IF YOU were planning to go to only one drag meeting this year, I reckon it should be the Willowbank Winternationals. All the Prolevel classes have stepped up their game and it will be on for one and all at the biggest drag racing event outside the United States.
Itís developed a real international flavour, with a lot of people coming not only from around Australia but around the world.
This yearís event will be a bit special, with some of the guys in Doorslammer running into a bit of form and starting to bang on Zappiaís door. In Alcohol, you have Craig Glassby coming over from Western Australia, and in Top Fuel, Wayne Newby and Damien Harris are fighting it out, not only for the championship but also to become the first Australian to run under 4.50 seconds.
In Doorslammer, Mark Belleri, Grant OíRourke and Paul Cannuli have all run well, as has the new guy in the series, Robert Taylor, the ĎMad Professorí from Victoria. He has run a 5.86. For a guy who has basically just come into the sport, to run any time in the .8s is a fantastic effort. Robertís a crazy driver. Iíve seen him do some really wild stuff going down the drag strip; heís a bit of a madman and lives up to his nickname. He has a great team around him and they have worked it out quickly; I take my hat off to them. I think heís shaping up as a real threat to the long-established teams at the Winternationals.
As for Team Bray, we have been doing a lot of testing on our engine tune-up and compression ratio, converters, gear ratios and tyres. We went down to Sydney for the Outlaw race and ran a 4.79@253mph. And yes, for all those who want to know, we did have a bit more overdrive Ė we had 118 per cent on it instead of 108 per cent, but other than that, Bennyís car was legal.
The timing lights werenít working all morning.
When we went out to do a test run without the lights, we pulled up to the staging lane and were ready to fire up the car, and hallelujah! Ė the lights started working. It was as if Benny had a switch in his pocket and just turned them on. So we had the car hotted up for the run, Benny got on it and blew the tyres off.
We went back to the pits, put a much milder tune in the car and Benny ran the 4.79@253mph. It was a bit of a surprise actually; we were aiming to get in the mid-4.8s, but obviously some of the things we changed in the car worked really well.
We use a Power Grid, like most of the teams these days. Basically you can pre-set any ignition timing at any point going down the racetrack, in tenth-of-a-second increments.
Benny has really got his head around it but I am still learning about it. You canít expect everything to work perfectly all the time Ė when youíre playing with something new that allows you to make more adjustments to the car and make it go faster, there will be some occasions when you go up some dry gulches. It all came together for us on that run though, and we came away from Sydney believing there are some areas where we can improve.
Andrew Searle was in the same boat as Benny on the day. He went out there aggressively, drove out hard and shook the tyres. It was a pretty green track at that stage, and then he came out later and ran a 260.9mph, which made him the fastest supercharged Doorslammer outside the United States.
One of the people who has really helped us is Greg Gower from Perth. I have really got to give him accolades; Greg is a bit of a rocket scientist. He wrote this program called Alky Pro, and itís like a flow bench in a computer.
It has a lot of different algorithms in it. Greg has put about seven years of research into the program, and what it did was allow us to go from 108 per cent overdrive to 118 per cent and then change the compression ratio, the size of the fuel pump, the rpm we are going to work it at, and the boost of the motor. It does all that in a way that puts you straight back in the ballpark. Itís such a sophisticated program that we went down the track and never hurt a part; the engine was like brand new. A lot of the top guys in the US are using it now, and I think itís safe to say that Greg Gower has revolutionised the art of tuning these racecars.
Thereís been a bit of talk around the traps lately about whether or not we are going to put a turbo in Bennyís Corvette. At the end of the day, Benís a turbo guy; heís always had his turbo cars and loves that whole scene. Heís been toying with the idea of putting one in his car, and I think in the not-too-distant future you could see him out there running with the Outlaws. Stay tuned. s