Holgate was already set up with his camper and ‘Paranoia’, as well as his Harley Top Gas bike, and Dave with the ‘Destiny’s Angel’ had just arrived, so we started setting up the other side of them. Dave kindly let us borrow his truck to tow ‘Backdraft’ to scrutineering, and that went well. We were also able to get our chassis re-tagged later that afternoon, as it was nearly out of its 3-year tagging period. (We think this is probably the fifth time it has been tagged now, so real proud of that!). The rest of the Bunch arrived during the afternoon, and Mark, Joey and Kim arrived later that night. We had a nice afternoon and evening, and went to bed fairly early. The weather was predicted to be fine, so we were real pleased with that! Since the last event, I had got Ed to make a special sticker for the car, which I put on the bottom of the sump – a special message to photographers and spectators, if I pulled wheelies – it read ‘High ya!’ so we hoped someone might get a picture!

Saturday morning dawned fine, and we got ready and waited to be called out. We were 17th on the running order, so had a while to wait. But this soon came around, at about 11:15, and we all went down to the pairings lanes. Claire was doing her annual ‘Jungle Pam’ backup routine and wore her white shorts, white thigh boots, and red spangly top, so I was pretty chuffed! For the first qualifier, I was paired with Martin Holgate, but unfortunately he lost fire, so I ended up with a solo. We had dialled in at 8.98, and I ran a 9.140 at 142.52 mph, which was okay for starters. At that point I was actually #1 Qualifier, but that did not last too long. We kept the same Dial-in all day, hoping to get closer, and in the next round, at about quarter to 3, I was paired up with Martin again, and he ran a 12.32 at 68 mph, when the car cut out at mid track. I ran an improved 9.056 at 143.79 mph so thought that wasn’t too bad, but both Ed in the ‘RamRaider’ slingshot and Dave in ‘Destiny’s Angel’ snuck in closer with .006 and .007 off their Dials! For the third round, I was racing with Terry in the ‘Ratcatcher Resurrection’ slingshot, and he ran an 11.67 at 121 mph. The air was getting a little bit cooler, so we hoped we might run quicker, but I recorded a 9.089 at 142.45 mph, which was still fairly consistent. I qualified in 4th place overall, and that meant I was due to race Ed in the first round Sunday!

Qualifying finished early Saturday, and we settled in for a nice evening again. We went by to a few racers’ pits to say ‘hi’, but again went to bed fairly early.

All six Wild Bunch teams had qualified for race day. Sunday was even warmer than Saturday, and we later heard that some cars were a tenth or so down on their normal pace. We were not expecting to be out early, in fact our first round, the quarter-finals was supposed to be at 2:40pm! But racing went through really quickly, and they ended up a full two hours ahead of time, so our first round was at 12:40! (We had kept an eye on the running order, so we knew they were ahead, but were still pretty surprised at how quick it was!). We towed down as soon as we got the call, and Ed chose the far lane, along the spectator bank. He had dialled in at 9.33 again, the team’s favourite Dial-in these days. We had gone for 9.10, as we were either side of that on the Saturday, and thought it was achievable. I launched quite soon after Ed, and I had a slight advantage of .07 off the lights. I could not quite catch Ed at the top end, and backed off slightly, but so did he, as he recorded a close 9.339 at only 129 mph, and I ran a 9.283 at 137.24 mph. And there was only a tenth in it at the top end. Good race! Bit of a shame to be out first round, but ‘that’s racing’!

We went back to the pits and thought that was it for the day, but then realised they were still one and a half hours ahead of schedule, so Claire went down to find the race director to ask if there was any chance of a ‘demo run’, with Terry, as he had also been out first round. Unfortunately he said ‘no’, so a bit disappointed to not run again!

The day’s racing was eventually finished by 5pm! Never heard of it finishing that early! And Ed went on to win in Wild Bunch, with Dave the runner-up. Big congrats to them! Fair play!

I was chuffed, as in the end I finished in 4th place overall – my fourth 4th in a row! Also, we were awarded the “Best Appearing Team” by the commentators, for the wheelies and our well-turned out crew! The shorts may have played some part, too!

Thanks very much to Mark and Claire for crewing for me and Joey for towing. Also big thanks as always to all the marshals and officials and track crew for their hard work all weekend. We really enjoyed the event.

We’re all now looking forward to the third WB round of the season, the “Nostalgia Nationals” at Shakey on June 27th & 28th, so hoping for good weather and a really big field of Wild Bunch.

But in the meantime, next weekend we have a show at Beaulieu National Motor Museum, the Victory Wheelers’ South Coast Internationals ‘Hot Rods’ weekend on 20th & 21st June. We are taking “Backdraft” and Mark is taking “Awesome 4-Some”, with Terry and Ruth taking their “Ratcatcher Resurrection”, Gina and Scottie taking “Tiki Munki” and Paul and Wendy bringing their nostalgia Funny Car “Time Warp”. It should be a great weekend!

