IíD LIKE to begin this monthís column by giving a shout-out to one of the hidden gems on the Australian drag racing scene: Alice Springs Inland Dragway, home of the Desert Nationals. After the Nitro Up North event in Darwin, we travelled down the highway to race at Alice Springs. The drag strip there is a real gem and a credit to the Central Australian Drag Racing Association. Itís probably the flattest track in Australia, built on a very strong base, and a lot of care went into the construction. The venue has international-standard guardrails, excellent spectator facilities and is run by a great bunch of people with strong government support. An added bonus is that they race the traditional quarter-mile.
I would love to see a round of the 400 Thunder Championship at the venue. The locals love drag racing, and when we competed there they had about 160 entries. The tourism potential of a fullblown meeting would be enormous, and it would also open a wider market for drag racing.
A couple of weekends ago I went on a cruise to Hell Town Hotrods near Gympie, about two hours north of Brisbane. Let me tell you, if you love hot rods, street machines, custom cars and being in the company of car enthusiasts, this was heaven. It was like stepping back into history. The collection of customs, rat rods and old automotive memorabilia at Hell Town is something else, and worth the visit by itself. Itís a real credit to Adam and Teana who own and manage the venue. Around 150 cars turned up on the day Ė amazing. The place was pumping, with live music, good food and a really nice vibe.
Talking to people on the day, I discovered that what saw at Gympie is not a one-off experience. The Ďweekend cruise to a destinationí scene exists in every state and is only growing stronger. There canít be a better way to spend a day than cruising in your car, meeting like-minded people, sharing stories, having a meal and then cruising back home.
I had a lot of people come up and ask about opening our workshop and race headquarters for a destination cruise. Talking on the way home, we decided to make it happen. The plan is to have all our race and custom cars on display, fire up the barbie, wheel out the TBR pizza oven, organise some music and invite people to come and visit. We are planning to do something later this year and again early in 2019.
Since returning from Darwin and Alice Springs we have kept busy. Weíve been toying with a few ideas ahead of the next 400 Thunder round in November. Ben wants to make some changes to his Corvette in the areas of chassis design and converter technology. There is not much we want to change on the car Frankie Taylor raced last season. However, what we are looking at is building a new í57 Chev for me. At this stage we are thinking about a left-hand-drive and four-link set-up. But before that happens and we splash out around $200,000 on the new car, think Iím going to jump into Ben or Frankieís car and do some runs to see how I go driving a left-hand-drive car. Iím excited about the possibilities, and who knows, after a lifetime of sitting on the right-hand side, maybe an old dog can learn new tricks. Better make sure there are no cameras around to catch me driving a Corvette, though!
The emergence of the no-prep racing scene has been interesting to observe. In a nutshell, the process involves cleaning the track down to almost nothing, getting rid of as much of the rubber as possible and spraying the track with water before brushing it off and drying. There is no VHT spraying or rubbing; the idea is to imitate road conditions but in a safer and controlled environment. The whole no-prep scene is not just flavour of the month; I guarantee it will keep growing as the sport of drag racing continues to evolve. You only need to look at the 10.5 and radial racers who race on no-prep tracks; some are going as quick as a Doorslammer.
The fans love it, because they are seeing exciting racing. They are telling us they want to see less generic racing; they want to see the driver working harder and an element of unpredictability and drama on the track, something that is often lacking these days.
I donít think no-prep tracks are the whole answer; that would swing the pendulum too far and would be way too dangerous for championship-level Doorslammer racing. But I have mentioned before that when the NHRA changed the traction compound formula this season, suddenly they were having more exciting racing, with a whole lot of new faces winning the races.
At this stage, Iím planning to go to the Performance Racing Industry (PRI) trade show in Indianapolis in early December. There are two standout shows in America if you are involved in motorsport: SEMA in Las Vegas and the PRI show. I talk to a lot of the guys in America like Brad Anderson, Jamie Noonan and the people at Lenco, but there is no substitute for seeing firsthand whatís happening. You have all the major players in the one spot at the same time, so Iím excited to get over there and get amongst it. From what Iíve been told you need two pairs of shoes Ė one for the first two days and the second pair for the next two days!