HOW good was the crowd at Sydney’s 400 Thunder event recently?

I reckon it would have probably been the best attendance we have had in Sydney for over 10 years; the crowds are starting to come back to drag racing.

The Gulf Western Oil team had a good weekend at the event too, with Rachelle Splatt getting a runner-up result in her return to Top Fuel. Rachelle was part of an all-female final against Kelly Bettes, another sign that women in drag racing both here and overseas are really starting to show their mettle.

There was some really great racing at Sydney and some really good numbers run, though it was unfortunate to see Peter Xiberras’s accident in Top Fuel; he sustained some spinal injuries, so it is good to hear he is out of hospital and I wish him the very best with his recovery. When it comes to the numbers, a lot of the Doorslammers are going quick; low 5.7s are almost the norm now.

It is crazy when you consider that a year or so ago, .7s were a rarity! I’ve been asked a lot about what has been driving the low ETs, because, really, we have had the same componentry in the cars for many years. John Zappia has been in front of everyone by a few hundredths most of the time, and a tenth now and then, and he is using pretty much the same stuff now that he was using then, and yet the ETs keep dropping.

I think we are getting better heads, and there are also better magnetos out now. The fuel systems are getting stretched a bit harder too.

I also think that for everyone, the pressure is on – you have to go quick, and so people are doing their research.


Another thing that I never thought would ever make a big difference is the bore/stroke combinations. Believe it or not, these are getting less and less. That doesn’t mean that some of the bigger-cube motors aren’t going fast, but a lot of the combinations that have been struggling over the years have put smaller-stroke cranks in – including us – and are finding that at times the cars are slightly easier to get down the track, so we can start laying into them a bit more.

There is also the fact that there is a lot of information and technology coming out of America, with a lot of friendships that have been created over the years with some of the US stars. For instance, you have Billy Stockton helping Paul Mouhayet and Moits Racing, and he is probably the best tuner in the world for a supercharged Doorslammer. At the same time, we have Frankie Taylor, Mark Savage is on Sam Fenech’s crew, and Maurice Fabietti and Marty Dack both have people over to assist as well. You also can’t take the tracks out of this. The American technology doesn’t work as well on a slippery track! But you get a good old sticky track and it works great, so thanks to the tracks for keeping up with the performances of the cars.

A lot of money has been spent on shock absorbers and suspension too. Emilio Spinozzi for example has Michael Marriott helping him, and that is a guy who understands chassis, shock absorbers, suspensions and the like way better than anyone else in the field. I think it’s just a matter of time before those guys get that thing hauling down the track and threatwening the front-runners.

Another amazing thing to see lately is the work on 60-foot times. I think it really started with Paul and Moits Racing. Of course, any increment you can improve comes off your ET at the end of the track, and at the moment the most important one seems to be the 60-foot time, which previously we had never really chased here in Australia. In Sydney I noted that Paul was running .940s and .930s, and Zap also runs pretty good 60-foot times. I think all of the guys with the chassis setups and the shock absorbers that are getting around now are really working on this area. Once upon a time, if you ran 1.0 to the 60-foot you were doing well. There have been three or four cars running .940 at the past couple of races, so I think that is what people are chasing.

As far as ET goes, we have always been equal with the Americans, but I think now that we are chasing the 60-foot times and the 330foot times, it is all adding up.

There’s perhaps no better proof of this than Scott McLean’s 5.572@252mph during warmups for the Winternationals. American crew chief Darren Mayer had the car humming to shatter Paul Mouhayet’s previous Pro Slammer record of 5.58. Take it as gospel: it’s only a matter of time until we’ll be in front of the NHRA cars or the Pro Boost cars.

Before I sign off for this issue, a quick side note. As far as my health goes, as I write this I’m waiting on a tick from the doctor to let me go racing at the Winters. That will have already been run by the time you read this, so you’ll already know if I managed it. Either way, I do feel like I am getting close to coming back. Even if I don’t get to race at the Winters, I hope to be out on-track soon.