30th - 31st May JUNE SHOOTOUT

We were really looking forward to the Wild Bunch “June Shootout” RWYB at the Yanks Weekend at Shakey, as the weather forecast was sunny and warm all weekend! It was going to be the second round of the Wild Bunch Series, as well as Real Steel Series Round 4, and we had a field of 14 Wild Bunch cars participating, including me and Mark.

Claire again got the afternoon off work and we left Bristol around quarter to 3, towing “Backdraft”, and arriving at the track at about 4:45pm, after hitting some traffic around Ashchurch. The weather was lovely and warm in the early evening so we set up, and took some pictures of “Backdraft” in the sunshine, with the canopy on. While we had been driving in, we saw Ole from Germany, who we had met at this event last season, with his “Pink Panther” VW bug. He was really interested in our car and everything about Nostalgia, and he soon came over and got chatting again, stopping by every so often to see how we were doing and talk about slingshots. Not long after, Helen and Dean and Christine arrived with the “Hell’s Belle” and they set up next to us, leaving a gap for Mark to pit next to us. It was going to be their first event back for 2 years and 8 months, and we were pretty excited to see how the car (and driver!) would run! And hoped all would go well. Mark had borrowed a flat bed trailer from Scottie, as his new one was awaiting some springs. He arrived with Nige, later that night, along with Joey and Kim, and Sarah, and they set up next to us. Mark’s friend Stevie had brought his Golf to do some RWYB that weekend.

Saturday morning dawned sunny early on, and luckily it stayed that way all day, with a nice light breeze. Mark and friends were up extra early, by quarter to 8! And our pit area was quite busy that morning! Lee and Liam turned up around 9am, which was a great surprise! Liam is already starting to get used to the pits and all the cars, and going in and out of the bus. We took some nice pictures of him ‘spannering’ on Mark’s car, and he wanted to help attach the tow ropes on each of our runs!

We wanted to get out early for our first run, before the queues built up, and we timed it well, going down to the fireup road just as it opened. There was only a short queue and we ran together at about 10:15am. I ran a 9.215 at 144.55 mph, with a wheelie, testing out the new high speed leanout that I had plumbed in to the injection system. I then took this out, as I needed to double check the pressure it was opening at, so I hoped to run a bit quicker on the next pass. Mark ran a 12.668 at 101.47 mph, which he was pretty disappointed with. He then made some changes before the next run, including adding some octane booster. During the morning we went down to watch Helen’s first run, and cheer her on. She ran an 11.0 at 117 mph for starters, and that was taking it easy, so it all looked good for her next run.

We had an early lunch and got back in the queue, which still wasn’t that big. We had our next run at about 1:00pm. I ran a much better 9.074 at 143.98 mph, with a nice wheelie, so was pleased with that one. Mark ran a slower 12.716 at 92 mph, missing a shift. He made some more timing changes back in the pits. I changed the oil, and explained to Liam what I was doing. He also enjoyed having a sit in the car by himself for a while.

For our third run, we were on track about 10 to 3. I launched quite hard on this one, and had to back off after heading slightly towards the guard rail. This meant I only ran a 9.653 at 141 mph. Meanwhile, Mark ran a 12.641 at 100.56 mph, so a little better than his last pass. We then went out about quarter to 5, with the track only cooling a bit. This turned out to be my quickest run of the weekend, a 9.071 at 142.84 mph, so I was pretty pleased with that. Mark ran a 12.651 at 100.94 mph, so he had ended up being quite consistent, despite making all those changes. Though he was still around 8 tenths down on where he wanted to be. During the day, Helen had run down into the 9.5s at 138 mph, so was really getting back into the swing of things quickly, so we were really pleased for all of them. Just after racing finished, Lee and Liam left the track. It was great to see them up at the track again, and I think they both really enjoyed the day – they picked another good one! Just after that, Chris, Wayne and Janet Schreier arrived, as I had promised young Chris a fire-up in “Backdraft”, after chatting to him at the previous event. He seemed pretty excited about it, and I told him how to climb into the cockpit. He wore my red mask, and Claire stood by to hit the ignition switch. I put the petrol in the stacks, and we fired the car. (We could nearly see Chris’ grin from behind the mask!). I revved the throttle a few times and he seemed to enjoy that. When he took the mask off we could really see his grin, and he was still smiling the next day! Glad he enjoyed it!

We had a good evening, including a visit from Bunt and Dinah in our bus, and then Vic Hammond, who stopped by and entertained us with loads of stories. Not long after they left, Helen, Dean and Christine came aboard, and we enjoyed their company as always!

Sunday’s weather turned out to be just as good, and a bit warmer! We wanted to get out early again, to try to fit in as many Wild Bunch rounds as we could, depending on the queues. So the plan was to get in the fireup road around quarter to 11, not long after the track opened.

