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22nd - 23rd September 2012 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 the ninth Real Steel event and Wild Bunch bannered event of the season, though only our fifth, due to missing four rounds. The weather forecast was mixed, so we would have to wait and see. We were hoping to get in all 3 scheduled qualifiers. I was currently in 16th place in the Wild Bunch Series, as I had only made the 1 WB round so far. There was a real small chance of moving up to the Top 10 but I would have to win the event, in the full 4 rounds! And then it would depend on what other racers did.

We left home around 9am on Friday, towing "Backdraft" up with the Winne. We made really good time, about 3 hours and 10 minutes! Getting to the track not long after the gates opened. This time, because we were a bigger class, we were pitted further away towards the field. We started to set up our pits and other Wild Bunchers were arriving. There were 12 WB teams entered at the event so a real good field again. We signed on and got scrutineered ok and had a nice afternoon though there was a bit of rain. We chatted with friends and had an early night.

We were scheduled to have 3 qualifiers on the Saturday, and the day started off late due to the damp September misty morning. We were 16th on the running order so not out too early. We fired the car up and checked everything was okay. We got our first call around 12:00noon and towed down to the staging lanes.

On this run, I ended up with a solo. We had dialled in at 8.88 for this run, and ran a 9.057 at 147.13mph. Not too bad, but about a tenth down on the previous weekend. We went back to the pits, and got fuelled up ready for the next round, which was a long time coming, due to some delays, and took place around 3:15pm. This time we were paired up with Mark Coulsell in "Ballbreaker". He dialled in at 9.12 and ran 9.184 at 141mph. We dialled in at 8.98, and I ran a 9.065 at 146.17mph, so pretty similar to the first run, but still a bit down on ET, and this is probably due to the difference in the size of the rockers.

We waited around for a 3rd qualifier, but due to the weather and coolness, this did not take place. We had qualified in 4th place overall and Claire worked out that my qualifying position meant that I would have Darryl Howells in "Chemical Reaction" in the first round. He had been struggling with fuelling during qualifying, but had made some changes for Race Day.

We had a nice night talking to friends and went back to the Winne for another fairly early night.

On Sunday morning, the weather started dry, but rain was predicted sometime in the morning and it did not look promising. We were called out around 10:45am and towed down to the lanes. We went for an 8.96 Dial-in and Darryl chose a 10.10. He had obviously cured his problems as he ran a strong breakout of 9.847 at 136mph! Fair shout! We were all really chuffed when I ran an 8, with an 8.965 at 147.16mph! Great to be back in the 8’s and only 5 thousandths off Dial! We went back to the pits and fuelled up and got ready for the next round, which would be against current leader Adam Price! As we waited, the clouds closed in, and after some rain delays, it started in earnest. As it wasn’t going to let up, the officials were forced to call off the event. A real shame, but we were glad to have been able to run, and an ‘8’ to finish the year with! And there was a further bonus, I was ‘Closest to Dial-in’ of the round, so won the event! Wow! Well chuffed, and a great way to finish a very mixed season.

The results mean that I have finished in 11th place in the Wild Bunch Series this year, just missing out on that Top 10! Congrats to Adam and Team Gridlock who have won the Wild Bunch Series for the second time in a row. They have also won the Real Steel Series, so well done to them on that one too! I finished 9th in that Series. Darren Law won the MSA Springbridge Challenge so well done to him and all "The Wicked Lady" team. I was 4th in that.

Thanks very much to Mark and Claire and Stevie for crewing. Also, huge thanks to all the Santa Pod marshals and officials and track crew for their hard work all weekend!

We’re now looking forward to our Annual Dinner Dance Prize Presentation at Drayton Manor on 24th November! Should be another good night! Don’t think we’ll be getting any trophies this year, but we’ve still had a great time!

15th - 16th September 2012 HOT ROD DRAGS at SHAKEY

Well, after the repairs, we were really looking forward to the Hot Rod Drags, and our fifth ‘Cacklefest’! We were again going to use our 1964 GMC Suburban as a push car all weekend. We weren’t planning on doing many runs, but did want to check things out and see how the car would run.

I left home Friday morning, 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 late morning and started to park up in the pits, a bit further down than normal, as it was already starting to get packed! (The weather forecast had been good, so loads of people turned up for this one!). I had a nice chilled out afternoon, chatting to everyone and got scrutineered okay.

Later that day, Claire and Mark left home, with Mark’s friend Stevie. Claire was driving the Suburban up again. They had a good journey up, and got there at about 8:30pm, stopping just before the track for Mark to tie the old slicks on to the top of the roof rack! Team’s used to do this back in the day when they only had a tow wagon and a flatbed trailer, so we were trying to recreate this look. We then had a nice evening chatting to friends, and a fairly early night.

Saturday dawned sunny, so that was great! There were really big queues, all down the pits back to our pit area. We fired the car up and all seemed good, so we got in the queue, and had some lunch. Claire had brought along her ‘Jungle Pam’ gear and got all dressed up in her white hotpants and boots again, ready to perform backup duties! We pushed down through the pits. It took over an hour, but we just chilled out and chatted to people along the way. It had been arranged by the NSRA, that they were going to clear the fireup road and Mark Coulsell in the "Ballbreaker" and ourselves would push down the lanes and fire up for a match race. This worked really well. We did our burnouts and Claire backed me up. Mark ran a 9.156 at 142mph. I had a nice wheelie, and ran an 8.957 at 149.28mph. So, pretty pleased with that one. The time was around a tenth down but the speed was up a little so this was promising, though there had been some smoke on the run.

We got back to the pits and it turned out we had blown an inlet manifold gasket, so our Mark and I started to change this. We later fired up and all was ok, so pushed back down for another run. This was around 2:45pm. Mark Coulsell and I again both pushed down the fireup road. He ran a 9.513 at 141mph. Again, we had a good top speed, but a little down on the ET, with an 8.964 at 149.10mph, so pretty consistent. Again there was some smoke out one side and we had blown another gasket.

We got back to the pits and started fixing this again, to get ready for the Cacklefest. We fired the car up several times, trying to get the right setting for flames for the evening’s Cacklefest, and in the end were running short of time. But we got all ready, and pushed down to the assembly point at the top of the fireup road. There were quite a few Wild Bunch taking part again, and several other classes. We waited for dusk and were eventually given the signal to fire up. Mark pushed me round the corner in the Suburban and I fired up down the pairings lanes and drove onto the track to join the other cars. We didn’t quite have the setting at ‘maximum flame’ but had a great time, and were really chuffed to have been able to make it for the 5th Annual Cacklefest, our fifth in a row.

It was also great to see the "Wild’r at Heart" team from Holland again with their fantastic Nostalgia Funny Car. They ran their first 6’s at the event, so many congratulations to all of them!

After the Cackle and the fireworks, we pushed back to the pits and packed up for the night. Sunday also dawned sunny, but we decided not to run the car, and take it home to get ready for the Finals!

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 worked hard as always. And thanks to the NSRA organisers for their hard work all weekend! And another great show!

We’re now looking forward to the UK National Finals next weekend at Santa Pod, where our Series will be decided. There is still a slim chance of us getting into the Wild Bunch Top 10. We have 12 teams entered so hope the weather’s good for our final race of the season!

6th - 9th September 2012 EUROPEAN FINALS at SANTA POD

We were really excited about competing at the "Euro Finals" at Santa Pod for the third time, in Super Pro, in a really big field of 44 cars!!! This weekend we were hoping to qualify well into the 8’s, as the runs at the Open Sports Nationals had been really promising (especially that 8.706!). We were really looking forward to racing at the event, especially as the weather forecast predicted 4 sunny days with not a drop of rain in sight! Hooray!

