CONGRATULATIONS to all the 80-odd participants in the inaugural Street Machine Drag Challenge Weekend. Reading the comments on Facebook, nearly everyone had a great time and will be back again. What was so pleasing for me was the fact that real street cars were raced and driven from track to track. I also noticed on the last day at Willowbank there were quite a few spectators behind the fence at the startline. While drag racing seems to be declining in popularity in Australia, I think events like Drag Challenge have to be good for the sport.
Recently I watched the 400 Thunder coverage of the first-round Nationals event in Perth, and you could have thrown a blanket over the crowd. Afterwards I messaged several people in each state asking if they thought drag racing was growing or declining. In nearly every case, the reply was: Ďdeclining with a few bright spotsí.
The Doorslammers are still crowd favourites, the Calder street scene is as strong as ever, the Kenda Radial series seems to be popular with racers, and the Winternationals at Willowbank always has a big turnout. But on the downside, I was told that in a few states there were not enough entries in some fields to even hold the class bracket, or they had to combine two classes to get a field. And sadly cities like Townsville no longer have a drag strip.
By contrast, drag racing in the US is booming if NHRA spectators are anything to go by. In 13 out of the 24 NHRA events in 2017, at least one day of each event was sold out. In 2018, there have been at least one-day sell-outs at three of the first four NHRA events. The NHRA has been running four-wide racing, and judging by the crowds, itís proving very popular.
I mentioned Jason Carter and Mark Mickeís turbo doorslammer last issue, and Iíve had some feedback from US racers that knew some of the details about the 1978 blue Malibu. It weighs 2850lb Ė 100lb over the 2750lb minimum Ė and at the recent Sweet 16 event in Georgia, USA, it ran a best ET of 3.62 and a top terminal speed of 221mph on 315 radials, and ended up winning the event. The 60-foot time was 0.975sec, which is impressive on such a small tyre. The Kris Nelson-built engine is 540 cubes and makes around 4800hp with 78lb boost. Thatís around 8.9hp per cube!
Mark Micke is a highly regarded transmission builder, and the car runs one of his own highly modified two-speed TH400s with a lock-up clutch converter. One of the reasons the Carter/Micke Malibu can run like it does is that, under Radial vs The World rules, theyíre permitted to run boost control, because theyíre not allowed to run wheelie bars. The big benefit is that with boost control they donít overpower the small tyres.
Now hereís some very interesting information on how far radial technology has come. Stevie ĎFastí Jackson raced with a 17-inch conventional slick and swapped to a 315 radial on his Pro Nitrous Eliminator car during an event, and the radial was only two-hundredths slower in the eighth-mile. Radial-tyre technology has come a long way and proven to be almost identical in performance to conventional slicks.
As you would have read on the Street Machine website or social media, the imported ZB Commodore Ė a rebadged Opel Insignia Ė is not selling well, and Holden sales have plummeted to their worst ever. I donít know if itís just me, but any time Iíve gone for a drive lately Iíve seen late-model Ford Mustangs everywhere, and Iím looking forward to seeing the new íStangs competing in the Supercars series. I love their shape, and canít understand why Holden dealers canít get new Chevy Camaros onto their showroom floor sooner. It would be awesome to see the Mustangs and Camaros competing against each other in Supercars. Maybe the new Kiwi marketing manager can talk some sense into GM management.
Seeing as real Holdens and Aussie Fords are no longer made here, itís every street machinerís responsibility to keep their true-blue icons on the road. They donít have to be magazine feature cars either to attract attention. I parked my plainJane 308 HZ wagon at a shopping centre, and when I came out people were walking around it checking out the old girl.
Iíve been thinking about the perceived decline in drag racing here and reckon it would be a good idea if current racers helped someone who has never raced before go bracket racing in their street machine or daily-driven streeter. You can win a Dial-YourOwn event in a 17- or 18-second commuter or old six-cylinder classic car, and itís a lot of fun.
Bracket racing is all about how consistently you can make your car run, how quickly you can react to the start light, and knowing what affects the carís performance, like changes in temperature. If you are really sharp on the lights and able to run right on your dial-in, you might win a coveted ANDRA Christmas tree in an 11.0-12.99-second street bracket.