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24th - 25th September 2011 NATIONAL FINALS at SANTA POD

We were really looking forward to National Finals, and the final rounds of our Wild Bunch, Real Steel and MSA Series. It was our ninth Wild Bunch event of the season. The weather forecast was really good, so we were really happy about that! And hoping to get in all 3 scheduled qualifiers. I was currently in 3rd place in the Wild Bunch Series, with a bit of a chance of moving up, depending on who won which round, and I was also 2nd in Real Steel and the MSA Challenge, so a chance to do well in those.

I left home around 9:30am on the Friday, towing “Backdraft” up with the Winne, as Claire and Mark were travelling up later in his Amazon, after they had finished work. I got to the track at about 20 past 1 after another good journey. I was chuffed to see we were pitted by the fence alongside the track again. And I got parked up at around the 1100foot mark. I started to set up our pits, and other Wild Bunchers were arriving. There were 8 Wild Bunch teams entered at the event, so no Bye runs this weekend. After signing on, Terry and Ruth kindly towed me up to scrutineering which all went smoothly. I had a nice afternoon and an early tea, and Claire and Mark arrived about 9:15pm. We had a bit of chat with Team Gridlock in their camper. They were raring to go, after missing one event. Adam was leading the Wild Bunch Series, with Terry in 2nd place, so it was going to be an exciting weekend! We went to bed quite early.

We were scheduled to have 3 qualifiers on the Saturday, and the day started off well, dry and warm, with some sunshine, and a few clouds. We were about 16th on the running order so not out too early. We fired the car up and checked everything was okay. I also did a compression check, as in some photos, we had noticed some smoke from number 7 cylinder. The check proved okay, so we were good to go. We were going to leave all the settings the same as at the Hot Rod Drags and just see how the car ran. We got our first call just before 10:30am and made our way to the staging lanes.

On this run I was paired up with Darren Law. We had decided to Dial in at 9.10, having run a 9.15 the previous weekend. Darren dialled in at 9.03. He ran a 9.231 at 143mph. We were all pleasantly surprised when I broke out, with a 9.095 at 143.00mph. (A good 2 tenths quicker than at the Euro Finals!). And only 5 thousandths under the Dial-in, so nearly a good guess! And I was the only one that round to break out. We went back to the pits, and changed oil and fuelled up and got ready for the next round.

We had a bit of wait for this, as there was a round of Pro racing in between as well as all the other Sportsman classes (there were over 20 classes altogether). We got called out at about 2pm, and towed down to the pairings lanes. This time I was matched up with Adam. He dialled in at 9.32, while we decided to lower our Dial-in to 9.05, to get a qualifier on the right side. I had a slightly quicker reaction than Adam, though he had a real good 60ft. He ran a 9.440 at 131mph. I recorded a 9.150 at 140.81mph, so a bit slower, though it had gotten a bit warmer since the first run. At that point I was in 5th place. We went back to the pits and fuelled up.

We were called out for the 3rd qualifier at around 5:30pm. We were paired up with Darren again, and he had changed his Dial-in to 9.20. We raised ours a bit, to 9.08. Darren had problems with his transbrake, and rolled the beams, so did not get a time. I ran a 9.117 at 142.10mph, so was a lot closer to my Dial-in than the previous run. I finished the day as 3rd place qualifier, so that was pretty good. We went back to the pits and changed oil, fuelled up and got the car ready for the next morning. Claire worked out that my qualifying position meant that I would have Darren in the first round!

We had a nice night talking to friends, and went round to see Rich Walters and family for a while. Pete was currently in 3rd place in Super Pro, and could move up a bit. Rich had just reconditioned the box, so the car was running better than at the Euros. We wished them luck and went back to the Winne for another fairly early night.

On Sunday morning, the weather was really nice again. A lovely sunrise and fairly warm with no mist around, like a usual late September morning. We were out pretty late on the running order, as we only had 3 rounds, so there was a lot of time to watch some racing and chat. We fired up the car to check everything was okay. And it all seemed fine. Well done to Mark Coulsell, Steve and the Marras, who worked late into the night Saturday, after their dizzy gear broke. They replaced this, dropped the sump, drained it, washed the parts and got it back together (and eventually made it to run the first round Sunday!). Fair play, guys!

We watched quite a lot of good close racing, and some of the Pro cars, and had an early lunch. We were having a bit of banter with all the other Wild Bunchers, and not long before we were called out, Darren from “The Wicked Lady” team told us they were having problems with their starter motor, and sometimes it would fire the car and sometimes not! There was no time to try and fix this, as we were then called out, at around 1:15pm, so they towed down hoping it would work. They had disconnected their transbrake which had been causing problems and causing the car to roll through stage, as it was not staying engaged. They dialled in at 9.20 again. And we went for a 9.12, being somewhere in the middle of the three runs on Saturday.

Well, Darren had a reaction time advantage on me, with a .199, as I just ended up staring at the green, with a .325! Oh boy! There was some ground to make up! I managed to catch him, and just backed off through the lights, as I thought I might have gone quicker than my Dial-in. But he just got back by me at the last moment and won the race by only .010! So close! He ran a 9.385 at 143mph, and I recorded a 9.189 at 133.37mph. Hey ho! That’s racing! Well done to him and the team! We were glad that their car had started, and we had a good close race. It’s good to see them back racing with the Wild Bunch.

Meanwhile, Terry had had some gearbox problems on the last run Saturday, and had dropped the oil and replenished it, and hoped it would work for the first round run. Unfortunately, it didn’t and he red lit as he rolled forward, and had to coast over. A great shame for the team, but glad he now has the off-season to rebuild it. As he was also out first round, this meant that Adam won the Wild Bunch Series at that point! He then won his first round race for good measure. Congratulations to him and the whole team. A very well deserved win, and very worthy winners! We are really chuffed for them, and they are all so excited!! Woop woop!!

This also meant that we would have to sit and wait to see where we finished in the points. And it all depended on who won in the Semis and the Final. In the Semis, Dave Williams beat Adam, and Bob Hawkins beat Darren, so they were moving on up the order. We worked out that we were now 4th, but if Bob won the Final, we would drop to 5th. In the end, Dave won the Final on a holeshot, his first ever MSA event win! Congratulations to him! The car has been consistent all year, and he has so nearly won a few times, so this was very well deserved, and meant he finished in 3rd place in the Wild Bunch Series, behind Adam and Terry in 2nd place.

The results mean that I have finished in 4th place in the Wild Bunch Series this year! Phew! Claire worked out that this is my 7th Top 4 Wild Bunch finish (two 2nds, two 3rds and three 4thsI). And I have finished in 2nd place in the Real Steel Series this season. Terry won this, so Congrats to him on his first Real Steel Series win! And congrats to him on winning the MSA Challenge. I ended up 3rd in this Series, with Bob Hawkins 2nd.

Thanks very much to Mark and Claire for crewing. Also, huge thanks to all the marshals and officials and track crew for their hard work all weekend! Special thanks to Ian Marshall for his dedication, and very best wishes and thoughts to Paula, who we wish well very soon! Thanks also to Colin for more great commentary, and to Tog for more great coverage on Eurodragster. And to all the photographers for some really great pictures!

We’re now looking forward to our Annual Dinner Dance Prize Presentation at Drayton Manor on 26th November! I will be collecting WB 4, Real Steel 2nd place & Roy Wilding 3rd place, so we are pretty chuffed with all those! (And also looking forward to our holiday where we will be going to the 20th Annual California Hot Rod Reunion!! Wow!). In February we will be collecting the APIRA Series Runner-up trophy. And then the new season will be just around the corner!!

17th - 18th September 2011 HOT ROD DRAGS at SHAKEY

We were really looking forward to the Hot Rod Drags, and our fourth ‘Cacklefest’! We were again going to use our 1964 GMC Suburban as a push car all weekend.

I left home by myself at around 9:30am on the Friday, towing “Backdraft” up with the Winne, as Claire and Mark were going to drive up later, after they finished work. I got to the track around 11:15 and started to park up in a designated spot, in the middle of the pits, just on the left of the middle road as you pull into the pits. There were already a lot of cars in the pits and the fields. I had been asked to park sideways along the row, but tried this and could not manoeuvre into the space, so asked to park longways across the middle. I did this, and unloaded the car and set up the pits, and was all sorted by about noon. I had a nice chilled out afternoon, meeting up with friends and chatting to everyone. Later on Roy came along and scrutineered me, as he was helping out at the weekend. The pits were absolutely heaving, and there were some new cars around. One team had come all the way from Belgium, with a fantastic Nostalgia Funny Car, a 1971 Charger bodied, metal-flake painted car called “Wild’r at Heart”. Ian Turburville got to know them when they came over for the Mopar Nationals, and he introduced me to the driver, Ramon, and crew/co-owner Rene, and all the team. They are a great bunch of guys with a good sense of humour, not to mention a great-looking car!

Later that day, Claire left home around 6:45pm, driving the Suburban again. Mark followed with Kim in his Amazon. They had a good journey up, and Claire really enjoyed driving the Suburban, getting there at about 8:15pm. We chatted to friends there for a while, and a bit later on Ed came round saying that Joey had broken down in Morrisons in Stratford and needed picking up. Claire was ready to go, when they found out it was Joe Williams and not Joey! Anyway, she went with Ed to Stratford in the Burb and after a bit of circumnavigating, they found Joe and brought him back to the track! He was real chuffed. We then had a nice chat and an early night.

The weather forecast was pretty mixed for the weekend, so we would have to wait and see what it turned out to be. We weren’t planning on doing many runs, but did want to check things out and see how the car ran at Shakey, after losing nearly three tenths up at the Pod. Saturday started pretty wet! The track crew started work early, and there were a couple of light showers but they kept on working. The track started drying, and the queues started forming at around 11:30/noon. We wandered around the pits chatting to people when it was dry. The track was nearly about to open when there was a real big shower. About 10 minutes later the sun came out again! The track crew got to work again and started to dry the track. Around an hour or so later, they were nearly ready again, when another shower fell! They started work again, and kept trying for over an hour, and got the jet dryer out, and were just gripping the track and getting the drivers ready again, when yet another big shower fell around 3:30/4:00pm! Such a shame!! And so much hard work to no avail. Big thanks to all the crew for their huge efforts and for keeping trying.

We wandered round the pits meeting up with people in between the showers. We met up with the Townson’s from the “Northern Spirit” team, who told us a funny story. They had got their altered all ready, and just started to fire it up, when something flew out of one of the headers. It turned out to be a frog!! Neil didn’t believe it when they told him, but someone rescued it and put it in the field! They couldn’t figure out how it got there, but thought it may have crawled in there when they took the header bank off, back in their unit! Needless to say, we did have a joke about it all weekend!

We were all hoping that the weather would hold so that the Cacklefest could take place. The track crew started clearing the standing water again, and preparing the track. We had an early tea, and prepared the car for the Cacklefest, setting the dizzy for flames, and firing up to make sure all was okay. We were told to get to the pairings lanes for 7pm, and that we were going to be after a few flame burnouts by some of the Supercharged Outlaws guys. The Gassers would be next, then the push starters and then Supercharged Outlaws and other racers.

We started pushing towards the pairings lanes just before 7pm. The sun had come out really strongly now, and we were thinking it was way too light! We got into the pairings lanes behind Scottie and Gina, pushing the “Tiki Munki” with their 1954 Chevy, and Terry Clifford, whose “Ratcatcher Resurrection” was being pushed for the first time by son Andrew’s new 1960’s Ford Falcon. Mark Coulsell was behind us in “Ballbreaker”, being pushed by Dad Ian’s 40’s pickup. Other Wild Bunchers taking part were Sarah driving “RamRaider”, Mike Couch in his “Flat Frenzy” slingshot, and Ian Turburville in his “Mr Spokehead II” rail. I was all suited and ready.

Just before the start of the show, there was a speech and a two-minute silence for young Kasey Dixon-Grainger who had passed away a few weeks ago. Many of the cars, including ours, were carrying purple and black decals and ribbons in memory of him.

Barry Bohannon started announcing the show, which began with Tom Coe doing a flame burnout in the “Shy Talker” slingshot, and Lee Gallimore doing a flame burnout in his “Red Mist” altered. We couldn’t see this from where we were, but they sounded strong. It still wasn’t that dark, but we hoped it would be by the time we went round. The first of the Gassers then fired up and drove down the fireup road onto the track. There were around 8 to 10 of them. Then a couple of the slingshots fired up and went down, then Scottie, Sarah and Terry took their turns. It was then our turn, and Mark pushed me round the corner of the pairings lanes with the Burb, and I fired up in front of the grandstands and drove away from the Burb. Claire said she could hear a lot of whistling and cheering from the large crowd watching. I drove onto the track and parked up next to Sarah in “RamRaider”. Unfortunately, quite a few of us were parked directly opposite a big spotlight the organisers had erected to guide the way. This somewhat doused all our flames a lot which was a shame. But we still enjoyed the whole experience and it was great to be part of it, as always. I ran the car for as long as I could, until Mark gave me the signal to shut off. After us came some Supercharged Outlaws, and we were glad to see Ramon was able to take part in his Nostalgia funny car, followed by Norm Wheeldon in his twin-engined slingshot. There were about 30 cars in all. We haven’t yet got our ‘Cacklefest participant’ stickers, but will look forward to putting them on the car soon.

After the Cackle and the fireworks, we pushed back to the pits and packed up for the night. We had a nice time chatting to some friends, including Karen and John, and Alan Martin stopped by to chat about the evening’s events. We then went down to Mark Coulsell’s early 40th birthday party in the team’s pit area. They even had cupcakes with Number 8 on them! It was another good night.

There was a heavy shower in the early hours of Sunday morning, which didn’t look too promising for the day, though the forecast was improving. It was cloudy and cool, but I decided to sign on about 8:30am, hoping we would get some runs. We had a steady morning and I got everything ready with the race car, including re-setting the dizzy and fuelling up and changing oil. The track crew worked hard again, and finally the track opened at about 12:30pm! We left the pits about 1pm with Mark pushing “Backdraft” with the Suburban. Not long afterwards, there was an oil down, and we later found out this was Ian Turburville in his lovely slingshot. He had holed the sump both sides, and left bits of con rod on the track! Oh no, huge damage. Real sorry to hear this and hope he can rebuild and be back out early next season! Best of luck Turbo! The track crew cleared up and re-started racing, only for there to be another oil down shortly after. They cleared up again and racing resumed, but there was yet another oil down! And while they were clearing this up, a shower! Claire went back to the Winne, and brought some lunch back for us, and we sat in the Burb having a picnic! Some cars turned back, but many stayed, and eventually racing got going at around 3:30pm! Thanks to all the crew’s hard work. We eventually got the run, which was a 9.155 at 142.06mph. Much better than last weekend at the Pod! So hopefully everything’s running well.

