ITíS very early days, but John Zappia and Paul Mouhayet must be the two favourites to take out the 2018-19 Pro Slammer championship, going by the results from the first round of the season at Hidden Valley Raceway. Zap took the honours in the final over Mouhayet.
But there are several other teams that loom as contenders too. Relative newcomer Emilio Spinozzi did well and looks to be enjoying the swap from Pro Stock to the blower class, while Mark Hinchelwood impressed in his debut for Maurice Fabietti.
Darwin was also a good meeting for Team Bray. I dialled in a new combination and was happy with a 5.92. Probably had a 5.80 in the car, but I got off it early. The Hidden Valley track doesnít get a lot of racing, so over the first couple of runs all the teams were a bit loose. The boys gave me shit because I was the quickest car after the first run, as was the only one to get a clean run down the track! To qualify and go 5.90 on my return to competition was a solid performance.
Ben ran a 5.70 and Frankie Taylor was well into the 5.80s in his final event for our team. Nothing is planned at this stage, but Iím sure we will bring Frankie back to race sometime in the future. He has said he would love to return to Australia, and the many friends he made during the 2017-18 season would be glad to hear that.
From here we have a bit of a break until the next round at Sydney Dragway in the first weekend of November. What we are planning to do in the meantime is figure out a way to catch up with the Moits team and Zap, and that means lots of testing. Thatís something we werenít able to do while I was ill. To be competitive this season, you probably need to run in the 5.70s consistently.
There are a lot of ideas I want to try out, and an almost four-month break is the perfect opportunity to do so. My car still has a swingarm rear end, so it doesnít have the adjustability of other cars out there that use a four-link. Thatís an area we will be looking at in testing to get a better understanding of the changes we need to make to our suspension and shocks package. Last month I raised some concerns about the escalating speeds and times that Pro Slammer cars have been running; 420 km/h and 5.60-second passes were unthinkable a couple of years ago. To make cars safer, you need to take weight off. But the less weight a car has, the faster it will go.
So what else can you do? Reduce the amount of overdrive? They tried that in the US with Alcohol Funny Cars, when they reduced overdrive limits from 125 per cent to 92 per cent. Then the compression ratio was increased and cam changes were made, and the cars kept running fast. Every time the governing bodies try to make cars go slower it becomes a challenge for crew chiefs to work around.
I think the answer lies in a series of steps to make cars safer. If you look at Top Fuel in America, this year they have been able to reign in speeds by not prepping the tracks to such a high standard, and with less grip the cars are not running as quick. Itís a simple and effective fix, though I donít particularly like that as a solution. But mark my words, there are crew chiefs out there as you are reading this who will be trying to solve the problem of less grippy tracks.
In Australia, I believe that bringing in auto-shifters would be a step in the right direction for Pro Slammer, allowing drivers to concentrate purely on driving. The guys who are against them feel that way not because they donít want to use them, but because they want to stop others using them. Auto-shifters are banned in Australia right now, but theyíre legal everywhere else in the world, including the NHRA and the PDRA.
From a purely economic point of view, the auto-shifter makes sense as it stops you from overrevving the engine, which will save you from motor damage or worse. The NHRA is also very clear on why it allowed the auto-shifter: safety. You are much better off having both hands on the steering wheel to keep your race car pointed in the right direction. A recent vote amongst the Pro Slammer teams was about 50/50 on allowing them in.
The 400 Thunder calendar for 2018-19 has been released, and I know that Perth Motorplex, Calder Park and Adelaide Raceway fans are really disappointed that Top Fuel, Pro Slammer and the rest of the Pro classes are not on the schedule at those tracks. That doesnít mean that there wonít be some changes made to the calendar as time goes on. I would like to see a Slammer round at Springmount Raceway, near Cairns, and maybe at Swan Hill Raceway on the Victoria/New South Wales border. donít think we are too far off returning to Calder Park. would love to go there, even if it meant running eighth-mile.
Nothing lasts forever, but I was surprised when saw that the US Army was ending its sponsorship with Don Schumacher Racing and the NHRA. Two decades together is a great result for both parties, but from all accounts the army has decided to spend its marketing dollars elsewhere. remember when I had a sponsor decide not to continue with and our team; life goes it was on. a s big change, but you get over it and life goes on.