AFTER the best sleep many Hot Rod Drag Week competitors have ever enjoyed during the event, the pits at zMax Dragway in Concord, North Carolina were buzzing when we rolled in this morning. The major topic of conversation was still Hurricane Florence and how it may affect the event. Many were keen to make their passes early then hit the road, but the weather had other plans.
No, the hurricane didn’t hit; at least not yet. Instead we had a heavy, misty fog that blanketed the area with the finest drizzle. You couldn’t call it rain, but it was just enough moisture to delay the start of racing for 90 minutes on Day Three.
zMax Dragway is an amazing facility; in fact I’d go as far as to say it’s the best I’ve ever seen. We have several outstanding tracks in Australia, but none of them even come close to the standard of zMax. From the tower to the stands and even the pits, the place just reeks of quality, and with the ability to run cars four-wide, the track is an engineering marvel. There was no need to run cars four-wide today, however; two lanes did just fine and every Aussie team we talked to had nothing but good things to the say about the place.
| Watch next: Aussies at Drag Week - day two
First to hit the track again were the Skid Factory boys. Ben Neal is the wheelman and owner of the Barra-powered Cresta, and he cranked out a 9.26 at 147mph. That’s the quickest pass the car has made in America so far and the guys are keen to keep the momentum going. Look for eights out of this machine by the end of the week.
Arby didn’t have a great run today. With everyone getting to the track so early this morning he was a fair way back in the lines. Mark was keen to run a good number and he gave the Valiant a big serve off the line, but the 255s couldn’t handle the power and the rear end went up in smoke. Rather than hang about for the another pass, the guys elected to hit the road to Bristol, which left Mark with a best time of 11.61 at only 109mph; dropping his average for the week so far to 10.41. Ouch!
John Faraone nearly had a repeat of last year when the car wouldn’t start just as he got to the head of the line. A couple of frantic minutes of diagnosing the problem revealed that the rotor button had blown apart. Not an uncommon problem, according the John. “I put a new one in it 300 miles ago; usually I replace them every 1000km,” he says. Once they had the big block Charger fired up they got the go ahead to bring it to the line and it hooked right and headed for the wall. John got out of it, corrected and then gave it the berries again to run 184mph through the traps. After a wait of a couple of hours, he got the chance to try again. After softening the launch tune slightly, the 3900lb beast launched to a much more representative 7.70 at 187mph. After three days, John has a fairly solid grip on third place in the Unlimited class and seventh overall.
Jamie Farmer’s little Fox-body Mustang is still delivering the goods. It may not have dipped into the 11s yet, but the trap speed is improving at every track, and this time the blue coupe ran a 12.20 at 111mph. The boys took off into the distance before had a chance to chat, but the $6500 Mustang is proving to be a worthwhile investment.
Brian Jensen was another member of the ‘One and Done’ brigade after he missed the first session. The big-block hatch delivered another tyre frying burnout, before running his best time this week with a 9.61 at 140mph. That brings them up to fourth in the Street Race Big Block NA class, and if they deliver another 9.6 or better tomorrow Brian and Dianne should jump up into third spot.
The blue shoebox Chevy of Ross and Brenton Gault may have started the week slowly, but it picked up half a second on Day Two and the father and son duo were kind of hoping to do it again. “We lifted the floats to give it bit more fuel, but it looks like it’s running rich after that run,” Ross said after watching the ’55 leave a trail of black smoke. Yesterday the car ran high tens, but today the best it could do was an 11.09 at 123mph. No doubt they’ll be working to get back into the tens tomorrow.
After a horror day yesterday, Robby Abbott was all smiles. It seems the fuel pump wasn’t cactus after all; the fuel was vaporising in the carby due to the extreme temperatures. It may not have been significantly cooler today, but it was nowhere near as humid. Robbie rerouted some of the fuel line away from the exhaust and gave it a crack, with the green Malibu wagon running a 13.88 at 98mph. “I’m going to try something different tomorrow,” Robbie said afterwards. “On that run I shifted at about 1000ft; the gearing is so long. Trouble is that when I shift into top it really dies in the arse, so tomorrow I’m going to try the Gear Vendors instead of shifting gears. That won’t be such a massive rpm drop.”
Harry Haig struggled a bit today with the Aussie Chevelle. The guys had three cracks at the track and it turned the tyres every time. In fact, watching the car go down the track, she’s a bit all over the place. After three passes, the best the guys could muster was a 9.08 at 156mph. Despite the damage a nine-second timeslip does to their average, the Aussie Chevelle team has jumped up into third place in the Street Race Big Block Power Adder class.
The car everyone was talking about today was the ’57 Chevy wagon of Ritchie Crampton and Jonnie Linberg. The guys drove around 120 miles to the track on 93-octane fuel. Originally the idea was for the Chev to use E85 on the street, but the corn juice is a little hard to come by in the south-east, and so they decided that 93 was a better option. It turned out to be the more frugal option too; the wagon only used 40 litres to go the 120 miles. Running demonstration only, the guys decided to do a bit of testing with the aim to possible have a full-tilt crack at Drag Week next year. They dropped the overdrive down to 70 per cent on the blower and changed the first gear in the Lenco to run a 7.12 at 207mph on the car’s second ever pass. Confident with the set-up, they headed back around for one last blast before they had to pack up and go back to racing their usual cars. The big Chevy jumped off the line and screamed through the traps with a 6.98 at 207mph.
“It felt slow,” Jonnie drawled after the pass. We guess it probably would to a guy who pilots one of the quickest Top Alcohol funny cars around. The biggest question is, will they be back next year? Ritchie says they definitely will, and hopefully for the full week.
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Street Machine is the bible of Aussie modified auto culture, celebrating wild muscle cars, customs and hot rods – and the incredible humans who create them.
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