Claire and I left home around 8:30am on the Wednesday, towing "Backdraft" up with the Winne. We made good time on the way to the track and got there around 12:00noon. We were able to drive straight on in, which was a bonus. We found that we were pitted a few rows in, near to the back of the pits. We had quite a big space as some teams had pitted in other areas. We got unloaded and started to set up our pit. We later cycled down to sign on. Not long after we got back, Mark got to the track. And by the time we were ready, he was able to tow us to scrutineering. This took quite a while but we got all sorted, and back in the pits for a very nice chilled out evening. We made friends with a Dutch team with the "Insanity" Chevelle who had pitted behind us, when the crew guys came round to see our dragster. They wanted to put a camera on the front wing for some filming, so that was cool. We had been invited to pop round to Rich & Julie Walters’ pit, as they were celebrating their Silver Wedding Anniversary that day. Claire had made them a chocolate cake, as they had really liked my birthday cake in August! We had a fairly early night as we were going to be second class out on Thursday and there were 6 qualifiers scheduled and we wanted to do as many as possible!!

Thursday dawned dry and sunny, and the track was due to open on time. We were called to the pairings lanes around 9am, and started to make our way down in the queue. For the first run, we were paired with Dave Catton. He had dialled in at 7.77, and we had opted for an 8.72 for starters. Dave ran a 7.925 at 167mph. I pulled a cherry, but we were well chuffed when we weren’t too far off the mark with a strong 8.792 at 148.59mph! Great! Our first run in Super Pro deep into the 8’s! A great start! We went back to the pits and fuelled up, and waited for the next qualifier. We were quite pleased to find we were in the Top 10 qualifiers, as we were then in 9h spot in the order.

We didn’t have long to wait, as we were called out at about 11:15am and were running within half an hour. The Dutch guys had put the camera on the front wing, and as it turned out, this time, we were paired with them. The driver in the Chevelle was Tom Wan Der Wijden. He dialled in at 8.95, and we raised our dial to 8.74. Tom ran a great 8.971 at 146mph. I had another nice wheelie and recorded an 8.859 at 147.14mph, so a bit off pace compared to the last run. This put me at 18th qualifier after the round. We went back to the pits, and Mark started changing the oil. He then noticed that the front pulley was a bit loose! We discussed what we could do, and I went round the pits and borrowed a puller, and we set to work. We packed out behind the pulley to give it a tighter fit, and fired the car up and all seemed fine.

We were then called out for the third qualifier around 1pm. Claire and Mark had discussed the Dial-in, and went for another slight rise, to 8.76. This time we were paired with Ashley Bell in the Cobra. He dialled in at 8.81 and ran an 8.891 at 146.15mph. Meanwhile, back at the startline, there was a lot of jumping up and down by Claire and Mark when they saw I had run an 8.767 at 147.19mph, just 7 thousandths off my Dial! Wow! Well chuffed with that one! And that put us up into 2nd qualifier spot! Amazing, and well happy with that! We towed back to the pits and fuelled up, and checked the pulley.

Our next round took place at about 2:30pm. This time we matched up with Steve Johnson in the "Motor Mouse" rear-engined dragster. He dialled in at 7.35 and ran a 7.364 at 181mph. We changed the Dial to 8.75, and I had a fairly good reaction, with an .066 on this run, and recorded an 8.878 at 146.62mph. So again a bit slower. We were still in 2nd spot at this point.

We went back to the pits and saw that the pulley was again loose, so started to sort that out again. We missed the 5th qualifying round, and were in 4th place after that. We went out for the sixth round at about 5:30pm and this time were paired up with fellow Wild Buncher Bob Hawkins in the "Time Traveller" slingshot. He dialled an 8.28 and ran a great 8.283 at 160mph! We kept the 8.75, and this time I ran an 8.858 at 147.10mph. Still, I was in 5th place after this round, so pretty pleased with that.

That was it for the day, so we packed up and had another nice night chatting to friends.

Friday dawned sunny again, what a bonus! There were 2 more qualifiers planned for the day, with the first being before the Pro Rounds. We were called out not long after 9am, and ready for the run around 9:30am. We kept the Dial-in the same as Thursday, and I pulled round towards the tower. I was just coming up to the burnout box when..... "Bang", and suddenly the engine stopped! Oh no, not again! Mark and Claire quickly pushed me back and I got out. We then realised the car had spat out the timing chain through the timing cover! We got hitched up to the tow car and towed up the side of the track, really disappointed, and concerned about what damage there would be.

We got back to the pits and had a look but didn’t take too much apart. Rich Walters came over and said if we needed them, he had a spare timing cover and other parts. A guy who will be joining Wild Bunch soon, Mike Oates, came up to us in the pits and said he had a very similar timing cover if we wanted it. We of course said yes, please, and he agreed to sell it to us at a very reasonable price and post it to us on the Monday.

We later watched the Pro classes qualifying and the 8th qualifier for Super Pro. Other teams improved on this round and I eventually ended up in 8th place. We were real pleased with that, in such a big field, but real disappointed not to be able to make the first round. We carried on watching for the rest of the weekend, and were real chuffed when Jayne Kay won in Super Pro with her "Pink Lady" funny car. We have known Jayne for years, since she was a fan of the Wild Bunch and ran in Junior Dragster. So big congratulations to her and the whole team! And best of luck to her as she starts Uni later this week!

Thanks very much to Mark and Claire for crewing, and Joey for towing and crewing! Also, huge thanks to all the Santa Pod marshals and officials and track crew for their hard work all weekend! And thanks to all the other Super Pro racers for making us feel very welcome again! It was great to be a part of it, and we hope to race with them again sometime next season.

We’ve now got to go home and assess the damage to see if it can be repaired for the Hot Rod Drags at Shakey next weekend!

PS. We got the car in the garage on Monday, and I stripped down the broken parts. I then ordered a timing chain and other parts from Real Steel. On the Tuesday afternoon, Claire drove down to Rich Walters’ place in North Petherton, and collected the timing cover and other parts. (Many thanks to Rich!). The chain and parts had arrived from Real Steel, and on the Wednesday, I started to fit the parts. The timing cover had arrived from Mike as well. I then noticed that a couple of the rockers were cracked! Another call to Rich who happened to have a spare set, albeit a slightly different size. Claire drove down again on the Thursday morning and collected them, and I fitted them that day. Thanks, again, Rich! We later had a fire-up, and all was good to go for the weekend!!

14th - 15th July 2012 DRAGSTALGIA at SANTA POD

Well, we were gutted that we were not going to be able to race at the second ever Dragstalgia event at Santa Pod, because we did not yet have all the parts for our engine rebuild!

However, we had been invited to be part of the Historic Car Display for the weekend, which was some consolation. Thanks to James from Santa Pod and Brian Taylor for arranging this!

We towed up on the Friday, and went round to the pits to find the marquee. We found James and he directed us to the display which was in the end covered area by the bar, on the other side of the track. We unloaded the car and started to get set up, and planned to do the rest on the Saturday morning.

We had around 20 Wild Bunch pre-entered at the event, so another really big field! And Claire was doing her usual co-ordination of the rounds and statistics, so we were able to park up in the pits behind the rest of the Wild Bunch. We had a good afternoon and evening chatting to friends.

In the morning, Sarah Howells kindly let us borrow her car to take our mannequin (nicknamed "Shirley") and history books round to the display. We had set the car up in a wheelie pose on an axle stand. It was now sitting between Nobby Hills’ "Houndog 1" and Russ Carpenter’s "Glacier Grenade", which was next to the "Money Hungry" Camaro. John Hobbs’ The Hobbit bike and others were also there, so a real cool display.

