DRAG Challenge 2018 was awesome. Seven-second street monsters that drive thousands of kilometres from track to track, race at the strip, then cases drive thousands of kilometres home towing a trailer full of tyres and tools.
Drag Challenge is all about high-horsepower, street-registered and road-driven cars. If you’re into burnouts or show cars, Drag Challenge is not for you. It is for hardcore street machines where go is far more important than show and the only reason to do a burnout is to get the tyres hot and sticky for hook-up. If you work on cars, build engines, and/or enjoy racing your street car, this is the best event you will ever enter.
The cars at Drag Challenge are insane. Take Frank Marchese’s innocuous, plain white, 4100lb leaf-sprung XW. With a twin-turbo 427 small-block Ford making over 2500hp, it runs low sevens at 200mph on scrawny little radials. I was in the tower at Swan Hill on Day Two and saw 160mph come up at the 660ft mark – that would have been a 200mph pass in the quarter if Frank had kept his boot in it. And I shook my head in disbelief when the Dandy Engines Fairmont went 6.36 in the 1000ft at Calder Park.
I also watched in amazement as Harry Haig’s boosted big-block HQ did a power-stand halfway down the track on Day One at Calder. I’ve never seen a street car levitate the front end off the track from sheer power before.
I loved the diversity of the field of DYO bracket racers, too. There are hot rods, muscle cars, late-models, six-cylinders and rotaries. I want to do a story on Jason Davidson’s One Tonner. It was purchased for $125, has raced at four Drag Challenges, is 100 per cent street-driven, and runs 10.63@123mph on nitrous. It is one of the best bang-for-buck stories ever.
And if you’re a keyboard warrior that hates unconventional swaps like Barras into Holdens, better stop reading now – Drag Challenge was a Barrathon! was super-impressed with young bloke Warick Meldrum and his Barra-powered ’67 Camaro. He’d bought two Barras, harnesses and ECU from the wreckers for $500. I looked underneath the beautiful two-door and asked if he was running CalTracs. No, he had made his own four-link. I watched as he dialled in the tune on his laptop so the coupe wouldn’t run a 10 – he didn’t want to fit a ’cage and was leaving on 1lb boost. He was running over 100mph on the eighth-mile.
Car owners have been swapping to differentbrand parts since the 50s, and it’s practically law that a Ford nine-inch diff is fitted to an angry Holden. I saw a classic example of a Chev part used in a Ford XA four-door. Steve Nightingale has broken a bunch of Ford autos behind his 650hp small-block. The orange streeter gets driven and raced regularly, and his solution was to fit a TH400. Steve’s words were: “If you want to build a super-reliable, street-driven DYO car for Drag Challenge, use a TH400 and a nine-inch, simple as that.”
I was thrilled to see Mark Clifford’s naturally aspirated Mustang make its first-ever singlefour-barrel eight-second pass. Ford, Chev and Chrysler brought out some killer muscle cars, and the beautiful Boss-powered Mustang is a reminder of what could be optioned back in the late 60s and early 70s. The street-driven, untubbed, leaf-sprung Mustang ran an 8.98 at a fraz under 154mph, but unfortunately spat the radiator water out and started making oil. Drag Challenge is not only about running quick times but reliability as well.
Drag Challenge entrants are like a family, where everyone shares tools, parts and helps one another out. There were some outstanding feats of mechanical wizardry in the pits and on the road that would make MacGyver proud. Many competitors blew head gaskets, exhaust manifolds, ignitions, broke transmissions and managed to repair the damage and drive to the next track in time to make a pass. At night, at the motels, racers gathered around to enjoy themselves over a beer or two – the camaraderie and spirit of Drag Challenge is fantastic.
Drag Challenge is growing, and this year there were 277 entries. If each run is paired, that’s 139 runs. And if there are no oil-downs and a minute between passes, that’s approximately two hours and 20 minutes for each car to make one run.
The track crews take a lot of pride in the racing surface and spend hours prepping the track. No one deliberately goes out there with the intention of hurting parts, but unfortunately there were a couple of spillages that held the show up. I’m sure Scotty and Telf will get their heads together and work out what’s a practical number of entrants for 2019. From what I saw this year, everyone wants to come back next year and there will be a bunch of first-timers wanting to enter as well.
Talking of newbies, one of the things noticed were several people staging on the back wheels. Drag Challenge is about running fast times and not cutting lights, but a future column on staging correctly might be a good idea.
I know how hard everyone works putting the show together, but I have a suggestion. On the last day, at night when there’s a crowd in the stands, I reckon a heads-up, pro-tree, quickeight Chicago shootout would be a great show street for the racer. spectators. s Just an idea from an old