Having run a couple of 9.07’s and that 9.2, we decided to Dial in at 9.10. Mark chose a 12.65 as he had been within a hundredth of that on 3 of his runs. Our first round took place at about 11:30am, and this time I was paired up with Ant Harris in the “Frantic” altered. He’d run a PB of 9.313 the day before, so it should be a good match up. We had similar reactions, but on this run I launched off to one side, so again had to back off, and recorded a 9.591 at 142.75 mph, to Ant’s 9.85 at 129 mph. Meanwhile, Mark was supposed to be paired up with Simon Williams in the “Pure Nostalgia” slingshot, but unfortunately Simon could not fire the car. Mark ran a 12.728 at 99.10 mph, so he was not that far off his Dial-in, second closest overall in fact.

The day warmed up quite a bit and the next round was after lunch, at around 1:30pm. By now, Ole from Germany had signed on as crew with us, so walked down the fireup road with us – we think he really enjoyed being closer to all the cars. This round I was against Dave Rowlands in the “Destiny’s Angel” altered, and this time it wasn’t in eliminations! I had a good launch and ran a 9.099 at 143.34 mph, just a thousandth off my Dial-in! Don’t think I’ve ever been that close before! And I won the “Closest to Dial-in” Spot Prize for that one! So that made up a bit for the first round! Dave ran a 9.87 at 142, which was a bit off his normal pace. Mark was paired up with Ant in his run, and he recorded a slightly slower 12.801 at 99.03 mph to Ant’s 9.75 at 136 mph. At that point, it turned out Mark was leading the Bunch! But he had still be a tenth and a half off Dial, so he decided to alter the timing again, to a setting he had on Saturday. In this round, Helen recorded an awesome 9.087 at 145.46 mph! A huge Personal Best E.T.! Many congratulations to her and Dean on such a brilliant performance first time out with the new setup! Well chuffed for them!

Our third round of the day was at about 3:30pm, and this time we paired up together. I ran a 9.180 at 141.49 mph, whilst Mark launched well, but ran a 12.943 at 98.24 mph, so his change had not done the trick. I was not too far off, so we both hoped that we could fit in a fourth round to try to get the average down again. Mark changed the timing back to the setting he had it on earlier for the next round.

It was getting fairly late in the day, with the curfew being at 5pm, so we spoke to the track crew to see how late we could get to the fireup road for another round. This turned out to be about 4:30pm, as there were by 4 o’clock hardly any cars left doing RWYB, and there was a round of Outlaw Anglia scheduled for 4:30pm. We checked with all the other Wild Bunch drivers to see if their cars would be ready for that time, and everyone said they could, so we asked if we could run after the Outlaw Anglias. As it was, Shakey virtually kept the track open for us, as we were the last cars there running! Though we finished our round by 12 minutes to 5. Many thanks to all the crew for keeping going after a long warm weekend!

On this round, I was paired up with Dave Rowlands again, and he ran another 9.85 at 139 mph. I put in a better run than the last round, recording a 9.150 at 141.99 mph, and hoped that this might be good enough to get me back into the Top 4. This time, Mark was paired up with Helen, who recorded an off pace 9.97 at 114 mph. Mark recorded an improved 12.733 at 99.37 mph, so all day was around a tenth off his Saturday times. He also hoped he had recovered some of the average he had lost in the third round.

At the Wild Bunch trophy presentation, we started off by having to explain the non-appearance of the real trophies!! Claire had ordered the 1st – 4th and Spot Prizes from separate companies, and the post had failed in both cases! One because a courier’s vans were out of action one day, and one had gone missing and promised to post a new set to Claire’s work before 1pm on the Friday (well, they accidentally posted it to our home address!). And both sets arrived within 15 minutes of each other, on the Friday, but we were both at work! So missed the delivery! So, instead, Claire had printed off pictures of all the trophies, and laminated them! So everyone did see the funny side! And we ended up sticking them on the drivers’ shirts!

We waited eagerly for Claire to read out the results! I won that “Closest to Dial-in”, and also the “Best Slingshot” Spot Prize, awarded by the commentators, who said ‘how high are those wheelies?!’. So I was chuffed with those. And we wanted to know who was in the Top 4! As it turned out, I finished in 4th place overall, and Mark in 3rd place, for the second time in a row! So we were both pleased to make it into the Top 4! I turned out that there was only 17 thousandths in it between us over the 4 rounds! Congrats to Ray Ford who won the event in the “RamRaider” slingshot, and Dave Rowlands who finished in second. And big congrats to Helen on Dean on their great first event with the car in its new guise. They also won the “Driver’s Choice” Spot Prize which was great. Really thrilled for them! And real glad to have them back racing with the Bunch!

The results from the weekend mean I am now in 3rd place in the Real Steel Series and in 6th place in the Wild Bunch Series on the same points as the FreQ team in 5th place (though there are only 3 points from 1st to 6th place!). Mark is still in 3rd place in the Wild Bunch Series, on the same points as second place Dog’s Bollocks team with “RamRaider”. So fair play to him!

We’re now really looking forward to the fifth Real Steel round of the season, the “Summer Nationals” at Santa Pod on June 13th & 14th! So hoping for good weather then!