It was pretty hard just to stand and watch as the rest of the Wild Bunch were running, and especially during the Cacklefest that evening! We gotta say that they all put on a really great show, and it was nice to be able to watch everyone as a group, but don’t want to do it very often as would rather be racing!!!

Also there were Brian Taylor, Syd McDonald and Stu Bradbury and team who were involved in restoring the Allard Chrysler dragster. The engine had finally been rebuilt and the plan was for a fireup in the pits and a Cackle. Andy Robinson was the crew chief and we went and watched in the pits as they fired the car up – fantastic! And great to see all the hard work paying off! Well done to all the ACAG team! They later pushed the car round for the Cacklefest and fired it again!

One of the highlights of the weekend for me was when Roy Wilding offered me a fireup in his blown alky "Hemi Hunter" slingshot in the pits on Saturday. Roy talked me through the routine as I sat in the cockpit, and he took control of the throttle. The car fired up and I kept my eye on all the gauges and everything that Roy was doing. It sounded real strong! I felt really comfortable in the car and really enjoyed the fireup, so huge thanks to Roy for allowing me the pleasure!

On Sunday, the weather was pretty good, and the Wild Bunch got a full four rounds in, with Adam Price winning the event, so congratulations to him and all of the Bunch for a great show!

We packed up the display and loaded the car at the end of the day, and we were glad to still have been a part of the event, even though static. And we got to chat to a lot of great people!

We’re now hoping we receive all of our parts, and I can get the engine rebuilt for the ‘Open Sports Nationals’ on August Bank Holiday at Shakey. Fingers crossed!

25th - 27th August 2012 OPEN SPORTS NATIONALS at SHAKEY

We had finally received all the parts we needed for the engine rebuild, at the end of July. And I had completed the rebuild and fired 'Backdraft' up a few weeks before the event. Because the pistons were not as high compression as the previous pistons, we were not sure if the car would run into the 8's, though it sure sounded good on the fireup! So we were really looking forward to the August Bank Holiday event at Shakespeare County Raceway to see what the car would run. And hoping that the weather turned out to be better than expected so that we could get in several qualifiers before eliminations day. I was currently leading the APIRA Series after the Springspeed event, so hoped that I could do well at this event to keep the lead.

We both had the Friday off, so Claire and I left home around 10am, towing 'Backdraft' up with the Winne. We arrived at the track at about 20 to 12 after a really smooth journey. We were able to go straight into the pits, 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 parked up and unloaded and set our pit up in an 'L' shape with the dragster diagonally across our pit. There were 12 Wild Bunch teams entered at the event, and the rest soon started arriving. We got our pit area all sorted and got scrutineered later in the afternoon and signed on. We had a nice evening chatting to friends. Mark and friends arrived later that evening in his Amazon, and Lee and Sarah also arrived for the weekend. And it was a real surprise when our Jade and her boyfriend Ben also turned up. It was his first ever time at drag racing. It was nice to have all of them there, especially as it was my birthday on the Saturday!

We were scheduled to have 3 qualifiers on Saturday, but the forecast was for regular showers. And there were some torrential downpours between about 6 and 7am, and it was wet throughout the morning. The track crew were out working early, but there were still a lot of clouds around, including some really dark ones, and were were expecting showers at any time. There was a bit of a breeze, and the track was slowly drying. Late morning, Claire cycled down towards the tower to give Barry the commentary info, and to see how the track prep was going. She was amazed to find they were already spraying the track, and starting to call classes! And we were due to be third on the running order! She cycled back quickly to tell me, and at that point, we hadn't even fired the car up or adjusted the tyre pressures or anything! We were now running an oil heater, and I had only plugged this in about 15 minutes before. So I hurried to do all the preparations, and Claire went to let Mark and the rest of the Bunch know we were going to be called shortly! We fired up and refuelled and were just ready to go, when we got called around 12:15pm. We towed down to the fireup road and there was not much of a queue. For this run, I was paired up with Darren Law in 'The Wicked Lady'. He had dialled in at 9.32 and ran a 9.550 at 143mph. We decided to dial in at 8.95, not really knowing what the car would run, and hoping we might start with a high 8. I performed the burnout and instantly it felt really smooth! This may be due to the fact that I had the engine balanced. Well, we were all chuffed to bits when I ran an 8.847 at 149.90mph! Straight into the 8's a long way, and on my birthday too! Well pleased!! We couldn't believe it and it didn't sink in for a while!

We towed back to the pits and re-fuelled. But not long after that there was a rain shower. The track crew worked hard to dry the track again, and they managed to open it again. Though after only a few pairs there was another shower, which soon turned torrential! After a while, they announced that was it for the day, and we packed up for the evening. We had a really good night with all the family, and friends came round for a long chat in the Winne. We had a fairly early night though, and looked forward to Sunday, which was forecast as good weather.

Sunday morning dawned dry, so we were hopeful of some more qualifiers. We were now about 17th on the running order, as they had only got around a third of the classes in for their first qualifier on Saturday. It was still cloudy, but remained dry all day, so that was a bonus! We got called down just before 1pm. I was due to pair up with Dick Sharp in the 'Dorset Horn', but he could not get fired up. For this run, we dialled in at 8.77, thinking that the car may now go a little quicker as the engine started to bed in. On this run, I had to back off a little after the launch, as the car landed a bit to the right. And we were surprised to run nearly an identical pass, with an 8.849, and this time it was a 150! At 150.73mph! Chuffed with the speed! We towed back to the pits, again pretty happy with this. At this point we were qualified in 4th place, so not bad. We drained the oil and found that it was a lot less contaminated than it was before we ran the oil heater, so that was a promising sign. We fuelled up ready for the next run.

It was about 3 hours before the next qualifier, as there was some down time during the day. We got called out just before 4pm, and towed down to the pairings lanes. Claire decided to raise the Dial-in a bit, to 8.80. This time, I was matched up with Dick, and he dialled in at 9.68. He ran a tenth quicker, with a 9.589 at 140mph. This was a great run, and we all could not believe it when I ran a new Personal Best ET of 8.706 at 150.79mph!! Wow!! It turned out this was also a 330ft best, and eighth best including speed, and a 990ft best! We were amazed!! And well happy with the rebuilt engine! We then towed back to the pits. On the way back, I noticed something on the right rear slick, like a patch of dirt or something. When we got back to the pits, I checked it out. That was it - done for the weekend! As it turned out we discovered we had a 4-inch slit in the inner sidewall of the slick! Oh boy! That was a lucky one! There were no more qualifiers left, and I had finished as 5th place qualifier. This meant that I was still ahead in the APIRA points. The weather was supposed to be terrible for Monday, but if it was dry for long enough and there were any rounds run, we decided we would just stage in the first round for points, as it would not be safe to run the car. We packed up for the evening and covered the car up. We had another good evening, and quite an early night.

It did not rain overnight, and in the morning, it was still dry, though very cloudy. We found out that we had Darryl in 'Chemical Reaction' in the first round, so told him what we planned to do. I also went down to let the officials know that we were just going to stage in Round 1.

Fair play to all at Shakey, as they worked on the track and racing started about 15 minutes early Monday! We were due to be 10th on the running order, so a little while to wait. There was a very brief stop for drizzle mid morning. And then we were called out at about 12:15pm. There were quite a few clouds still around, but racing was going smoothly. The first pair of Wild Bunch ran, and the next pair fired up and burned out, and we then fired up. Just then, there was a very small shower, and everyone shut down, pushed back to the wall and covered the cars up. We waited for around 20 minutes and the track dried quickly. So racing got going again. We had still put the Dial-in up at 8.80. Darryl dialled in at 10.65 and ran a 10.857 at 121mph. I drove round the burnout box, staged and broke the beam, reversed back and drove towards the pickup road and shut down. We towed back to the pits and slowly packed up.

