January 30, 2014


Reshuffle inspires Ham to head West

A last minute change in the ANDRA Top Alcohol calendar has inspired last season’s runner-up Steve Ham to load the transporter and head west to Perth for this weekend’s opening round of the championship.

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Five questions new racers ask (or need to ask!) themselves

In part two of his epic editorial, Ken Lowe looks for answers on why racers fall in, or out, of love with the sport. The answers are perhaps more with in themselves than from others.   Let’s start with what I asked earlier, where do new racers come from? I know how I got started, or should I say when the ‘infection’ began, because for me it is truly is a disease – not that I have sought a cure. I am quite happy with my disease and the association of all my diseased friends. Many years ago I saw a sign on the back of a dragster trailer with a skull and crossbones on it with the instructions that this vehicle contains a disease for which there is no cure. As normal, the humour was the truth in the story. I grew up at a time in history when for us the car was several things. It was freedom, an escape, a way to get out and interact with others of my age, be with my friends, it was social. For many of us it was a status symbol, a test bench, a tool that rewarded our egos with a sense of accomplishment. Is it relevant to me? Is motor racing, car racing and drag racing in particular still relevant today? That is part of my concern. Does it do the same things it did forty years ago? I think maybe not. It is common knowledge that life today is radically different than it was forty years ago. The internet has changed everything. The fact that I can write this and post it for all to see is testament to the reach of the internet. Between Facebook, all the social network stuff and video games are we not all becoming a little isolated in our togetherness? Is today the car just a form of transportation where for many of us in the past it was an extension of our personalities? Can I afford it? I grew at a time when in the 1960s some race tracks would have qualified fields of 64 Top Fuel cars. That was possible back then because it was affordable. All racers ran what they could buy at the wrecking yards because that is where all the parts came from. There were very few aftermarket parts available other than the basics. Clutch management was your left leg, the ignition systems of the day were marginal at best and if you can’t light it you can’t burn it. This means anyone could win. The first thing that happened was better tires, better tires made the front engine dragster obsolete, the rear engine dragster was perfected and then in 1977 Keith Black made the first aluminium block. At first it would appear having a block that was repairable was a good thing but it let racers lean on the parts harder, made the cars quicker finding more weak components for which the aftermarket was happy to produce more robust replacements and so the spiral goes. Each step gradually increased the cost of going racing to the point where there could be less than 64 competing Top Fuel cars in the world. I guess more to the point I have to ask is motor racing, and again drag racing in particular, still relevant to society today. What is the spark that ignites the idea for someone to start racing? The second part of the unasked question is what keeps the racer coming back to the race track. If he is winning all the races, sure he will keep coming back but that just does not happen and even if someone is on a “streak of wins” it never lasts. What keeps a racer coming back year after year, decade after decade? Or what make them quit? In my fifty years of drag racing I cannot count the number of people that have taken up the challenge of drag racing and raced for one race, one season or with just one car for a few years. Why? Once, while I was tuner and crew chief on Danny Townsend’s Funny Car, a new crewman commented to me that he wanted to save up his money to build a race car and go racing. I had to point out to him that it was NOT a pile of money that he needed but a stream of money. The pool of money needed to be replenished at a rate at least as quick as it drained. Most quit because of money or more precisely the lack of money. One must fully understand their budget limits, overreach and you will fail. One answer is that most new racers all enter the race ‘business’ thinking that the biggest expenditure of time and money is the initial construction and assembly of the race car and getting the truck and trailer (or transport) organised. Sadly I must inform that this is not the case in general. Some racers don’t quit as much as they just park their cars. Officially they are still racers, with a race car, but they stopped taking it to the race track. There are often a few reasons for this, but the one that needs to be addressed here is if the racer does not take their car to the track because of something the local race track is or is not doing. Do I want money, or respect? As mentioned earlier, no one actually races for money, if they did no one would race, because you always spend more money than you earn. Today, If you race you do so for – here it is again – respect. Respect comes in different forms. Respect is taking home a bit more money than it cost to finish the day. If the amount you get for winning the day’s racing is substantially less than what it cost to get there on the day, that is no respect. If you lose first round you kind of

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Video – Top Doorslammer’s Mark and Marty ahead of opening round

Mark Belleri and Marty Dack sat down with Perth Motorplex’s video team to preview the Pro Showdown round this weekend at Perth Motorplex, the opening of the ANDRA Drag Racing Series for Top Doorslammer and Top Alcohol. Do you think either of these guys is a chance at the first ANDRA silver Christmas tree trophy for Top Doorslammer? Leave your comment below! {fcomment}

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