AS THE sun began to set over Bradenton Motorsports Park in Florida, the golden light caught Jarrod Wood’s Radial vs The World Corvette. To me, it looked like performance as sculpture, an artwork of speed. If drag racing has a reputation for vehicles that move as fast as they look, this Corvette looked ready to enter hyperspace.
This article was first published in the August 2020 issue of Street Machine
Jarrod was first drawn into drag racing when he decided to compete in Street Machine Drag Challenge 2016, and it didn’t take long for the Victorian to make an impression. He built an HQ One Tonner specifically for the event, and by week’s end he’d run Drag Challenge’s quickest-ever pass up to that time. The bug had well and truly bitten. “I’d had cars, but never drag cars,” Jarrod says, “and after running Drag Challenge I just wanted to go faster.”
Is it not one of the hottest race cars you’ve ever clapped eyes on? The C7 Corvette is a good-looking vehicle to begin with, and fairly slippery, too – important when you’re looking at running north of 200mph in the eighth. The colour is Mazda’s gorgeous Soul Red Crystal, laid on by Hat Creek Customs in North Carolina, and it suits the ’Vette down to the ground
The burgeoning radial racing scene then drew Jarrod’s attention. The growth of this wild genre of drag racing has been hard to miss over the past decade, having perhaps the greatest impact on Doorslammer racing since the advent of Pro Mod.
“Radial racing is pure excitement, because you don’t know what is going to happen,” Jarrod says. “There’s no wheelie bars; there’s big power – it’s so good.”
| Read next: Three-second blown 2004 pro radial Ford Mustang
The HQ Tonner had delivered faithfully at Drag Challenge, but at 4380lb, the Quey had too much weight for radial racing, where getting the car moving at a dead hook is the priority. So in 2017, Jarrod went in search of a more evolved race car, and found Kevin Mullins’s Ford Mustang for sale. The car was a former world record holder, having run a 4.11@193mph pass at Lights Out 5 in 2014 – when the record was still a 4.19.
COVID-19 has prevented Jarrod from making too many hits in the Corvette to date, but he’s chomping at the bit to get back to the US and do some racing as soon as he’s able. It’s still early days, but he believes the car has the potential to run 3.50s in the eighth, which would put it at the pointy end of any radial racing field
Jarrod tested the car in the USA before shipping it back to Australia. At the time, the race was on for the first three-second pass on radial tyres Down Under. The heavy hitters of the class were all chasing the mark, including Perry Bullivant, Matthew Grubisa and Daniel Pharris in Kyle Hopf’s Camaro.
Read next: Jarrod Wood's 1969 Ford Falcon XT
With some more development from both Jarrod and Mullins’s TKM Performance, the Mustang tore up the record books once again when it delivered the first three-second pass in Australian radial-tyre history with a 3.99@196mph at the Kenda Radial Riot in September 2018.
“That was pretty cool to do,” Jarrod says. “Kevin was there, which made it even more special. It was a bit different in the car because you don’t get to see the startline, but from what I was told everyone was jumping around and going nuts, so it was pretty good to be the first.”
Read next: Twin-turbo Noonan Hemi-powered Camaro
With that item checked off his list, Jarrod was quickly off to the USA to compete in the 2018 running of No Mercy, where he drove Bill Schurr’s mad Hemi-powered Jeep in the X275 class.
He followed up in March 2019 by shipping the Mustang back to the States to take part in the unique Sweet 16 event in Georgia – one of drag racing’s few equivalents of a pay-per-view show, with spectator tickets limited to an expensive few and the race broadcast online. Since its record Australian pass, the Mustang had been lightened and equipped with a FuelTech FT600, and at Sweet 16 Jarrod clocked a 3.83@205mph in one of the oldest cars in the field. It was proving a reliable steed, but then a deal that was too good to refuse came up.
“Another one of Kevin’s good mates and customers had a new Corvette in the build, and he asked me if I wanted to buy it,” Jarrod says. “He realised it was going to be a bit too much work to run something like that; it’s not a holiday. I said to Kevin that I was keen if he was keen.”
Noonan’s 4.9in Hemi is straight-up engine porn. Jarrod’s example is force-fed by a matching pair of monstrous 98mm Precision snails, and is good for 3600hp on a lowly 36psi of boost. Once the wick is turned up, you’re looking at somewhere north of 5000hp!
The C7 Corvette was a full tube-chassis build right from the start, providing a modern base for the copious amounts of horsepower now possible. The Mustang wasn’t far off that either, but it still began its life in a factory. “The Mustang started out as a street car,” Jarrod says. “It had a lot of work and probably wasn’t even a three-quarter car by the end, but it had the front chassis rails on it. It even had the tags still. If you want to be a frontrunner now, you need a tube chassis and you need it to be light.”
The Corvette was sent to TKM Performance as a bare roller and Jarrod and Mullins took care of the rest. As a boilermaker by trade, Jarrod was well skilled to take care of the remaining fabrication, and then learned more from Mullins on the motor side of things. The Australian influence would not only be felt in the driver’s seat, but also in Jarrod and Kevin’s choice of powerplant: a Noonan 4.9 Hemi topped with two 98mm Precision turbos.