The weather held for a few more hours, and the Bunch was able to run 2 more rounds, with the rain only arriving just before all the Finals! Darren and Adam had made the Finals. Congrats to Darren who won on countback. Scottie finished 3rd so fair play to him on his first race this year!

We then had our Wild Bunch prize presentation in the Team Gridlock marquee, so many thanks to them for sheltering us all from the rain! Congrats to Darren and Adam on their 1st & 2nd places. With the results in, and subject to confirmation from Shakey, it looks like I finished equal 4th in the APIRA Series. Congratulations to Darren who has won that Series. And congrats to Adam who has won the Roy Wilding Nostalgia Race Cars Series.

Thanks very much to Mark, Claire and Joey for crewing! And to Lee, Sarah, Jade and Ben for their support! Also, huge thanks to all the marshals and officials and track crew for their hard work all weekend and getting a lot of racing happening despite the weather! Well done all!!

We're now looking forward to the 'National Finals' at Santa Pod on September 22nd & 23rd for the Final rounds of the 2012 Wild Bunch Series, Real Steel Series and Springbridge MSA Challenge. Hope the weather's good all weekend for that one! And next weekend, we are also looking forward to the Euro Finals from 6th to 9th September, where we are entered in a huge field of 44 Super Pro cars! Another great event, and we hope to qualify well in the 8's! The following weekend is the Hot Rod drags where we will do push starts and run in the Cacklefest!

PS. Many thanks to Ed Yates who ordered our new slicks for us last Sunday whilst at the track! They arrived superquick on Friday! And we fitted them Saturday! So really raring to go now!!

1st - 4th June 2012 MAIN EVENT at SANTA POD

We were really excited about competing at the 'Main Event' at Santa Pod. Our first time racing at this event since 1996!! And this was our third time ever in Super Pro, in a really big field of 42 cars!! We had run six strong 8-second passes at the Wild Bunch 'Spring Nationals' at the Gary's Picnic event the weekend before, including the two 8.7s, so we were hopeful of being able to qualify running 8's! That was our main goal, as well as having another fun weekend!

We had a slight technical hitch on the Monday after that event, as when checking on the car in the trailer, I discovered the left rear slick had completely gone down!! We were very lucky on that one! Me and Mark and his friend Nige moved the car in the trailer so I could get the wheel off. After a quick phone call, it turned out that Ed had a spare inner tube which he said we could have and buy a replacement for his spare in 'RamRaider'. Many thanks, Ed!! I went over that night to get it and Mark fitted it the next day for us, so all sorted! I then carried on getting the car and Winne ready for our quick turnaround.

Claire and I left home around 8:00am on the Thursday, towing 'Backdraft' up with the Winne. Sadly Mark was unable to get time off work on the Friday, no matter how hard he tried! So we were really going to miss him! And Claire was going to be doing a bit extra crewing that day! Rich Walters had said they had quite a few crew, and that one of them would help us out with towing down, and some pushing, so that was a really great help!

We made good time on the way to the track and got there just before 11:30am, and were able to go straight in at the gate without waiting. We got to the pits and drove on round to the Super Pro section, where we looked for our number marked on the tarmac, Su Pro 61. When we found it, we discovered that it started right underneath the middle of Chris Orthodoxou's Viper bonnet! He had pitted where he was supposed to, but was not able to fit his whole awning and car in the space allocated. No worries, I just went and found a pit marshall to instruct us on how to park. As we were next there, they said to just pit there anyway, and they would find space for the person supposed to be between us and Ian Turburville with the 'Mr Spokehead II' slingshot, which was Joe Stevens and his Sunbeam Stiletto. We started to park the Winne and get the car out and set up our pit, which now turned out to be quite roomy! We had a nice relaxing lunch, and then cycled down to sign on, just before 2pm. Rich Walters then kindly gave us a tow with his golf buggy, behind their 'Reloaded' rear-engined dragster, up to scrutineering. Luckily, we got there so quickly that there was not that much of a queue, so only around half an hour and we were done, and back in the pits by 3pm! Great stuff.

A while later, Chris Orthodoxou, who was testing that day, suffered a torque converter mounting breakage, and ended up packing up and leaving! Not long after, Vince Gibbs and team with the 'Nosferatu' Firebird arrived and pitted in that gap. We had a nice afternoon, chatting with friends, and a fairly early tea. Claire was pretty knackered so had an early night, and I went up to chat to the Walters by their camper, which was in the same row as us.

We were going to be the second class out on the Friday, and there were 5 qualifiers scheduled, so we were going to be busy! Friday dawned dry, and we had breakfast and fired the car up, and everything was ready to roll. Claire had a bit of surprise for me when she put on some Union Jack leggings with her crew jacket, in celebration of the Jubilee weekend! We were called to the pairings lanes around 9am, and the Walters' friend Mick towed us down with his car. There were 4 lanes of Super Pro cars! Mick towed us all the way to the front, so Claire only had to put the battery in the boot once I fired up. For the first round, I was paired with Dave Catton in one of the Beovax rear-engined dragsters. Dave had dialled in at 7.95 and we went for an 8.82. I was concentrating on re-learning the Sportsman tree and chuffed to pull an .034 Reaction to Dave's .052! He ran a breakout 7.941 at 169mph. We were really chuffed when we saw I had run an 8.868 at 149.05 mph! This meant I was .048 off Dial, so fairly sure to qualify in the Top 32! So Claire was jumping up and down at the startline! She and Mick drove up to get me. We towed back to the pits and fuelled up, and got ready for the next run. I was then in an amazing 4th spot in the qualifying order! We couldn't believe that! And all well chuffed to finally run an '8' in Super Pro! We then put up our Union Jack bunting in the pits.

We didn't have that long to wait til the next run, as we were called out at around 11:30am. Mick and friend Nigel helped with towing us for this run. This time I was matched up with Dave Nelson in the 'Dorris Dormouse' slingshot. Dave is also a Wild Bunch member and he dialled in at 8.70. We decided to raise the Dial-in very slightly to 8.83, as we thought it would run about the same. Well I had about two tenths advantage on the start line, and Dave ran an 8.847 at 149.54mph. And I got to the finish line first, with a breakout 8.773 at 149.08mph! Nearly a tenth quicker than the first run! Wow! Claire was jumping up and down for this one too as the car ran so well. She got interviewed by Darryl Bradford on the start line! After this round I had only slipped one place in the qualifying to 5th, so we were pretty pleased with that.

We went back to the pits and I changed the oil and fuelled up ready for the third round. We didn't have that long to wait, and got called out about 1:30pm. This time, we were paired with Steve Johnson, in the 'Motor Mouse' rear-engined dragster. He dialled in at 7.30, and we lowered our Dial-in to 8.74. Claire figured that if I broke out on that, it would be a PB! Steve had been pulling wheelies recently so we looked forward to the matchup, and several photographers caught some nice side-by-side wheelies from the pair of us. Steve ran a 7.401 at 183mph. Again, I had a nice straight launch, and we couldn't believe it when I ran an 8.721 at 150.09mph!! A brand new Personal Best ET!! For the first time in 7 years!! And another 150mph run!! Claire was jumping up and down so much on the start line that she dropped the camera – oops! Mark rang while she was still in the tow car driving up to get me and he was well chuffed, but we're really sorry he missed it! When Claire got to the top end, she held up the Dial-in board with the new PB on it to show me!! Wow!! We were all amazed with that, and didn't mind the break out! We towed back to the pits and fuelled up for the next qualifier.

