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2001 Performance Bike Show, Sheffield Arena
The Firestorm Jet Funny Car was one of the outside attractions at the Streetfighters Performance Bike Show at Sheffield Arena. Eurodragster was invited along on the first day of the Show as a guest of driver Roger Goring and crew Helen Rusling and Ian Blaylock.
Roger and the team had fitted a new fuel pump and fuel controller in the week leading up to the Show. "We've tweaked the fuel pump to up the idle a little", said Roger. "We wouldn't have to do it if the pump came off a plane which had an afterburner, but they're military and you can't get them."
The team had the chance to try out the new kit on Friday, when Roger was asked to go through his display for the Arena's Health and Safety officer. "They told us to take it easy, so we were very careful!", said Roger. Nevertheless there were scorch marks on the tarmac in the car park which was serving as the outside display area. The check-out went very well, although the local staff might have over-reacted a little. "They phoned the local fire brigade to ask for their attendance during the run-through", said Roger, "and they sent along three pumps and a turntable!"
Roger and the team had another guest on Saturday in the person of Ian Davidson, who had won a contest - or to be more accurate his sister had entered the contest in his name! "I didn't know anything about it until Roger phoned", said Ian. "When I called Ian out of the blue, I think he thought I was trying to sell him something!", joked Roger.
Roger took Ian on a detailed tour of the car, strapping him in and explaining how to drive it. "Would you drive the car?", I asked Ian afterwards. "Oh yes, I'd have a go", said Ian, "it's nearly as quick as my bike!"
During Ian's tour of the car, we learnt one of the dark secrets of the Firestorm team. "I like to react to the Christmas Tree as quickly as I can", said Roger. "If I'm slow off the line then I get a right telling off - Ian and Helen say that I'm sitting in there reading a newspaper. If I'm really slow, they say I'm not just reading the newspaper, I've folded it up and put it under the seat!". On a more serious note, Roger explained just how much trust he has in his crew. "If I ask Ian to do something, I never have to think about it again, it's done, and that is worth so much."
Roger was very particular about having a safe tether point for his car, since on full afterburner a set of brakes aren't necessarily going to hold it back; it is a common sight at drag strips to see jet cars slide forward a foot or so during fierce afterburner pops, and once the burner lights on the start line, the car is on the move.
A combination of tether point and safety back-up was provided by Glenn and Andy with the fire engine which usually sees service at Roger's home track, York Dragway. The steel cable in use as a tether had a breaking strain of twenty tons, which gave Roger a valuable margin - in fact he confidently expected to pull the fire engine along with him rather than suffer a breakage.
Roger was scheduled to put on his display at lunchtime after a long session by three of the country's best stunt bike riders - after all, this was a bike show. The stunt show completed, the car was rolled into position and attached to the end of the steel cable in front of the huge crowd, whilst Roger suited up and was then strapped in.
The jet engine was started up, the tow truck driven out of the way, the body put down, and then all hell broke loose. Huge clouds of smoke, sheets of flame and percussive afterburner pops filled the air in a show tightly choreographed by Ian and Helen, one on each side of the car within Roger's line of vision. Meanwhile Glenn stood next to the tail end of the car in his firefighter kit, ready to react if anything went wrong. Nothing but the jet engine could be heard, but the crowd were clapping and cheering Roger on as the display grew to a fierce climax. All too quickly, Ian and Helen each signalled Roger to shut the engine down. The applause of the crowd was almost as deafening as the jet, as Roger emerged waving and grinning from the cockpit of Firestorm.
"That were wicked!", said Roger's guest Ian. "Where can I see it in action?". Ian Blaylock was likewise overjoyed, but said that Roger took some persuading to shut the engine down. "I told him that the time was up, but he shook his head. So I told him again!"
Just how good Ian and Helen's timing was was confirmed by a look in the car's fuel tanks: both were drained. "That's twenty five gallons gone in two minutes!", said Ian. "It's that flame show", said Roger. "Tomorrow I'll turn up the fuel pump one sixth of a turn and we'll do more afterburner pops to check out the burner."
The tether did its job. "I felt the cable get taut, then I just sat on it. It was very slippy out there", said Roger.
Immediately after Roger's show, the Arena management were out inspecting the state of the car park surface. One of them approached Roger and we all held our breath awaiting a lecture. In fact they seemed more worried about the damage done by the burnouts which the stunt riders had done, although Roger had left his own mark on the surface.
Roger's two displays on the Sunday were equally successful, with the new fuel system and afterburner checking out fine and several spectators converted to drag racing! The weekend left Roger and the team in good spirits and ready for the next phase of their assault on the five-second barrier, an appearance at Super Series 1 at Shakespeare County Raceway.
I am indebted to Roger Goring, Helen Rusling and Ian Blaylock for the invitation to Sheffield Arena, and for their hospitality on the day: when you next encounter Roger in the pits, ask him why he'll never question one of Tog's drink orders again! Thanks also to Glenn and Andy, and to the organisers of the Performance Bike Show.
Firestorm web site
Performance Bike Show coverage on Bikersweb
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