“The Noonan Hemi is a great engine and we are just starting to figure it out now,” Jarrod says. “It has been specced by Kevin with the camshaft and what-not. There’s a two-speed Turbo 400 – we also have a three-speed – and a Neal Chance converter. It currently has a fabricated rear end, but we are putting in one of Steve Ham’s billet rear ends, because it is nice kit and we want to try and support Australian people.”
Jarrod’s Corvette has made 3600hp at 36psi on the dyno – and that was just to make sure everything worked. “The old 4.8 Noonan Hemi made 5200hp on other cars, so we think this motor will be over 5000hp at its peak,” he says. “We just have to work out how to get from A to B.”
Jarrod describes the Corvette as an accidental show car, thanks to the pristine billet of the Noonan motor combined with the RSM polished pipework. The whole car is decked out with titanium nuts and bolts thanks to Jarrod’s own WM Titanium Products business.
“The car is really light,” Jarrod says. “We don’t have to be super light [the current weight limit for twin-turbo cars in Radial vs The World is 2750lb], but we can move the weight where we need it.”
The car symbolises the rapid evolution of radial drag racing. This is a class where the world record dropped by over half a second in the space of five years – and that’s on the eighth-mile. No other category has seen such incredible advances in pace.
Carbonfibre everything helps to keep the car super light – the crew actually has to add weight to it to bring it up to the 2750lb limit for twin-turbo cars at Radial vs The World. The current transmission is an M&M Turbo 400, but a Liberty five-speed is in the works
“Everything has evolved,” Jarrod says. “The rear ends and the converters are probably the biggest part. It’s all a lot more reliable, and so much development has gone into making radial cars fast. Turbo cars used to take forever to spool, but now in four or five seconds you are ready to leave. All the ECUs have come a long way and the track prep is a big thing as well.”
So far Jarrod has only had some brief opportunities to experience the ’Vette’s potential before COVID-19 hit. The priority for him right now is the USA, where the Corvette will stay for a few years. Eventually he will take it back to Australia, but only after he has had a chance to make a statement in one of the toughest categories in drag racing. “It would be good to go 3.50s, even .40s,” he says. “We have the parts and the power to do it; we just have to work out how to do it. Without Kevin, Sammy and Eric from TKM there is no way I’d be doing what I am doing.”
Jarrod expects radial events to continue growing in Australia, especially thanks to the influx of cars coming from America. “There are plenty of cars in Australia already, but then you have more of the old American cars being brought in, cars that perhaps aren’t quite at the top of Radial vs The World in the States but are still good cars,” he says. “It’s a population thing. You can’t spend all the money on glue [traction compound] for an event with 100 cars – they get 100 cars to a test day in America. But Australia will get there in time.”
JARROD’S first foray into drag racing was not exactly a baby step. His Holden One Tonner runs a 600ci big-block Chev with a pair of Pro Mod-spec 88mm turbochargers, and in 2016 he and the Tonner made the quickest pass in Street Machine Drag Challenge history at the time – a 7.71@184mph – as well as driving some 1500km over five days.
“I hadn’t really been involved with drag racing before that,” Jarrod says. “Me and Andy at Specialised Power Porting built the car and Dandy Engines put together the big-block for it. We had only a couple of days to get it sorted, yet we ended up running 7.71 on the last day of Drag Challenge and set the record.”
Word has it Jarrod has another DC project in the works that has the potential to put the hurt on the established players in the outright stakes. We look forward to seeing that!
Paint: Soul Red Crystal
Brand: 520ci Noonan/TKM Outlaw Hemi
Induction: Noonan billet intake
ECU: FuelTech FT600
Turbos: Twin 98mm Precision
Heads: Noonan Hemi 4.9in
Camshaft: Bullet solid-roller
Pistons: Wiseco, Total Seal rings
Oil pump: Barnes
Fuel system: Waterman Big Bertha pump, Brown & Miller hoses, 20x850cc Billet Atomizer injectors (16 in manifold, 4in intake plumbing)
Exhaust: Rock Solid Motorsports turbo manifolds, Turbosmart wastegates, WM titanium bolts
Ignition: FuelTech FT Spark CDI
Gearbox: MM Transmission Turbo 400
Converter: Neal Chance billet lock-up converter
Diff: Fabricated Larry Jeffers housing, Strange billet centre
SUSPENSION & BRAKES
Front: Menscer coil-overs (f & r)
Brakes: Strange carbon (f & r)
WHEELS & TYRES
Rims: Weld V-Series 17x3.5 (f), Weld Alpha-1 15x14 (r)
Rubber: Mickey Thompson front-runners (f), Mickey Thompson Radial Pro 315/60/15 (r)
Larry Jeffers for the chassis; Kevin, Cornbread, Sammy, Dustin, Nick, Mark, Zac and Katie at TKM Performance; Terry and Greg at Loughlin Fabrication; FuelTech, Billet Atomizer; Mark Menscer at Menscer Motorsports; Rock Solid Motorsports, Deters Custom Finishing; Noonan; Total Seal; Wiseco; T&D Rockers; Precision Turbos; M&M Transmission; MJB Performance; Hat Creek Customs; WM Titanium; Turbosmart; my wife Clair and my old man; Davis, Andy and John who crew and support me