Strip Cars

Ah the strip! I was fortunate enough to be introduced to the the amazing sport of Drag Racing at the beginning of what has now become my favorite category in the sport...Top Doorslammers. Back then it was a loosely formed group known as the "Wild Bunch". In hindsight the similarities between the development of "Doorslammers" in Australia and the development of the "Gassers" in the US are amazing, with the respective governing bodies being slow to respond but ultimately having their hand forced by sheer weight of numbers, from both a racer and spectator perspective. Obviously however, the two categories were separated by 3 decades in time.

Back in the early to mid '90's Victor Bray in his not-that-long-ago street driven '57 Chev was the man. Some of my earliest memories are of Victor, Al Burgess and his '59 El Camino, Fast Freddy Cavasinni and his '34 Ford, John Zappia & the original Zaps Rat Monaro, the "Fireman's Quickie" EH ute from Canberra, Benny Gatt's big Falcon Coupe, the "Hot Cargo" Falcon ute, as well as the various tours of Americans including Kirk Kuhns '59 Vette, John Scialpi's '57 Chev, Jim Campos '69 Camaro, & the "Ironhorse" '49 Mercury of Johnny Rocca.

Whilst most viewing was done at the old Eastern Creek track, I was also a regular visitor at Canberra, & even made the odd trip to Calder & Willowbank. One of my best memories however was a demonstration put on by Victor Bray & Allan "Captain Cusso" Boughen at the Summernats one year, no doubt proving to be a massive influence on my future direction in vehicles. The performance improvement of Doorslammers has been fairly rapid, I distinctly remember Victors chase of a 6s & 200mph timecard, whereas now we see times down in the 5.80's @ 240mph, and you have to run a 6.0?s just to qualify.

But one of the beauties of Drag Racing is variety, & there is a lot more to it than just Doorslammers. Top Fuel are undoubtedly the kings of the sport...nitro fuel, 8000 horsepower, near on 300inch wheelbase dragsters, they literally shake the ground, and your insides as well, as they reach well over 320mph (510km/h) in around 4.60s in just the 1/4 mile journey, undoubtedly making them the most powerful & fastest accelerating vehicles on the planet!!!

Nitro Funny Cars run less than half the wheelbase & have a simulated full body, however with similar powerplants their performances are not that far behind. Tragically we have been starved of Nitro Funny Car action in Australia as the governing body chose to focus the sports resources on Top Fuel, however there are some recent signs that they may be making a comeback, lets all keep our fingers crossed. My ultimate dream car is a '57 Chev Funny Car, just like Tom "The Mongoose" McEwen drove back in the day (and the oh so lucky Andrew Cowin is now driving at Nostalgia events in Australia) Nostalgia Funny cars were where it was at after the Gassers, and before the Wild Bunch/Doorslammer circus evolved, and they really are beyond words as a spectacle!

Next down the performance ladder, we move into a category known as Top Alcohol. Whilst dragsters & Funny Cars run in separate categories in the US, in Australia they have been combined into the same category using a parity formula which has ultimately made it one of the most competitive & exciting categories in Oz. Over the 1/4 mile you can expect performances around 5.60s@250mph in this category with a real highlight for me being the monster revs these cars use both at the startline & through the traps.

The final car category in the Pro division of drag racing is Pro Stock. Billed as the factory hot-rod category of drag racing, expect to see late model vehicles, naturally aspirated ie no supercharges, with high revving manually shifted large cubic inch V8 motors (500ci in the US, 400ci? in Australia). A real feature of this bracket is the startline duels, with races often decided on a holeshot (whoever gets off the startline first!) In Australia you can expect to see performances around 7.10s @ 220mph.

To put all these performances in perspective, something like a HSV GTS, renowned as a fast and powerful road car, will run the 1/4 mile in something like 13.5s @ you can see how stunning the performance of these competition vehicles really is. Even V8 Supercars only do something like an 11.0 @ 120mph! Critics of the sport often say "its a straight line, how hard can it be?" Drag Racing is an extremely technical sport, whilst the challenges are obviously different to circuit racing they are definitely no easier, & in particular the demand for perfection, as more often than not one mistake will have you putting it back on the trailer.

As a sport however Drag Racing has yet to reach its potential in Australia, simply due to a lack of national coverage. QLD & WA have been blessed with their Willowbank & Ravenswood/Kwinana facilities. Vic has had to make do with the problematic & on again off again Calder facility, NSW went without a strip for 7 odd years, & SA lost its strip a few years back. However with Sydney Dragway well & truly fully operational, & growing public sentiment in VIC & SA I'm hopeful i will get the chance to experience what will undoubtedly be a massive surge in the popularity of the sport should those two tracks eventuate.

Keep an eye on ONE HD for some Australian drag racing action, or ESPN on FOXTEL/AUSTAR for some American NHRA action.