16th - 17th May SPRING NATIONALS

We had been looking forward to our second event of the year at Shakey, for the Spring Nationals RWYB, which was the first round of the Wild Bunch Series, as well as Real Steel Series Round 3. We hoped that the weather might be better than predicted, as it did not look too good, so any runs we got would be a bonus! There were only 9 Wild Bunch teams participating this weekend, as the poor weather forecast had put some of the teams off.

Mark had some problems with his new trailer, as he had run out of time to completely finish it. He ended up having to lock the suspension off due to ride height problems, so had to take it easy on the way up. He left half an hour before us on the Friday, with his mate Steve. Claire got the afternoon off so we left Bristol around 1:45pm, towing Backdraft, arriving at the track at 3:30pm. Mark kept us posted on the way, but rang when we were about 10 minutes from the track to say that his axle had bent and popped the tyre, just after he got through the gates at Shakey! We stopped to give him a block of wood to limp into the pits, and carried on in, overtaking him and arriving second of the Wild Bunch teams. Scottie and Gina and baby Beau were already there with their Tiki Munki altered, so we parked near them and left a gap for Mark, and started to unload and get set up. The pits were fairly empty at this point, but there were a few Supertwins camped along the far side. Joey and Kim, and Mark’s friends Nige and Sarah arrived later that night, and some of them used our trailer to sleep in, with Mark and Nige sleeping in his trailer. We got set up and had an early night, getting to bed before 10pm.

Saturday morning dawned okay, and we were hoping that the clouds might stay at bay. I drained and replace the oil and we fired the car up and everything was good to go. Mark got Awesome 4-Some ready, and we waited for the track to open, planning to go out early in case the weather turned. The track crew had been hard at work and the track was being gripped well before 10am, and everything was ready to go, on the dot. Two pairs of street cars ran, and then it started to rain! This got heavier for a while, so we sat and waited it out. Each time the rain stopped, the crew worked on the track but there was more intermittent rain. There was finally a break in the clouds, and the track dried well with quite a strong tailwind. We got ready and towed down together. We got about 3 pairs from running, and rain came again! The down time lasted around half an hour or so, and we got back in the cars. Then it was our turn, and we paired up. I did my burnout, reversed and was just coming up to pre-stage when we had to shut off for some spots of rain! We both got pushed back to the wall, along with Ray in the Ramraider and all got out of the cars. The stoppage was shorter than we thought, only about 10 minutes, so we rushed to get back in whilst a couple of street cars were running. It was now around 1pm. I did another burnout and launched quite a big wheelie, and landed a bit to the right, so had to back off briefly, before recording a 9.409 at 146.36 mph. Mark ran a 12.665 at 107.42 mph which he thought did not feel that strong. We towed back and got ready for the next run, but more rain came not long after, and that ended up being the end for the day! Only 5 Wild Bunch cars had run, so the others had no idea for Sunday’s Dial-in, though neither me or Mark had made really representative passes to dial in with either.

That night we had a prize draw in our bus for the NSRA tickets for team weekends at the Nostalgia Nationals and Hot Rod Drags. Scottie drew the drivers’ names out of my helmet, and we did not win either prize. Oh well, maybe next time. We had a wander round the pits for a while, and again had an early night.

Sunday’s weather was meant to be worse, but if we coulda raced at 6:30am it would have been great, as it was real sunny then and we would have got 4 hours of racing in before the official start time! But hey, that’s not how it goes, so we just got ready and hoped the rain would be delayed or brief. We decided to Dial in at 9.10, somewhere in the middle of where we had run at the last few events. Mark thought his car would run better so dialled in at 12.16. We had bought a new tyre pressure gauge from Steve Woods of Motorshack, as the old one had started fluctuating. We measured the pressures and found that we had 4 psi instead of the 4˝ that we thought we had, so I raised the pressures half a psi in each slick and got ready.

Eleven Wild Bunch teams were there on the Saturday but 2 did not stay for Sunday’s racing. We were hoping to be out around 11am, half an hour after the track opened. But the rain started at 9:30am, and carried on pretty heavy for the next hour or so. Tony Byng, who was commentating announced that there might be a weather window that day, so we hoped it would clear up. We waited around for a while and it started looking more hopeful, so we got ready again, and told the other teams that we would queue up as soon as the track opened. This was at around 1pm, and the 8 of us that were left joined the queue, with me and Mark the first to get there. The queue went down pretty quickly, and the sky was getting cloudier again.

Luckily, we just made it, and we paired up again. I had a Wild Bunch ‘Best Reaction’ of .188 on this run, though did not launch that hard. I ran a 9.345 at 144.35 mph, whilst Mark ran a 12.393 at 106.61 mph. Claire and the gang made their way to the tow car, and waited while a couple of the other teams ran. New driver Adz Price shut down in Team Gridlock’s Go Hard or Go Home!!! altered, due to throttle cable problems, then the other teams ran, with the last to go Ant Harris in his Frantic altered. Adz then fired up again, after the round, but the rain came again, and prevented him from running, which was a shame. We got some rain at the top end and while towing back. We wondered if the rain would clear, and hoped for another round, but it was intermittent for the next hour or so. Still, I drained the oil in the pouring rain, to get ready in case there was another run. But by about 3pm, it was just too wet to get dried in time for the curfew, even though there was a break in the clouds. It did rain again as well, while we were packing away, so that really was the form for the day.

