THERE have been some big changes in Australian drag racing over the past month or so, and I’ve got to say, I’m extremely happy with what’s happened.
Not because we’ve got rid of ANDRA, but because the sport can move forward. We couldn’t get any sense out of them when we needed it, so something had to be done. We all hoped it would end with a mutual arrangement, but ANDRA insisted on retaining complete control.
Negotiations between 400 Thunder personnel and ANDRA over the past few months have gone from reasonable, through to unpredictable, and then to intolerable. ANDRA has refused to sanction any of the 400 Thunder events, including the sportsman racing, which basically forced the tracks to go with the International Hot Rod Association (IHRA). It’s been on the cards for about six months now, but ANDRA basically forced the tracks’ hand.
Group One in the recent past has been completely ignored, and during that time there’s been no money, time or effort put into the promotion of the sport’s top categories. Of course ANDRA disputes that, and now they’re saying they had a big plan that was just starting to come together, but we’ve all heard that before.
Don’t get me wrong, Group One guys like myself love Group Two, Three and Four – they’re the guts of the sport and where we all started – but Group One is what we’ve really got to sell to the sponsors and spectating public.
Unfortunately it seems the approach was to promote the Group Two, Three and Four sportsman racers, knowing that they greatly outnumber the Group One guys. So if you want to get yourself re-elected and make your days easier you look after the sportsman racers.
Doing that at the expense of the Group One racers, however, wasn’t a good thing.
So as things sit right now, Perth, Sydney and Willowbank have left ANDRA and gone to the IHRA for sanctioning, and 400 Thunder events at other tracks will be added as they come on-stream. They’re in process of writing a new rulebook, and getting staff together to run it all – it’s a done deal and boy, am I excited. It gives us a chance for a complete freshen-up of the sport.
Naturally not everyone is excited, especially the sportsman racers, because they feel they won’t be looked after like the Group One guys, but if Group One is healthy, the sportsman guys will flourish.
There’s a bit of misinformation around – probably coming from both sides – with rumours that the Group Two, Three and Four boys will have nowhere to race, and that’s completely untrue. The three tracks will be accepting ANDRA licences and the ANDRA rulebook as a minimum for the time being.
Of course there’s a bit of apprehension and suspicion that the major tracks are looking to take over the sport. You’ve got to remember the history of drag racing in Australia, and the prior attempts with DRAG Ltd and RPS Promotions, which both tried to do basically the same thing.
What makes this time different though is that they’re allowing racers on the management committee, and I for one am 100 per cent for it. I think it had to happen because we’ve seen some really bad decisions made by ANDRA over the past 20 years. Sure, no one makes the right call every time, but some of the decisions of the past six months have been very negative towards the building of the sport.
It will be interesting to see where the smaller tracks go when the dust settles, because there are a lot of benefits going with the IHRA. The costs will be a lot lower for both the tracks and the racers. The larger tracks’ sanctioning fees are going to be a lot less – from about $100,000 to $5000 per year for each track, and the racers’ licences will probably cost about half of what they would pay through ANDRA.
It’s certainly an interesting time for the sport, but I’ve got to say that right now I can see a future for the sport that I couldn’t see with ANDRA.
As for Team Bray Racing, we went down to Sydney for the East Coast Nationals and Ben got runner-up with the Corvette; it ran a 5.98, which is pretty good for a new car.
Talking of new cars, it’s great to see Andrew Searle back into it with his new Mustang. He bought the Monaro chassis off Ben and he’s re-bodied it with a carbonfibre 1967 Mustang fastback shell. It looks really good, and at his first meeting, on the second run he goes 5.94 – after 13 years out of Top Doorslammer! Andrew’s been running in APSA, so he hasn’t been out of the sport, but after so long out of Doorslammer he’s done pretty well. He put a massive effort into getting the car done and basically built the whole thing in about three months.
By the time you read this we’ll be coming up on Summernats, and we’re not sure what we’re doing this year. We missed it last year due to Benny’s injury, but we certainly don’t want to miss it this year. We’re still trying to find a sponsor to get down there, but we may even just drive a truck down with a few cars and cruise around a bit. Hopefully we’ll see you all there. s