We pushed “Backdraft” back to the pits from the top end. It was pretty late so decided not to try for another run, as the queue was huge. Most people only got the 1 run all weekend. We heard on the tannoy that Ramon was running, so ran from the Winne all the way down to the track, just in time to see the run. After this, I got Tony Smith to flag down the crew, so I could hop a lift, and show them where to pick him up from. Just as well, as he was behind the tall grass at the top end of the track! We had a bit of banter again, and I kidded him I was quicker than him (for the moment!). They twigged on our sense of humour, so that was okay! Nice to meet a great bunch of guys.

I went back to the pits and started packing up. Claire stayed and watched a bit of racing, which was all finished at about 5pm. It was real sunny by then!! We left about 6:30pm.

Thanks very much to Mark and Claire and Joey for crewing, and push car driving! And huge thanks to all the hardworking Shakey marshals and officials and track crew, who couldn’t have tried any harder – fair play to them. And thanks to the NSRA organisers for their hard work all weekend!

We’re now looking forward to the UK National Finals next weekend at Santa Pod, where our Wild Bunch, Real Steel and MSA Challenge Series will be decided. I am in the Top 3 of all of these at the moment, so hoping to maintain or improve my position! We have 8 teams entered, and hope the weather’s good for our final race of the season!

8th - 11th September 2011 EUROPEAN FINALS at SANTA POD

We were really excited about competing at the “Euro Finals” at Santa Pod for our second time ever in Super Pro, in a huge field of 48 cars!!! We had run three 8.99 E.T.s at the Open Sports Nationals, so we were hopeful of being able to qualify okay. That was our main goal, as well as continuing to run some more 8’s, and have fun!

Claire and I left home around 9:30am on the Wednesday, towing “Backdraft” up with the Winne, with Mark and his friends following in his 1967 Volvo Amazon towing his caravan. We were going to use the Amazon as a tow car all weekend, and hopefully also for a ‘special’ event on the Sunday morning! Darren Prentice had asked us if we could do another push start, as we had done at ‘Dragstalgia’, just before the Top Qualifiers presentation! Wow! What an honour! I had explained that we were not planning to bring the Suburban, due to Claire still not feeling very well, and also the expense of fuel for getting it there. But on the Saturday afternoon before the event, I asked Mark if he would mind me attaching a wooden push pad to the front of his Amazon, to use that instead. He readily agreed, and I fabricated a push pad out of several pieces of wood, and attached it using his existing number plate mounts. So we hoped this would work out well, as we were keen to do this, especially with a huge crowd of people there that would be watching, to bring some Nostalgia to the masses!!

We made good time on the way to the track and got there around 12:45pm. There was a queue when we got there, but they soon opened the front gate, and we drove around to the pit gate, and towards our pit area. Friends of ours, Rich and Julie Walters had very kindly saved us a space next to them, with son Pete’s rear-engined “Re-loaded” Super Pro rear-engine dragster. We have a lot of friends in the class, and love the cars, so were really looking forward to racing some of them. And once again, they were all very welcoming! We got set up, and Rich kindly took us to signing on in their golf buggy, and afterwards up to scrutineering, and back. We finished sorting out our pit area, and had a nice afternoon and evening. We had a fairly early night, as we were going to be the second class out on the Thursday, and there were 4 qualifiers scheduled, with the possibility of more if things went well!

Thursday dawned wet, with some overnight and early morning rain, and the track crew were working hard to dry and prep the track. This took a lot longer than they anticipated, but the track was finally open at about noon, and we were called to the pairings lanes after Pro ET. We still hoped for several qualifiers at least, and planned to do all of them, and hoped to race as many different drivers as we could. I needed to re-learn the Sportsman Tree lights, as they are a .500 delay with a ‘blink blink blink’ as opposed to our usual .400 Pro Tree, ‘blink... go’. So needed to get a bit of practice in! When we were called out, we were one of the first cars to tow down. There was a bit of confusion in the pairings lanes, when a car was shut down, so we didn’t know who we were racing until the last minute. It turned out to be Marck Harteveld in the green ‘Voodoo Hemi’. He was from the Netherlands, and we had matched up with him in qualifying last year. He had dialled in at 8.05, and we had opted for an 8.98. The startline had recently been resurfaced, and was still quite green and some of the cars in front of us, including Matt Glassup in the ‘Xtreme’ rear-engined dragster, had trouble getting off the line. We also found this, and spun the tyres at the hit, recording a 1.8 second 60ft, and a 10.203 ET at 138.95mph! Oh boy! Marck ran an 8.138 at 167mph, so he managed to hook up. In all there were around 8 to 10 cars who were about a second off their usual pace. We went back to the pits and fuelled up, and hoped that the track would start to come around by the next run. I was then in 26th spot in the qualifying order.

We didn’t have that long to wait, as we were called out at about 2:15pm. This time, we were paired with Steve Johnson, in the ‘Motor Mouse’ rear-engined dragster. We had also matched up with him last year. He dialled in at 7.30, and we kept the 8.98. Steve ran a 7.463 at 178mph. I had a much better launch on this run, and posted a 9.245 at 139.47mph. Much better, but nowhere near that ‘8’! We went back to the pits, fuelled up, and changed the oil. I had moved up slightly to #22 in qualifying.

There were a couple of hours before the next qualifier, so we decided to make a change. I turned the high speed round, to lean the engine out a bit at the top end. We were called out at about 4:20pm, and this time I was matched up with Wild Buncher Bob Hawkins in the “Time Traveller” slingshot. He dialled in at 8.80, and I kept the 8.98. I had about a tenth advantage in reaction time, and it was pretty even down track, and Bob just got to the finish line .002 ahead of me! He posted a 9.073 at 151mph, while I recorded a 9.1998 at 139.88mph. Better, but the car felt like it did need more fuel about 7/8ths track. We went back to the pits and fuelled up. We weren’t sure we were going to get a 4th qualifier that day, due to the late start, but fair play to the whole track crew and officials as they started on the 4th cycle. I was in 28th place now.

Because the engine seemed to want more fuel, we blanked off the high speed lean out again. We were called out to the pairings lanes about 6:30pm, and this time I was paired up with long time Super Pro racer Barry Giles, for the first ever time. He dialled in at 7.75, and I kept the 8.98. On this run, I had a red light by just -.007! To Barry’s good .064. He ran right on his numbers, with a 7.782 at 168mph, and I ran a 9.272 at 138.64mph. So still a long way off my pace a fortnight before. So time to put our thinking caps on! I was now in 32nd place in qualifying – right on the bump spot!! We fuelled up and got the car ready for the next day. We had an early tea, and spent the evening chatting to friends,

On Friday morning, I decided to try something with the fuel mixture, so I blanked off the main return. It was dry in the morning, and we were called to the pairings lanes real early, around 9:00am. For this round, we were matched with Dave Raper in the blue ‘58 Corvette. He dialled in at 8.97 and I kept the 8.97, so real close to heads up! He was having some problems over the weekend, and made a 9.678 pass at 125mph. I was ahead of him all the way and pulling away, so thought I had run much quicker, so was a bit surprised to find it was slower, with a 9.314 at 139.38mph! Oh well, back to the drawing board. I had now dropped to #35, so out of the show at this point.

We went back to the pits, and I decided to try something else, as we knew we had a long wait that day, with a cycle (or two) of the Pro Classes. We did a double check on the timing, and were surprised to find that we were 5 degrees off our normal mark! So I quickly corrected this. I also decided to lean it out again. So changed the pill (a lot) in the first main return. We then went to watch some of the Pro class qualifying, from on top of Mike Bull’s camper platform, at about the 1000 ft mark. Thanks very much to Mike for letting us watch from there! (Several times over the weekend!). The qualifying was really good, with a few 4-second runs from the Top Fuellers. We went back to the pits and had some lunch, and chatted to other racers. After the first round of Pro classes, the other Sportsman classes had their fifth qualifier, and then it was straight back into the second cycle of Pro qualifying. There were quite a few clouds around, so the organisers needed to make sure they could get this round in.

We had a lot of time to think about the tune-up, so I decided to make the pill change less in the main, and went about half way. Still lean, but not so much. We went and watched some more racing, and went back to the Winne about 6pm. We were called to the pairings lanes about 6:30pm for our sixth qualifier. He dialled in at 7.30, and kept the 8.98. Steve ran a 7.630 at 159mph. With the timing advanced to its proper spot, and the change in the fuel system, we expected to see quite a change in the ET, but this did not happen, as I ran a 9.302 at 139.81mph, only a hundredth different than my last run! We went back to the pits and fuelled up again, and packed up for the day. Once back in the pits, we heard that Steve had thrown some rods on that run! So big commiserations to him on the damage, and hope he can be back out racing soon!

We had tea and spent another pleasant evening chatting to friends, including Nick Wood and Pete from the Bristol Pegasus Club, who had come up to Santa Pod for the first time! They were staying in our trailer this weekend and were really chuffed with everything they had seen!

On Saturday morning, it was again cloudy but dry. The change in the fuel system had not made any difference, so I put it back to the previous setting. The next thing we decided to try was to put slightly more advance in the timing. We increased it by just 3 degrees, and hoped for the scheduled 7th and last qualifier to test the theory. We didn’t have long to wait in the morning, and were called out at about 9:15am. For this run, we were matched up with Ian Powell in a rear-engined dragster. He dialled in at 8.17 and ran an 8.222 at 163mph. We kept the 8.98 still, and were a little disappointed to run a 9.430 at 136.06mph. We had now slipped to #37 qualifier overall. So nowhere near being in the show at this point. And our friend Pete Walters had been having gearbox trouble all weekend, and he was only qualified in #38!

After we had been back in the pits for a while, it was apparent that there were several cars in our class who had broken. We knew that there was a system of alternates, so Claire went with Rich Walters on their golf buggy, to go and see the officials in the tower to ask if it was possible that we, as 5th alternate, and Pete as 6th alternate, could be put on the reserve list, for the first round, if that many cars did not make it to the round. The officials said ‘yes’, so we were then in with a shout of still being in the programme!

Back in the pits, we re-set the dizzy back to its usual mark, so we were now back full circle to where we started! We fuelled up, and went to watch some of the Pro classes again, for their third round. We had lunch, and watched some more, knowing that we should be going into our first round of eliminations later that day, if all went smoothly, and if we made it in!

The Pro classes were running for several hours, and eventually at quarter to 3 there was a rain delay. It was only a light shower, and racing resumed at 4pm. Just before this, they had called Pro Modified back to the lanes, so we knew they were going to go straight back round into the 4th cycle of Pro qualifying. We went to watch again, and it was really good. It was some time around 6:30 or 7:00pm, that the officials made the announcement that the Sportsman classes would not be running their eliminations that night, due to time restraints. So we stood down, and went and had some tea. This meant that we could later go and watch the Top Methanol Dragsters and Funnies, and then Top Fuel at night! This was really spectacular! You don’t often get to see a 4-second run in the dark (Risto Poutianen making the show on his last attempt) or a pair of fuellers run nearly the full quarter together with 8ft header flames! We really enjoyed this! After the third car, there was an oil down, and at 8:15 at night, the track crew once again worked their socks off to clean this up and allow the other cars to resume their last qualifying round! Well done to them again!

We went back to the Winne afterwards, and then had another nice evening chatting to friends. Sunday’s weather had initially been predicted as a washout, but according to the forecast checked on my phone, this was improving, so we hoped that some racing would take place!

Sunday started off pretty good, and especially good as it was dry! We thought that the day would start with the Number 1 Pro Qualifiers presentations, followed by the first round of Pro Mod, so we didn’t think our first round would be early. We hadn’t heard anything from Darren Prentice all weekend, about the demo push start, as he had been obviously really busy! I rang his mobile quite early on, and he said he would come round to our pits to arrange the details. He arrived with a piece of paper in his hand, outlining the running order of the morning. And we were well chuffed when we found out that they wanted us to do the demo push start, on the track, just before the first round of Top Fuel!!!!! Wow! We were listed on the schedule, between 10:03am and 10:06am! Darren explained the details, and asked us to be in the pairing lanes at about quarter to 10.

I got the Amazon ready, bolting the push board planks to the front bumper, and we did a very short test push in the pits, just in front of our trailer. It seemed to work fine, so we got ready. Just before the allotted time, we towed down the pairings lanes. When we got there, the pairings marshals said ‘we were a bit previous’, thinking we were coming down for the Super Pro round. They didn’t know anything about the demo, so we showed them the piece of paper. We were parked up just behind all the Pro Mods who had started running. We moved further down the lanes, and the Top Fuellers started lining up behind us! Some people had wondered what we were doing ‘lining up with the fuellers’, before they realised it was a demo pass. We eventually towed round to in front of the ‘barn’ garage, and Claire strapped me in and put all my gear on, and we waited. While we were there, Stu Bradbury came along and said ‘hello’, which was really nice. Darryl Bradford also stopped by to said ‘hi’. He said that the demo had been his suggestion, so huge thanks to him for giving the organisers the idea! He had wanted us to push down the old fireup road, and drive round under the tower, but the logistics of the long fuellers being there meant space would be tight, so we were just going to line up under the tower. Just then Keith Bartlett came along and shook my hand and thanked us for doing the demo! We in turn thanked him for letting us do it! Real chuffed that they had asked us and had faith in us putting on a show. We had found it that it was also to celebrate the 45th Anniversary of Santa Pod. And the idea was to show the crowd ‘this is how it used to be done’, and then just before the fuellers to say ‘this is how it’s done now’. A great comparison! And really pleased to represent Nostalgia Racing and the Wild Bunch!

We gradually pushed round, and Mark got the Amazon lined up behind “Backdraft”. We were all a little nervous, and excited and hoped everything would go well! After a few minutes, we pushed through past the burnout box, and sat there waiting for the signal. Darryl Bradford was on the start line, and described what was going to happen, and Darren Prentice gave us the signal. Claire poured petrol down the injector stacks and got in the Amazon, and Mark drove forwards. I fired the car up just about level with the start line, and pulled away from the Amazon and drove down the track, blipping the throttle gently a few times as I did. Mark got straight off the racing line, and he, Claire and Joey followed me down the track in the Amazon, waving to the crowd! It was amazing!! What a thrill, and what an honour!! Over the moon to do this, and really chuffed that it all went to plan! And the push bar worked a treat. We pulled off at the first exit gate and parked round the corner, all of us buzzing from such a special experience!!! Big smiles all round!! We will remember this a long time! Many thanks to Darren and Darryl and all the organisers for making it happen. Wow!!!! Claire couldn’t stop saying ‘wow’ for about an hour, and was really bouncing around. Lots of people made nice comments, and Roy and Mark Coulsell were well chuffed for us.

Well, it was back to the pits then, to get ready in case we made it into the first round. I fuelled up and got the car ready. Our next theory was that the track was just so sticky that weekend and well-prepared for the quick cars, that the traction was dragging the car down. To counteract this, we figured we would try raising the tyre pressures, just by 1 psi, to see if this helped. So we did this and waited for the call. All of the Pro classes were running their first rounds, and this took up until about 1pm.

