Brakes put on drags
ANDRA is watching the US drag changes, writes STEPHEN OTTLEY
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.