WILD AT HEART
IT’S still only early in 2020 and there’s already a candidate for drag racing’s most amazing story of the year. South Georgia Motorsports Park has announced plans to extend its race track to accommodate half-mile racing. There is one slight problem: there isn’t quite enough room at the end of the track, so there will be a minor curve in the shutdown area. The organisers say it won’t be much of a problem, because by the time the cars arrive there they will be running under 100mph.
How would half-mile racing work? I spoke to Top Fuel tuner Santo Rapisarda Jr about how he’d go about setting a car up in order to keep it in one piece at the end of a half-mile. “The first thing you would need is a much larger fuel tank,” he said. “Obviously you would need to have a very healthy engine with a very soft tune-up. The scary part would be the tyres. Tyres are not rated for the speeds you could theoretically run. That would be a real issue.”
From a Pro Slammer perspective, running a half-mile would be a wild ride. How it would pan out depends on your goal. Could a ’57 Chevy run a half-mile at over 300mph? Aerodynamics would be a significant problem – maybe something like Ben’s Corvette could handle the speed. I reckon you would need to fit the appropriate diff ratio, then go to a seven-speed Liberty to spread the gears out and come up with a combination to run the distance. I would also drop the compression and take out some timing to make sure the engine survived.
After years of rumour, speculation, gossip and a lot of trash talk, Pro Mod has finally landed in Australia courtesy of IHRA Australia and with the blessing of 400 Thunder.
According to 400 Thunder General Manager Steve Bettes, “Pro Mod racers and race fans alike have been waiting for this category to be formalised at major events in Australia for many years and we are very pleased to be able to make this happen in 2020.”
The main difference between Pro Mod racing and what we might call traditional heads-up racing is that Pro Mod racers will initially be set a target ET of 5.85 seconds. Whichever racer has the best reaction time and runs closest to the target – whether it’s over or under – will be declared the winner. Traditionally in drag racing, the quickest car wins. Will spectators be happy to see the car that’s first over the line possibly not being crowned the winner?
The category made its first appearance in late January at the Santo’s Summer Thunder meeting at Sydney Dragway, with 10 or so entries. The cars included twin-turbo V8 Mustangs and Camaros, but the quickest car was a 6.9-second six-cylinder Toyota.
I watched every round in Sydney, and was disappointed to see the twin-turbo V8s lifting before the quarter-mile so as not break out of their 5.85-second max. These cars are extreme and meant to go hard, fast and run to their potential.
PRO MOD MADE ITS FIRST APPEARANCE IN JANUARY AT SYDNEY DRAGWAY, WITH 10 OR SO ENTRIES INCLUDING TWIN-TURBO V8 MUSTANGS AND CAMAROS
So, what does Pro Mod offer? The IHRA reckons that it will be a great spectacle for race fans while helping to contain costs for racers. Haven’t we heard that before about drag racing? Yet over the past couple of years, the cost to compete in Pro Slammer has increased by well over $30,000 due to zero cost containment.
There are implications for the three classes we currently have in the 400 Thunder series: Pro Slammer, Pro Alcohol and Pro Stock. Can the sport support another category? Look at the list for Slammers at Sydney; there were only seven entries. Three weeks earlier, Pro Alcohol at Willowbank Raceway attracted eight cars, and Pro Stock at the same meet had six.
There’s no denying the attraction of Pro Mod to a generation of racers who want to compete at the major events on the calendar. It’ll also be attractive to some Pro Slammer racers because the target 5.85-second time is an achievable goal. What will be interesting is watching the turbo cars leave the startline like a rocket – don’t forget some of them can run 270mph plus – then suddenly pulling the chutes to slow down. There’s a word for that: sandbagging. It’s not illegal, but it’s probably not within the spirit of the sport. It will happen, because there will be some cars with 5000-6000hp up against others with maybe one-tenth that power.
Another thing to keep in mind is that turbo cars take a little more time on the startline to prepare and stage. You can’t hold a blown car up, because they get very hot quickly. The NHRA doesn’t make any allowances for the differences; the cars have to come up to the startline and go racing – no mucking around. If you screw the other lane around the starter will give you a red.
The show Pro Mod put on in Sydney was impressive – no question. Whether the entry list can be sustained will be a major factor in determining whether the category continues to grow.
Would I like to have a run in Pro Mod? Sure. It could happen one day. The ’57 Chevy already runs a 5.85. Basically, all I would need is to put a bigger blower on the car so I can ‘sandbag’ like the turbo cars.
We’ve had two rounds of Pro racing this year, three weeks apart and both in January. We really need to look at the calendar, particularly regarding the weather. Willowbank Raceway in summer means getting baked. For spectators sitting in the grandstand on metal bench seats when the temperature is over 35°C, it can’t be much fun. At Sydney, the meet was called off due to rain, and when we went back a week later, the entry list had really taken a battering.
It was good to see Richie Crampton return to Australia and race at Sydney Dragway. He was a hit with the fans; we love our home-grown heroes. Every time I walked past his pit, he was out there posing for photos and signing autographs. Not sure if or when he’ll be coming back. So far, he’s only raced in Sydney. I’d love to see him up here at Willowbank Raceway.
TOP LEFT: Fresh from an incredibly successful US stint in NHRA Top Fuel, Aussie racer Richie Crampton was recently back on home soil at Santo’s Summer Thunder in Sydney, piloting a Top Fuel dragster for the Rapisarda Autosport International team