At this time, Santa Pod staged a 9/11 remembrance tribute with parachutists bringing the Union flag and the Stars and Stripes down with them. We had our own special tribute, as I asked Claire to design some decals in red and gold to put on the race car, featuring a fireman’s helmet and the words ‘Remembering 9/11’. Ed kindly made these for us, and he also made some for “RamRaider”. As the parachutists were descending, an American colonel gave a very moving speech in tribute.

After this, it was back into the second round for the Pro Mods. Then the bikes, and then Top Fuel. They were flying through the running order for the Pros, and it was going pretty smoothly. We knew we would have to wait, so didn’t really mind. They also ran Top Methanol dragster and Funny Car. We were then called out at about 3:15pm! The first of the Sportsman classes to be called. We started off for the pairings lanes and got down early, and the 1st to 4th alternate cars went by. All the alternates were in one lane, waiting for their chance. Rich Walters came along and wrote ‘Alt 5’ in shoe white on one of our slicks! And ‘Alt 6’ on the nose of Pete’s car! Before we went down, we were pretty sure that Pete was going to get in as well, as there were 4 breakages and at least 2 cars who had left the site. It was a bit confusing for all the pairings marshals, with around 25 cars and 6 alternates to arrange. While we were waiting, John Price walked by and said ‘hi’ and that he enjoyed the push start and ‘wished he was down there with us’! So that was nice!

The round started, and one by one the different alternates matched up with cars where the opponent was a no show. Claire had the qualifying list and was trying to keep an eye on it, as we would not know until the last minute who we had in the first round. It turned out that we had Guido Uhlir from Germany in an Opel Manta. He had lane choice and I waited for him to drive round. Guido dialled in at 8.41, and I kept our 8.98 Dial. There was not much in it off the line, he cut a .140 light and I cut a .184. He ran 8.600 at 145mph. I had another good launch, and ran quicker than the night before, with a 9.281 at 137.29mph. Guido won the race by over a tenth in the end. Congratulations to him! But still we were chuffed to have made it into the first round, and be racing on the Sunday, especially after our push start demo, to show the crowds our car is in active race car.

We went back to the pits, and started packing away. Our tyre pressure change did not seem to make any difference, so we will just have to wait and see what the car runs at the next event, to figure out if it was down to the track, and a combination of the ‘air’ not being as good as at the Open Sports Nationals.

The other classes carried on racing, and we went over to the fence to watch Pete Walters next run, as he had made it through the first round. We also watched the Top Fuel final – it was an amazing and entertaining ‘pedalfest’ between Urs Erbacher and Risto Poutianen, with Urs the winner, and the winner of the European Championship. Congratulations to him!

We carried on watching Pete’s progress throughout the day, and he managed to get a Bye run in the Semis, into the Final! This was the very last race of the day. It was dark by now and we went over and joined Mark on the tailgate of his Amazon, by the fence. Pete had Nick Good in the Final, a tough opponent, but we hope he could do it. Well, his gearbox finally let go, and he recorded a 16-second pass. But it was brilliant to see him get all the way to the Final, after all the problems they had over the weekend! Well done, Pete, Rich, Julie, Hollie and all the team! Congratulations!

Thanks very much to Mark and Claire for crewing, and Joey for towing and battery lugging! Thanks to Mark for bringing his Amazon and pushing!! Also, huge thanks to all the Santa Pod marshals and officials and track crew for their hard work all weekend! They really excelled themselves again! And were rewarded by a fantastic event!! And thanks to all the other Super Pro racers for making us feel very welcome again! It was great to race in the class. We really enjoyed the event! And especially the push start!!

This means we have taken part in the 30th Anniversary of Santa Pod (when we were with 5 other Wild Bunchers as a demo class at the Main Event in 1996 – Nick Pettitt, Dave Grabham, Paul Dale, Martin Holgate and Calvin Evans), the 40th Anniversary (when we did demo flag starts with Roy, Helen and Phil Sweeney performed by the legendary Stu Bradbury!) and now the push start for the 45th Anniversary commemoration. Wow again! Such a privilege, and something I never would have thought possible when I first came to watch, way back in 1976, in only the 10th year of Santa Pod! Awesome!

We’re now looking forward to the Hot Rod Drags at Shakey next weekend, where we are going to be taking part in our fourth Cacklefest and another push start, this time with the Suburban! Should be a great event as always!!

PS. Lots of people have posted some cool photos of our push start on Facebook, so many thanks to all of them for capturing a special moment for us! Special thanks to Trond Host who posted a short video showing the whole demo! Cool!

27th - 29th August 2011 OPEN SPORTS NATIONALS at SHAKEY

We were looking forward to the August Bank Holiday event at Shakespeare County Raceway, and hoping that the weather turned out to be good so that we could get in several qualifiers before eliminations day. I had done some adjustments on the car, including torqueing up the first gear band in the gearbox, cleaning up the check valves, and doing the valve lash. So we were hoping these adjustments would help us get back into the 8’s. I was currently leading the APIRA Series, after having won the Springspeed event, and I was also leading the MSA Series, so hoped that I could do well at this event.

Claire and I left home around 11am on the Friday, towing “Backdraft” up with the Winne. We arrived at the track at about 10 to 1 after a pretty good journey. We were the first Wild Bunch racers there and were pleased to find that we were pitted at the track end of the pits, near the start of the fireup road entrance, on the grass side, near the clubhouse. We began to park up and get unloaded and once again set up in an ‘L’ shape with the camper on the grass and the dragster diagonally across our pit. There were 9 Wild Bunch teams entered at the event, though we were missing Dick Sharp, who had recently had some heart trouble. Really glad to speak to him on the Thursday before the event and to hear that he felt “100% better!”. Hope he’s completely well soon! We were also missing Team Gridlock, as they really had to work this weekend! They were really gutted to miss the event and we missed having them around. We did welcome back “The Wicked Lady” team though, and they arrived not long after us, and got set up right next to us. It was good to see them all again! We got our pit area all sorted and hoped to get scrutineered, but it was pretty rainy in the afternoon, and the scrutineers were concentrating on classes who were on the running order before us (we were 18th!). We settled down for a chilled out night chatting to friends including Rich and Julie Walters and family. Mark, Joey, Kim and Stevie arrived later that evening in his Amazon. He had just that week managed to get a gearbox from ebay, and collected it on the Wednesday night and fitted it on the Thursday, and the car was working fine again! He was real chuffed about this, and planned to use it as our tow car for the weekend.

We were scheduled to have 3 qualifiers on the Saturday. But there was some real heavy rain on Friday night, and things were still a bit damp first thing. The track crew were out working early, and nearly had the track ready to go when a heavy shower fell at about 11am Saturday morning. They started to clear and dry the track, but there were a few more showers around lunch time. In the meantime, we wanted to do our usual fire-up of the car, and a few weeks ago, I had promised Zak Durrant a sit in the car while we warmed it up. He kept coming round to our pits, and I kept going to get him, but every time a light shower fell. Finally it was dry enough, and he came along and sat in the car. We fired it up and everything sounded good. When he got out, he had a big beaming smile on his face! So we think he enjoyed it!

About 2pm they were asking for volunteers to help sweep the water off the track, and eventually, after I’d had lunch I went down to see if I could help. They had run out of brooms, but I walked up to the top end, and relieved one of the sweepers of their brush. They were using a JCB bucket to push some of the deep puddles off the shutdown area, there was just that much water around! I swept for about half an hour and returned to the Winne. The crew kept working on the track, and finally it was ready to open about 4:30pm!! They called the first classes to the fireup road, and started going through the order. We were finally called out at about 6:00pm. We were roughly about 12 cars away from getting a run when another couple of light showers fell. After a few minutes it was obvious it was going to be too wet to clear quickly, so that was it for the day, and we returned to the pits and packed away for the night.

That evening, we went along to Lynne Coulsell’s birthday party briefly, as well as Jeanette Molden’s. Claire had not been feeling well at the end of the week, and was still under the weather, so I took her back to the Winne for another early night, and then went to chat to the Walters again, by their camper, so another nice evening.

Sunday morning dawned a bit drier, so we were hopeful of some qualifiers, although it was a bit cloudy still. There were only about 6 classes who did not get their first qualifier in, so we were among some of the first out on track. We got called down before 10am, and our round took place at about 10:15 am. I was paired with Scottie in the “Tiki Munki” slingshot coupe. We had decided to dial in at 8.96, hoping for an 8, but not knowing what the car would run since the adjustments. Scottie dialled in at 13.42, and as qualifying is a staggered start at Shakey, he left about 4 ˝ seconds before me. He seemed miles away when I launched, but I just managed to catch him at the top end. He had run 13.616 at 94mph. I was really chuffed when Claire and Mark told me I had run an 8.990 at 146.27mph! Yes! That’s more like it! We went back to the pits and fuelled up and changed the oil ready for the next qualifier. Claire got all the Wild Bunch tickets, and found out that I was then #1 Qualifier, so well pleased with that!

It was quite a while until the next qualifier, as there was some down time during the day. We finally got the call at about 2:00pm, and made our way down to the pairings lanes. Claire and Mark had decided to lower the Dial-in a bit, to 8.94. Again I was paired up with Scottie, and he lowered his Dial to 13.50 and ran closer, with a 13.546 at 88mph. I was really pleased to run another 8 again, with an 8.998 at 146.01mph, so pretty consistent. We towed back to the pits, and hoped that we might get another run in, to confirm a Dial for the next day. No-one ran closer than my first pass, so I was temporarily still #1! We fuelled up and got ready to run.

But about 3:30pm, there was a huge downpour! The track was awash again, and we really didn’t think they’d be able to clear and dry it before the usual curfew time. But the crew started to work on it, and eventually the sun came out. They worked for over 2 hours, got the jet dryer out, and were starting to prep the track at about quarter to 6. But then all drivers were called to the start line for a meeting. Tony Smith had to give us the news that the local authorities had pulled the plug for the day, and that we had to stick to the curfew. Such a shame, as the weather had become sunny and warm by then! We feel sorry for the track crew who worked so hard and long and didn’t get to see the track open. But hopefully it meant that they didn’t have so much to do the next day! Fingers crossed for better weather on the Monday! This meant that I ended up #1 Qualifier still, so we were really pleased with that! Terry Clifford had ended up in 2nd spot, and he was right behind me in the APIRA Series, so it was going to be close!

After the shower, we packed the car up for the night and had an early tea. We didn’t go out, as there had been some awful news from York Raceway that day. A young driver, Kasey Grainger-Dixon, had lost his life in a top end accident in his Mark 1 Cortina. I had chatted to Kasey at York and Shakey on many occasions, and he was a really lovely lad, and we were all extremely sad about his passing. Our heartfelt thoughts go out to all his family and friends, of whom there were many, and who only had great things to say about him. Godspeed, Kasey.

On the Monday morning, the weather was a bit brighter. Claire had started to feel a bit better and had gone down to the tower to sort out the pairings ladders, as somehow there had been a mix up. She and the officials got it all sorted out okay, and she walked around the other Wild Bunchers having a chat. But after she got back to the Winne, she started feeling worse again. By the time racing started she was feeling pretty poorly, so Mark and Joey were doing all the crewing between them, and all Claire could do was sit in the tow car, and get out at the last minute to watch me. We towed down at around 11:30am. Luckily, I had a Bye run in the first round, because of qualifying #1. We decided to Dial-in at 8.99. I dedicated the run to Kasey. It was a 9.005 at 146.72mph. We went back to the pits, fuelled up and Mark changed the oil.

The scheduling meant that the next round was being called when some of us had only just gone back to the pits. I went down to chat to Julie in the pairings lanes, and they had already noticed this, so delayed our next round by a few classes. Many thanks to them for accommodating this. In the next round, I was due to race Mark Coulsell. We used to have some great close match races in the days of the Super Series when he had his previous slingshot, so we were looking forward to this race. He dialled in at 9.12, just below his PB, so was obviously planning to run flat out! We decided to keep our same 8.99 Dial. Mark left the line before me, but immediately something broke in his diff, or maybe a half shaft. I carried on down the track, and just backed off at the top end, but still recorded an 8.992 at 136.08mph! So close! And if I had broken out, Mark would have won! When Claire, Mark and Joey came down to the top end to collect me, they were flashing the headlights, so I knew I had won. Claire reckoned it was very well judged on my part! The run ended up being “Closest to Dial-in” for the Bunch for the day, so another bonus! Commiserations to Mark on the breakage. Hope he and the team can fix it quickly and that we can match up again soon for a full-on race!

After this, we went back to the pits, and fuelled up. We then realised we had Terry in the next round! So that would be a good close one!! We decided to change the oil again, just in case we were able to get as far as the Final, as there would not be time to change it between the Semi and the Final. Whilst Mark was doing this, he noticed a very small hairline crack on the forward part of the chassis! I had a look and, though it was only very slight, decided it best not to risk making it worse by running. Such a shame, as we had been running so consistently. But still, I was happy with our decision, as always best to err on the side of caution, and so that it would be an easy fix before the next event. But as the car was still fine, and it wouldn’t cause any damage, we realised we would still be able to stage in the next round. Because at least we would be able to make an appearance. I walked down to Terry’s pit to tell him what was happening, and what we were planning to do, as it was only fair to let him know the score.

There was not much time until the Semis and we got ready quickly and towed down. We had already planned to dial in 8.96, as the car had run quick on the last round, so we left this on the board. Terry dialled in at 10.35. He left the line first, then I staged and broke the beams. Mark and Joey pushed me back quickly so I did not hold up any racing. Terry ran a 10.356, so really close to Dial! If he had broken out, it would have meant we would have gone through! Well done to him on the run! In the other Semi, Ed had a Bye run in “RamRaider” and he staged and broke the beam for speed. We towed back to the pits and started packing the car away.

The Finals all took place just after 3:00pm and all eliminations were completed. Claire was still not feeling good so didn’t go down to watch, but I cycled down to see the race, where Terry took the win against Ed. Congratulations to Terry on his second win this year!

We carried on packing up, and the APIRA presentations all took place by about 4:00pm. We then had our Wild Bunch prize presentation by the Winne, and Ben & James Gosling and Harley Coulsell helped present the trophies. I was chuffed, as I eventually finished 3rd, and also got the two Spot Prizes. Congrats to Terry and Ed on 1st & 2nd and congrats to newcomer Dave Nelson, who won his first ever racing trophy with a “Fastest MPH” in his “Dorris Dormouse” slingshot. With the results in, and subject to confirmation from Shakey, it looks like I have finished Runner-up in the APIRA Championship, with 1210 points! Just 20 points behind Terry!! Congrats to him on that Series win! And congrats to Team Dog’s Bollocks who have won the Roy Wilding Nostalgia Race Cars Series, and Terry who was 2nd, and Bob 4th. I am pleased to have finished 3rd in the Series! So have already won 2 Top 4 trophies for this year!

