It was 12 months ago when Steve Read last strapped himself into his Read Speed Top Fuel dragster to contest the Winternationals.
With the biggest drag racing event outside of North America looming again, it was time to put the band back together for a shot at the 2016 Winternationals Top Fuel victory, something that has eluded him since 2001.
“Heather and I wanted to be at Australia’s biggest drag racing event on the calendar,” Read said. “It attracts huge media attention from all around the world, the biggest viewing audience and the best racers. It’s also the best race to provide our marketing partners with maximum exposure all round.” Following a few phone calls, Read Speed Racing were able to secure enough support from friends and companies to send in their 2016 City of Ipswich Winternationals entry form. With a total of six entries the team elected to sit out the first qualifier on Friday.
“Our plan was to always run the two sessions on Saturday,” said Read. “While it would have been nice to make a pass on Friday for our fans and sponsors, it just came down to saving parts and nitro.”
On Saturday, in front of the biggest crowd in some 10 years, Read Speed Racing fronted for the second Top Fuel session in order to gain that all-important data.
“From what we had seen and heard the track certainly had some teeth and combined with the great weather conditions, we were confident of running a good number,” said the multi time Australian Top Fuel champion.
Unfortunately the team discovered that their Racepack data logger had failed during a warm up, meaning that they would not be able to gain any data. Thankfully Read and his crew chief, Dwayne Riley, were able to pool some 30 years of Top Fuel knowledge between them and run the car by the seat of their pants without a data logger. The result was a soft tune-up where Read drove the car down the track, resulting in a 5.11 pass and qualifying in sixth spot.
The Read Speed Racing Top Fuel dragster later returned to the Willowbank Raceway startline hoping to improve; however a heart breaking electrical glitch saw the dragster unable to fire-up.
“Let me tell you, we were hoping to put down a decent pass, something we know the car is capable of running. It was so disappointing not only for the whole team but also our supporters and marketing partners who were part of our RSR Top Fuel Experience,” said Read.
Sunday was race day and the conditions were again perfect. Overnight Riley and his crew worked late into the night and were able to repair the Racepak data logger, giving the team the all-important information so much needed to run these race cars. The team were also able to study some photos from the first pass and analyse cylinders and tyre footprints.
“We knew that Darren Morgan had been super consistent and was one of the big boys to beat. In Top Fuel you have to be on your game so we knew we needed to rise up. That all important reaction time was where I knew I could grab some advantage,” said Read.
The result was a .025 reaction from Read to a .125 light from Morgan. Shortly after, Read had a minor clutch malfunction at around 500 feet, resulting in a broken blower belt and subsequent loss of power.
“It obviously wasn’t the outcome we wanted. But in this sport anything can happen,” said Read. “Still we went back to the pits and rolled the RSR Top Fuel dragster out from our team marquee so the fans could get up close and personal with our race car. Signing autographs and answering questions is something that I never tire from, as you never know if you are talking with a potential sponsor or a future drag racer. Just seeing the smiles from all the kids who had the chance to sit in our Top Fuel dragster is an experience they will never forget.
“On behalf of Heather and I, it was a pleasure entertaining our RSR VIP guests and marketing partners over the two days, and while the season is over we are busy getting the car race ready and talking with our sponsors and partners for 2016/17, where it is hoped Team RSR can attend several events with renewed vigour.”
– Media release, photo by John Baremans.