Australian drag racing has been saddened by the passing of legendary Top Fuel innovator Stan Sainty.
Stan was most well known in the sport for building his own Top Fuel motors, no small achievement, but adding in the fact it was a unique three valve design unlike any other in the world, the knowledge and skills of this amazing man can not be underestimated.
Stan and son Terry came into Top Fuel racing in the early 90s after stints in boats and with alcohol motors and have followed much of the tour for the nearly three decades since. After first experimenting with four valve motors, the famed Sainty Billet Three Valve was built. It's probably a stretch to call this backyard shed engineering or home made, as the Sainty family run a very successful machining shop, but it is an Australian built Top Fuel motor through and through.
Perhaps the peak for the team's performances was a 4.87/298mph lap in January 2005 at Perth Motorplex, at a time when the national record was still at 4.75.
More recently, the team have proved the combination can be consistent, with steady four second runs across a variety of tracks.
Stan was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer several months ago and though he started chemotherapy to try and slow progress, we received the sad news of Stan's passing on October 23, 2017, aged 71.
“Five days ago, we made the decision as a family to bring Dad home for some final precious time together,” the family said via their Facebook page.
“As always Dad continued to do things his way, battling on towards the 2017 Nationals at Sydney Dragway on November 3-4, constantly wanting updates on how work on the car was progressing.
“The crew has been relentless in ensuring the car is ready for the meet and will be there ready to race. Devastatingly our time with Dad ended today and we take some comfort in knowing he is now finally at peace.
“Dad will be out at the track with us all in spirit and would love nothing more for you to come out to support Team Sainty. Now he’ll get to have the best view possible.”
The family have asked that in lieu of flowers, donations be made for Team Stan in the Cancer Council’s Relay For Life in April 2018, a week before his birthday at this link: https://goo.gl/zvMhWS
Tributes have flowed in from the drag racing world following Stan's passing, and we would like to share a couple here from racers who utilised Stan's amazing engineering skills.
From Pro Slammer racer Peter Blake, who uses a methanol-fuelled Sainty motor in his Ford Mustang:
“Sadly, today we lost a great man. Stan will be immortalised by the billet three valve engines he created. I will tell you about Stan from my point of view, if you want to read on!
“If you had common interests, you were in with Stan! He had the biggest network of friends, of anyone I have ever met. He was like this kind of central father figure to so many, and people seemed to just flock to him. Unfortunately it's not until he is gone we realise why. He was just a really nice guy. Never said anything bad about anyone (just struggled to understand the logic of some people on the odd occasion) and no one could ever say anything bad about him personally, because there was nothing you could say.
“I was Stan's last apprentice at Sainty Speedworks. I remember there was this one thing that always intrigued me that Stan did. He would be having a conversation with someone then mid way through he would just walk off and get back to his machine, I used to think that was the coolest, funniest, weirdest thing to watch! The guy would be standing there like... 'I guess he just needed to make an adjustment or something', but he would never come back, just continue on working (funny, but not so funny when he did it to me, and he did often).
“He was a machine when it came to getting the job done. His hands were always filled with swarf (bits of sharp metal), he would slice his finger half off, and continue to work and finish the job before tending to himself, blood all over the floor, no problem, wrap it in a dirty oily rag and press on. He certainly made me feel like a wimp with my delicate hands by comparison.
“His engines were his life, even on his death bed he was explaining fixes he had come up with and what was next for his engine and dragster. Stan didn't do it for the money or the fame. I think everything he has done was just purely to see if he could. In fact I'm sure he would have just given us the engine and supplied parts for ever, for free if only he didn't have to pay bills.
“Stan and his wife Margaret introduced me and my now wife. I remember he said: 'You should meet Kate she is a pretty nice girl, you guys would get on well.' Good call, Stan. If nothing else that is probably the greatest thing he has ever done for me, and for that I am forever in his debt.”
From ASR Drag Racing, who use a Sainty engine in their Supercharged Outlaws Lamborghini:
“Today we have lost a legend, Stan Sainty. Australian drag racing won’t be the same without you. You are a true gentleman, one of a kind.
“As you may know, Stan has built our engine and has got us where we are today. From the very beginning Stan has taken us under his wing, starting back at the old quad cam days in the funny car...right up until today we still run a billet three valve over head cam Sainty, currently number one in Supercharged Outlaws.
“Our hearts are shattered, we have lost an extremely close friend and our lives won’t be the same without you.”