WILD AT HEART

Street Machine - - WILD AT HEART - VIC­TOR BRAY

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

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