Rob Pilkington took a strategic approach to Western Australia’s biggest drag racing event, the 40th annual Westernationals, and it paid off with a new personal best time.
With the team’s plan to race in ANDRA Pro Series Top Alcohol at the Winternationals in Queensland in June, Pilkington made the decision to switch from the normal AA/FC class to TA/FC, which has a much tougher index but allows for some more supercharger overdrive.
“The decision was always going to make it highly tough for us to be front runners in Competition but we felt the data that was to be gained would be worth the risk,” Pilkington said.
On a well prepared track, tyre shake saw the car head right on the first qualifying run and cross the centre of the track, disqualifying that pass. After applying the team’s knowledge and experience, some clutch changes were made for the second qualifying run and this saw a 5.79sec. run. However there would be a small hiccup in the game plan as the team examined the motor in the pit and found some issues.
“After doing our regular servicing it appeared we had some rear main engine damage and the decision was made not to risk any further damage and sit out the last qualifying session so we could put in our spare engine,” Pilkington said.
The pit crew was hard at work and finished the engine swap on Sunday morning before a first round confrontation with Adam Marchant. Pilkington described seeing Marchant out ahead but then suddenly finding the lead.
“As Adam had the handicapped start he was about a car length in front by half track and then he appeared to slow down and the Force Equipment/Alutech Monte Carlo streaked home for the win,” he said.
“We found out later in the evening that Adam unfortunately had engine failure, it’s not the way we like to win but it gave us the opportunity to go into the second round.”
Ironically Pilkington was to face a AA/FC in the second round, the new Ford Mustang driven by John McSweeney. “It was always going to be a hard race to win as John had over a half a second head start due to the different classes of racing,” Pilkington explained.
“This meant we would have to run a 5.40sec. time which no TA/FC in Australia has ever run but we were determined to have a shot and loaded the car with as much power we thought the track could hold.
“As I launched I drove straight through first gear into second with no sign of tyre shake and out the back door to record a personal best of 5.63sec. with a top speed of 407kph but unfortunately it was not quick enough to get the win and we were knocked out of eliminations for the night.”
The assessment following the event was that the strategy to get data for Top Alcohol was a success.
“Overall it was a great race meeting for us with big crowds on both the hill and in the pits which gave fantastic exposure to our sponsors,” Pilkington said.
“To run a personal best time and speed now gives us valuable data for the race meeting in Queensland and have no doubt we can run into the 5.50sec. zone and be a real threat to the eastern states teams also competing at the Winternationals.”
Championship wise the team has moved back to second place but Pilkington is confident the team can overcome the slim 15 point margin.
“We’ve won two championships before and I’m sure we can make this one our third,” he said.