This was around 3:30pm. We decided to Dial-in at 8.69 for this one, so I didn't break out this time. For this round I was paired up with Dave Gibbons in the 'Rough Diamond' altered. Dave started racing in the 80's and came back to drag racing last year after over 25 years off! He also joined the Wild Bunch for Dragstalgia last year. He dialled in at 8.59 and ran an 8.642 at 151mph. On my burnout, I felt the revs go up quite quickly, but checked as I always do, and saw that I had good oil pressure. The car was still running, though sounded a bit different. Just as I was backing up, Ian Marshall and another marshal signalled to me to shut down. Claire asked what was wrong, and Ian said there was some oil on the track! Claire and the marshall pushed me back towards the barn, and I quickly got out. I had a look and instantly saw that there was a bulge and a hole in the side of the sump cover! Oh, no! That didn't look good. Darryl Bradford chatted to Claire again on the mike to find out what happened. We then pushed the car round into the return road. Darryl must have been explaining to the crowd, as they all gave us a big cheer, which was nice of them.

We slowly towed back to the pits. We realised that the engine had thrown a rod! But I didn't want to strip anything down at the track, as it's always a better place to do it in the garage. I just hoped then, that the block would be okay, as the damage seemed to be low down, below the sump rail. I drained the oil and started to pack up a few things. We later went over to Mike Bull's camper to watch some of the Pro test session, which was pretty good.

A lot of people came round to our pits to offer their congratulations on the PB, and commiserations on the breakage! And we really appreciate everyone's kind wishes! Colin Theobold stopped by later that night, to present us with a bottle of champagne, from him and Darryl, as they chose us as their 'Moment of the Day'! They always have one of these every day at the Main Event and Euro Finals, and we were honoured they picked us! They said it was for 3 things: Claire's Union Jack leggings, our new PB and commiserations on the breakage! Many thanks to them for this award! It really means a lot to us!

We spoke to our Mark who decided not to travel up for the rest of the weekend, but to stay at home instead. We later had tea and spent another pleasant evening chatting to the Walters in their camper, and went to bed fairly early.

Saturday dawned drizzly, and we had decided we would leave that morning, to get the car back home and in the garage so I could start the stripdown. So we started packing up slowly. A couple came by who we had chatted to on the Thursday, as they had been interested in the Winne. The lady said she had really enjoyed watching us race, and also Claire's jumping up and down and her leggings! It was real nice of them to stop by and say goodbye.

We were going to wait until after the next Super Pro qualifier to manoeuvre the trailer round, so we didn't get in the way of cars going down to the pairings lanes, but the rain continued, so we were able to get the car in the trailer and hitched up by 11:30am. Some friends were just turning up then, and commiserated with us on the damage. We left shortly after.

We had a fairly good journey home, and Mark was waiting for us about 3pm when we got there. He was already moving stuff around the garage so we could get the car in. We got unloaded and got 'Backdraft' in the garage okay. And later that afternoon, I started stripping down all the ancillaries.

The next morning I took the sump down and held my breath. Would the block be okay?! Well, it looks like it will be, phew! It looks like a rod bolt let go, and the rod smacked through the side of the sump. Luckily it did minimal damage to just the very edge of the sump rail on the block. But a couple of pistons and rings were knackered, there was scuffing and possibly a twist on the crank and some other damage. So, we will need new pistons, rings, rods, bearings, sump, a couple of valves, a new crank and a 10 thou bore on the block. So we're not sure how long it will take to get all the parts shipped in, ready for the rebuild. So unfortunately we're going to miss several events. A real shame, but we will be back as soon as we are able.

On the Monday, Claire watched all the racing on the Web TV online, and I came up from the garage to watch the one and only Super Pro round that took place. We had still qualified in 17th place overall, so not bad, considering that was only on the one run that wasn't a breakout!

Thanks very much to Claire for all her extra crewing, and those Union Jack leggings! And thanks to Mick and Nigel for tow car driving! It really was a great help, and made it possible for us to run the qualifiers without trying to push and move a tow car. And thanks to Ian Marshall and the other marshall for shutting us down so quickly and professionally on the line. Also, huge thanks to all the Santa Pod marshals and officials and track crew for their hard work all weekend! Another amazing job!! And thanks to all the other Super Pro racers for making us feel very welcome again! It was great to race in the class and be part of it all, and run some really good 8-second passes, including our PB! We really enjoyed the event!

We're now really looking forward to whichever event we can make it back for!!

Lots of people have stopped by to see us, and posted messages for us on facebook of congratulations and commiserations, and offers of help, so many thanks to all of them for their kind wishes!! Much appreciated!!

26th - 27th May 2012 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 better weather at this event, and the forecast predicted two days of full sun!

I left home around 12:30 pm on the Friday towing 'Backdraft' up with the Winne. Claire had to work so was going up later with Mark and friends in his Amazon. I got to the track about 2:15pm, and parked up in the middle of the pits, opposite the food court, and next to Steve and Lesley Field with the 'Black Pig Too' slingshot. It was their first time racing the car for over a year, so it was good to see them back out. I set up our pit area, and chatted to quite a few people. Claire and Mark arrived about 8:45pm, with Kim, Warren and Sarah. We then spent the evening chatting to friends in the warm summer-like evening. There were a lot of Wild Bunch cars in the pits and it eventually it turned out that 20 teams took part in the Series rounds! A great field!

Saturday morning dawned sunny and warm! Brilliant! We fired up the car in the morning, and everything was fine. Around mid-morning, our Lee and Sarah arrived, for a weekend without the boys! Great to see them at the track, and they came down with us in the tow car. We went down to the pairings lanes at about noon for our first run of the day. I ended up paired with Alan Smith in the 'Avanti' Allard dragster, built in 1964. This was his first time back with the Bunch for a few years, after a new gearbox, and he had been pulling some mega wheelies! It was good to match race with him and he ran a 12.277 at 107mph. I was really chuffed, as my first run of the weekend was straight and a nice big wheelie, with an 8.887 at 145.99mph! A great start! Though there was a heck of a sidewind past the banking, in the shutdown area, and I really had to steer back straight! We towed back to the pits and refuelled and then had some lunch.

We had a leisurely lunch and relaxed a bit, and then went out for another run about 2:30pm. This time I ended up with a solo run, as there were no other Wild Bunch cars in the lanes at the time. This was another straight wheelying run, at 8.865 at 147.07mph, really consistent! We went back to the pits and changed the oil and refuelled. We were happy with these two runs, so we decided to call it a day, as it was pretty warm and we had a good setup for the next day.

We had an early tea. And around 6:30pm, we had a quick get together with most of the Bunch where we handed out the trophies from the last event, as it had been rainy and many people had left, so we held the presentation over. We had a quick chat about the plan for Sunday.

We then had a wander round the pits, and a nice evening chatting to friends, including Simon and Claire Miskelly. Simon had raced with the Wild Bunch around 15 years ago, and they had come up to race their pickup truck. Recently it was Simon's old altered 'Objection' that our Lee has bought, from our friends Nikki and Steve! Tony Smith also stopped by and joined in the reminiscing. We had a fairly early night.

Sunday again started warm and sunny! Excellent! It was such a pleasure to be at the track in the sunshine, with no hint of rain all day! Our first round was going to be around 10:30am, and we got into the queue at about 10:15am. We had decided to Dial in at 8.87, being in the middle of Saturday's two runs, but we weren't sure if the warmer weather might slow us down. It wasn't too long before we got down into the pairings lanes. When we looked back it was Wild Bunch as far as the eye could see! For this run, I was paired up with Andy Gosling in 'RamRaider'. He had dialled in at 9.30 and ran a 9.351 at 141mph. I had a good straight run again, and we were all amazed when I ran an 8.801 at 148.27mph! Wow! Much quicker than we had thought! And our third quickest run ever!

