‘Banshee’ jet dragster ready to thrill at Perth’s Shannons Insurance Power Palooza

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Driving a jet dragster is just like taking off in a commercial flight, only a whole bunch faster according to West Australian drag racer Ian Wood.

The pilot of the ‘Banshee’ will be a part of the Shannons Insurance Power Palooza on Saturday, October 26 at Perth Motorplex, joining fellow jet dragster driver Pieter DeWit’s ‘Iron Horse’ to put on a spectacular show for spectators.

Wood said the experience of being in the cockpit of ‘Banshee’ was more familiar than one might think.

“It is like taking off in a commercial jet, but with three times as much acceleration and of course you are out in the wind,” he said. “It is even fairly quiet in the seat, all the noise is behind me! I don’t wear ear plugs or anything, I’m just watching the gauges to make sure everything behaves until the end and getting ready to release the parachutes at the finish line.”

The Westinghouse J34 engine in Wood’s dragster is a surprisingly old motor, built over half a century ago. The turbine and afterburner saw action in a fighter plane during the Korean War before finding its way into the hands of curious speed demons. The car itself was built by Australian land speed record holder Rosco McGlashan during the nineties.

Wood himself has had a long term interest in turbine motors. He is currently building a land speed record car equipped with a helicopter engine and even once bought a turbine starter (effectively a small jet motor) from eBay to play with.

“I have no background in aviation, just an interest in engines,” he said. “I happened to see the dragster up for sale and I’m not getting any younger; I wanted to drive something with a turbine.

“When I looking at engines for a land speed car, I found you could easily make big power with a piston engine but there was a lot of maintenance. You can get 1000 horsepower from a turbine engine and it will do it for 30,000 hours so long as you keep pouring fuel in.

“Jet engines aren’t so great for most racing, even drag racing, because they don’t spool up very quickly. But for the land speed cars on the salt flats where you have the taps wide open and a long run up, they are the way to go.”

When Wood pulls to the start line at the Shannons Insurance Power Palooza, he will be chasing a couple of personal barriers to break.

“I’ve so far only had one meeting where the runs were timed. If we could break into the seven second zone for the quarter mile (402m) and go over 200mph (320kmh) that would make us happy,” he said.

The Shannons Insurance Power Palooza marks the official opening of the Perth Motorplex season and combines drag racing with speedway and burnouts for a triple-treat of motorsport. Drag racing begins from 5pm, followed by speedway at 7pm, with the burnouts closing out the night at 9pm.

– Perth Motorplex media release, photo by Phil Luyer.

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