We had managed to complete the round for Wild Bunch, so were able to have a result, and to our surprise, I finished in 4th place and Mark in 3rd! So real pleased with that! Well done to Mark as he just pipped me by 12 thousandths! Big congratulations to Gina, who won the event with a blind Dial-in! (She had not been in the car for 18 months, not since the new Ruby body was on, and she did not get a run on the Saturday! She was just .050 off, so well done to her!). Well done also to Mikey Cresswell who finished 2nd in the Living the Dream slingshot. I was also lucky enough to win the Quickest E.T. of the weekend with my 9.345, just pipping Ray who had run 9.387 on the Saturday. And I also won the Best Slingshot Spot Prize, for a big wheelie, awarded by Jerry and Tony who were commentating. So really chuffed with all those!

Thanks very much to Claire and Nige for crewing for me and Steve for towing, and Joey and Kim for crewing for Mark. Also huge thanks to all the marshals and officials and track crew for their hard work all weekend, to try to get as much racing done as possible. If it were not for their extra efforts, we might not have had any racing at all! So well done to them, and thanks!

At the end we all loaded up and Mark rang the AA to see if they would recover his trailer on Claire’s membership. They would and said it would be 2 hours though it only took them half an hour to get there. We all drove out to the front entrance and when the AA truck got there I started off for Bristol in the bus. Claire had to ride in the recovery truck and Mark and Steve drove home in the Kuga, arriving first. Mark’s trailer got unloaded okay and we parked it up to hopefully effect repairs for the next race. (This has since turned out to be a big job and Mark is getting some heavy springs made up). He hopes to borrow a trailer to get to the next event!

We’re all now looking forward to the second WB round of the season, the June Shootout at Shakey on May 30th & 31st, so hoping for better weather and a bigger field of Wild Bunch.

Next weekend we have a show at Mallory Park, the ‘PPC in the Park’ day on 23rd May. This came about as a result of the picture feature we had in Practical Performance Car Magazine, and it is their first show. Helen and Dean are due to bring their Hell’s Belle purple metal-flake altered, and it should be a nice chilled out weekend!


We were looking forward to our first event of the year at Shakespeare County Raceway, for the MSA “Springspeed Nationals”, and hoped the car would run as well there as it had at the Pod! There were 7 Wild Bunch teams entered this weekend, so it would be a good event.

Claire managed to get off a bit early from work, so we left Bristol around 3:45pm, arriving at the track around 5:30pm on the Friday. This was just as well, as the pits were absolutely rammed! Five of the other Wild Bunch teams were already there, and we were lucky to be able to pit next to Martin Holgate with the “Paranoia” altered, opposite the Outlaw Flat Four. We got set up in the pits, unloaded “Backdraft” and waited for scrutineering, which went fine. Mark, Joey and Kim arrived later that night, and were again going to use our trailer to sleep in.

The Wild Bunch were scheduled to do 3 qualifiers on the Saturday, and the weather was good!

Lee and Liam arrived about 9:30 that morning to spend the day spectating! This was Liam’s first time for about 2 years, so he was a little nervous, and was glad to have the ear muffs! He slowly got used to it all, and had a look round all the Wild Bunch cars, especially “Backdraft”!

We were 6th on the running order this weekend, so out fairly early. We fired the car up in the pits in the morning, as usual, and everything seemed good. We were called up around 10:30am, and towed down to the track. On my first run, I completely forgot that we were supposed to do a staggered start in qualifying at Shakey, so I went on Mark Richardson’s light in the other lane! He had dialled in at 9.45 with the “Pony Express” altered, and ran 9.648 at 132 mph, but we had gone for a Dial-in of 8.98, and I red lit by .051! I think that’s about only the third time I have ever red lit, so not doing too badly! I ran a 9.092 at 145.87 mph, which was pretty good for starters.

The running order went through quite well, and it didn’t seem long before we were called out again and our next run was at 1:15pm. We kept the Dial-in at 8.98, and were due to pair up with Dave Rowlands in the “Destiny’s Angel” altered, but a car in the previous pair was pushed back so I ended up soloing. I ran my first 8 at Shakey since the Nostalgia Nationals in 2006! It was an 8.994 at 146.90 mph, my best speed for about 3 years! And with the 60ft time back in the 1.2’s – just! So really chuffed with this run! And good on the qualifying score at just .014 off (though I had suggested an 8.99 as Dial that morning! But the crew were slightly more optimistic!).