We went back to the pits and fuelled up, and waited for the next round. We started getting in the queue at 12:15pm, and this time it was quite a bit longer. But we just waited around and chatted to each other. For this run, I was paired up with Simon Williams in the 'Pure Nostalgia' slingshot. He had dialled in at 9.00 flat, but had a problem on the run, and posted a 10.218 at 112mph. I was amazed when I ran another 8.80, this time an 8.804 at 147.75mph! We towed back to the pits, and fuelled up and Mark changed the oil. While we were doing this, Liz Rowland had stopped by. She was being interviewed regarding a documentary which had been made about her in the 70's. She asked if she could use our pit as a backdrop, so of course we said 'yes'. It was nice to see her and Peter at the track enjoying the sunny weather and the racing.

We got ready for the next round, and towed down at about 2:30pm. This time I matched up against Bob Hawkins in the 'Time Traveller' slingshot. Bob had run his PB at Springspeed in the 8.3s so it was going to be a nice matchup! He had a problem with his nitrous at about half track and slowed to an 8.921 at 144mph. We all couldn't believe it when we found that I had run an 8.774 at 148.40mph!!!! Our second quickest run ever, and the first time we had been in the 8.7s since 2005! Wow! Really chuffed with that one! And didn't mind being nearly a tenth off our Dial! Not one little bit! And we couldn't get over that the car was running so well, even though it was really hot! Even more pleased with that! We towed back to the pits, all buzzing with that one!

We got ready for the last round, and were about to go out around 4:15pm when we heard there had been a big oil down. Claire cycled to the tower to find out whether they would be able to carry on running, given that the curfew was 5pm. They weren't sure, so she returned to the pits and we waited. After a while they made an announcement that if we wanted to go down for our fourth round, then the track would be open! Fair play to all the track crew and all the marshals for working hard in the sun to clean that one up so late in the day! Thanks to all of them!

We quickly got ready and all towed down for the last round. There were only about a dozen cars in the fire up road, so not long to wait. On this round, I was paired with Dave 'Sag' Southworth in the 'Daddy Cool' rear-engined dragster, who had come from Bolton to race with us. Sadly, he had a problem on the run and slowed to a 19-second pass, which was a great shame, as the car had been running really well recently, with Sag recording a PB in the low 9's. On this run, I again had a nice straight launch, and we were all really pleased again, as I ran an 8.791 at 148.42mph, my fastest speed of the weekend, and another great run!

We held our prize presentation, and I was chuffed to find out I had finished in 3rd place! Congratulations to Adam who won the event in 'Go Hard or Go Home!!!' and congrats also to Gos who was second in 'RamRaider' and Dave Williams who was fourth in 'Green with Envy'. Well done to them all and all the winners of the Spot Prizes and those who ran PB's!!

What a great weekend! We were thrilled to have run in the 8.7s, and also be consistent! Thanks very much to Mark and Claire for crewing and Mark Galpin for helping drive the tow car, and to Lee and Sarah for coming up and joining in. Also, big thanks to all the marshals and officials and track crew for their hard work as always. They really gave us another good track, and worked hard with that late oil down in the heat, so as always their efforts are very much appreciated!

One time, at the top end, I looked around at all the Wild Bunch cars assembled there, and was really proud to be a part of it all! A great group of cars and people!

We're now looking forward to next weekend when we will be racing at the 'Main Event' at Santa Pod in Super Pro! We are really excited about this, as it will be the first time we have raced at this event since 1996! And we are especially chuffed as the car is running strong 8's at the moment, so hoping to make it into the 32-car field in qualifying, as there are 43 entries! It's gonna be great! Then, the weekend after that, we are at the 'June Jubilee' at the Shakey Super Pull (a tractor pull event too) on June 9th & 10th, for the second Wild Bunch Series round of 2012. Hope the weather keeps on being as good for both of these events! Can't wait!


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 Easter Thunderball. And hoping to run some more 8's, after the promising last run at Santa Pod!

Claire and I both went to work in the morning on the Friday, and later left home around 1:15pm, towing 'Backdraft' up with the Winne. We arrived at the track just after 3pm after a good journey. We were a bit disappointed to find that, due to some problems with the hardstanding on our planned Wild Bunch pit area, we had to be moved to the far end of the pits, by the market end. This would not have been too much of a problem, but it later turned out that 5 of our Wild Bunch cars had to pit at the opposite end of the pits to us, near the clubhouse, so we were separated by quite a long way. There were 13 Wild Bunch teams at the event, our biggest MSA field since 2005, so that was exciting! We parked up next to Team Gridlock, and Ian Turburville soon arrived and pitted on the other side of us. We got our pit area all sorted, and by 4:30pm we had been scrutineered. We went and signed on at about 6pm. We had tea and later went for a wander down the pits. We bumped into John and Tom Atkinson with the 'Time is Money' Cortina Estate Super Pro car, and got talking, and went along to their bus and had a nice evening chatting to them, mostly about the Hot Rod Reunion. And Turbo joined in later to add to the already lively banter! Our Mark arrived during the evening and he, Joey and friends set up their caravans in the field. We had a fairly early night, as it was quite cold and we were out early the following day.

We were scheduled to have 3 qualifiers on the Saturday - and we were first on the running order!! Saturday morning was pretty cold, but dry. We fired the car up, and all sounded good. We then had a driver's meeting around 9:30am, and hurried back to get ready for the first round. We were called not long after we got back to the pits. We towed down to the fireup road and I started to get ready. We were not expecting too much first thing, as there had been a lot of rain recently, and it was still pretty cold out on the track.

We dialled in at 8.91 for our first qualifier, and were paired with Adam in 'Go Hard or Go Home!!!' He dialled in at 9.30. We both did our burnouts and backed up. I launched and immediately had to back off, as I was turning right. But I got back on it and recorded a 9.662 at 145.33 mph. So I was safely qualified to start the day. Meanwhile, Adam launched and immediately broke the UJ and parts of the diff! Such a shame for the team, as they had a lot of work done since the Thunderball, lengthening their chassis. Hope they can get it all fixed and be back out for the next round! No doubt they will! We towed back to the pits and changed the oil and refuelled, all ready for the next round.

We were called for our second round at about 12:45pm. This time I was paired with Bob Hawkins in the 'Time Traveller' slingshot and he went for an 8.50 Dial. We raised our Dial-in to 8.95, hoping to run quicker than the first pass. I launched nice and straight with a good wheelie, and we were all well chuffed when I recorded a breakout 8.858 at 146.68 mph, a full tenth quicker than our Dial! Bob ran a promising 8.722 at 146.87 mph, so it was a real nice matchup! We went back to the pits and fuelled up ready for the next qualifier.

The running order went through quite slowly, and we waited around for another run, but due to some downtime, and some very brief rain, we ran out of time. But this meant that we would again be first up on the Sunday morning. We were all ready to run, so didn't need to do any maintenance. We had tea, and another nice evening chatting to friends, including the Walters family with the 'Reloaded' dragster in Super Pro, who popped down to see us in the Winne.

Sunday morning dawned cool and cloudy, but dry, so this was again promising. We had another driver's meeting around 9:30am, and this lasted until 10 to 10. So we had to get back to the pits pretty quick, and then towed down straight away for our third qualifier. This time I was lined up against Dick Sharp in the 'Dorset Horn'. Dick dialled in at 9.80, and this time we went for a slightly quicker 8.82. Dick ran a 10.265 at 134mph, and it was really good to match up with him again! I was again chuffed to run quick with an 8.889 pass. But due to the timing boards not working properly, they weren't displaying any speeds on them. So we towed back from the top end, and I stopped off to get my ticket, walking the length of the pits back to our pit area. We were busy prepping the car when Mark asked 'so what was the speed on that one, Dad?' I had a look and straight away called Claire out of the Winne, as I had run 150.04mph!! My first 150mph pass for 7 years!!! Wow!! Claire instantly started screaming and jumping up and down, and we were all well excited about that!! Almost as good as the first time! And we were all really buzzing for the rest of the day!

