THE major news in Doorslammer circles over the past month has been the decision to allow the Noonan 4.9in-bore-space motor into Doorslammer for the 2017-18 season. The 400 Thunder board voted to allow it in with no restrictions.
At the outset, I want to make it clear that no one opposes the motor in principle. What people were and still are worried about is the innovative design of the new NRE engine and the impact it may have on the bracket. I think there will be a lot of discussion regarding parity, and I think itís worth noting that the Top Alcohol guys banned it. No point in whingeing about the decision, though; letís just get on with life.
The Noonan engines will certainly produce the horsepower, and we need to sit back and see how that translates into times and speeds next season. The worry is, just say the 4.9 Noonan motor starts dominating. What then happens to the teams running the 4.8 engine, or the guys who canít afford to step up? You donít want to see teams fall by the wayside.
However, that is all conjecture until we see them running, most likely at the opening round in Sydney. Zap might bring his back with him and Tony Defelice will be running his. Like most teams, weíve already got our motors organised for the 2017-18 season, but you can bet Team Bray will be keeping a close eye on it, and down the track maybe weíll get a couple of the Noonan engines to play with.
This month Iíd like to talk about ways of getting kids off the streets and onto the race track. In my early days we were into street racing, because there werenít any other options available close by. My first car, a í57 Chev with a 307, was a 15- or 16-second car, one of the quickest around. There were guys around town like Peter Guinea who had a GTHO Phase III Falcon, and from memory it was a 14-second car in standard trim. What has changed over the years are the cars and how affordable they have become, plus how quick and fast they can run. If you have a Nissan GT-R and it doesnít run in the 10s then you take it back to the dealer to claim warranty! Itís just way too dangerous to streetrace todayís cars, so we have street meets, Powercruise and off-street events like Lakeside in Queensland, where you can have fun in your car under controlled conditions.
When we were street racing, one thing we never did was race up the middle of town or off a set of lights. Sure we would flatten it a couple of times, but that was about it. Today I think a lot of the problem is peer pressure. In America, the issue of street racing and hooning is minimised when there is a drag strip nearby that runs events.
Sydney, Calder Park, Willowbank and Perth do a great job in providing a safe environment and sensible option to run street cars.
Instead of spending millions of dollars trying to stop the hooning, perhaps governments should put some incentives in place. Maybe that could include offering prize money as a way to get the cars off the streets. After all, why would you drive on the street when you pass a drag strip on the way? They donít have to spend money on new tracks; they are there already. And as a bonus, drag racing would get a real boost.
Thatís where the next generation of stars like John Force, Steve Reed and Gary Phillips are likely to be coming from.
Time for a bit of an update on how John Zappia has been going in America, and let me say, heís been doing very well. He ran at GALOT Motorsports Park in North Carolina and qualified third. He seemed more comfortable this time despite the unfamiliar car and driving position. Zap is running with the new 4.9 Noonan engine for the first time. In fact, he was the only car running a clutch in the Pro Extreme category. Before the weekend was over he had really stepped up to the mark. He went through one round, got to the semi-finals, and then lost to one of the big hitters in the category. Zap ran
a 3.62 at just under 217mph, which shows the real potential for the engine and that John has what it takes to run with the Americans whoíve been racing with converters for years. Iím not surprised, because I always felt he would do well over there. Some of his regular crew have joined him, so with one event still to go at Richmond, Virginia and the awesome track and air they get there, I canít help feeling we are in for some interesting results.
A striking footnote about the North Carolina meeting was the international flavour of the entry list. There were 10 cars entered: five Americans, four from Sweden Ė where drag racing is big Ė and Zap from Australia.
Seeing Zap race, it makes me think that maybe we should go back there and race again. Jason Scruggs and his dad have offered a car for me to tune and Ben to drive, and you never know, it may happen. At this stage itís not something we can afford to do ourselves. Benís competed at the US Nationals and that is an event I would love to race at. If we did go back I would probably want to run, not in Pro Extreme, but in Pro Boost, where around 30 cars turn up and the racing is super-competitive. Pro Extreme is no-holdsbarred, few rules, hell-for-leather racing, and very expensive. But in Pro Boost they race turbos against the blower cars. The turbo cars are limited in turbo size, and blower cars have weight limits, can only run Roots superchargers and no screw blowers. Troy Critchley, who was my crew chief a few years ago, is one of the leading lights in building blowers for Pro Boost in America.
Thereís some chatter about new cars being built, but to me the good news is that my old sparring partner and good friend Peter Kapiris is coming back. Peter stepped out of the sport for a couple of seasons to concentrate on the family fruit and vegetable business. I think the break will have refreshed him. Weíve had a lot to do with each other over the years; we donít always see eye-to-eye, but have always got on well.
When he first started drag racing he was a young bloke, with a wife and kids, who just wanted to race and have fun. Now heís a grandfather, like I am, and itís pretty cool to see how far we have come over the years. Itís interesting that he has decided to move from a clutch to a converter.
Pete doesnít know much about the technicalities of the car itself. He relies on a great crew and just loves to hop in the car and drive. Pete is well-respected among the teams. You can be sitting around talking tech stuff and Pete will come out with a very knowledgeable statement in a discerning voice, and when everyone turns waiting for his follow-up statement, he will just burst out laughing. s