We went back to the pits, changed the oil and waited around for the next run, which was around 3:20pm. This time I was matched with Martin Holgate in the “Paranoia” altered for the first time in quite a while. He dialled in at 9.40 and ran 9.866 at 133 mph, while we kept the same Dial, thinking the car might go a little quicker. It sure did, running an 8.953 at 146.53 mph, with a nice big wheelie. Well cool!

The running order was going through so well, that there was even time for a fourth qualifier Saturday for some of the classes and this included us. Lee and Liam rode down to the track in the tow car with us on this one, and Liam even attached the tow rope to Mark’s towbar! (Yay – crewing at the age of 3˝!) We lowered the Dial-in to 8.93, thinking that the cooler air might make the car run a little quicker, at 5:30pm. It was another good run, with a good launching wheelie, and I recorded an 8.887 at 146.21 mph, so real happy with the consistency, and over the moon to run three 8’s in a row! On each of our runs, Liam and Lee had gone down to the stands to watch, and we think Liam enjoyed seeing Grampy run! He did enjoy having a sit in the cockpit with each of us and pretending to steer and drive fast! They left the track to rejoin Sarah and TJ that night, and Lee said Liam was asking when he could go again!

Sunday’s weather was not bad at all, and racing started about 11am. They ran through the running order quite quickly, and we went out for our 5th qualifier at 12:15. This time, we liked the sound of an 8.97 Dial-in, so posted that. I ran against Dave Rowlands, who ran a new Personal Best 9.402 on his 9.50 Dial-in. This time I drifted towards the right guard rail, as there was a fair crosswind. I recorded a 9.299 at 143.08 mph.

There were a few delays in the day, so we weren’t out for a while. We went to watch a round of the Fuel Altered. Our 6th and last qualifier was at 4pm, and we kept the 8.97 Dial. This time I was against Ed in the “Ramraider” slingshot, and he ran a 9.386 on his 9.33 Dial-in. I ran a 9.017 at 147.43 mph, so really chuffed with the speed, especially as it won Wild Bunch “Fastest MPH of the weekend”! We thought there might be a chance of another qualifier, but the rest of the round went up to just past 6pm, so that was it for the day. I had qualified in 4th, right in the middle of the Bunch. So that shows the quality of the field when .014 only gets you 4th! Still, we were really happy with how well the car was running and looked forward to racing.

Monday dawned okay, but then there was a bit of rain, which kept coming and going for a while, delaying the start of racing. After clearing some standing water, the track crew fired up the new jet track dryer, co-built by Roy Wilding. They made a really big effort to get the track dry, and eventually racing started at quarter to two!

We were not that early on the running order, but there were a few more periods of light drizzle which caused delay. So we were not called for our first round til about 3:30pm! I had been due to face Terry Clifford in the “Ratcatcher Resurrection” slingshot, but he had lost an oil line in qualifying, and later had reduced oil pressure, so he erred on the side of caution, to take the car home and check it out rather than risk any damage. Fair play, Terry, hope all is well! This left me to solo in the quarter-finals, so the pressure was off. We dialled in at 9.00 even, and I launched softer than usual, recording a 9.306 at 145.98 mph.

This meant I was going to run against Dave Rowlands in the Semi-final, which would be a re-run of our Thunderball Final that he could not get fired in. There were some more drizzle spots and downtime, and we were called to the pairings lanes about 5:45pm, but we were still optimistic of a run. Unfortunately, there was an oil down at 6pm! But the track crew started clearing it up, and we all hoped it would not be too extensive, as this was already past the usually curfew. Fair play to them all, as the track was ready again just after 6:30, and we got to run the Semis. We dialled in at 9.15, being in the middle of what we thought was achievable. Dave dialled in at 9.45. I had a really good reaction on this race, a .053, to Dave’s .251, and overtook him, and backed off a little. He ran a close 9.489, and I broke out with a 9.098 at 136.40 mph, handing him the win! But still it had been a good run! While we had been in the fireup road, they announced that only those already there would be running, and in the end, time ran out for the Finals. Dave ended up winning as he was closer to Dial than Ed in the other Semi, so congratulations to him. I finished in 4th place which was not bad, and still meant I got a nice Top 4 trophy.

We’re all really chuffed with running some more 8’s and I loved getting some good wheelies again. Thanks very much to Mark, Claire, Joey and Kim for crewing, and especially to Liam for helping attach the race car to the tow car! Well chuffed. Also many thanks to all the marshals and officials for their hard work all weekend! The track crew did an excellent job, and everyone worked hard to try and complete the event. Well done to all at Shakey for the improvements in the facility and in the professionalism and teamwork and dedication they show.

We’re all now looking forward to the first Wild Bunch round of the season, the “Spring Nationals” at Shakey on May 16th & 17th. Our Mark is hoping to have his new trailer finished by then! Hope the weather’s good and a lot more Wild Bunch join in the fun!

10th - 13th April EASTER THUNDERBALL

We were really looking forward to this event after the winter engine freshen up, where I had replaced the rings, bearings, timing chain and gaskets. An off season fire-up on Valentine’s Day had sounded really strong, and the compression seemed improved, so we were all pretty optimistic for some good runs this season! The car had been ready for weeks so raring to go!