We got ready, and got called out for the next round about 12:30pm. We were again paired with Dick, and he had kept his Dial-in at 9.80. This time there was deliberation between the 8.82 and 8.85, and eventually we went for an 8.84, being a bit higher than the last guess. This turned out to be a great Dial, as I recorded an 8.845 at 148.93mph, just .005 off!! Dick also had a good run in 'The Horn' with a breakout 9.719 at 138 mph. My run had put me in the #1 Qualifier position! The next pairing saw Darryl Howells go real well with an .010 off his Dial in 'Chemical Reaction' so real close qualifying!

We towed back to the pits, and got the car ready again, hoping for another qualifier. We waited around, and it seemed like our class should be coming up shortly but we weren't called. We hadn't been able to hear the tannoy from where we were, so eventually Claire cycled down to the Pit Control to find out what was happening. It then turned out that since they wouldn't then have time for one whole cycle of qualifying, and with the weather looking doubtful for the Monday, the organisers had decided to go into eliminations for all those classes with bigger fields! She cycled back to tell us, and started quickly working out the pairings. This meant I had finished as #1 Qualifier, so really pleased with that! We were shortly called back to Pit Control to meet with the officials and receive the pairings, which Claire checked with Beth in the fireup road. Mark Coulsell kindly volunteered to be our pit runner and organise the pairings, as he was out of racing due to problems with his fuel pump. We cycled back quickly and started to get ready for eliminations! It turned out we were again first on the running order and we had Dave Williams in the 'Green with Envy' altered, so it would be a good close race!

We got ready, and were soon called to the pairings lanes, which were empty. We paired up and Dave and Linda had dialled in at 11.50. This time, we went for an 8.85. I had a better reaction time than Dave and charged on down the track. In fact, we later found out that this was my best ever 1/8th mile ET and speed: 5.541 at 125.00mph!! Wow again! I had gotten past Dave about three quarter track, and backed off before the finish line. 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 my time was. I had run an 8.861 at only 129.79mph! Just .011 off my Dial, and this ended up being the Wild Bunch 'Closest to Dial-in' for the day, so really pleased with that too! Dave had also run close to his Dial with an 11.523 at 119mph, so it was a really good race! This meant we would be in the next round, if any racing took place on Monday. So we fuelled up the car and made it race ready for the next day.

We had another good night chatting to friends, and went to see the Walters again. It turns out Pete had won his round in Super Pro against John Atkinson, and that had been a real good race too. Well done, Pete! Again we had a fairly early night, and were ready for the morning.

Monday surprisingly dawned dry and cloudy, but just before the time racing was due to start, there was some drizzle. This eventually turned to more persistent light rain. We started packing up, as we knew the forecast was really poor.

Many of the teams had packed up by the time racing was called off, around late morning so we didn't hold our Wild Bunch prize presentation at the track. But we were really chuffed to find out that, since I had run closest to Dial-in of all the 1st Round winners, this meant that I had won our Real Steel Series round for Wild Bunch! Wow! What a weekend!

Thanks very much to Mark and Claire and Joey for crewing! Also, huge thanks to all the marshals and officials and track crew for their hard work all weekend! They may have been down on numbers overall, but pulled together and worked hard, and the track was really good, so thanks to them for all their dedication. Also, well done to all at Shakey for some off-season improvements around the site.

Congratulations also to Dick Sharp who ran a lifetime PB in 'The Horn' at 9.413! And to Bob Hawkins who ran a PB of 8.389 and Ian Turburville who ran a PB 8.738/158, all on that same round of eliminations! It was great to be part of a great round for the Wild Bunch! And to win against all that tough opposition!

We're now looking forward to our 'Spring Nationals' RWYB event at Gary's Picnic Yanks weekend at Shakey on May 26th & 27th for the first Wild Bunch Series round of 2012, and the third Real Steel round of the season. Hope the weather's good all weekend! We're expecting an even bigger field of Wild Bunch for that one, so can't wait! In the meantime, we have a car show to attend in aid of the Children's Hospice South West, with around 500 cars attending, so we'll enjoy that one!

6th - 9th April 2012 EASTER THUNDERBALL at SANTA POD

We were really looking forward to this event after the winter off-season! It seemed like such a long time since we had been out racing! During the off-season, I had purchased a new Hilborn fuel pump and nozzles, which we picked up at the Hot Rod Reunion in October from Don Enriquez, who has run Junior Fuel cars since 1968! I set the barrel valve exactly as recommended and checked the leakdown and fitted the smallest of the pills in the fuel system. I also removed the second check valve, as this was no longer needed with the smaller capacity pump. I did some tidying up of parts including the prop shaft shield, and made some titanium plates to fit along the sides at the front of the nose cone where some of the paint had come off, so that looked pretty neat. I also moved the battery about 3 feet forward, and took some weight out of the weight box, to lighten the overall weight. I freshened and assembled the engine and we had a fire-up in early February, and it sure sounded clean and strong! So we were really hoping that we would regularly be in the 8's again this year! We were celebrating too, as Wednesday 4th April was 20 years since we bought the car!

On the Thursday Claire and I left home around 10:45am towing 'Backdraft' up with the Winne. We had a pretty good journey and arrived about 2:30pm, and there was no queue so we bought our extra tickets and drove on in. Again we were really chuffed to be pitted against the fence, around the 1200-foot mark! There were some other Wild Bunchers already there, and we started to set up next to them. We later went to sign on, and there was a bit of a queue, so we just chatted to the other racers whilst we waited. When we got back to the pits, there was a nice surprise in the Winne. Darren Prentice had recently told us about a picture he had been sent of 'Malibu Express', and he had left in on the seat. It was a great black and white picture of the car at a show, with several of the team and some spectators, and had a poster advertising Santa Pod in 1969!! Well cool!! Mark and friend Nige arrived while we had been at signing on, and not long after we got back to the pits, we towed down to scrutineering. There were only about 10 cars in front of us. Everything went fine, and we went back to the pits and set up our pit area for the weekend.

We later fired the car up to check a couple of things, and everything was fine. We had tea pretty early, and chatted to some friends, and as it was pretty cold went to bed fairly early.

This was the seventh time that the Wild Bunch had raced at the 'Easter Thunderball' as a class, and we had a good field of 10 cars. We were scheduled for 3 qualifiers for the first 3 days and were 17th on the running order, so not out that early. The weather forecast was cold and cloudy, but hopefully dry for the first 3 days. Thursday night had been so cold that in the morning we had frost on the car! The whole windscreen was iced up and there was frost on the bodywork and the tyres! Friday morning was cold and cloudy and the track crew got the track up and running around 9:15am. We fired the car up again in the morning to check it all out, and it sounded real good.

We wanted to Dial in an 8 for the first round, so we decided on an 8.95. We were called out around 11:30 and made our way to the pairings lanes. In the first qualifier, we were paired with Ed in 'RamRaider' and he had some problems on the run recording a 14-second pass. Well, I had a wheelie in the burnout on this one, which is always exciting! I then launched with a wheelie which went a bit to the right, so I had to back off and correct on landing. I was pretty far to the right of the lane around the 330ft mark but gradually steered back straight again. After that, the run was pretty straight, and I recorded a 9.311 at 143.85mph. So this was a promising start as it felt like it was pulling all the way down. We went back to the pits and fuelled up, and changed the oil. I decided to put a bit more weight back into the weight box, as the wheelie had been a bit lively, so I added 12 pounds back in.

