AUSTRALIAN Drag Week fans will be relieved to hear that all nine Aussie teams are still in the hunt, but we nearly lost some overnight. If that wasn’t bad enough Hurricane Florence is looming, and the locals are getting very nervous. It was the major topic of conversation in the pits and just about everywhere else.
The hurricane had already had an effect of Hot Drag Week with organisers cancelling the mandatory route for Tuesday. Entrants were told to just make their way to Charlotte and prepare for Day Three; they were also told to check for weather updates and keep their fuel tanks full with mandatory evacuations threatening to drain local resources.
All the Aussies bar Richie Crampton’s Chev made it to Darlington Dragway today for day two of Drag Week. Ben Neal in the Toyota Cresta was one of the first to hit the track after waiting hours for a run on Monday. The Cresta responded well to the morning air and powered through the finish with a 9.29 at 146mph. The boys reckoned the 252-mile drive from Atlanta Dragway proved to be no problem at all.
John Faraone was hoping to do the day one mandatory drive on his slicks but had to swap to his 33in tall street tyres on to the Charger about 50 miles into the journey. “It takes a couple hours to do,” John says, “because you have to disconnect the anti-roll bar and the rear coilovers.”
And because it takes so long to switch tyres John missed the first race session. Running in the 30+ degree heat later on, the Charger smashed out a 7.66 at 185mph to maintain third place in the Unlimited Class.
Heavy rain caused a bit of havoc on the mandatory drive from Atlanta to Darlington and Harry Haig felt some of that with the Chevelle when they hit a pothole and bent the front wheel. They managed to get the wheel straightened and the tyre remounted with the help of some locals, and the Chevelle went on to run an 8.80 at 156mph.
By all accounts Jamie Farmer had a flawless run with the Blue Mustang, making a 12.28 at 109mph pass before hitting the road early. It was probably a smart move with the extreme temperatures, and we daresay the guys were enjoying a cold and frothy beverage before lunch was over.
Brian Jensen ripped off another smoky skid with his big-block Torana, and this time he managed stick it to the start line and reel off a healthy 9.68 at 139mph.
Alternator issues plagued Ross and Brenton Gault, with the ’55 Chev overcharging. They also cooked a starter motor out on the road before they made it to Darlington. With Brenton behind the wheel, the big blue Chevy ran a 10.96 at 123mph, and then they hit the road. Ross was understandably happy with the car’s on-track performance. “It’s only got a 2000rpm converter,” he confided.
After flawless drive from Atlanta, Arby’s morning started poor with a dodgy electrical connector causing the thermo fan to stop working. Mark and his offsider Nigel worked furiously in the staging lanes to get it fixed in time, and the old Valiant ran a 9.79 at just 112mph. The car looked to be on a mission when the engine protection mode cut in – the ECU sensed low oil pressure and cut out the engine. Arby tipped another litre of Castrol in and headed out to the startline, but only managed to smoke the start line.
Ritchie Crampton and Jonnie Lindberg were no shows at Darlington; we can only assume he didn’t want to head into the hurricane zone voluntarily. Hopefully we’ll see the ’57 wagon at Charlotte before the guys head back to their day jobs, piloting Top Fuel and Nitro funny cars respectively.
But it was Robbie Abbott and his buddies who had it hardest today. The guys lost a fanbelt during the drive last night, and with no spares and no travelling companions to help out, they were stranded until morning. To top it all off, the mechanical fuel pump decided to shit itself just before the burnout box. With time running out the guys tipped some petrol into the fuel bowl and drove it to the start line so they could stage and take the automatic 20sec time slip. It was a close thing; the guys were literally the final car to face the ‘tree at Darlington.
Tomorrow the Drag Week circus will continue at ZMax dragstrip in Charlotte North Carolina, and the Hot Rod team are hoping to push everyone out of the potential disaster zone as quickly as possible. Stay tuned, things could get pretty wild.