WILD AT HEART
WITH Christmas and a new year on the horizon, I’d like to take time to reflect on the 2018 drag racing season and also do some crystal-ball gazing for 2019.
Race-wise, the big news for our team was that we brought Texan Frankie Taylor out to drive our third car. A very funny man and a great talent behind the wheel, Frankie was a real hit with the race fans wherever he went.
Having someone of Frankie’s calibre working with the team was great. In America he races almost every weekend, and that knowledge and experience is priceless. You can talk on the phone, but nothing beats meeting faceto-face. There’s a lot of stuff we already knew, but having Frankie, his brother Paul, daughter Emily and chassis specialist Jeremy on hand was a real bonus. We decided to make some changes, particularly with our chassis set-up, and it will take a few meetings in 2019 before the results show up on the scoreboard.
One thing the Americans don’t quite understand when they first come over to Australia is why we run with our chassis so stiff. The reason is the tracks and the track preparation we have in Australia are very different to what they run in America.
These days all the teams are concentrating on getting their chassis working better. You find that the guys who are buying cars direct from America already have a handle on chassis set-up and do well straight out of the box.
After witnessing most teams stepping up with PBS last season, including several into the 5.60s, I think in 2019 we are going to see Pro Slammers moving into a new zone, with some running in the 5.50s at speeds over 420km/h. Chassis set-up will be the numberone priority. As well as current champ Paul Mouhayet and regular front-runner John Zappia, look out for Sydney racers Emilio Spinozzi and Sam Fenech, along with Brisbane’s Steve Ham and WA’S Kelvin Lyle to really step up in 2019. Hopefully, we can get in the mix as well.
The developmental curve in the sport over the past 12 months has been phenomenal and in 2019 there will be no let-up. For a long time in drag racing things just rolled along, with incremental changes in regards to ET and speed. You only need to look at US legend Scotty Cannon’s times in the 1990s, when they were flat-out running 6.30 passes. Today they are running 5.60s and around 160 kilos heavier. I never thought I would ever see a legal 5.40-second Pro Slammer pass. I gotta tell ya, it’s coming; it’s just a matter of time. Could it happen in 2019? Ask me this time next year.
From a personal perspective in 2018, the highlight was being able to get back in the car and go racing again. When I was lying in the hospital for all those months I had doubts at times that I would ever race again, and it was a massive relief when I got the all-clear.
I wanted to make a comeback at my home track Willowbank at the Winternationals. That was one of the most emotional meetings in my racing career. Getting behind the wheel again, I was as nervous as I have ever been in over 45 years of racing.
As well as my family and fans I also want to acknowledge the support of all our sponsors, especially Gulf Western Oil and Century Batteries, who have stuck with me. They are both very much family-style companies; if our sponsors had been massive corporate conglomerates I probably would have been cut loose and given the flick.
THIS YEAR WE BROUGHT TEXAN FRANKIE TAYLOR OUT TO DRIVE OUR THIRD CAR. A VERY FUNNY MAN AND A GREAT TALENT BEHIND THE WHEEL, FRANKIE WAS A REAL HIT WITH THE RACE FANS
In 2019 my doctors and family will guide my race schedule. The plan is to run at all the 400 Thunder championship events, including the Willowbank and Sydney Dragway rounds in January. Even though the level of competition has stepped up and there are many championship contenders out there, I still would love to have a run at another championship.
Road safety, particularly stopping kids doing burnouts and hooning on public roads, is an ongoing issue. There is a place for burnouts, but only within a safe and controlled environment. Recently the guys at Gulf Western had a customer evening at their headquarters in Brisbane. We set up a burnout pad with safety officers, fire marshals and spectator barriers. Ben took down his ’63 Corvette burnout car and they invited some locals who compete at burnout events. Gulf Western put on a free barbecue and we had a crowd of around 400, with a lot of young local revheads turning up for a look. Ben and I spent a lot of time just chatting to people and checking out some amazing street cars. It was a great night; thanks to Gulf Western for providing the venue and underwriting the night, and also to the people who came along to support the event.
It also made me realise how times have changed. In my day, if you had a car that ran 15 seconds you were hot. Today you can go out and buy a street car off the showroom floor that can do 10-second quarters, and if you get caught hooning under today’s laws you risk having your car impounded. It makes no sense and simply isn’t worth it when you can do it safer and legally at events like Powercruise and Street Machine Summernats.
We have some really cool cars coming through our workshop early next year that I want to share with the public. Plans to have our sponsors, their customers and car clubs come visit our workshop are well advanced and is something that I’m really looking forward to in 2019. If any clubs are interested in having a day at Team Bray workshop, get in contact with me and we will find a date where Ben and I can show off our culinary skills and you can check out the workshop.
In the meantime, stay safe and enjoy this special time of the year with your family and friends.