Rod Bailey has been one of Nitro Funny Car's longest supporters, since his team's debut in 1999. When the Nitro Funny Car show hits Willowbank on January 14/15 his team will be keen to put on a good show for the home crowd.
Bailey's team has had a new driver this season with WA's Anthony Begley taking over the reins to the nitro beast from his brother Ashley.
Rod said that the Nitro Funny Car he first started running 11 years ago was his first V8.
“In the early nineties I worked for Dave Baxter who had a KB powered XE Falcon. I had been to the drags before, but got a deeper insight,” he said.
“My parents hated noise, so no influence there. But I convinced my brother to see the light, we both used to go and watch. We were only 24 and 23 respectively so we didn't know how seriously we would be taken.”
Bailey explained that he thought that by adding another car to the category they would be able to help its waning numbers.
“At the 1996 Nationals, Peter Russo ran a 5.39 at 281 and brought the thirty thousand strong crowd to its feet,” Rod said. “I thought we might be able to help the struggling bracket if we applied the right approach.”
The team's first car was a Pleuger with a Ford Probe body, eventually getting as quick as a 5.39 at 286mph.
The team had their share of setbacks though through that car and subsequent ones.
“At our first meeting in Perth we junked a motor and hit the wall, lots of repairs,” Rod said.
“We once blew a body 50 feet into the air after a fuel tank explosion. But the worst one was at Willowbank in January 2009 when it punched out an intake valve and with a chain of events lit the car up at 270 mph and burned everything.
“But we had the car fixed and back on track in under two weeks.”
The team now runs a Victory chassis with a Camaro body, built up by Rod and a friend from the ground up.
“I want to get this car to run a 4 second pass and help reconstruct Funny Car to a championship level,” he said of his future ambitions.
“We had the only two cars running in the country for a few years which sent us to the poor house so it set back our development program, but with our last Victory car we ran 5.16 seconds.
“The up and coming goals are to run four point something and to encourage other onlookers to have a go.”
Bailey said he was looking forward to seeing a big field at the Willowbank round and while the entry list is still okay, he is disappointed a few more cars couldn't make it.
“Until racers get serious about supporting these events, four cars is all we're going to get. So I guess just good weather and a good crowd (I hope for),” he said.
“I would think with the amount of cars that are around (8-10) we could easily have a championship, but trying to get everyone to participate is a different and frustrating story.”
“The obstacles are lack of venues and lack of commitment by racers, not to mention the cost. The positives are that Willowbank is now into its third year of Funny Car at the New Years Series and Perth Funny Car events just rock.”
The team runs on a moderate budget and Bailey said the costs of all the small things and consumables used in a nitro car generally outweigh the big ticket items.
“Sponsorship would help, but with declining crowds it is hard to sell the product. We have had some little bits over the years and sometimes that's what gets you over the line,” he said.
“Anthony Begley has brought on board Automatic Technologies, who make roller door electric motors and this has helped ease the pain.
“We have a crew with guys ranging from truck mechanics to crane dogmen. None of them have heaps of spare time so most of their duties are at the track.”