DRAG racing is a sport best served dry, so when grey Victorian skies opened up on Heathcote Park Raceway just before the Australian Ford Forums Nationals were to be held there, the outlook for the weekend’s racing was a bit bleak.
For the past 11 years, the Australian Ford Forums have partnered with Heathcote to put on a drag event members over the Queen’s Birthday weekend. At this year, the temperature at Heathcote hovers around the ‘pretty cold’ mark during the day and drops to ‘bloody freezing’ at night. Nevertheless, you’ll always find more than a few ladies and gents from all over the continent making the trek to Heathcote, some even camping in the pits. They dress in layers and huddle around glowing fires, just waiting for a taste of sweet drag racing action.
The usual schedule is test ’n’ tune on Friday arvo, more testing on Saturday morning, and racing from lunchtime onwards. The format is a DYO Chicago shootout, and the classes are split by dial-in into 8.00-10.99, 11.00-12.99 and 13 & Over, along with an Outlaw class for any car that’s not running a Ford engine.
The AFF Nats has gone from a small meet to having almost 100 entrants at this year’s event. Though most were from Victoria, there were quite a few who made the journey from SA, NSW and even Queensland to compete and catch up with friends. It’s certainly one of my favourite aspects of the event – there’s a bunch of fellow Blue-bloods from Canberra that I enjoy having an annual chinwag with. The atmosphere at Heathcote is always warm and friendly, even if the drizzle and frozen ground aren’t. It’s one of the many reasons even the Queenslanders are happy to forgo their warm variety of rain for the frigid Victorian stuff!
Unfortunately, this year the rain really set in on the Friday, so much so that the track was soaked and the test ’n’ tune was called off. Saturday dawned with clear skies and no wind, but the track simply refused to dry out by lunchtime, so both lanes were opened up for a continuous parade of race cars to warm things up and lay down some fresh rubber. With more than half the day gone, a vote was taken and the decision to scrap the DYO racing was made. Instead, entrants were invited to test ’n’ tune, and the staging lanes filled with racers eager to have a crack.
Whoosha, a Ford Forums stalwart and co-organiser of the event, made the best of the situation. “We’ve done really well to only get washed out once in 11 years of holding the Nats,” he said. “When we realised we wouldn’t have time for both testing and racing, I asked everyone which they’d rather do. Most said they’d rather just make as many passes as possible, and it wouldn’t be fair on the interstate guys if they got knocked out after only one run. So we just ran test ’n’ tune for the rest of the day. Plus, it’s not every day you get to chuck laps both ways on the quarter!”
The cars were predominantly Falcons both old and new, though there were quite a few Aussie Fairlanes rocking decent mumbo as well. Boosted Barras were a common sight, thanks to their ability to make easy power and their practically bolt-in fitment for older Falcs, but there were more than a few racers flying the worked SOHC flag, too. As with any event where old Fords congregate, the air was filled with the snarls of angry Clevos and Windsors. Due to the soggy weather, every car wore sprays of mud along its flanks.
With the dew setting in quickly in the evening, the AFF Nats was done and dusted for another year. While most racers packed up and headed home, some stayed for the test ’n’ tune the next day, when the weather (and the track) would be kinder. Planning to stay the extra day is definitely a hot tip – and you can also check out the Mid-State Mopars event in neighbouring Bendigo.
Hopefully next year’s event will be a return to the Nats of old, with chilly air, bench-racing around campfires and plenty of PBs.