Brakes put on drags

AN­DRA is watch­ing the US drag changes, writes STEPHEN OT­T­LEY

Herald Sun - Motoring - - Motorsport -

THE death of US drag rac­ing star Scott Kalitta last month sent a shock through the sport that was felt in Aus­tralia.

Not only was Kalitta a reg­u­lar com­peti­tor lo­cally in the Na­tional Hot Rod As­so­ci­a­tion ( NHRA) off-sea­son, his death fol­lowed the loss of fel­low Funny Car star Eric Medlen early in 2007.

The NHRA, US drag rac­ing’s gov­ern­ing body, made the big­gest change in the sport’s his­tory. It short­ened the rac­ing dis­tance from the iconic quar­ter-mile (405m) to 1000ft (305m) for the re­main­der of the sea­son for Top Fuel and Funny Cars.

With the first 1000ft events al­ready run in the US, Aus­tralian drag rac­ing of­fi­cials have watched with in­ter­est.

‘‘We’re not there yet. But we’re look­ing,’’ Aus­tralian Na­tional Drag Rac­ing As­so­ci­a­tion (AN­DRA) gen­eral man­ager Tony Thorn­ton says.

The lo­cal drag sea­son starts in Septem­ber with the Aus­tralian Na­tion­als at West­ern Syd­ney In­ter­na­tional Drag­way, giv­ing AN­DRA plenty of time to see how the change works in the US.

‘‘I think most peo­ple are as­sum­ing that we’ll fol­low. Tim­ing-wise we’re in the box seat to see how the change goes in the US be­cause our sea­son runs from Septem­ber to June,’’ Thorn­ton says.

NHRA made the change to in­crease brak­ing dis­tances. Thorn­ton says that safety at Aus­tralian cir­cuits is bet­ter than at many US tracks. Top Fuel cars only race at the coun­try’s three big­gest strips; West­ern Syd­ney, Wil­low­bank and Perth Mo­tor­plex.

‘‘We haven’t had any ma­jor dra­mas with the brak­ing dis­tances. We’ve had some crashes, but they weren’t in the brak­ing ar­eas and the peo­ple have been able to walk away,’’ he says.

But while he is happy with the safety of lo­cal tracks, he ad­mits there is still a strong chance AN­DRA could fol­low the NHRA.

‘‘If the US de­cide that they are go­ing to make the change per­ma­nently, we would prob­a­bly change be­cause we all use the US as a bench­mark,’’ he says.

How­ever there are still no guar­an­tees that the NHRA will make the change per­ma­nent.

‘‘I think it’s in­tended as a tem­po­rary change to cre­ate some breath­ing space while they as­sess other op­tions,’’ Thorn­ton says.

Safe mea­sure: af­ter two deaths in the US, the NHRA has altered the dis­tance of Top Fuel and Funny Car rac­ing for bet­ter brak­ing dis­tances.

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