Thanks very much to Mark, Claire and Joey for crewing, and to Mark and Joey especially for the extra help when Claire was feeling unwell! Also, huge thanks to all the marshals and officials and track crew for their hard work all weekend! Thanks to them for all their dedication and for not giving up on trying to get the track dry after each downpour!

We’re now looking forward to the “National Finals” at Santa Pod on September 24th & 25th for the Final rounds of the 2011 Wild Bunch Series and Real Steel Series, as well as the Final round of the MSA Challenge. Hope the weather’s good all weekend for that one! In the meantime, we are also looking forward to the Euro Finals on 8th to 11th September, where we are entered in a huge field of 48 Super Pro cars! Wow! Great to be part of that, and hope to be racing some good friends in that class! We also have the Hot Rod Drags the weekend after, and that will be great fun, plus another Cacklefest too!

PS. I am already well on the way to repairing the car, and strengthening it even more. (I also had to repair a broken brake drum spring on the trailer!!). So, nearly ready for next weekend!

16th - 17th July 2011 DRAGSTALGIA at SANTA POD

We really couldn’t wait for the first ever ‘Dragstalgia’ event at Santa Pod!! There was so much planned for the weekend, with demo flag starts, push starts, the Cacklefest, Hall of Famers signings, historic dragster display, plus allocated time slots for our class to run. We had 25 Wild Bunch pre-entered at the event, so a really big field! It was Wild Bunch Series Round 5 and Real Steel Series Round 7, plus Roy Wilding Nostalgia Race Cars Series Round 2. We had been hoping for good weather, but the forecast was not looking at all good, and it looked like we would be lucky to get any runs at all! So we were a little disappointed about that, after all the hard work and organisation that had gone into the planning of the event, not to mention the eager anticipation of everyone! Still, whatever happened, we would be making the best of it all, and enjoying everything that did take place!

There was only one week between the Mini Showdown and Dragstalgia so quite a quick turnaround and luckily I didn’t have any work to do on the car. I left Bristol in the Winne at about 11am Friday, towing “Backdraft” and got to Santa Pod at around 2:30pm, where I was pleasantly surprised to be able to drive straight in through the gates. When I got to the pits, there were a couple of other Wild Bunch cars already there, and I was chuffed to find that we were pitted against the trackside fence again! I set up the Winne and trailer at about the 1100ft mark, and unloaded the car and got settled. I had a nice afternoon meeting up with people and chatting. And there was a real big surprise for us... when I saw the official Dragstalgia T-shirt, I couldn’t believe it, but “Backdraft” was one of the two cars featured on the front!!! Wow!! Really amazed and over the moon about that! Problem was that they also produced hoodies, so straight away I bought three shirts and a hoodie, planning to go back for more the next day!

I had driven up on my own, as Claire had gone to visit her Mum who had just had an eye operation the Monday before. She flew back to Gloucester airport at 6:30pm Friday, drove back to Bristol, met up with Mark, and drove the Suburban up to the Pod, as we were going to use it as a push car all weekend. They arrived at about 11:30pm, and got their stuff unloaded. We stayed up for a bit chatting. Claire and Mark were well chuffed about the T-shirts!

The next morning started off okay, but then we heard some rain. Most of the morning was grey and wet, and it started to look like it was set in for the day. We went to get a few more shirts, for family and friends, and chatted to loads of people in the pits. Around mid-day, the skies started to clear up a bit, and the rain eventually stopped. The track crew were working hard on drying the track, and things started to look hopeful. Due to the rain delay, a lot of events got put off, including the demo flag starts which we were hoping to take part in. But we realised with the weather that a lot of things would not happen.

At 1pm, we had a drivers’ meeting with Ian Marshall about the Cacklefest and Flame Burnouts that were going to happen that evening, weather permitting. We sure hoped so!

After this, we went to the history marquee, and there was “Houndog 1”, next to “The Allard”, next to “The Commuter”! Wow! Those 3 cars have never been all in one place together before, so really special to see that. (We had brought up Tony Densham’s old helmet, which we have the honour of being custodians of, and placed this on the right rear slick of “The Commuter”.) It was great to see the car again, as the last time we saw it was at the Goodwood Festival of Speed in 2002 when we were parked between her and “The Allard” on the cricket pitch historic dragster display (what an honour that was, and we still talk about that event now! ). Also in the tent were Russ Carpenter’s Glacier Grenade (and at one point, Russ himself) and Robin Read’s rear-engine Daimler powered rail (and again, Robin was there too) and John Hobbs’ The Hobbit bike (which he raced over the weekend!). Plus a couple more bikes and cars, as well as a display of paintings by Paul Whitehouse (who Claire had commissioned for my awesome 50th birthday painting of “Backdraft” doing a wheelie). Also there were Brian Taylor and Syd McDonald who were promoting the Allard restoration, as well as Stu Bradbury, representing the British Drag Racing Hall of Fame! Great to see all the cars and people, especially Nobby with “Houndog 1”. Well, we were really happy to hear that the track would be opening mid-afternoon, a little after 3pm, and what’s more, The Wild Bunch would be the first class out on track! Great news, and thanks to the hard work of the Pod crew. We got ready back in the pits, and Claire and Joey pushed “Backdraft” out into the middle of the pits while Mark got in the Suburban, and we started pushing down to the pairings lanes. It was real cool, as this was the first time we had done this at Santa Pod. We made our way towards the track, and got ready to run. I was paired up with Adam Price in the “Go Hard or Go Home!!!” altered. He ran a 9.358 at 135mph, and I was a fair way off my usual pace, with a 9.277 at 139.85mph. Dex pointed out that Adam had me on Reaction time - but I still managed to get to the top end first, by .056! Great to race Adz!

Claire and Mark and Joey met me at the top end, and I sat in the car while we pushed back to the pits with the Suburban. Really enjoying that! Once back in the pits, it was time for an oil change, and we did that and fuelled up. I wondered whether the gear box fluid was a bit low, as wasn’t sure if it changed that smoothly, so I added some more oil to that.

We had a fair bit of waiting around, as there were quite a lot of classes entered at the event. There was also a bit more rain at one point, but this did not last too long, and the track crew turned the track around again. We finally got called for our second round just after 6pm, and once again, we pushed down to the pairings lanes. We were near the front of the queue and Claire remarked that behind us it was ‘Wild Bunch as far as the eye could see’! A great sight! This time, I paired up with Simon Williams in the “Pure Nostalgia” slingshot. He ran a 9.485 at 135mph. The car ran much better, and changed gear smoothly, and I recorded a 9.098 at 142.57mph. This was still a bit down on the speed, but this might be accounted for by the strong headwind that was blowing. We were pleased with the improvement though.

We pushed back to the pits, and started to get ready for the Cacklefest that night. I set the car up on ‘cackle’ setting! The plan was for the cars that were going to be pushed, to wait at the top end of the fire-up road which runs alongside the track, whilst those that were self-starters to assemble in the collecting area behind the tower. This was going to be at 8:30pm, so we got ready and pushed up there at about 8:15pm. There was us with “Backdraft” and the Suburban, Mark Coulsell’s “Ballbreaker” and his Dad’s period push truck, and Gina in “Tiki Munki” with her and Scottie’s ’54 Chevy. Kev Roberts, who used to crew with Nick Pettitt, had joined us, as he asked if he could come down with us in the Suburban, and take some pictures. We were glad to have him along. There were still cars running on the track, and the sun was behind a cloud, so we were willing it to get darker! (We knew it was still going to be fairly light at this time of year, by the time we got to do the Cackle, but the organisers couldn’t delay it much longer.).

Down at the bottom end of the track, the cars were being pushed into position diagonally across the centre line, facing the grandstand. There were in all a total of 11 Wild Bunch cars taking part, plus 2 Supercharged Outlaws, and then Wendy Baker in the “Time Warp” nostalgia nitro funny car. Racing finished and we were told to move down to around half track, so we pushed down to opposite where our Winne was parked. We were then given the signal to fire up, and Claire primed the injectors and turned the switch on and got back in the ‘Burb. Mark pushed us slowly down the fire up road, which was such a thrill for us all, as we have cine film (from Ron Fisher) of “Malibu Express” doing just that in 1969! It was amazing to replicate this, and we had been looking forward to this for a long time! We pushed towards the grandstand area, and, as there were a lot of photographers and others standing in the road, Mark sounded the horn a few times. I fired up the dragster, and pulled away from the Burb. This really was something else, and really chuffed to be able to do this. I drove slowly down the road and round the collecting area onto the track where the other cars had all started to fire up. I drove into the space just next to Dave Ward in the “Rampage” funny car. And Mark and the “Limited Funz” team followed next, with Gina and Scottie and the “Tiki Munki” team after them. Then Wendy fired up under the tower and chirped forward and drove to the end of the lineup. We all kept running for as long as we could. It was still pretty light, so we didn’t get to see the flames, like we usually do at the Hot Rod Drags Cacklefest, but still we saw them faintly. Once we all shut off, the crowd gave a huge round of applause and whistles. We really enjoyed doing it! Our Mark got interviewed on the track by the commentators, as he went back for the Burb! the tow and push cars came onto the track, and we pushed off, behind Scottie and Gina up to the first track exit, and pushed back to the pits. It had been fantastic to take part in our first Cackle at Santa Pod.

Once back in the pits, we got into the Burb and drove down to the grandstands, and ran up to the seats, just in time to see the first of the flame burnouts. Well, we had thought that they might be a bit conservative on these, given that it had been so long since they had done any at Santa Pod, but they were all pretty spectacular! The first one to burnout was Havoc, with Rob Loaring doing the dousing duties, and Darren Prentice lighting the fire! Well, that was something else! From where we were, it looked like a big fireball at the back of the car, and then the flames grew as the altered left the burnout box. There were still flames on the track afterwards! There were 4 more cars, and they all performed good flame burnouts, with Rob Loaring now dubbed ‘chief fire starter’. Pretty big spectacle, though Claire still thought it was a bit scary! Fair play to them all.

After this, we headed back to the pits quick, as it was going to be Adam and Lorraine’s joint surprise stag and hen party!! Claire joined the girls dressing in pink with sashes, and the guys had to wear black shirts and snazzy ties, or loud shirts, and believe me, I have a nice selection of ‘loud’ shirts! I opted for a nice black and flamed one! Once in their pits, I got out the surprise that I had made Adam to wear for the evening. It was a spun ally fuel tank which I had welded up, attached to a chain, which I padlocked round his ankle. I had welded ‘Team Wedlock’ and other messages on the side, and Adam and Dex thought it was fantastic – they were well chuffed! We had a good night with them all and the other Bunchers. Thanks to Val for the food, as we had forgotten to have any tea, in all the excitement of the later run and Cackle! We went to be shortly after midnight, and hoped that the weather would be better than predicted for the next day!

In the morning we could hear some early rain on the Winne roof, but it was fairly dry by the time we got up. It was quite cloudy, though there were some sunny patches. We were scheduled for the 10:30 group slot, but there was a bit of delay before the track was going to be open. I changed the oil and fuelled up quite early in the morning as I had to go somewhere really cool!

A couple of years ago, our friends Wendy Baker and Paul Stubbings had offered me a fire-up in their “Time Warp” Nostalgia Nitro Funny Car. We didn’t get around to doing this for one reason or another, but on Saturday night Wendy made a cryptic comment about ‘bedding the brakes in’. It took me a while before the penny dropped, and I realised she was offering me a fire-up, and this was going to be at around 9:30am on Sunday morning. Well, the maintenance on our car was done early, and I made my way down to their pits at the arranged time. Wendy went through all the instructions with me, including what to do about bedding the brakes in. I got my race suit jacket on and climbed into the cockpit – not as straightforward as you might think! Even without the engine running it feels ‘wow’! I got in position and Wendy ran through the instructions again including how to turn the fuel on with the lever and how to shut it off slowly.

Paul spun the engine over to get oil pressure and all was okay. I put my fuel mask and goggles on. Here we go...... noise time! Paul fired the engine up on the bottle and I moved the fuel lever slowly to feed the nitro to the engine. Wow!! That got my attention!! Then they lowered the body down. Wow!! What a feeling! I had to pump the brake lever, then hold the brake on to bed the brakes in, every time Paul blipped the throttle. He did this 4 or 5 times. Every time he blipped the throttle I felt the vibrations through my whole body. It’s an indescribable feeling. But a great feeling! Wow! Then it was time to shut the fuel off, and all became quiet except for the rear wheels which were still spinning. So I stopped them turning, then the body was lifted up and I was back to reality ..... well, sort of! Thanks very much to Paul and Wendy for my first ever nitro fire-up! What an experience! Well, I want one, but I can’t afford one! That will have to stay on my lotto win list! Then it was back to our pits to get ready for our first round. There was an hour of RWYB before us, and we eventually got called out around late morning. Just before we were ready to go down, Geoff and Sharon Morris arrived. Geoff was one of the original 5 owner/builder/drivers of “Malibu Express” and we had bumped into him and Sharon a few times over the years. Claire started strapping me into the cockpit, which instantly brought back memories for Sharon! Nice to see them again!

There were 21 Wild Bunch cars who made it to the event, a great field, and our biggest for a few years. 19 of us made it down for the first round. The first pair of Wild Bunch had their run, and the second pair were nearly in stage, when some rain caused them to be shut down. We were in the collecting area, fired up behind the burnout box, so close! We got pushed back, and after a while, they opened up the ‘barn’ garage, and asked 3 of us to push back into there, so that we could stay dry. Thanks to the officials for this! The other cars were covered up. We did have a joke with Dex, asking how much he had paid for us to be locked up in the garage! We waited around, as the shower wasn’t too heavy. We chatted to Colin Theobald, who had been commentating, and several other people. Claire went up to the tower to take up the WB Dial-ins for info. It was a while, but eventually they got the jet driers working again. And at about 12:45pm, we were given the signal to get back in our cars and fire up.

We had decided to Dial in at 9.08 for the rounds, thinking that it was a little cooler, and this was whereabouts the car had been running. I was paired with Keith Crampton in the “Soultown Shaker” slingshot, and he ran a 12.423 at 112mph. I left the line okay, with a nice wheelie, but had to feather the throttle a bit as I was slightly heading left. This must have lost just a little time, as I recorded a 9.157 at 142.03mph, so a fair way off Dial, but it would depend what everyone else had run. We pushed back to the pits, and got ready for hopefully another round. Claire worked out the ‘leader board’ and it turned out that I was currently in 7th place after the round.