Also this season is a double celebration for us, as it will be our 15th year of racing “Backdraft”! It is also the 40th Anniversary of the debut of the car as “Malibu Express”, way back in 1969. And to commemorate this, my friend Spud fabricated and I welded a cockpit canopy, painted in purple metalflake by Helen and Dean’s friend Skippy, with Phil Sweeney’s leftover flake. Many thanks to Spud for all his trips back to the trailer for measurements, and his forming skills; and to Skippy for a great paint job and to Phil for the flake. The idea of this was to be reminiscent of the original car, and after putting a ‘spy picture’ on Eurodragster, we had an e-mail from Tog to look at Anders Envall’s Team Blackout website. We couldn’t believe it when on his site there were some pictures of “Malibu Express” on a trailer going to a car show in Stockholm in 1970! Wow! Nice to see some more history on the car. So we were really excited to start off the season and couldn’t wait to get to the track! And debut the canopy.

Claire and I left home around 11:30am on the Thursday, towing “Backdraft” up with the bus, and arrived just after 3pm after making good time. We were really pleased to find that we were pitted against the fence, at about the 1100-foot mark! So were looking forward to being able to see some racing over the weekend! Mark Richardson was already there with the “Pony Express” altered and we set up next to him. We unloaded “Backdraft” and got out our new canopy. Gos and Emma kindly lent us their car so we could tow up to get scrutineered. Santa Pod had built a huge new scrutineering barn at the top end of the pits and Claire towed me up to this with the canopy on. We got the car scrutineered, and a new helmet sticker for my helmet had been sprayed metalflake red recently, thanks to one of Mark’s workmates. Claire then got in the car with the canopy back on and we towed back to the pits and set up for the evening. Sharky came by later on with his girlfriend Julie, for her first time at drag racing. It was good to see him back at the track again, where he was due to take some photos and do some crewing with the Talbots. Mark and girlfriend Chloe, Joey and girlfriend Kim all left Bristol later that day and arrived at 8pm. The 4 of them were sleeping in our trailer over the weekend!

This was the fourth time that the Wild Bunch had raced at the ‘Easter Thunderball’ as a class, and we were all raring to go. We were scheduled to do 9 qualifiers, with 3 each day over the first three days, so hoped to get in quite a few runs. Friday dawned very cool and cloudy but we thought we might get at least one run in as this time we were 5th on the running order. We fired the car up in the pits in the morning, and all sounded good. We were called up around 10:30am, and made our way down to the pairings lanes. We weren’t there that long when a small shower of drizzle passed through. The track crew dried this up and we were about 5 minutes from racing, when another shower happened. Again this was light, so we waited for things to dry up. Several times we were nearly ready to roll, but after nearly 3 hours, a slightly heavier shower arrived, and we all turned back to the pits. By this time, Dick Sharp and the team had arrived with their newly rebuilt “Dorset Horn”, which is the Mark 007 incarnation. The car looked great, with a great paint job, nice shiny chrome and a lovely set of injector stacks on the Pontiac. It was really great to see them all after a 5˝ year layoff, and the banter has already well and truly started again! We then waited for a few hours and the track crew tried to get the track dried, but eventually the racing was called off. We thought Saturday was due to be better so we settled in for a good night. Unfortunately, Saturday was also wet and the drizzle was in the air for most of the day. The track never even got dry enough for any cars to be called out, and the day was rained off by about 3pm. That day, we had fired “Backdraft” up with the canopy on – well loud inside!! And different. We also spent the day catching up with people. As well as sorting out the racecar, I had improved the bar stool, fixing the wheel, a new JD box, and a shiny Simpson parachute pack – Dave Grabham came by and said it had a better chute bag on it than his altered!

Again, that night we hoped the weather would be better Sunday, and that we would be out pretty early on. Dean Smythe and his crew Steve and his son turned up in the morning for some spectating, so they hoped to see some racing!

Things did improve on Sunday, and we got ready to race, by about 8:30am. And then, we had some fantastic news from back home!! Lee rang to tell us that Sarah had just safely given birth to our second grandson, TJ! We were over the moon and so thrilled all had gone well! Big Congratulations to Lee and Sarah and big brother Liam! Can’t wait to meet the new arrival!

We had to wait around a while Sunday, as the track had been wet first thing, but we were finally called out around 1pm. We went down to the pairings lanes and waited, and it was around 10 to 2 when we got our first qualifier! We had decided to Dial-in at 8.95, as it really sounded good, and we didn’t think we would break out on that one! (And wouldn’t have minded if we had!). My first run of the year resulted in a nice wheels-up 9.171 @ 146.13 mph, so we were really chuffed with the speed on the run, as it equalled my best speed for the whole of last year, and was top speed of the Bunch for the weekend. I had been paired up with Mark in the “Pony Express” on this run, and he ran a solid 9.593 @ 141 mph. We went back to the pits and waited around for the next run. There was some drizzle and other delays that day, but we kept waiting. We were still hopeful til around quarter past 8 when they announced which classes were going to run, and which were to have the second qualifier the next day, so it turned out that was it for our day!