We had quite a while to wait for the next run, as there were a couple of incidents, where thankfully the drivers were fine. We got called out around 4:15pm and towed down to the fireup road. This time we were matched with Dave Williams in the 'Green with Envy' altered. He dialled in at 11.90 and broke out with an 11.64 at 112mph. We kept the 8.95 Dial-in and hoped to hook up well on this run. When I launched, the wheelie was pretty lively and I turned right when I landed, the car went up again into a second wheelie, and I turned left, all of which Ian Blackett of Blackett photography caught in a cool slow-mo video! The run was then pretty straight until around ¾ track when the car made a move to the left. It was like I was a magnet to the wall which was pulling me over!! I steered right but was still drifting left, so was forced to come off the throttle to a 10.555 at 90.16mph! That was pretty hairy. The temperature was still really cool and the track was cold as there had not been much sun on it to warm it up.

We went back to the pits and fuelled up for the next qualifier. It was getting colder so we thought it may become too cold to run very late. And in fact, racing stopped about 6:30pm when they were a third of the way through the third cycle. I added another 6 pound weight and some extra weights to the weight box, so it was now back where we left off last season! We packed up for the night and had tea, and went to visit some friends. We went to see the Kays who were back out with Jayne driving the funny car, and chatted to them for a while, and then went to see the Walters in their camper. Julie and Holley were not arriving until Saturday, so it was just the guys there til then. We went back to the Winne and had a pretty early night, as it was too cold to stand around outside!

On Saturday, we were due to be 11th on the running order, as the qualifying was starting from where it left off Friday. There had been some rain early Saturday, so the track crew were working to dry the track. They got it all sorted, and the track opened around 11:30am. We were then going to be after the Pro round, and we were able to watch some of the cars before we got called. Mark had been asked by Wendy Baker to help with the backing up in the 'Time Warp' nostalgia funny car. So he went down with their team. We got called just as she was about to do a burnout! Mark then met up with us in the fire-up road. While we were waiting, there was a rain shower, so a bit of a wait. The track was getting drier, but then another shower came, and as one of the marshals said it would be about an hour til racing restarted, and it was around 2pm, we decided to go back to the Winne for lunch! We've never done that before! But we realised we would have time. We had lunch and went back to the fireup road to wait. It was then around 3:45pm when we had our run.

This time I was matched up with Mark Coulsell in the 'Ballbreaker' slingshot. He had dialled in at 9.30, and had a bit of wheelspin off the line, recording a 10.04 at 125mph. We kept our 8.95 Dial-in and this time I wanted to try the right lane to see if there was any difference. The burnout was good. This time I lit the tyres off the line, which then lost me a bit of time, but after this, the car pulled well and ran real straight, and I recorded a 9.789 at a promising 148.63mph!

We went back to the pits and fuelled up and changed the oil. We watched some of the racing, including another round of Pro racing around 6pm. The track conditions were a bit better then as the sun had come out for a while and put a bit of warmth in the track. It later started to cool down quite quickly and racing finished around 7:45pm. They were in the middle of the fourth cycle of qualifying. We had tea, and as it had been a long day and was still cold, and hibernated in the Winne. Sam and Max Marston came round to say hi and we had a nice chat with them. We then went to bed real early.

Sunday morning again dawned wet and the track crew started working on the track early. We were due to be 9th on the running order this time. During the morning, Jeff and Sharon Morris, who were some of the original owners of 'Malibu Express', arrived with their family. We had a long chat, and eventually their young granddaughters sat in the car! We were really chuffed! It was good to see them all.

There was a lot of water to clear off the track, but the crew worked hard and eventually the track opened around noon. We were called to the pairings lanes about 12:30pm, so were hopeful of a run pretty soon. The Morrises were in the pairings lanes for a while chatting. There were a lot of bike classes before us and they were all assembled in the pairings lanes. Claire put my mask, helmet and neck brace on, and I was all ready for the run. Not long after there was some rain, so we all got out of the cars. The track started to dry and we were given a 5-minute warning, so all got back in again. But once again, there was more rain. This time there was quite a lot of rain and, as it was around 2pm, we went back to the Winne for lunch again! Then went back to the cars and waited. About then, commentator Colin Theobold brought a couple of friends to the pairings lanes. The guy sat in 'Dorris Dormouse' and we asked the lady if she would like to sit in 'Backdraft'. So she did. We think she really liked the experience! We were then chatting for a while before they had to move on with their tour. We had another 5-minute warning so all got back in the cars. Most of the bikes had turned back in the last shower, so we were now further up the queue. It was about 4:45pm when we were given the signal to fire up. Because of the rain shower, the track had been dried, and recently prepped, and the sun had warmed it up a bit so we benefitted from some better conditions.

I was again paired with Dave Williams, who ran an 11.74 on an 11.50 Dial-in. I was back in the left hand lane again and kept the 8.95 Dial-in. On this run, I launched a great wheelie, and the car ran straight all the way down the track. I wasn't sure if this was much quicker, but I knew as soon as the crew drove up the top end flashing the headlights! It was an 8.914 at 146.66mph!!!! We were all well chuffed! And didn't mind the breakout at all!! One of the best things was the great reception Claire and the team had whilst driving up the return road with several teams clapping, and when I got back to the pits loads of Most of the Bunch had a good round, and there were 4 other breakouts, including Ian Turburville in the 'Mr Spokehead II' car who ran his first 8 at over 150mph, on his first pass of the weekend! Ed broke out by only a few thousandths, and Darryl ran his first 9 for ages in 'Chemical Reaction', and Mark Coulsell was back in the low 9's. Congratulations to all of them! And Darryl Bradford even commentated that it was 'A stellar round for the Wild Bunch'! So chuffed to be part of all that! We were thrilled to be in the 8's again, and the run was really promising.

We went back to the pits, and waited. After us there was a full round of the Pro classes, and all other classes got their fourth qualifier completed, and all the eliminations that had been scheduled took place. We had tea whilst watching some of the eliminations. The track stayed open until about 8:15pm, and the track crew, marshals and racers all did well to get that much racing in. Claire worked out the provisional ladder, and found that I should have Darren Law in 'The Wicked Lady' in the first round, and that we would be 7th on the running order Monday.

We went round a few of the teams telling them this, and bumped into Andy Willsheer who had brought his laptop up to show us some interesting photos that he had been telling us about, including a cool bike that was built with 7 different Harley engines in it, from the early1900's up until the Twin cam engine. Very cool! It was nice of him to take the time to stop by and show us! Just as he was leaving, Ian Blackett arrived, and he made us a disc of two slo-mos he had filmed, and a lot of photos he had taken. We chatted to him for a while. Not long afterwards, we had another early night, as it was still too cold for wandering round the pits!

On Monday morning, it was raining again. Claire cycled down to Pit Control to check the ladders and the running order and they were what we expected. I would have #1 Qualifier Darren Law in the first round if any racing took place. There was no movement on the track and the weather forecast was not good. There was a lot of drizzle and we waited around, and started to pack up. Eventually the Race Director was forced to call off the event, at about noon. So we were all pretty disappointed and it was a shame we didn't get to run the eliminations.

We had our Wild Bunch trophy presentation as we were still able to present 4 Spot Prizes. Congrats to all the winners. It's great to be back out racing with a great 'Bunch' of people!

Thanks very much to Mark and Claire for crewing, and Joey for towing and crewing, and Kim for keeping in touch! Also many thanks to all the marshals and officials and track crew for their hard work all weekend! They really tried hard to get in as much racing as possible. And thanks to all at Santa Pod for the warm welcome!

We're all now looking forward to the MSA 'SpringSpeed Nationals' at Shakey on May 5th – 7th for the second Real Steel round of the season. And hoping for another strong field of Wild Bunch cars! And to run some more 8's! Hope the weather's a lot better! Can't wait!

That was the News