TWO weeks and two race meetings: Darwin and Alice Springs. It was good to be back racing again after the Winternationals. The Darwin meeting went down so well; Friday night they had a good strong crowd, and then on Saturday night you couldnít move in the joint!
It was very well organised, and I take my hat off to Scott MacLean and his wife Rachel, the committee and volunteers for putting on such a fantastic event.
Northern Territory Chief Minister Adam Giles and MotorSports NT President Grant Hamon were there and said that what Hidden Valley needs for the future is a bigger spectator mound to fit in the crowd. They have committed to putting in a longer mound plus LED lights down both lanes of the track.
It was good to see an Australian government that can see past golf courses and football stadiums. Perth, Sydney and Brisbane also benefit from visionary governments in this regard, but unfortunately Melbourne and Adelaide are still to identify and unlock the benefits of the world-class drag strips in their cities.
What people also need to know is that in Darwin, they donít have a Ďhooningí problem, because the drag track gives the locals a place to race and that keeps them off the streets. Thatís got to be good for the whole community.
If there is one criticism I could make of the event, itís that they need to run it a bit later.
Darwin people were still rolling in at nine oíclock at night. The mound was chockers and the crowd was three and four deep on the fence, way past the mound, all the way to the finish line.
It was good to see a fellow Queenslander, Gary Phillips, return to the winnerís circle in Doorslammer at Darwin. Iím not sure many people would have realised that the motor Gary raced was out of his 5.3-second, 270mph funny car. Garyís a professional and knows how to make it all happen, and proved it by getting on top of such a different combination so quickly.
But the following weekend at Alice Springs, he had a little bit of trouble on the tricky surface and didnít qualify. His car had too much power; he backed it right down and still got into trouble.
Amazing how one week you can be king of the hill and next week youíre sitting there watching the racing.
On our first run in Darwin we had a couple of small problems. Ben had issues with his lock-up converter and I had an issue with the engine. We thought we were in a bit of trouble but then on the second run I ran a 5.99 and Ben got down the track with a 5.87. We were pretty happy with that, taking into account that we were relying on a minimal core crew across both cars at the meeting.
Later in the night the track cooled off. We looked to be in a great spot when Ben went to the top in qualifying, until Grant OíRourke bettered Benís time by a couple of hundredths and grabbed pole. Ben wasnít too concerned, however, because John Zappia snuck into the field in eighth place. Ben said for the first time in his racing career he was happy not to topqualify and let Grant face Zap in round one. At the end of the day though youíve got to have it all going your way, and Ben went down to Gary Phillips in the second round.
As for me, in round one I accidently punched first gear and short-shifted in second and lost
to Mark Belleri, who has been running real tough lately.
The following week was Alice Springs, and being a new track none of us knew what to expect. The weather was really cold; when I got off the plane my hands and nose were frozen before I got to the airport terminal! It was about 4įC, and I reckon the hottest it got for the first couple of days was about 9įC.
When the Doorslammer teams arrived we went and walked the track. The boys had done a great job prepping the strip but the one thing they couldnít control was the weather. It was freezing, so they couldnít get the track up to where they wanted it to be. So we had a vote and I think it went 9-3 in favour of running to the eighth-mile. The guys who wanted to run the traditional distance were a bit pissed, and I can understand that. The track is dead flat and as good as any track in the country; it just needed more rubber and a bit of heat. With the ongoing commitment of the NT Government, CADRA President Mark ĎYakí Probst and the local club members, ASID will be a major force in the Australian scene into the future.
We did well at Alice. Both our cars went out and blew the tyres off, and we were all over the place on the first run Ė everybody was struggling. The track for the second run was okay, and then for the final session it was starting to come around and had a bit of bite in it. I qualified fourth and Ben was second.
Next day, in the first round I screwed up. I put a little bit too much into it against Sydneysider Sam Fenech and paid the price. Tyre shake off the line, then on and off the throttle and that was it. For Sam, it was his first-ever round win in Doorslammer Ė well done to the team.
And Ben? He came up against Zap in the final, who ran a 3.96 to Benís 4.07 to take the win. Looking at our data afterwards, we could have hopped the car up a bit. The track was certainly there by the end of the event. We just didnít take the punt and Zap did.
Commiserations to Alice Springs Doorslammer racer Andrew Sutton, who went hard into the wall near the finish line in qualifying and damaged his beautiful Corvette. Thankfully he came out of it just with some bumps and bruises.