We had some lunch and chatted to some friends. It was great to see Liz and Peter Rowland, even though briefly! There were so many people there this weekend, that we didn’t get to see or talk to everyone we wanted to! The schedule was also a bit packed, and there were a lot of classes to run before we got another chance, so a fair wait. But sadly, at around 2:45pm, there was a massive shower, with heavy winds!! The track was an absolute river, and we really thought that would be it for the day, as the racing was due to finish at 5pm. But around 3pm, the rain stopped and the sun started to come out, and amazingly the track crew started working on the track again! So they must have thought they were in with a chance. Claire was more hopeful than most! And incredibly they managed to move the standing water and the track started drying!

Ian Marshall was on the tractor, and about 4:15 shouted over to us that we would have a 20-minute warning! Claire cycled round telling everyone, and to their credit, there were still at least 16 WB cars still waiting to go!

Claire was down near the marquee, and had been walking back up when she noticed a man and his son in the pits. She thought she recognised the older man, and stopped and asked him if he was Harold Bull. Indeed he was! She shook his hand and said it was nice to meet him, and ran back to the Winne to get our Crazy Horses book and went to find him again to ask him to please sign it. I followed her, still wearing my silver suit! He and his son then came up to our pit area, where we asked him if he was one and the same Bull as the one who had made the hubs on our front wheels, and we were chuffed to find out that he was! We had a nice chat and found out that he and two of his sons have a special project that they will be starting next year! We really hope that it is successful and we get to see it in the next few years. It was great to meet them!

We got ready, and pushed down about 10 minutes later. We were in the queue for around half an hour, including some downtime for an oil down. It had become really windy. But then, sadly it started to drizzle again! Within a couple of minutes, the officials had to call off the event, as it was by then 5:30pm, and the rain was pretty heavy at the top end! Such a shame, as we nearly got that second run. Thanks to the crews for trying all weekend! This time, Claire got in the car, and we towed back to the pits. We started to pack up, and Claire cycled to the tower to get the results of the Spot Prizes from the commentators.

We held the prize presentation, with the trophies being perched on the back bumper of the Suburban! We already knew that we had finished 7th, as the results were based on just the one round. Newcomer Claire Vize in the “Brain Shaker” altered won the event, in her first ever Wild Bunch competition! In second place was Dave Ward who had rejoined us with the beautiful “Rampage” funny car. Adam Price was third, and Bob Hawkins was fourth, so congratulations to all of them! I was really chuffed, as I was awarded the Wild Bunch ‘Spirit of Nostalgia’ Spot Prize by the commentators. What a great trophy to win!! Really thrilled! As it means a lot to us!!

Thanks very much to Mark, Claire and Joey for crewing. And big thanks to all the marshals and officials and track crew for all their hard work, and repeatedly drying the track after each rain shower. We so nearly got a second round, after their perseverance re-opened the track late afternoon. It was a brilliant event, even though it was shortened by the weather. And we are already looking forward to next year’s Dragstalgia!! Thanks to Santa Pod for creating the event!

We’re now really looking forward to next weekend, when we will be displaying “Backdraft” and doing demo runs at the Silverstone Classic event!! It sounds like an amazing event, so we will really enjoy that, as we have never been there, and our car once ran there in about 1973, when it was “Pink Panther”. So that will be cool to take it back there. Then, our next race will be at the ‘Open Sports Nationals’ on August Bank Holiday at Shakey. That should be another good one!

9th - 10th July 2011 BRITISH MINI SHOWDOWN at SHAKEY

We were looking forward to the Mini Showdown at Shakey for Wild Bunch Series Round 4 and Real Steel Series Round 6. We were hoping for good weather, and a good field of Wild Bunch, plus it was our annual fancy dress party, and the theme was ‘The ‘70’s’!

Claire had to work all Friday again, so I left home late morning Friday, towing “Backdraft” up with the Winne, getting to the track around 1:00pm. This time, we were allocated pit space in the middle of the pits, starting from the fence at the edge of the fire-up road, so that was where I parked up. There were already a couple of Wild Bunch cars there, and they parked a bit further down, leaving quite a gap (which was filled the next day by Terry & Ruth and “Ratcatcher Resurrection”). Claire and Mark drove up later and got to the track at about 8:30pm. We had a good night chatting to lots of people. Apart from the Wild Bunch, and the Junior classes, the pits were pretty empty, as there were not a huge amount of Minis there!! We had a nice evening chatting to friends in the pits.

Saturday dawned okay, and the track was open by around 10am. Some of our friends from the Bristol Pegasus Motor Club had arrived, and we had promised Cherry a fire-up in “Backdraft”. We got the car ready, and she got into the cockpit, with Claire operating the start button. I fired the car up, and straight away she was grinning! Everything sounded fine. Cherry got out the car, and seemed pretty chuffed with the fire-up! We got ready and Mark and Joey came over to tow the car down. We were also towing Terry all weekend, as he had Ruth and James for crew, and it was useful for them to double up with us so they didn’t have to move a tow car around as well. It was nice to have them onboard! We had our first run at about 11:30am and paired up with Terry. He ran a 10.455 at 131.01mph. I ran a 9.113 at 145.78mph, so this was a little down on the last fortnight’s runs. When we were back in the pits, we double checked the timing and this was a little out, so I adjusted it. We refuelled and had lunch and got ready for another run.

Our second run was just after 2pm, and again, there was not much of a queue, only about 12 cars in the fire-up road. Terry ran a 10.607 at 129mph. And I ran much better than my last run, with a 9.027 at 145.94mph, so we think the timing adjustment did the trick. It was quite warm by now, with not too much air, so we thought this accounted for not breaking into the 8’s. We towed back to the pits and fuelled up and changed oil for the next run.

We got in the queue just before quarter to 4, for another run, and the fire-up road was much busier. We progressed through the queue, up to about 6 cars from running, when a light shower fell. It went on for a few minutes so we decided to turn back, as we thought that would be it for the day. We got back to the pits and started to pack away for the day. But around 4:30pm, the track opened again. We both decided not to go down for another run, as we didn’t think we would get much improvement on the times we had already run that day, though quite a few Wild Bunch did go down for a run.

We chatted to the guys from Pegasus, and it turned out that there had been only 3 of them competing, as the club had been a bit discouraged that the event had been turned into a 1-day only Run-What-You-Brung on the Saturday (with only Minis, Wild Bunch and Juniors Sunday). The volume of cars attending Saturday was so much lower than normal, so at lunchtime the organisers decided to extend the RWYB to Sunday, but by then it was too late for anyone to plan to attend for a second day, which was a bit disappointing. (And as it turned out, Sunday was a whole lot quieter than usual as well). Hopefully the club will get a chance to attend some events next year, in greater numbers, as they really did enjoy taking part last season.

We later had tea, and got ready for the fancy dress. We had decided to be the punk rock end of the ‘70’s, and I had made the bar stool into a giant safety pin, again with the help of my mate Spud from work! We started walking round the pits and Claire had a punk compilation on a portable CD player which she carried around. We then met up with other Wild Bunchers. Val and Lorraine were dressed as hippy chicks, and Dex and Adam were dressed in purple and green velvet suits and hats, Dex complete with cane. Dave had a ruffled purple shirt and Linda was a hippy chick. Terry and Ruth were wearing original 70’s clothes, and Terry carried a saw, chisel and saw horse (they were The Carpenters, of course!). Grandson James was a 70’s guitar hero. Scottie, Gina, Beau, Lesley and Steve were the Mr Men, wearing multi-coloured cardboard boxes. Mark and his mates were the Scooby Doo gang, with Mark being Shaggy, Stevie being Scooby and Sarah and Warren being Velma and Fred. Kim and Joey were groovy 70’s people. Warren had even made the whole Mystery Machine out of painted giant pieces of cardboard, which Scooby and the gang shuffled round in. The icing on the cake were the ‘scooby snacks’! Some of the Shakey staff dressed up as punks, and Scott from Dorset Horn team had a green velvet suit with a harem of 70’s girls. We all wandered round the pits and down the fire-up road, and into the bar. At the end of the evening, Gina and Lesley and the Tiki Munki team had organised a ‘Mr and Mrs’ Quiz, which was great fun! Me and Claire tied with Dex and Val, and they won the tiebreaker to take the cool trophy! Many thanks to Gina & Lesley for this. Great fun!

The next day, the weather looked pretty good to start with, so we were hopeful of getting lots of rounds. There were 12 Wild Bunch in all. We wanted to get our first round in early before it got too warm, or the queues built up, and we started queueing just after 10 past 10, with the first runs taking place just after 10:30am. Claire and Mark deliberated the Dial-in and decided on a 9.06, estimating that it would be a bit warmer and slower than the 2nd run Saturday, and probably about the same times as at the Nostalgias two weeks before. I was paired with Dave Williams in the “Green with Envy” altered in the first round and he ran an 11.695 at 117mph. Well, I lit the tyres off the line, and had to back off, so unfortunately, I slowed to a 9.436 at 144.78mph. So on this run alone we were .376 off Dial! Way off. We were a bit disappointed with the ET, but I had pulled a double wheelie on the run, so that was pretty neat! We went back to the pits, fuelled up and got ready for the next round.

There was not really a big queue all day, so we spaced the rounds out a bit, to give people a chance for cooling and maintenance. Our next round took place at about 12:20pm, after a short queue. I was again paired with Dave, and he improved to an 11.511 at 118mph. Well, I couldn’t believe it when Claire and Mark told me that I had run exactly on Dial! A 9.060 at 144.73mph! I’ve never done that before! Think I’ve been a thousandth or two off, but never spot on!! Well chuffed with that one! We headed back to the pits, had lunch and got ready for the next round.

This was around 2:20pm, and this time we were paired with Adz Price in “Go Hard or Go Home!!!”. He ran a 9.415 at 134.37mph. I was pretty chuffed when I ran near Dial again, just 4 thousandths off, with a 9.604 at 144.32mph! Really consistent, but also a little disappointing that we had been so far off on the first round. We went back to the pits and got ready again, as we knew there would be plenty of time for a 4th round.

This took place at about 4pm. This time, I paired up with Terry again, and he ran a 10.538 at 127mph. Once again, I ran fairly close to Dial, with a 9.095 at 144.39mph. If only it was based on the last 3 runs!! Oh well, we had to wait and see what everyone else had run.

We held the prize presentation by the Winne again, and I really didn’t think that I was going to be in the Top 4, as I had been soooo far off on the first round. So I was really surprised to find out that I had finished in 4th place!! Those second and third runs had really helped! I was pretty chuffed to have made it to the Top 4! Adam Price won the event and is now leading the Wild Bunch Series, Andy Gosling was 2nd and Dave Williams was 3rd. Congratulations to all of them!

Thanks very much to Mark, Claire and Joey for crewing. Also, thanks again to all the marshals and officials and track crew for all their hard work, as always. It was a pretty good event, and we were pleased to get all 4 rounds of racing in, for the first time this year.

We’re now really looking forward to the first ever ‘Dragstalgia’ event at Santa Pod, next weekend!! Hope the weather’s good, as it is a really packed programme, with loads to see and do, plus we have 25 Wild Bunch cars pre-entered for the event!! Can’t wait!!

25th - 26th June 2011 NOSTALGIA NATIONALS at SHAKEY

We were looking forward to the Nostalgia Nationals at Shakey as it’s always a great event! The weekend was Wild Bunch Series Round 3, Real Steel Series Round 5 and the first round of the Roy Wilding Nostalgia Race Cars Series. We hoped for better weather this time and a bigger field of Wild Bunch cars to campaign the rounds on the Sunday.

Claire had to work all Friday, so I left home late morning Friday, towing “Backdraft” up with the Winne. I got to the track around 12:30pm, and parked up again in the middle of the pits, opposite the entrance to the pit, and set up with the Winne and trailer lengthways and the race car next to the Winne. Team Gridlock were right next door again. I had a chilled out afternoon chatting to people. Claire drove our 1964 GMC Suburban up to the track, as we were going to use it as a push car all weekend. Mark followed her in his Amazon, and they got there at about 8:30pm. Claire parked the Suburban next to the trailer. Joey was away again, and Mark Galpin was helping as crew. We had a good night chatting to lots of people. There were 15 Wild Bunchers altogether this time, with a couple of newcomers joining in this weekend. We had a nice evening and had a bit of a wander, before a shower fell. The rain was pretty heavy in the night, but better weather was forecast, so we looked forward to the morning!

Saturday started pretty cloudy and cool. It had rained early morning, but this was starting to dry up and the track was open by 11am. We got the car ready, and had a fire up, and everything was fine. We got ready and waited for Mark, and then pushed “Backdraft” out into the pairings lanes, ready to connect with the push pad on the front of the Suburban. Mark drove this and pushed me down towards the fireup road, where there was a bit of a queue. We had our first run about 1:15pm, and paired up with Keith Crampton in the “Soultown Shaker” slingshot. He and the crew had some nice new embroidered jackets which looked good. He ran a 12.122 at 116mph. I was pleased to run an ‘8’ to start the weekend off well, and ran 8.975 at 146.85mph. As we had pushed the car down, we actually forgot the tow rope! So had to push back from the top end. I got in the car, and Mark drove the ‘Burb. I really enjoyed doing this as hadn’t done it before! We decided to carry on pushing back for the rest of the day! When back in the pits Mark did the oil change and I refuelled the car.

We had some lunch and chatted to friends. It was nice to see Mark Fryer up visiting for the day. He was even wearing an original white Wild Bunch T-shirt! We got ready for the next run, and pushed down around quarter to 3, with the run being about 3:15pm. This time we were paired with a cool-looking Model A, and he ran a 15.7 at 87mph. Our car ran pretty consistent, as I recorded an 8.959 at 147.07mph. We pushed back to the pits, and again I refuelled. We were due to do a demo push start at around 5pm, so we decided not to have another run before then.

We had hoped that more cars would be taking part in the push start demo, but they weren’t able to so it was just going to be us and “Tiki Munki” with Gina driving the slingshot, and Scottie pushing with their 1954 Chevy. Both of us got ready, and we all made our way down to the pairings lanes for 5pm. The track was still open, so we all got in the cars ready for the signal. Mark started pushing me round the corner with the Burb, and once onto the straight, I fired “Backdraft” up and drove away down the empty pairings lanes, round by the wall and round the burnout box. Scottie then pushed Gina and she fired up and drove round to pair up with me. Once there we saw the flag starter who was a model. (We heard she had never been to a drag strip before!). She pointed the flags at both of us, and then dropped them, and we both wheelied off the line! The run felt good and quick, but there was no time recorded, as it was just a demo. It was all good fun and we really enjoyed that! And great to pair up with Gina for the demo too! After us, 4 old sprint bikes did burnouts against the middle barrier, like they used to, and they got flagged off as well. After them it was Norm Wheeldon in his twin-engined slingshot “Two Much” and he did a strong smoky burnout, and nice half pass. We hope the crowd enjoyed the show!

We pushed back to the pits again, and packed up for the day. We had some tea, and later went down to watch around 10 Outlaw Anglias firing up by the entrance to the pit lanes, for a ‘ring of fire’ style fireup. We then went back to the pits and spent the evening chatting to friends, and had a fairly early night, and slept well, knowing good weather was predicted for Sunday.

