A husband and wife team are proving to be two of the drag racing leaders in Western Australia, getting their thrills with thousands of horsepower.
Sharon Sheehan is the current leader of the WA Top Comp series, the premier domestic class for the State, while her husband Mark will be racing his Nitro Funny Car at this weekend’s Nitro Slam event at Perth Motorplex.
Since she began racing herself, Sharon said she has begun to appreciate what started as her husband’s hobby.
“Being in the seat myself lets me know he goes through in his cars,” she said. “I used to stand back and say ‘what are you doing’ but now I understand it some more.
“I really have to get into it because drag racing is all Mark does, so it is good to have that together and we can talk about it more because I understand what is going on.
“Also the more I am learning, the more he finds it easier to teach. It’s good being able to do it together – if I didn’t I would never see him!”
Sharon’s dragster has been running record times and with two wins from two events so far, her confidence is high.
“Last year I had a few dramas with the car and you can lose confidence when it is like that but to get the first win I was over the moon,” she said. “To get a second one was a massive confidence booster.”
While it accelerates to 330kmh in 6.5 seconds, Sharon said the dragster has been a dream to drive.
“As it gets a bit quicker it is starting to get a little bit hairier to drive but it feels exciting doing that,” she said. “You need to remember that these things have to be driven and you can’t just sit there and relax.”
If there is some bad news to the couple running such high intensity race cars, it would be that it is near on impossible for them both to race on the same day. With concentration shifting to Mark’s nitro-fuelled machine for this Saturday, Sharon will skip an event and resume her championship fight on Boxing Day.
Mark said it was not ideal, but fortunately the series will allow competitors to drop their worst round.
“We’ve got to work out a way to make it easier to compete on the same day, unfortunately we won’t at this event because we have so much to look after,” he said.
But the driver known as the ‘Nitro Madman’ said he loves having his wife involved with the sport.
“The more Sharon is in the car, the more it makes sense to her what I am trying to explain and it’s all starting to add up,” he said.
Mark will need all the focus he can get – he will accelerate from zero to 500kmh in less than five seconds thanks to the volatile nitro fuel in the supercharged, eight litre V8 that sits just a metre in front of him.
After a whole year out of the seat, Mark will be doing some testing before the weekend in the hopes of shaking out the cobwebs. Among the mechanical changes is tilting the exhaust pipes backwards, which American teams discovered last year can generate enough thrust to improve speeds, though it provides less downforce.
“We have changed a few things on the fuel system and we have also gone to the new style header (exhaust) and pulled some wing out of the car to reduce the drag and downforce – we are aiming to run 4.7sec. times,” he said.
Mark has made some changes to himself as well, losing weight in the off season.
“I never realised how uncomfortable I was in the car,” he said. “My vision has improved, which you wouldn’t think would change, but every bit of vision is important in a Funny Car.”
Nitro Slam will feature not just 10,000hp Nitro Funny Cars but also X Trial demos from the Nolan Brothers FreeTrial team, a kids zone in the pits with jumping castle, face painting and train rides and over 130 of WA’s best drag racing teams.