Australia has an awesome assortment of Sport Compact machinery making its presence felt on the world stage – and Chris Tait is one of the drivers creating a buzz.
Tait and the Good Times Racing team have proved hard work and dedication to a cause will pay off in the end. The team have spent years developing a unique engine combination in Australian drag racing circles, a 3RZ four cylinder more commonly found in Toyota Hiluxes. After much perseverance they are now not only cultivating world record times, but race wins.
Racing has been in Tait’s blood since the age of 11 when he use to rip up BMX tracks until he was old enough to acquire a car license and hit Willowbank street meets – where his passion for imports was already evident and a desire to get serious about drag racing took over quickly.
“It was a fun way to spend a Saturday night with the mates,” said Tait of his origins. “Most of us were into front wheel drive imports and it was great to upset some of the diehard V8 guys. But replacing the gearbox each week was fun for a month, so after seeing what Chris Rado was doing in the US we deciding it was time to build a FWD drag car with a Toyota 3RZ engine.
“A short time after starting the FWD project the Nissan 200SX came up for sale in 2009 as an unfinished project, and the FWD idea was pushed aside, but it is not forgotten.”
Embarking on the development of not only the 3RZ but also a full blown race car has been a long and arduous process and not without its hairy moments.
“In the last four years I’ve had my fair share of close calls, sliding all over the track and somehow not hitting walls or other competitors,” said Tait.
“With no experience in any other race car before this one it took three weeks to pass my ANDRA licence. The car had a few problems, I didn’t know if that was just normal and I don’t call myself a driver, maybe that’s what has saved me a few times. All I can say though is pull the chute before trying to steer.
“Ben Bray helped with the changes to the chassis and clutch set up – it has taken the excitement out of the launch when you don’t have to guess which direction it is going to head in.”
With the car setup and driving coming around the Good Times team were starting to tick achievement boxes with the 3RZ engine as that development continued.
“We were testing and breaking parts on an engine no one else was running here in Australia – overseas the 2RZ and 3RZ has been used for over eight years with some guys willing to share info,” said Tait.
“The goal when we started the car was reliable eight second times, and after the car ran a seven so easy we were bitten by the drag racing bug. Discovering the weak parts and engineering new ones, we now had a consistent low seven second car.”
The article you are reading was originally printed in Drag News Magazine.
With the expert help of Sport Compact tuner extraordinaire Phil Laird programming the ECU, the team sat on a personal best of a 7.22 at 182mph and the decision was made to push for a six – this was 2011 and little did they know the torment those couple of tenths would inflict.
“With the new goal of a 6.99, most of the parts had to be changed or upgraded, Phil had warned us it wasn’t going to be easy, and it’s going to drain the bank account,” said Tait. “The next two years were tough on all the crew, putting so many hours into preparation and testing with only a few small improvements to the ET. In November 2013 I’d decided to stop testing the car until it was 100%.
“This was the most changes we’d done since it was built, including our own custom turbo exhausting housing, new exhaust manifold, new aero front clip, larger intercooler, larger turbo, custom 9.5 diff centre, changes to the cylinder head, camshafts, block, crank and one of the largest gains was thanks to Arias Pistons.”
Finally Tait and company were able to return to the strip for the Brisbane Jamboree in September 2014.
“We knew it was going to be a tough weekend – breaking both cams on the second pass was just the start of the work for the day, that engine was swapped back to an old set up only to have trouble with the throttle positioning sensor,” he said.
“After months of checking we found the cause of the failure – I’ve got no problem telling you the cause but it’ll cost you about $5000 – we went back to our old head and cam set up for 2015, which has proven to work well.”
And work well it did, finally the years of hard work fell into place and the long strived six second goal was achieved at a Willowbank Raceway test and tune – 6.89 at 205mph, the quickest and fastest 3RZ pass in the world. Oddly enough Tait was not overly impressed after the fact, knowing the potential was always there.
“It was more of a relieved feeling that we hadn’t just wasted two years of work. Maybe that was because I see the data and the problems that go wrong each week, and know when it’s sorted it can run these numbers,” he said.
Over the course of the development there has been a splattering of success, with a few top qualifying results and some Jamboree final round appearances, even holding the mantle of Australia’s quickest four cylinder at one point – and Tait is an advocate of the Super Compact ANDRA championship bracket in the Summit Racing Equipment Sportsman Series.
“Racing in Super Compact we’re all mates off the track helping each other where we can. It’s not unusual to be flipping pancakes and talking BS at 3am in the morning while rebuilding an engine at the track,” he said.
With the car now performing the way it was always envisaged, the team focused on racing at the April Summit round at Willowbank in the amalgamated Super Comp bracket, not only delivering an event win but more world record performances.
“Starting Friday (before the event) after talking with Phil Laird, a few things needed to be changed before racing Saturday morning. So I decided sleep on Friday night wasn’t going to make the car run fast, getting to the track where you can fire it up until midnight would,” said Tait.