That night Emma and Lynne had organised an Australian-themed pit party for Sarah and Darryl as they are shortly due to leave for their year-long trip to Australia! Hope they have a fantastic time!!

The weather was due to be better Monday, and luckily it was! We thought we would be out quite early in the running order Monday so got ready around 8:30am. But due to some changes and a round of the Pro Classes, we did not get called til around 1030 am. We went down to the pairings lanes and waited, but there were a few on track incidents so the time rolled on past 11am, when the Pro Classes were due out. They were delayed a bit, and we were scheduled after them, so it was around 10 to 1 when we got our second qualifier!

We decided to only change the Dial-in a bit, to an 8.97, for this qualifier, and this run resulted in a 9.214 @ 143.83 mph, still with a wheelie, but a bit off Sunday’s pace. This time we raced Ed, who recorded a 9.493 @ 140 mph. I ended up in 4th place overall for qualifying.

We then knew we would have a bit of a wait to the start of our eliminations. All five Wild Bunch cars had qualified for eliminations, and Ed was due to have the Bye, as he had been one thousandth off his Dial-in in qualifying (fair play, Ed!). I was due to face Mark in “Pony Express” in the first round, our Quarter Finals, and it’s always a close race! We waited all the afternoon, and finally got called to the pairings lanes around 6:30pm, and the round took place at 7pm!

We dialled in at 9.20, being what we knew was an achievable number in the conditions. Mark ended up pulling the “Best Reaction” of the Bunch with a .189 on this run, to my .322. But I had managed to run “Closest to Dial-in” of the Bunch for the day, with .033 off Dial, recording a 9.233 @ 129.80 mph against Mark’s 9.737 @ 139.02 mph on his 9.45 Dial. So I got to the top end first, backed off a little and won the round! Claire was really excited in the tow car!! This was a real stroke of luck, as it meant that in the Semis I then had a Bye into the Final! Wow! We couldn’t believe it! We got back to the pits and quickly did another oil change, so it would last the two runs, as we knew we wouldn’t have time between the Semi and the Final.

We kept the 9.20 Dial-in for this run, but I was able to go flat out, in the dusk. Another good wheelie, and I recorded a 9.031 @ 146.12 mph! Well chuffed, as this was very close to the best run of the whole of last year (a 9.013 @ 146.81 mph). And going in the right direction!

We hurried back to the pits to refuel for the Final, and were called down around half an hour later. Our Final was going to take place around 8:45pm – and it was pitch dark!!! Great, another night run!! But Dave is a tough opponent and usually very consistent. He towed down in front of me so was ahead in the pairings lanes. We were given the order to fire-up, and did so, but Dave couldn’t fire up the “Destiny’s Angel”. He tried several times and the marshall waited patiently, but it just was not happening! Such a shame, as it would have been a good race. Many commiserations to him for not getting to run!! This meant I was on a solo in the Final! We had kept the 9.20 Dial-in, but again I was able to go flat out. The air was pretty cool, but the track did not seem too cold, so it could be a good pass! I really went for it on this run. The car pulled a big wheelie, and all I could see was the dark sky!! (Never done that before!). The car landed well and I kept right on it. And by the time I got to three-quarter track, there were some awesome one-foot methanol flames coming out of the headers! I was mesmerised by this, as I’d never had flames like that before! Wow! I carried on through the top end into the dark and “Backdraft” crossed the line with an amazing 8.996 @ 145.64 mph! Yee-haaaa!! This was my first 8 since July 2006! Wow! I gotta say that this was probably my best run ever!! Especially for the enjoyment of it all! I sure love those night runs! Mark and Claire and the gang came up to the top end with headlights flashing, and I was over the moon when they said it had been an 8! And to top it all, this was my first MSA win since Easter 2007! Hey, it don’t get any better than that!! I’d like to dedicate the win to our new grandson TJ !

We’re all really chuffed with the car’s improved performance again, and to dip back into the 8’s was a real bonus! Thanks very much to Mark and Claire for crewing, and Joey for moving the tow car around. They really did me proud, as always. Also many thanks to all the marshals and officials for their hard work all weekend! The track crew did a fantastic job, and they and the marshalls and officials and racers managed to complete all the eliminations, by around 9pm that night. Thanks to them for all their dedication and determination. Also big thanks to Darren Prentice! And to all at Santa Pod for the warm welcome! We really enjoyed the event!

We were so knackered after we had gone to the prize presentation and packed up the bus by around 10:30pm, that we decided it was best to stay the night and go home in the morning!

We’re all now looking forward to the MSA “SpringSpeed Nationals” at Shakey on May 2nd – 4th, for the second Real Steel round of the season. Hope the weather’s good! Can’t wait for it!

That was the News