With a name like ‘Rude Stude’, perhaps the struggles of Shane Catalano and his Studebaker Top Doorslammer make sense.
When Catalano made the shift from Supercharged Outlaws to Top Doorslammers five years ago, he could not have foreseen the difficult path ahead for the budget team.
Catalano brought the car in from the USA and struggled for a season getting the set up right. When the family team looked like they were heading in the right direction, the car went in very much the wrong direction – into a wall.
“We were just starting to get a handle on the car when we crashed,” he said. “It was two years to rebuild it and a considerable amount of money.”
The ‘Rude Stude’ did eventually get back on to the track, but the team was still searching for a way to make the car handle. Catalano said the unpredictability of the Hemi-powered, 2500 horsepower Studebaker brought down his confidence in his own driving.
“When you are constantly in tyre shake and trying to keep it off the walls, after a while you think it is you and not the car,” he said.
“Now it feels like a race car again, it has traction and goes straight. I hadn’t been in the car for 18 months and I was starting to get scared of it. I lost my nerve, the car has been that bad.
“We got the car right and it was easy, like driving an armchair. I was able to hit all the shift points again, which was very rewarding five years after the crash.”
Catalano’s luck turned significantly at the December 29, 2017 Night of Fire at Perth Motorplex, where he scored a runner up in the Direct Mining and Industrial Summer Slam and set a new personal best time of 6.16 seconds.
“We made a small change to the rear suspension,” he said. “We had been trying a lot of suspension settings with no real results and then changing the rear springs made a lot of difference. It has been a long road back, because we only get to do a few meetings a season.
“I haven’t had much of a chance to enjoy the car, so the runner up was the shot in the arm we needed to justify it to ourselves.”
A following appearance at January 20’s Nitro Slam was not quite as successful with the engine burning some components, but that damage has now been fixed in preparation for the February 17 Nitro Night.
“We melted some pistons, not badly, but it popped the burst panel out and then broke a supercharger belt too,” Catalano said. “There was quite a smoke show but no major damage. We got the engine back in the car last weekend and now we can put some more fuel in it and hopefully we can start finding some consistency, that is what we have been chasing.
“We just want to keep running as often as we can. The ultimate goal is to run a five second pass. I think we will get there in time, but budget is the biggest restraint. We have to do enough passes to get the data and have the smarts.”
Catalano will be part of a big Direct Mining and Industrial Summer Slam Series round included as part of Nitro Night, taking on big names like John Zappia, Kelvin Lyle, Daniel Gregorini and Ryan Moresby.
Fans of drag racing shouldn’t miss the return of the Top Fuel dragsters to the Motorplex, with Mark Sheehan taking on Anthony Begley in a best of three match race – plus a never before seen bonus with Sheehan to debut his front engine nitro dragster and take on Michael Brooks in a first for WA.