In the morning, it was already getting warm around 9:30am! We decided to get the day going early, and scheduled the Wild Bunch round for 10:30, to all get in the queue at about 10:15. We had decided to Dial in at 8.96 for the rounds, as this was half way between our 2 runs Saturday. We pushed down, near the front of the Wild Bunch, and we had 12 WB cars assembled together.

We paired up with Adz Price in “Go Hard or Go Home!!!”. He left the line first and ran a 9.327 at 133mph, but I managed to overhaul him, and ran a 9.015 at 145.87mph. This time we towed back to the pits. I did the oil change and refuelled the car, and got ready for the next round. I hadn’t thought we were that close, but surprisingly we were now leading after this run!!!

Not long after we all ran, there was an oildown, which took over an hour to clear up. Well done to all the marshals and officials for doing this in the full heat of the day!! Many thanks to them for their hard work! This meant that our next round was not for a few hours. We pushed down around 1:30pm and had our second round at about 2:15pm. We were in the second pairing, and I went to fire the car when given the signal. Absolutely nothing!! I tried again, and it seemed like there were no electrics. Mark had driven the Burb round to park the other side of the pairings fence, and he leapt over the fence and tried the external start button. Still nothing! We opened the canopy and had a quick look and couldn’t see anything obvious. We had to get out of the way, so pushed round to the back wall, so see if we could find the problem. Other Wild Bunch cars were going round us, and Mark and I looked at all the wires to see if there was a loose one. He then found that a fuse had gone and started to run back to the pits to get one, but managed to get one from the horn circuit of Scottie and Gina’s Chevy!! (Thanks for the loan, Scottie!) Mark ran back to the car and fitted it, and Claire told Angus we were ready, if we could still be fitted in with another Wild Bunch car within the class slot. Luckily, they had not all ran, and I was paired with Dave Rowlands in “Destiny’s Angel”, and he ran a 10.066 at 136mph. I was a little further off dial this time, running a 9.029 at 144.56mph. It seemed that the car was down a little on times, with the hot weather. Other people were similarly around a tenth down on the previous day’s times. It seemed a fair way off, but I was just chuffed to have been able to make the run, after the problems! And we were still in the Top 2 after this run. Incredibly after Claire had calculated the WB runs, we were all amazed to find that the Top 4 were all within .006, on aggregate times!!! Wow, don’t think it has ever been that close!!

Once we were all back in the pits, we realised that we would not have time to do all 4 runs that day, due to the 5pm curfew, so we planned the next round for about 4pm. We all got ready, and got into the fireup road by this time. As usual, things were thinning out at this time of day, and by the time we all assembled, there was no queue at all. We all moved down the fireup road and got ready. This time I was paired with Adam again, and he ran a 9.351 at 137mph. I ran a bit slower again, with a 9.097 at 140.78mph. Probably affected by the heat, as we think it was even warmer then, and there was not much air around at all. We hoped we had done enough to stay in the Top 4, and waited for the presentation.

This time it was nice and dry and we held it in the open, by the Winne. I was pleased to find out that I had made it into the Top 4, as I finished in 4th place. Against some tough competition! Ray Ford won the event with “RamRaider”, Adam was 2nd, and Terry was 3rd so Congrats to them all!

Thanks very much to Mark & Claire for crewing and pushing! And Mark Galpin for crewing. Also, thanks again to all the marshals and officials and track crew for all their hard work, in the heat. It was a great event, and we really enjoyed it all, especially the pushing, push start and flag start!

We’re now looking forward to the ‘Mini Showdown” at Shakey for the 4th Wild Bunch Series round of 2011 (already!). This will be the 6th Real Steel round of the season too. This will also be our annual fancy dress party, and the theme is “The70’s” so that should be fun! Some of the members of the Bristol Pegasus Motor Club will also be racing at Shakey on the Saturday, so it will be good to see them. Hope the weather’s good, and we have a big field of Wild Bunch!

11th - 12th June 2011 JUNE SHOOTOUT at SHAKEY

We were looking forward to the second Wild Bunch Series event, at Shakespeare County Raceway, which was the ‘Shakey Super Pull’ event. We hoped for good weather this time and that there would be a bigger field of Wild Bunch cars at the event.

Claire had to work, so was driving up with Mark later on, so I left home around 12:15 pm Friday, towing “Backdraft” up with the Winne. I got to the track around 2:15pm, and parked up again in the middle of the pits, opposite the food court. Team Gridlock with the “Go Hard or Go Home!!!” altered were already there, and I carried on and set up our pits and had a steady afternoon. Claire and Mark, and Kim arrived about 8:00pm, in Mark’s new 1967 Volvo Amazon. (He’s really chuffed with it, and was going to use it as our tow car this weekend). Joey was away again, but Mark Galpin was helping as crew. We had a good night chatting to lots of people, including the whole Gosling family on board the Winne. There were 10 Wild Bunchers altogether this time, though we think it would have been more if the forecast had been better.

Saturday started pretty cloudy and cool. We got the car ready, and had a fire up, which was good. Nick & Cherry and Martin & his wife from the Bristol Pegasus Motor Club had arrived that morning to watch the drags, as well as the Tractor pulling which was taking place later that day.

We had again looked at the weather forecast for the Sunday, and realised that it was going to be really showery all day, if the Met Office was correct. We spoke to the other Wild Bunch drivers, and they were all in favour of holding our first Wild Bunch Series round of the weekend later that afternoon, so we scheduled this for about 4:00pm.

Mark drove his Amazon round to hitch up and we towed down to the pairings lanes at about 11:15am. We finally managed to pair up with Mark Coulsell in the Limited Funz “Ballbreaker” slingshot, as we had missed out on a match race at Easter. The team had just had the head rebuilt after damage at that event, and Mark’s first run was a checkout 10.637 at 123mph. It was good to race with him again! We were all really chuffed when “Backdraft” ran an ‘8’ straight off the trailer! It was an 8.892 at 148.71mph, so real pleased with that one at the start of the day! Unfortunately, Mark and the team discovered some broken push rods after their run, and weren’t sure if they were going to be able to get any spares.

We got back to the pits and fuelled up, ready for the next run. We towed down at about 1:00pm for this run, and as there weren’t any Wild Bunch cars near us in the queue, we ended up paired with a Micra! The driver looked pretty amazed! He ran a 15.79 at 85mph. On this run, I had started to go left on the launch, so had to back off a bit and gently steer straight, so lost a bit of time, and recorded a 9.290 at 145.61mph. Oh, well! Now we’d have to think more about the Dial-in! We went back to the pits and got on with getting the car ready for another run. We weren’t sure if there was time for another test run before the first round later that day, so just got busy with the prep. Mark changed the oil and we refuelled and had lunch, and during this time we decided we would not try to squeeze in an extra run.

About 2:30, there was a small shower, for only a few minutes, and there were still a lot of clouds around when this stopped, so we were now not sure if we would get the round in! Many other Wild Bunchers decided to wait for the round as well, and not get stuck in the queue.

We all started to tow out from the pits at about quarter to 4, and made our way down to the first part of the fire-up road. Some bikes overtook us in this part of the queue, but after a while the left hand queue of Wild Bunch was sent round into the pairings lanes. There was a small amount of downtime then, and the clouds were really starting to build up! We got most of the way down the fire-up road, only to realise that more than half of the Bunch were stuck further back in the left hand lane. Julie Willcox did her best to get a few cars through to try to get us matched up, but due to a bit of confusion, some of the other RWYB cars were being sent past us. The skies were getting darker and darker, and it was now 20 minutes before the 5:00pm curfew! We were really hoping we could all get through! I was about the third pairing, and I matched up with Dave Rowlands in the “Destiny’s Angel” altered. He dialled in at 9.75 and ran a 9.617 at 143mph. We had deliberated our Dial-in, and in the end went for an 8.90. Well, on this run, I pulled a double wheelie on the launch!! She went up and landed and went back up again!! Really enjoyed that! But the result was a bit down on the ET, as I ran a 9.086 at 146.80mph. So not really that close! And it depended what everyone else had run. Boy were we all quick at getting through – just 4 minutes and 2 seconds, according to the data. Just after Bob Hawkins’ “Time Traveller”, the last of the Wild Bunch cars to run, there were some spots of rain! And he was in fact the last car down the track that day! So we were real lucky to get our round completed. And we hurried to hitch up and get towed back from the top end, as the rain was getting heavier!

We went back to the pits and Claire calculated all the results from the first round, and said that I was in equal 6th place! I had run exactly the same difference to Dial-in as Bob Hawkins, who ran a 9.386 on a 9.20 in his “Time Traveller” slingshot! We looked at the weather forecast again, and saw that there may be a small possibility of a weather window early on Sunday, so we hoped we might get another round in!

We refuelled, and packed up for the evening, and went over to watch some of the tractor pulling which had started on the specially-built course which runs alongside the last part of the return road. It was the turn of the Junior class and they were really cool, with their scaled-down tractors!

It started to rain a bit again, so we went back to have tea. After tea, we popped over to Miss B’s (Dawn’s) surprise birthday party, which her daughter had arranged. They really did manage to surprise her as she didn’t have a clue!

We went back to the Winne and later went to watch some more tractor pulling. Later on they had some bigger tractors, some with 4 and 5 engines, and they were pretty spectacular to watch. The coolest one was the mini-modified with the single blown Big Block Chevy! That really hauled and did a full pull, pretty loud too! This all finished about 9:15 and we went back to the Winne, and had a wander round chatting to Wild Bunch friends in their pits. And we had quite an early night.

We hear from other racers that the weather was really nice around 5:00am Sunday (when Adz & Dex took baby Hollie for an early stroll!); but around 7:00am, we were still inside the Winne and heard rain drops! This turned out to be our weather window disappearing! It got a bit heavier for the next hour or so, and the clouds really set in, and the drizzle and rain did not let up.

By about 10:30am, it was pretty obvious that once again, we wouldn’t be getting any racing that day! Such a shame, but at least we had got the one round in. We went round the teams advising them of this, and we all started to pack up.

We held our prize presentation in Steve and Lesley’s marquee (thanks for the shelter, folks, as it was still raining!). This time Terry won the event, with Gina second, after taking a whole second off her PB in “Tiki Munki” (fair play!), Dave Rowlands was third and Adam was fourth in” Go Hard or Go Home!!!”. Congratulations to all of them and the winners of the Spot prizes too.

Thanks very much to Mark and Claire for crewing and Mark Galpin for helping drive the tow car. Also, big thanks again to all the marshals and officials and track crew for all their hard work. It was another good event, though sadly shortened by the rain. But we were all pleased to have been able to complete a round and get another result. The tractor pulling was pretty cool too!

We’re now looking forward to next weekend, when we are going to the ‘South Coast Internationals’ at Beaulieu for a static display, and fireups!! Should be a really great show, as we went there 2 years ago and really enjoyed it! The following weekend will be the “Nostalgia Nationals” at Shakey, on 25th & 26th June, and we are really looking forward to that too, for the 3rd Wild Bunch Series round of 2011, and the 5th Real Steel round of the season. Plus a special new feature at the end of racing Saturday, which we are taking part in! Hope we get better weather then, and a really big field of Wild Bunch!

28th - 30th May 2011 SPRING NATIONALS at SHAKEY

We were really looking forward to the first Wild Bunch Series event of the season, at Shakespeare County Raceway, which was the ‘Gary’s Picnic’ Yanks Weekend. We hoped for good weather again and that there would be a big field of Wild Bunch cars at the event.

I left home around 12:15 pm on the Friday, towing “Backdraft” up with the Winne, as Claire had to work, so was driving up later. I got to the track about 2:15pm, and parked up. I set up in the middle of the pits, opposite the food court, and right next to Team Gridlock with the “Go Hard or Go Home!!!” altered; and chatted to a lot of people during the afternoon. Claire and Mark arrived about 8:30pm, though Joey was not there as he was on holiday. We then had a nice night, chatting to friends. Terry and Ruth Clifford had arrived with their “Ratcatcher Resurrection” slingshot and they set up next to us in the pits. There were 11 Wild Bunchers altogether, and we hoped for quite a bit of track time, with a couple of days to tune before the Monday.

Saturday morning was cool, cloudy and windy. But it stayed dry most of the day. We fired up the car in the morning, and everything sounded good. In the meantime, we had arranged for Nobby Hills to collect the Jag carbs I had sourced for him, for his “Houndog 1” slingshot. He arrived about quarter to 11 and, as it was not long til we ran, he asked to come down in the tow car with us, and he was quite pleased to do that, and watch a little bit of racing, though he was keen to get to work on the carbs! We went down to the pairings lanes at about 11:15am for our first run of the day, and there was not much of a queue. I was going to pair up with Terry, but there was an oildown on the startline in the left lane, so they were only running the right lane. I had a real squirrely launch and had to back off, and get the car straighter, so I only recorded an E.T. of 9.624; but the speed was real good at the top end: 148.04 mph! In the shutdown area, I had the customary bounce, but whilst in the air, I was blown a bit sideways! Never experienced it like that before! I did give a warning to some of the other drivers to be aware of the strength of the wind, which was mostly a tailwind, but a bit gusty. We went back to the pits and fuelled up, and had some lunch before the next run.

We left the pits at around 20 to 1, and this time paired up with Terry. He ran a 10.274 at nearly 131mph. I had a much straighter launch than before, and was chuffed to run an 8.917 at 149.00mph, my best speed for about 5 years! I approached the shutdown area braking a bit more than usual, to reduce the effects of the windy gusts.

We got back to the pits and fuelled up and changed the oil. We queued up for our third run at about 3:30pm, and again we paired up with Terry. He ran a 10.259 at 129mph. This time I ran an 8.943 at 147.03 mph. We packed up for the night and had an early tea, and a nice wander round the pits, meeting up with friends. It was quite a sunny evening in the end, though still cool. And the wind was quite heavy in the night.

Sunday dawned cool, cloudy and still windy. We had seen a weather forecast for the Monday, and it looked pretty dire for most of the day! We decided to have a Wild Bunch drivers meeting, to discuss the backup plan. I explained to the drivers that we had it in our WB rules to bring the first round of the Series points day forward to the afternoon of the earlier day, if the weather looked bad for the normal Series points day. And then, if the weather turned out better, still proceed with as many of the other 3 rounds as could be completed. They agreed readily to this, and we arranged to have our first round of competition at 4pm Sunday afternoon, with free practice all morning and early afternoon, to establish Dial-ins. So everybody knew the plan.

