If there was a New Zealand equivalent to Victor Bray, Chris Tynan would have to be it.
The 55 Chev Top Doorslammer driving Kiwi has been making his mark in Australia this season, competing across several ANDRA Pro Series rounds.
While the going has been tough for Tynan, it has provided him with valuable experience as he continues his quest to be the first New Zealand doorslammer driver into the fives.
He began racing in the early 1980s, working his way up from street cars into properly built drag racing machines. He began with a Holden Monaro running 12.7s to a series of 55 Chev doorslammers.
“I worked for a V8 importer for a while before going into business building drag racing chassis in around 1990,” he said.
“At the time eight out of 10 Wild Bunch cars in NZ were built by me. No formal qualifications, just years of experience.”
The doorslammer Tynan now competes in carries plenty of good gear.
The chassis has been designed by himself, other than following the necessary SFI specifications and it was built by his son Robert. The body moulds were custom made as well.
Horsepower is currently provided by a TFX block and Brad Anderson Stage 5 heads, with a 16-71 Littlefield supercharger giving the boost. A Lenco four speed is currently in operation though Tynan said they are experimenting with three speeds. Robert Tynan also fabricated the nine inch differential with Strange floaters and diff centre.
Racing on the Australian strips is quite a different experience to those in New Zealand according to Tynan.
“In NZ the emphasis is on getting your car down the track rather than outright horsepower,” he said.
“Most tracks in NZ are on air strips or part of a circuit race track of which I hold the track record at each. My favourite tracks are Fram Autolite (home track) and Willowbank (home track away from home).
“It would be great to add being the first NZ racer to run a five second pass in a doorslammer to compliment the first seven and six second times I already hold.” (Ed: While this is a direct quote from Chris, Mark Holland is recognised as the first six second pass in NZ – http://dragsdownunder.tripod.com/milestone/nzds.htm#First6, we will seek clarification, thanks John Sadler)
The challenge of crossing the Tasman to compete is a difficult one and plenty of support is required both home and abroad. Even world currency conspires against the team.
“My team is my family and their support is crucial in doing this so whenever possible I like to have them here doing what they do well, so the costs of flights can be a big expense,” he said.
“The main issue however is the exchange rate between Australia and NZ. We lose over 25% of value in the dollar so a $750 part will cost us $1000 and US parts are even worse.”
Tynan believes there are more teams who would like to race in Australia if they could.
“There are a number of quality cars in NZ that are capable of competing in Australian Top Doorslammer but face the same issues I have – money, logistics and most importantly the difference in track set up because of superior track surfaces from what they are used to,” he said.
Tynan enjoys the support of Queensland’s Bray team in order to keep the car safe and get it to the track in one piece. Each approach to the next event must be planned out in advance without the luxury of spending many nights on the car.
“Victor and Ben Bray have graciously let me use their workshop as well as transporting the car to whatever events I can get to,” he said.
“We check the usual engine components, leak down, bearings and springs, service the clutch and gearbox. While back home we consider what we are going to try to improve our set up and implement it back in Australia.”
The Chev will be on its way home come July, with the bond on the car due to expire then.
“Unless an extension can be sought the car will have to return to NZ,” Tynan said.
“If a sponsor could be found I would return to not only qualify but attempt to challenge the Top Doorslammer racers at the top.”
While putting in good performances, Tynan remains one of the racers who are frequently just outside the field, putting in good, consistent runs but not quite able to find the last bit of pace needed.
“Eight car fields ensure close racing but do not allow the rest of the racers valuable seat time in race conditions to lift their game,” he said.
“It also improves sponsor opportunities for these other racers being able to be part of the show and ensuring funds are available to continue development and competitiveness.”