Drag racing's accessibility remains one of its most appealing qualities. The sport is still within range of privateer teams, even with professional teams spending huge budgets to go quicker.
As a category, Pro Slammer has threatened to leave privateers behind with an increased level of performance. But somehow privateers continue to make their influence felt. Maybe it's the unpredictability of high horsepower engines combined with suspension, or perhaps it's the racing opportunities at different levels. Whatever the reason is, it's working.
Western Australia's Moresby family and their Hotshot Racing team fit into that privateer mould. There's patriarch John Moresby, his sons Ryan and Stu, and Stu's boys Brock and Cooper.
They don't have the biggest transporter, just one big enough to bring two blown sedans and two Junior Dragsters to the track. They use pop-up shades and the pit area is a friendly and functional place, open to spectators and anyone else interested. Soon they will have just the second multi-car Pro Slammer operation in Australia (Team Bray Racing being the other).
“The difference between us and everyone else is we race our spares,” Stu Moresby laughed.
The cliche says the family that races together, stays together – and that is definitely true for the father and sons combo that is the Moresby family.
After initially taking interest in circuit racing, the Moresbys soon found quarter mile blasts were more to their liking and began a drag racing team.
“We used to race Saloon Cars at Barbagallo Raceway,” Ryan said. “I was sick of going down and racing in front of no-one. Then we got tired of breaking our street cars we would race on Wednesday nights, so we bought an old Ford XD Falcon and started drag racing properly.”
Beginning in the entry level class of Super Street, the Moresby brothers quickly felt the need for speed and added a Super Sedan to their operation, cutting ever faster runs. John even had a turn once, but when he broke the crank in an engine he decided his driving days were over.
The big step came in 2009 when the team added a supercharged race car to their operation, setting in motion a progression towards the highest end of the sport. The family purchased the ex-Lindsay Murray Holden VS Commodore Top Doorslammer.
“We wanted to build a Ford to fit in with the rest of the team,” Stu explained. “A couple of people looked at the ute before us, with similar ideas of wanting to put another body on, but they decided it was too hard. The old man had other ideas. If you tell him he can't do something he will have a crack at doing it.”
The car was given the Ford Falcon ute re-body and entered Supercharged Outlaws competition, with Ryan at the wheel. After two years in the ute seat for Ryan, it was Stu's turn. Unfortunately his initial drive in the car wasn't trouble free.
“In licensing I put the car into the wall after we broke a trans line. It dented every panel except for the roof,” Stu confessed.
Ryan wasn't left without a ride, as the team purchased the ex-Peter Hamilton Holden Grange Top Doorslammer for to go racing in the Competition bracket under the AA/APA class.
“It was a big learning curve for us,” Ryan said. “Even coming from my Supercharged Outlaws days, where we had a setting and left it. With the AA/APA deal you had to push the car and it wasn't as easy.
“We damaged a fair few parts, but you learn from your mistakes. We weren't used to the maintenance required at that level. You're pushing equipment. We were running Turbo 400 gearboxes and trying to keep them together was a costly exercise.”
The team were keen to move to a manual transmission but with fellow Western Australian Wayne Keys giving the AA/AP record a bashing, the Moresby family's eyes looked towards Top Doorslammer.
“Wayne ended up putting the record at 5.93,” Ryan said. “Our car was not going to be competitive enough on indexes against other cars running on their records. We would have had to swing the engine the same regardless of being in AP or TD. We thought we would try our luck in TD.”
Stu completed two years in Supercharged Outlaws and when the team decided to step the Holden Grange into Top Doorslammer, the ute was also given a refresh and sent into Competition, running AA/G.
“We checked out the body and it was legal for Gas classes,” Stu said. “We always had a clutch in the car and we went to a four speed last season and despite being told we couldn't get the gear ratios to work, we went underneath the national record for ET and exceeded the speed mark too.”
The combo took Stu to the 400 Thunder Competition Championship win in 2014/15 and a runner up in 2015/16. The ute also won the WA Top Comp Championship for 2017/18.
Stu was now enjoying success; it was Ryan's turn to endure some gremlins. As the family turned up the power in the Holden, the chassis showed its age.
“We would change the suspension set up and there were no fine adjustments. We were too short on instant centre or too long; it wasn't the right application for the job. It got a bit frustrating at some stages with the car misbehaving. As a small family team I couldn't get too upset, everyone took it a bit to heart. Nine times out of ten it would drive straight but then it would get hairy.”
The car drove through a number of spectacular incidents, including a massive power wheelstand when the wheelie bar broke and a fire that saw Ryan end up needing skin grafts on his hands. Moresby was pedalling his way through a run when a blocked fuel nozzle set in place a wild chain of events.
