HARRY Haig brought his Shonky SS HQ back for a fourth tilt at Drag Challenge with a killer new combo to get the big Kingswood really moving, but they were up against it from the start. Harry struggled with a greasy track and some gear-selector issues to record an 8.4 on the first day. However, the niggles turned into a dead pump seal in the Powerglide just 30km from AIR, requiring a ’box-out fix and then a late-night, very hot drive to Mildura to stay in the fight.
“In our tiredness, I don’t think we filled the gearbox with enough oil, so that burned the clutches up,” sighs the Shepparton legend. “Then everyone was busy thrashing on the car, and we were trying to ring people to work out how to fix it, but we suck as transmission builders. We were up ’til 4:30am in Swan Hill trying to get the ’box fixed, then swagged on the footpath, then back up at 6.30am to clean parts and get it ready to be put back together.”
Despite their best efforts to make it to Swan Hill on time, there was too much damage done and POP666 was out of Drag Challenge.
“A little problem turns into a big problem fast on Drag Challenge,” warns Harry.
“Especially when you have a stuff-up on the first day and then by the third you’ve only had two hours sleep – you’re not running at your best.”
PRODUCING around 800hp in Drag Challenge tune, Scott Forrester’s 2.0-litre turbo single-cammer Holden Gemini has an interesting two-stage Wolf electronic and mechanical injection system to keep it fuelled. By nutting things out with Jake’s Performance in the ACT, Scott keeps his engine together with plenty of hard-won knowledge from his Summernats dyno comp days: forged pistons and rods, a grouted block, main bearing girdle and a very well-prepped, balanced and knife-edged crank. Biiig turbo: it’s a BorgWarner EFS.
It was all wrapped in a pretty, freshly painted yellow Gemini coupe that many of us have memories of as kids. But Scott’s first Drag Challenge was over on Day Two at Mildura.
“I over–revved it at Adelaide,” he admitted. “Basically, I was hot and exhausted and I held a gear too long…” The damage didn’t present itself straight away, but the timing chain tensioner copped a hiding and jumped links, bending an intake valve.
“I know what I’m in for now!” said a sadder but wiser Scott. “I’ll be there next year and I’d like an eight at every track!”
JARROD Wood was one competitor to watch, having run the quickest and fastest passes in Drag Challenge history in 2016. He rolled into Adelaide with new 94mm Garrett turbos, a new TH400 transmission and rear-end, and with hopes high to have a ball.
The 4190lb heavyweight commercial was a rocket ship, putting down an estimated 2000hp, though Jarrod struggled out of the hole.
“It’s hard to get it off the line as you need the turbos spinning but there’s so much torque from the big-block,” he said after Day Two.
Surprisingly, though, he didn’t have any issues cruising in the heat of the first two days. “It’s awesome on the road. We didn’t even use thermos fans!”
Unfortunately, it all went wrong at Swan Hill. After running an 8.2@162mph, a collet broke on a valve at the 800ft. “We’d have been on a 7.90 if it hadn’t broken,” says Jarrod. “But, if you’re going fast, you’re going to break stuff.”
While he and his mates thrashed to fix the engine, Jarrod made the call to pull stumps as a way to avoid risking hurting the car on the long road stages.
“ You have to weigh up putting another 1200km on a $60,000 engine for not a lot of gain,” he laments. “There’s always next year.” p
GEORGE Hatzi has decades of drag-racing cred under his belt, so when he rolled into DC piloting John Stoumbos’s proven low eight-sec TT Cortina, everyone was keen to see it run.
“My best pass to date is 8.03@173mph at Calder, but we hoped to run sevens on DC,” George says. “Day One was the first pass we’d done with the new tune. I ran 8.69 at around160mph, pulled the ’chute and as it blossomed out, the car shook then suddenly over-revved. All I could think was what’s happened here?”
The current thought is that the ‘box shifted back to first, but it’s speculation at this point. And with bent exhaust valves striking the pistons, things weren’t good.
“John and I spoke about our options and I think the heat made us park it,” George says, adding, “Since DC I’ve pulled the car apart. Competition Engines built the motor so they’re checking the engine over to make sure it’s all good.”
Under the hood of the ’74 Corty is a 378ci Windsor, running a Dart block, steel crank, AFR heads and a pair of Garret turbos, producing a whopping 1184rwhp on the dyno.
“I was looking forward to DC and had worked so hard on the car to get it there. Then we fell short and only did one pass.
We’re definitely entering again; it’s unfinished business!”
IN DRAG RACING there are few things worse that the sudden, empty silence that surrounds a car on the start line in the seconds after a major driveline blow-up.
You see the car approach the line and its driver stage for the run; the start-line lights drop through the yellows toward the green light and BOOM… bits of metal fly everywhere and then… Ssshhh.
Spectators know it’s real bad when fluids start flooding the ground under the car.
That’s when you know it’s time to put the car on a trailer, go home and cry.
We saw a bit of that at Drag Challenge this year. Thankfully we also witnessed some not-quite-as-disastrous blow-ups that – thanks to equal measures of luck and good preparation – were able to be repaired so participants could continue.
Here are five of Drag Challenge 2017’s most significant blow-ups!
YOU gotta feel for Corey Read. His Holden LS1 V8-swapped, turbocharged XF Ford Falcon was DC17’s first casualty, on the first day, on Corey’s first run, before lunch! It looked a forlorn sight, up on chassis stands in the paddock with its sump removed, testament to Corey’s investigations of a death rattle in his 520rwkW engine. Silver glitter in the oil indicated a probable bearing failure due to oil surge. Thankfully Corey didn’t have far to go home – and returned in a drive car to spectate for the week. He’ll be back next year… with a baffled sump!
IF YOU can hear power tools in the paddock, you know someone’s probably not having a good day. And so it was for Mark Barber when two of the three bolts on his turbo, injected 186-powered Torana’s torque convertor let go on his first-ever run at Drag Challenge. He dropped the ’box and replaced the flex-plate allowing him to limp the car the car to each track, despite his 4L60E auto’s damaged input shaft. After the 1500km trek, he installed a wrecking-yard ’box on Friday… but it blew, too. Not one good run – but he finished his first-ever DC. That’s the spirit, mate.
KIM Smith’s supercharged VE Maloo spat a driveshaft at Mildura. In an incredible stroke of luck, Mildura is the home of high-performance Holden tuners Corsa Specialized [sic] Vehicles and CSV just happened to have a ute driveshaft complete with the dampener on the shelf.
By fitting the new dampener to the old shaft in the pits at Mildura, Kim was able to limp her Maloo to CSV’s hoist where she fitted the new shaft with relative ease, allowing her to complete Drag Challenge and drive home to NSW.
DUSTY Benson launched for his first Friday run at Adelaide in his sleeper-spec LS turbo VC Commodore and – BOOM! – the nine-inch diff let go. Before being flung onto the track, the broken tailshaft belted the driver’s side rear foot-well to almost level with the trans tunnel and later inspection showed the gearbox had torn the back off the LS V8’s alloy block, too.
So, the diff and engine are rooted but Dusty reckons his big-buck C10 trans survived the holocaust.
LAST year, Tasmanian Josh Grant arrived at Drag Challenge in his Holset-blown V6 Commodore that he’d driven from Perth on a holiday with his dad. True! This year he was back with a quicker, faster car… that let go of its tailshaft on the final day.
Josh managed to patch up the tailshaft by rebuilding the rear uni but the next run revealed the tailshaft was bent and out of balance… it was trailer time. Back home in Tassie, Josh discovered the two-piece tailshaft’s centre CV joint was on its last legs too, and wouldn’t have survived another hit from the transbraked Powerglide.