Around 10am, the “Daddy Cool” team arrived, after a long week of re-painting their rear-engined dragster and doing some last-minute modifications. It looked really good, and was complete with a ‘The Fogeys’ logo on the side (one of Elaine’s business products). They set up behind Terry and us and got busy preparing their dragster. Also that morning, Daz Selwyn (with the “Pandemonium” AFX Dodge) had arrived with his young son and Mum and Stepdad. He, Sarah and Ollie were visiting England from New Zealand, where they had emigrated 3 years ago. They had been up Santa Pod the day before, and were coming to watch at Shakey for the day.

We got “Backdraft” ready, and went out for our first run around 11:15am, again matching up with Terry. He had a real good run, with a 10.110 at 132.24mph, a new Personal Best Speed! I was pretty chuffed when I ran an 8.914 at 149.20 mph, an even better speed than Saturday.

We went back to the pits, and fuelled up and changed oil again. We were just about to leave the pits at 1:20pm for our next run, when they announced a lunch break. But we decided to tow down anyway and wait. The marshals were also working on one lane where there had been an oil down near the start line. They said it would be around 2pm until racing got started again, so I got out of the car for a while. We match-raced Terry again on the re-start and he ran a 10.227 at 131mph. We had thought we knew what we were going to Dial in at later, but the car had other ideas, and we were all surprised and chuffed when I ran an 8.857 at 149.24mph, the quickest and fastest run for about 6 years!!!

We then went back to the pits and fuelled up, and started to deliberate the Dial-in for the afternoon’s round. We all started to tow down together to the track at around 3:45pm, and assembled at the start of the fireup road. When we were nearly half way along, there was a bit of down time, so we had to wait a while, but the round took place around 4:30pm, with some clouds looming around! Me and Terry paired up one more time. He had dialled in at 10.25, and ran a good 10.212 at 131.11mph.

We had eventually decided on an 8.88, as Mark wondered if it might go a bit quicker with the afternoon air. On this pass, I ran an 8.914, the identical E.T. to the morning’s run!! At a speed of 148.10mph. This was .034 off the Dial, not bad, but we had to wait til all the timing tickets were in to find out the result after this round. It turned out that the last thousandths were crucial, as Terry had run .038 off his Dial! After this round I was leading!! We refuelled and I got the car ready for Monday, in case there were going to be more rounds. In the early evening, we chatted to Daz and family before they left for the day. We later had tea, and another wander round the pits and a fairly early night.

Again the wind was pretty strong overnight, and by the very early morning it started to rain heavily, and was still raining when we got up. The wind had dropped, but the drizzle continued, and by 10:30am, it was pretty obvious from the constant cloud cover and forecast, that not much would happen, and we slowly started to pack up. The officials announced they would make a decision by noon, but by around 11am many people had started to pack up, and most of the Wild Bunch were realistic that nothing would happen that day, so we mutually decided to call it a day.

We held our prize presentation under the Team Gridlock marquee (thanks for the shelter, guys!). And thanks to Elaine there were some giveaway envelopes with her product logo on badges and stickers. We were really chuffed that we had now officially won the event! We also had the “Closest to Dial-in” with that one run! Terry was second, Adam was third in” Go Hard or Go Home!!!” and Dave Williams was fourth with “Green with Envy”. Congratulations to them all and all the winners of the Spot Prizes and those who ran PB’s!!

We were really chuffed to win two in a row and especially to win a Wild Bunch round! What a great start to the season! And even more thrilled to be running regular consistent 8’s! Thanks very much to Mark and Claire for crewing and Mark Galpin for helping drive the tow car. Also, big thanks to all the marshals and officials and track crew for their hard work as always. It was a pretty good event with a good amount of track time despite being cut short by the weather! Think this put some Wild Bunchers off, as more had been planning to run at the event, but we hope to see them soon. We were all pleased to have been able to complete a round and get a result.

We’re now looking forward to the “June Shootout” at the Shakey Super Pull (a tractor pull, as well as the Ladies that Launch event) on June 11th & 12th, for the second Wild Bunch Series round of 2011, and the fourth Real Steel round of the season. It’s whizzing by! Hope the weather’s good for that one! And looking forward to an even bigger field of Wild Bunch!


We were looking forward to the first event of our season at Shakespeare County, and hoping that the weather turned out to be better than the forecast.

Claire and I left home around 2:30pm on the Friday, towing “Backdraft” up with the Winne. We arrived at the track at about 4:15pm after a good journey, with a bit of extra traffic. We were pleased to find out that we were pitted at the track end of the pits, near the start of the fireup road entrance, on the grass side, right at the start of the Wild Bunch pits, and we began to unload and got set up in an ‘L’ shape. There were 9 Wild Bunch teams at the event, though there could have been a couple more as Mark Coulsell and team just missed out on repairing their torched head in the “Ballbreaker” slingshot, and “The Wicked Lady” team were still out with a cracked block. (Hope they’re both back soon!). We got our pit area all sorted and by 5:30pm we were scrutineered and signed on. We settled down for a chilled out night chatting to friends. Mark arrived later that evening and he, Joey & friends set up their caravans in the field.

We were scheduled to have 3 qualifiers on the Saturday. But we were 21st and last on the running order, so we knew we would have quite a long wait. Saturday morning was pretty good, and dry! During the morning, some Australian friends of ours, Dennis and Lyn, had driven up to the track to check out the racing, and I took them down to the pairings lanes, and arranged for them to be able to drop in at the tower, while some races were on.

We were called for our first round at about 11:30am. I was paired with Terry Clifford in the “Ratcatcher Resurrection” slingshot and we went for an 8.95 Dial, while Terry chose a 10.15. I had a bit of a squirrely launch on this one, and briefly backed off, and recorded a 9.396 at 146.75 mph. Terry ran closer, with a 10.438 at 128mph. We went back to the pits and fuelled up ready for the next qualifier.

The running order went through quite quickly, and we were called again at around 1:30pm. This time, I was lined up against ‘The Horn’. Dick dialled in at 9.70, and I kept the 8.95 Dial. Claire was pretty chuffed that I broke out on this one, and ran an 8.926 at 146.33 mph! As it was so much quicker than the first one. Dick ran a 9.909 at 138mph, and it was good to match up with him again.

Right after our race was the NFAA session, and Joe Bond set the Alky Altered E.T. track record, with a 6.48! But unfortunately, in the other lane, Gary Page had a bad crash and flash fire in the “Chaos” altered. We were towing back from the top end at the time, and just saw all the fire and ambulance crews rush to the incident (some were there in 10 seconds). Thankfully, Gary walked away, and there is a great photo of him doing so. Luckily he didn’t have much more than bruises and aches, again a tribute to all the safety regulations and equipment and a well built car. Commiserations to Lawrie Gatehouse and the team on the damage to the car, after such hard work, and a lot of money rebuilding it! Best of luck to them!

There was quite a long delay, understandably while the track crew worked hard to clean the track and fix the guard rail, and re-prep the track. But they had been ahead of schedule, so we were still hopeful of getting the third qualifier in. We had changed the oil and fuelled up, and then waited around, and chatted to friends. In the meantime, I also decided to put another 6lbs of weight in the front weight box, as the launches were still a little hard on the wheelie bar.

We finally got called for the third qualifier after 5:30pm, and went down to the pairings lanes. We were getting closer to half way down the fire-up road, and then a poor biker came off his bike at the top end. Luckily he was okay, and his leathers really did their job. But during the clear-up, it started to sprinkle with rain. It got a bit more persistent, so at about 6:30pm, the officials were forced to call time for the day, so we towed back to the pits. The car was ready to go for the morning, so all we had to do was jack her up and cover the engine for the night. We then had a nice evening chatting to friends, and had a pretty early night, as we were going to be out early, as they were starting from where they left off with just around 6 or 7 classes to go.

Sunday morning dawned really sunny, with lots of blue sky, but this clouded over a bit during the morning. The track opened right on time, or even a couple minutes early. We were called out just before 10am. For this third qualifier, we were again paired with Dick Sharp, and he had raised his Dial-in to 9.90. The air was pretty cool that morning so Claire was going to go for an 8.90 Dial, but Mark thought it might run a bit better, so suggested an 8.88, so it was changed just before we went to the pairings lanes. Dick ran a 10.036 at 138 mph, and Claire and Mark were really chuffed when I posted an 8.890 at 148.26 mph! My fastest speed for some time, and it turned out to the the WB “Fastest speed of the event”! Just .04 of a mph faster than Bob Hawkins in the “Time Traveller” slingshot. This run was just .010 off my Dial, and at that time, good for #1 Qualifier. The next pairing saw Dave Rowlands go .018 off Dial, so I was still in the lead, but straight after that, Ed Yates ran .006 off Dial in the “RamRaider” slingshot! Real close qualifying! I ended up 2nd overall, and was pretty pleased with that! And the weight seemed to be doing the trick with controlling the landing on the wheelie bar.

Claire then worked out the pairings, and when we checked, we realised that we had Adam Price in the “Go Hard or Go Home!!!” Topolino! Ooh! Could be a tough one, as Adz was really running well, and had made the Final of the Thunderball. I went down to their pits, to have a bit of light-hearted banter! It was going to be a good one!

Just after we got back to the pits, our Lee and Sarah arrived with both Liam and Tj, for Tj’s first time at drag racing. Just as we thought, he wasn’t really bothered by the noise! Liam was excited as usual to be there, and both of them sat in “Backdraft’s” cockpit together, and made lots of brum brum noises!

There was a little bit of drizzle, though it didn’t delay racing for long, though there was a while to wait until the first round, and we were called to the pairings lanes around 12:30pm. There was some down-time, and during this we chatted to people at the fence. We then saw Carla Pittau, of Team Heaven and Hell, with the wheelying Camaro. She had asked on the internet if anyone had any ‘spare time’ to please bring it in a bag, and on my suggestion, Claire had made some! It was a bag of laminated ‘hour’ cards to give her, some in Italian as well! She was chuffed to bits with this! And showed all her friends in the fire up road! Hope they don’t have to use them too often!!

Adam and the team had dialled in at 9.25, and we decided to keep the 8.88. Adam had a better reaction than me .065 to .158, but I ran much closer to Dial-in. He had run a 9.358 at 133 mph, and I ran almost identical to my last qualifier, with an 8.891 at 147.52 mph, with both of us flat out at the top end. It was so close we really didn’t know who had won! When Claire, Mark and Joey came down to the top end to collect me, they were flashing the headlights, so I knew I had won, but didn’t realise how close – there was just .004 in it! And the commentators had said this was a matter of 9 inches! What a great race! Really enjoyed that one, and well done to Adam for a really close one! My run also ended up being WB “Closest to Dial-in” for the day, so another bonus!

After this, we went back to the pits, and changed oil and fuelled up. We didn’t think there would be too long until the next round, but there was time for lunch. In the next round, the quarter-finals, I had a Bye run! Cool! We kept the same Dial-in, and I decided to just stage and break the beams, to save time and give us a better chance to get round quicker to the next round. It was around 10 past 3 then.

The Semi-finalists were being called almost right after we got back to the pits! So pretty quick turnaround! In this round, we faced Ed in “RamRaider”! And he had been running pretty well. We both get fired up when we race each other! We kept the 8.88 Dial, and he kept his 9.39 from previous rounds. It was just before 4pm. I had a fairly good reaction time advantage over him off the start, and he was charging so hard to make this up that he broke out by nearly a tenth, with a 9.293 at 144 mph. I came off the throttle at the top end, and ran a winning 8.984 at 129.07 mph! So this meant I was through to the Final!! We were pretty chuffed with that!

As expected, by the time we got back to the pits, Finalists had already been called! We fuelled up and got ready as quickly as possible. I found out that we were going to be racing Terry Clifford in the “Ratcatcher Resurrection” slingshot! Another exciting race! Lee and Liam came down in the tow car again to watch, and this time Tj came too.

We kept the 8.88 Dial for this one as well, and Terry went for a 10.30. I had a bit better reaction, but Terry was closer to Dial. He recorded a 10.366 at 128 mph, and I ran another 8, with an 8.891 at 142.98 mph, with a slight back off. The team all came up to the top end flashing the lights, and really excited! I couldn’t believe it when I found out I had won! The first time for a really long time in MSA competition at Shakey!!! And by just .047, so another great close race! Well done to Terry on a real strong challenge too, and his first Final of the year. What a fantastic day of racing! 5 rounds, with 4 runs in the 8’s, and a win! Awesome! Liam was really chuffed too, and said ‘he knew Grampy would win’! He also said “Drag Racing is the funnest thing!” ... “It’s even more fun than my school!” (We better not tell his school that!).

We went down for the APIRA Prize Presentation, and it seemed so long since we had been down there in that Winner’s Circle! We then had our Wild Bunch prize presentation, and I was really chuffed to find out we had also won the “Best Appearing Team” Spot Prize, chosen by the commentators! More icing on the cake! Plus some money winnings too!

Thanks very much to Mark and Claire and Joey for crewing! And Lee, Sarah and the boys for their support! Also, huge thanks to all the marshals and officials and track crew for their hard work all weekend! Thanks to them for all their dedication and well done to all at Shakey for off-season improvements around the site.

We’re now looking forward to our “Spring Nationals” RWYB event at Gary’s Picnic Yanks weekend at Shakey on May 28th – 30th for the first Wild Bunch Series round of 2011, and the third Real Steel round of the season. Hope the weather’s good all weekend! Looking forward to a really big field of Wild Bunch for that one, including some new racers!

PS. When Claire looked back through my results over the years, it turns out that this was my first MSA win at Shakey for nearly 10 years (last time was in September 2001!) That was the 3rd year I won the Super Series! We can’t believe it has been that long, as it doesn’t seem like it, but we are really over the moon to win again at an MSA event at Shakey again!

22nd - 25th April 2011 EASTER THUNDERBALL at SANTA POD

We were really looking forward to this event after the long winter off-season! At the end of last year I had done some checks on the engine and found that the compression was really down, and the leakdown results were bad too. The block was pretty worn out! After asking around, Rich Walters told us about an aluminium Brodix block he knew of, from Andy Mapes in Huddersfield. We bought it, and Andy did some machining work to it, to our specifications, including new liners, reducing the deck size and drilling for head studs. Many thanks to Rich for letting us know about it! We collected the bare block in mid-February, along with Rich, who was picking up their block for Pete’s rear-engine dragster. The block weighs 55 lbs less than our old block, so a considerable difference! We were able to use all our old internals, plus some new cam bearings, which we nervously waited for in March! I had also stripped and checked the gearbox over the winter, installed a new timing chain, and got a new Stage 1 oil filter to fit the new block. I assembled the engine and we had a fire-up in early April, and it sure sounded strong! (Smiles all round in the garage on that one!) So we were really hoping that it would get us back into the 8’s again this year!