There were a few gremlins in qualifying and a problem with the line lock produced a soft launch in the first session, not to mention the tune up was too rich.
“With the line lock fixed the car launched with a lot of tyre shake, using the whole lane until it was getting way out of shape. Inches off the centre timing cones before looking at the right wall, the chutes were my only option – then I had a bad front end shake in the braking area, which is not a good feeling even at this slow speed.”
A loose steering arm was the cause of the vibration and no doubt the wandering run – but a 1.08 sixty in the final qualifier and a pedalling 6.97 at 205mph had the team primed for eliminations.
“I had a round one solo and I only had to break the beams, but deciding to test my reaction, clutch and tune I staged as if it was a race,” said Tait. “With a .2 red light, a tyre shaking 1.1 in the sixty, it came on strong to the eighth at 163mph – my race face was on an no care was taken for the 7.35 index – 6.92 at 207mph was the result.
“The crew was over the moon with a PB in the MPH, putting on 44mph in the back half. After we finished the high fives, the thought went to what we had to do in round two because our index was now 7.13.”
Getting strapped in to the car for round two Tait said to his crew that the only way he was going to win the round was to cut a light and run a 6.7.
With a reaction of .027, the 200SX went 1.08 to the sixty and got to half track in 4.3 seconds at 166mph, by the stripe Tait stopped the clocks with a 6.74 at 206.95.
“My win margin was .059, and to say the crew was over the moon again is an understatement, another PB and we became the world’s quickest and fastest Toyota four cylinder.
“We were not expecting to go that far in eliminations; the crew was buzzing after so many years of disappointments and such a close win on the last round. Matt from PITS tickled the tune up a little. We had one small problem, the rear had tyre had a slow leak – but with two air tanks in the tow car we had enough to get to the start line.
“Smashing our index in round two had to be done to win and the new index was now 7.04. I’m not sure if it was because we didn’t expect to get this far, but I didn’t feel any pressure, I just needed to thrash it down the track again. Before the 330 it got loose and headed towards the left wall and I had to pedal it. Fighting the urge to just rip the steering wheel right and it was way out of the groove, I had thoughts of getting off it. In that split second, that felt like ten minutes, I could see I was catching the dragster in the other lane and the racer side of my brain kicked in – 6.898 at 205mph, win margin of .206 and we were heading to the final.”
Tait’s final round opponent would have been Rob Nunn’s Super Stock Cobalt, but unfortunately Nunn hit the wall in his semi final solo pass and was substantially damaged.
“We were pumping up the rear right tyre for the tow back and I saw the car from the other semi final roll pass smashed up,” said Tait.
“I know some guys would be happy to take a win like that, but I would’ve rather raced an opponent and lost than been handed the trophy just for turning up. So chatting with the crew we all decided I would launch it hard and if its feeling good burn it out the back door.”
A win is a win, and even though it was not how Tait would have liked to achieved it, this was still the first ever success for Good Times Racing.
“In the final we pumped the rear tyre up in the staging lanes, skidded it up as normal and backed it up, but the tyre had lost half of its air,” said Tait. “You have no idea how hard it was for me to just break the beams and not boost it. I know the crowd would’ve been disappointed – not half as much as I was.
“We just had to think there was a good chance of crashing with the tyre so low and be thankful of our achievements for the day. The crew did awesome, nothing was a stress or a problem, we came away with three records and our first Christmas tree.”
Looking to the future the team have new engine components in the works and quicker goals to achieve.
“Our large head and cam set up will be engine dyno tested before they’re bolted on to race, V&M Cylinder Heads in the US are also working on a cylinder head of their own design, which we will back to back test against our head on the dyno. We are lucky enough to have Phil Laird checking the data, and tuning it to make around 1500 horsepower. Without Phil’s help we’d still be running high sevens.
“As you can see we also have the support this year too – SONIC is the performance department of MTQ who can supply all your turbo needs. This year the goal is to run consistent 6.8 times, with no more testing on race day, and a long term aim is to run 6.5 – 6.6 with this engine and chassis before upgrading to a better chassis and a change of engine.”
The Good Times Racing team could not have achieved their goals and results without the help of many and asked to recognise Ben Bray and Gonzo for their time and sharing of knowledge.
And running the car as the level they have would not be possible with the help from, ARIAS Pistons, Aussie Diffs, Bolt Pro, BLISS Custom machining, Debeer, F.I.C.S (Fuel Injection Component Supplies), Go Pipes (Turbo Manifolds), Gold Coast Engine Builders, Illusion Vinyl & Graphics, MTQ, PLM (Phil Laird Motorsport), P.I.T.S. (Performance Injection Tuning Service), Plazmama, Quickbitz, Rolin Automotive Imports, Seveer Industries, Traders Engineering, Tyre Plus Burleigh, Twin Towns Panel Repairs, Web Cam and the crew – Jo, Mick, Jay, Nick, Matt, Keelan, Ross, Craig, Darrin, Rod and Colin.