“The car was a bit of a handful off the start line, I pedalled and grabbed second gear and then one of the nozzles blocked to cylinder eight and torched the head gasket then torched into the car,” he said.
“All I saw was orange I couldn't see anything, then I hit the fire extinguisher and was getting hot so I just had to pull the car up and get out.”
The writing was on the wall for the Grange. The chassis was not suitable for the five second times needed to be competitive in Top Doorslammer. The team began the search for a replacement and found Paul Carey was selling his Ford Falcon. The car was originally built by Brett Stevens and ran in Makita colours, before being purchased by Anthony Begley who sold it on to Carey after a couple of years of use.
“It was a better chassis and it had the mods we wanted to do to the Grange already done,” Ryan said. “The Grange was going to cost more to update than to just get a new chassis.”
After getting a matching pink paint job to complete the look for sponsor Dananni Hotshots, the Falcon was sent into active duty.
“We didn't really change our engine tune up, it was mainly chassis,” Ryan said. “We took it to Darwin and went 6.01. When we bought it back from Darwin we had a few little problems, like one meeting we bent some four link bars that just weren't strong enough. We found all the weak spots and fixed them. For a while we had a lot of little problems at race events that always seemed to happen on the first or second qualifier and put us out, like we threw the tailshaft when a circlip came out. For a while we couldn't get any data and I couldn't get more experience in the car. Once we fixed all that I could start driving the car and it all fell together.”
The team's biggest achievement in Top Doorslammer/Pro Slammer competition came earlier this year at the 2018 MacTrack Westernationals, when they qualified into the quickest eight car field in history – their 5.87 taking the bump spot.
“Personally we didn't think it was going to go that quick. We thought we might run another 5.90. We hadn't changed anything in the car, but we sent it out and it ran that 87.”
Ryan finished the local Summer Slam Series as runner up for the season in another highlight for the team. With all this fun, Stu didn't want to miss out and now has a Top Doorslammer of his own.
“The ute was more expensive to run than the Doorslammer last season,” he said. “We pushed the envelope for the engine capacity. We would have to spend too much to keep it it competitive.”
The family gave some thought to upgrading the ute to current pro specs, but again decided to go with a fresh chassis. This time it was the ex-Robin Judd Studebaker that caught their attention.
“We weren't sold on the Stude initially, we wanted a later body style,” Stu explained. “We were after another of the Brett Stevens BA Falcons but it wasn't to be at the time. I sat in the Studebaker and didn't mind it. It is also a proven car, so we thought we would grab it.”
The car was sent to Black Magic Race Cars for some upgrades to bring it to modern specs including a new four link set up and some new chassis bars.
“It will be fun to see if we can shake it up a bit,” Stu said. “I don't expect to run too quick too early, there will be a lot of high expectations with people knowing the car. I don't know if you can sneak up on this thing but we will try.”
Being one of the few two-car teams in Australian professional drag racing, the Moresbys say they keep their privateer origins in tact. The truth is, it was just more fun to race their spare parts.
“If we ran one car we would have spare everything, the whole deal sitting there,” Stu said. “We thought bugger it. We still have spares, but nowhere near the arsenal.”
This article originally appeared in Drag News Magazine #35. Support the sport and purchase a subscription now so we can keep telling great stories!
Ryan said the team will be happy to go rounds as long as they are having fun.
“We don't have the big budget so we try and do a lot of stuff in house. We joke that I have a spare motor Stu runs in his car, and Stu has a spare motor I run in mine.”
Good equipment will only take you so far – a team is built on good people. John Moresby is the team owner and crew chief on Ryan's car. Frank Mazzone takes on the crew chief role for Stu, making the calls to produce the quickest runs. Ryan and Stu handle the driving duties as well as collaborating on the tuning of their respective cars.
Each car also had a dedicated crew member for clutch and another for engine maintenance, to ensure that peak performance is achieved in every round of racing.
“With an assortment of family, friends and sponsors joining the team at every event, we always have plenty of hands on deck to contribute to making each run happen,” Ryan said.
“We always want to achieve the best we can no matter what kind of racing we are doing, and when we stop having fun we will stop racing. For us and the team of people who work on these race cars, that enjoyment is the ultimate reward.”
The Moresby family spans three generations at the race track, with Stu's sons Brock and Cooper Moresby joining the team in their Junior Dragsters. Both Brock and Cooper are keen to pursue the Junior Dragster championship at both State and National levels.
“The family aspect of Hotshot Racing is incredibly important to us,” Stu said. “Being able to race alongside brothers, sons and nephews makes every race day a family reunion.
“It is hard work running two juniors and two supercharged cars, it feels like we are forever running around in the pits. The kids have made a heap of friends and the family aspect is good for them too. They will help their mates out if they go out in an early round of racing and vice versa.”