On the Thursday before the event, Claire and I left home around 9:30am, towing “Backdraft” up with the Winne. We had a much better journey than the first one, a year ago! We arrived around 10 past 1, which was pretty good going, and got into the queue waiting outside the gate. It was only about half an hour before we were able to get in, and we were the first Wild Bunchers to arrive. We were really chuffed to see that once again we were pitted against the fence, at about the 1050-foot mark! Another great view! We started to get set up, and managed to get a push with the trailer from Adam Gleadow who was setting up his car, not far from us in the middle of the pits. Not long afterwards, Dex & Val and Adz, Lorraine and new baby Hollie of Team Gridlock arrived and they set up next to us. It was great to meet little 3-month old Hollie for the first time!

Mark came up mid-afternoon, with Joey and Kim, and arrived just in time to tow us up to scrutineering, which went well. We got all sorted back in the pits, where most of the other Wild Bunch cars had arrived. We had tea, and chatted to lots of friends, and went to bed quite early.

This was the sixth time that the Wild Bunch had raced at the ‘Easter Thunderball’ as a class, and with 10 entrants, it was our biggest field yet at the event! We were scheduled to do 9 qualifiers, with 3 each day over the first three days, and were 16th on the running order, so not out that early. The weather forecast had looked pretty good for the first couple of days, with possible showers at some point on the third day. Friday dawned bright and sunny and gradually warmed up, and there was barely a cloud in the sky all day!

We got fired up in the morning to warm the engine, and check the timing, and it all sounded good, so we were raring to go. I wanted to Dial in at any 8-second figure for the first round, so we put an 8.98 on the Dial-in board. We got called out around quarter to 11, and eagerly made our way to the fire-up road. In the first qualifier, we were paired with Keith Crampton in the “Soultown Shaker” and he ran a 13.086 at 107mph on his 12.10 Dial. I launched okay, but went up on the wheelie bar quite quickly, due to the reduction in weight with the lighter block. This was really a checkout pass, and I recorded a 9.212 at 143.47mph, which was not bad for starters. We went back to the pits and fuelled up, ready for the next round. We decided to leave the front weight box as it was, to get 2 runs in to see what the car was doing.

We got called for the next round at about 1:15pm, and towed down to the pairings lanes. This time we were matched with Adz in “Go Hard or Go Home!!!” and he had recently run his first ever 9-second pass in the car, which also had a new engine. He dialled in at 9.30, and ran another PB, a 9.315 at 132mph, which took the #1 Qualifier spot, so fair play to him and the team! Claire had raised our Dial-in to 9.10 for this run, and I was pleased to improve to a 9.130 at 143.92mph, which temporarily put me in 2nd place. Our joint run and placings were mentioned in the Eurodragster coverage for this round, so that was cool! We went back to the pits and did an oil change, and fuelled up for the next qualifier. I also put a small amount of lead (which I still had in the trailer) into the front weight box, to start to compensate for the weight difference in the middle of the dragster, so we could see if this had an effect. The rear tyres had been starting to unload a bit, as the car was coming up on the wheelie bar quicker than before, so we hoped this would do the trick.

We had quite a wait until the next run, and were called out at around 20 to 5. We were running right after the jet car, so got pretty smoked out behind Pit Control in the pairings lanes. This time I was matched up with Ed in “RamRaider”, and he ran a 9.455 at 141mph on his 9.28 Dial. Claire had reduced our Dial-in to a 9.03, anticipating a bit cooler temperature, and hoping the engine was gradually ‘bedding in’. Well, I had a bit of a squirrely launch, in the right hand lane on this one, and drifted so far left that my left rear slick just touched the right hand centre line! And I must have been off it momentarily, as I ended up running a 9.504 at 142.16mph. (I did get ‘Wildest Ride’ for this one at our WB trophy presentation at the end of racing!). We had also been lifting the wheels in the burnout, which was great and a good sign of the power in the new engine, so this was promising.

That was the last run for the day, and I started off looking to see if anyone in the pits had some more lead we could use to add to our weight box. Conrad Stanley (originally from Bristol) was pitted opposite us in his Pro Stock Car, doing exhibition runs this weekend, and also getting used to driving the car, which he stepped up to last season, after years in Super Gas. He kindly loaned me three 6-pound lead weights to try. I decided to add two of these to the weight box, with the idea of adding the third if necessary, or taking one out if it was too much. So we had to wait until Saturday to test this theory. We had also developed a bit of an oil leak from the back of the engine, but we were containing this well, and confident that we were not dropping any oil. But planned to keep an eye on it every round. We had another good night chatting to friends, wandering round the pits, and went to bed early.

Saturday morning again dawned sunny and bright, and turned out to be the warmest day of the weekend, with temperatures nearly reaching 80 degrees! More like the Summer Nationals than Easter! Well chuffed! This time we were called out around quarter to 12, while the round of Pro Fuel Shootout was taking place (sounded good from behind Pit Control!). This time I was racing with Bob Hawkins in the silver “Time Traveller” slingshot. He had put the nitrous on recently and had run low 9’s in testing. He dialled in at 8.95 and ran his first ever 8-second pass, an 8.918 at 146mph! Congratulations to him and son Tom on this achievement! We had kept the same 9.03 Dial to start the day, with the new weight loading, and “Backdraft” wheelied nicely, just touching the wheelie bar. I was pleased to run a 9.005 at 144.40mph, and Claire was really pleased that we had broken out, with this better run! Pretty good to start the day. It was then back to the pits for an oil change and fuel up, and as we were heading in the right direction with the E.T.s, we were hopeful for the next run.

In between our rounds, the NFAA were due to be running, and we were able to watch by the fence. It was going to be the first checkout pass for Dave Grabham in the “Freddy’s Revenge” altered, after the team rebuilt the car after the crash at last year’s Xtreme Wheels Show at Sparkford. We were absolutely gutted to see the car launch almost straight up in the air and landing hard, losing a front wheel and damaging the chassis before nosing into the wall. Thankfully Dave was a-ok, but we are so sorry for all the team after their huge amount of hard work to get the car back on track. We wish them all the best for the future.

It was a fair while between rounds, with a couple of periods of down time and another Pro session and jet car run. Again we were behind Pit Control when they were running, as we were called down about 5pm. This time we were paired with Ed again. And he dialled in at 9.23. Unfortunately, just after he launched, something broke, and he had to coast to the top end. We later found out that this was a half shaft, so hope it can be fixed and that we’ll see the team back out there again for the ‘Springspeed Nationals’! For this run, we dropped the Dial-in to 8.98, hoping we might go a bit quicker. It was another good run, but with the weather being probably the warmest all weekend, the air was not the best, and we ran a 9.068 at 142.49mph. Still pretty pleased with that though! And happy that the extra weight in the front was working well. We went back to the pits and got ready for the next run.

The officials called us down to the pairings lanes just before 7, so we were hopeful of having a ‘night run’! We made our way down, and hoped for it to get a bit darker. We were all in the queue and about 10 minutes from running, when there was an oildown. The track crew realised it would take over half an hour to clean it up, so racing was called off for the day. What a shame! Well, maybe next time! We all towed back to the pits, up the return road at the side of the track, and got back and packed up for the night.

Again, we had a nice evening, chilling out with friends. We thought we might be out earlier the next day, and again had an early night.

Sunday was another sunny day! And a bit cooler than Saturday, so the air was improving. Good friend Dean Smythe had arrived that morning, to spectate and meet up with friends, and he popped by early for a chat. Claire went to check on the running order, and found out they were starting on the Sunday running order instead of where they left off. The officials said they would see how the schedule was running after 2 cycles of qualifying, and that we might get our missing qualifier later that day. So we just got ready and waited.

We were called out at around 12:15pm, and were really keen to go! We kept the 8.98 Dial-in and this time were paired up with Terry Clifford in the “Ratcatcher Resurrection” slingshot. He dialled in at 10.25, and ran a 10.322 at 128mph. I launched well again and we were all over the moon when we found out I had run an 8.954 at 146.29mph!! Our first ‘8’ of the year! Well chuffed with that one, and really didn’t care about the breakout! We went back to the pits pretty excited after that! Time for another oil change and refuel. And a double check on the leak, which was still being contained well.

It was a few hours until the next round, so we enjoyed watching some of the racing in between. We got up (carefully!) onto the roof of the Winne to watch some of the Pro Fuel Shootout, which was pretty cool from that angle. We finally got called down again at about 4pm. We were again paired with Terry, and he ran a consistent 10.327 at 128mph on a 10.30 Dial. We had dropped the Dial-in again, thinking it might be cooler. Conditions were probably about the same, and we ran another 8! An 8.988 at 145.81mph. So pretty pleased to have run back-to-back 8’s (and already double the amount of last year!).

We towed back to the pits, and got ready in case there was another round. But the running order was behind schedule, and we knew pretty soon that we would not get another qualifier that day. But we were chuffed to have had 7 qualifiers, and run the pair of 8’s! We ended up as 4th place qualifier, which wasn’t bad at all! We packed away for the night and had a bit of a late tea, and as it was also a bit cooler that night, we stayed in the Winne for the evening and had an even earlier night, looking forward to the next day.

Monday was again another fantastic sunny day! Still quite cool again, so conditions were ideal. We can’t believe we were all so lucky with the weather, and never even worried about any wet stuff at all. The best Thunderball weather for years, and maybe even since ’76, which was the first ever event I spectated at! (Got nicely sunburnt then, and most of all, in awe of all the things I saw, heard and smelt!).

Claire had cycled down to Pit Control early Monday, to double check the pairings, and they were what we expected. I had Mark Coulsell in the first round! Mark, Lynne, Steve, Anna, The Marras and the rest of the team were in their first competitive event of 2011 with the gorgeous “Ballbreaker” black and orange slingshot. They had worked real hard to get the car out towards the end of last year, and Mark had run his first ever 9-second pass in qualifying this weekend, with a 9.790, and then a great 9.530. It had been a long time since we had raced each other in MSA competition, so we were really looking forward to the run! Since we had a larger WB field, we had 4 rounds, so were fairly early on the running order, and got called to the pairings lanes about quarter to 10, and towed down. We had heard from other racers that the air was really good that morning, and loads of people were breaking out!

Mark dialled in at 9.50, and we chose an 8.92, not wanting to break out this time! Unfortunately, Mark lost fire after the burnout, and the team quickly pushed the car back as far as they could, which was real thoughtful, as they didn’t want to hold me up. Thanks for that guys, and real sorry you didn’t get to run! Hopefully next time. So, as I was on a single, I could really go for it, and ended up recording an 8.860 at 146.71mph!! Our best run since 2005! Wow! Really chuffed with that one! Claire was jumping about on the start line for that!

When we got back to the pits, we found out our next race, the Quarter-finals would be against Bob Hawkins, and he had just run an 8.85 in his first round win! How close is that! We were really gonna look forward to the next race!

Not long after coming back from the run, we noticed Owen and Simon Hayward near our pits and went to chat to them. Owen was there as part of the 35-year Reunion of Fuel drivers who raced at the Easter ’76 event, when Peter Crane ran the first 5-second pass in England, against ‘Big Daddy’ Don Garlits. They were going to be doing programme signings in the morning and afternoon, but Owen kindly let us get ahead of the queue and signed ours. It was nice to chat to them.

We got the car ready for the next round, changing oil and refuelling. It was a fair while til our quarter-finals, and there were two sessions of Pro cars in between, so we were able to watch one round, and part of the second before we were called about quarter to 2. We towed down and were in the pairings lanes just after 2pm, the time of the autograph session for the Reunion. We didn’t mind though, as we were real pleased to be racing in the second round!

Bob dialled in at 8.93, and we had chosen an 8.96, so we were hardly going to notice this difference at all on the tree. Bob had lane choice and chose the left lane, so we were in the right again, near the spectator bank. I did the burnout and came up to Pre-stage, but when I went to Stage I went too far, and ended up deep-staging! We all saw the top bulb go out on the tree, and thought this might mean an instant red light. We’re not sure, but Claire then thought she saw Bob’s top bulb go out too, meaning he’d done the same, but I didn’t see this. I was just really conscious of being extra careful on the launch! I didn’t go red, but Bob had a better Reaction than me, with an .075 to my cautious .201! It was pretty even most of the way down the track, with Bob slightly ahead. He ran an 8.945 and I ran an 8.928! His speed was 138mph and mine 146.76mph, flat out! Soooo close on E.T., but he took the win with the start line advantage. Fair play! Congratulations to him! It was a great race, and the timing ticket showed that we were only about 2 hundredths difference on E.T. throughout the race, and at the 1000ft mark, he had run 7.4038, and I had run 7.4039! Amazingly close! (Look forward to a rematch with him soon!). And we were not too disappointed, as we had just run our fourth 8 of the weekend! Well chuffed!

After we got back to the pits, I went down to the VIP suite, to see if the Reunion drivers were still there. It was nearly 3 o’clock so wasn’t sure they would be. I bumped into Brian Taylor and had a chat and then went to find the drivers. My luck was in, as Peter Crane was still there and he kindly signed our programme, and our copy of “Crazy Horses”. So that was real cool. Also there was Keith Potter of “The Devil” fame, who was a real nice guy. He had just seen our run and joked that he should be asking for my autograph! So I was pretty honoured with that! He signed the book too. And Tony Froome signed our programme as he was also one of the 8 drivers in the field at the Easter ’76 event.

Bob went on to win the event against Adz Price (both of them were in their first ever MSA Finals!). Adz even ran another PB, with a 9.24! Congratulations to them both! And congrats to Terry, who finished 3rd. I ended up in 4th place overall, so was real pleased to make the Top 4 in the first event of the year. And more than pleased to be well and truly back in the 8’s! And to be back out racing with a great ‘Bunch’ of people! With some excellent cars and competition!

Thanks very much to Mark and Claire for crewing, and Joey for towing and crewing. Also many thanks to all the marshals and officials and track crew for their hard work all weekend! They did a fantastic job, as always and eliminations were completed by around 5:30pm that afternoon - must be a record! And thanks to all at Santa Pod for the warm welcome! Thanks to Conrad for the weights (and big congratulations to him as he ran his first 6-second pass at over 200mph at the end of the weekend!).

We had our Wild Bunch trophy presentation, and then went down to watch the SPRC presentation and cheer on the winners. Congrats to all! Well done to Bob Hawkins, who won most of our Spot Prizes as well as the win, and commiserations to the Wicked Lady team, who had some problem with a possible cracked block, which put them out of competition after they already sorted a gearbox problem and ran a couple 9.0s. Hope they can fix that soon and be back running into the 8’s again too! Best of luck to all the teams with their repairs.

We had a nice evening, as we stayed over the night in the Winne. We got up fairly early on the Tuesday morning, and slowly got ready and left about 9:15am and had a good journey home. I got the car in the garage that same afternoon, to start on sorting out the minor problems with the oil leak from the back of the engine. (I have now stripped it down, and made some adjustments, so it should all be okay now).

We’re all now looking forward to the MSA “SpringSpeed Nationals” at Shakey on May 14th & 15th for the second Real Steel round of the season. And hoping for another great field of Wild Bunch cars! Hope the weather’s just as good! Can’t wait!

That was the News