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Thanks to our major sponsor Gold RV whose web site you can find at www.goldrv.co.uk. If you have a question for Derek or the team or if you would like to send a message of support then please E-Mail us at email@example.com.
RV/Miersch Racing Industries Battery Pack Tour
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including Gold RV Racing. For more information check out the Eurodragster.com News update of
21st September 2009.
Thursday 3rd December 2009: Back to reality!
Well I am finally back in the swing of things at home and work; it has taken me forever to get over my jet lag, waking up at all sorts of times during the night, feeling like I wanted dinner in the morning etc. etc. I think it is because we spent so long living the dream, my body did not want to adjust and just wanted to go back to the sunshine and the racing.
What an experience that was and I would firstly like to really thank Larry Miersch for the opportunity to drive his car and huge thanks to Jim Rizzoli and the rest of the team, Charlie, Victor, Lefty, James Day, James Blackman, John & Sarah Foster, Roy & Diane Miersch, Kay Rizzoli and of course Fiona. I cannot thank all of you enough; you made me feel like part of the family and you all worked tirelessly to improve the car and get it ready and safe for each and every run. I must say I knew from the start that the car was not yet as competitive as Larry and Jim had hoped but by the end, we were definitely one of the most improved cars over the three meetings, knocking over 3 tenths off the cars previous bests and the two runs where we ran 5.30s we were still dropping cylinders, so we all know there is more to come! So well done one and all, it was just awesome! I was just so disappointed that I let the team down with my first cherry since running TMD/TAD, sorry guys I guess I was just trying too hard. It was a real shame as it looked like we had the better of our opponent in that round and I know if Jim and Larry were given more runs, the car would have continued to improve.
I was in and out of the car several times over two days for the first round at Pomona as we were bumped the night before due to an accident, and then again during the next day and in the end we were waiting late the next night for what seemed like forever before we ran. It was getting later and later, darker and darker as well as cooler and cooler, it even looked like we may not even run due to curfew as the last Fuel qualifying session seemed to last hours. It was really neat though being in the pairing lanes with all of the Team Force cars, Dixon, Schumaker, etc. etc. not to mention the other Europeans in Top Fuel, it was really something. I could see Jim & Larry pacing up and down the track during hold ups checking and re checking track and weather conditions and Jim had changed the tune up several times during the delays. Finally the last pairs of fuel cars were pulled round and it was then that NHRA confirmed they had bought an extension and we would indeed be running. It was so dark now that I was strapped in under torch - oh sorry, flashlight and my visor was steaming up as it was now so cold.
Just as I was waiting to be pulled through to the start line Jim said the track was still in great shape and we were going to go for it, he also said I don’t care what Larry has said, give me a good burnout as the tyres were so cold, you don’t have to tell me that twice, I love burnouts and that is something I miss from the blower days as normally in the A Fueler we keep them quite short. The team lined me up just behind the burn out box and I could see down track and unlike Vegas it looked really dark down there, and for those of you that don’t know Pomona, it is one of the shortest tracks on the NHRA tour. The adrenaline was pumping but I felt good, finally after 26 hours I was going to run my first real race in the USA, we fired up all OK and then I got the message to pull through the water and do the burnout. Well, I gave it some and I zoomed past where John was standing still high up on the tyres and figured he would have to run to catch me up to guide me back. Once I got it stopped and found reverse, John was soon there and he gave me the T sign, which always made us laugh, as in the USA a T sign normally means time out and we had joked that the crowd must think what are those Brits doing? stopping for tea, but for us it was actually a reminder for me to trim back the fuel pressure after the burnout.
I looked down at the fuel pressure gauge but it was so dark I could not see a thing, so rather than over trim it and possibly kill the engine, I decided to go back as it was. John Foster is my clutch man from the UK and was living his dream too, his face was a picture grinning from ear to ear as he guided me back, it was neat to see him so pleased to be there too, once back the team went about their tasks preparing me to go into stage and one of the things that always made me smile was Victor, he is responsible for the bottom end but on the start line, just before I go into stage he pulls off the burnout limiter and shows it to me. It always amused me as from my perspective with the shroud and HANS on I can only really see straight ahead, but out of no where pops up this little Mexican face with a grin wider than Johns and he waggles the stop in front of my visor and then disappears just as quick as he appeared, I could not help thinking of Speedy Gonzales every time he did it, anyway I get the final signal from Jim that all was OK and then Larry called me forward to go into stage, OK, stake the brake several times to pump up the brake pressure, ease it forward nice and slow, just before I reach the beams Larry stops me and points at me to say OK it’s all yours. He acts out taking a couple of deep breaths which I did then bump it into pre stage and wait for my opponent, his light comes on, so hard on the brake, put it on the high side and nudge it in, wait for his lights, then I swear I saw orange and hit it but with a .123 red.
I must have reacted to something else, a photographer flash or I purely had a brain fart and I nailed it. The car launched better than it had before and I was concentrating so hard on keeping it in the groove, which is something I have noticed is one of the big differences between our tracks and that of the USA, the grooves there were very narrow, also Jim had deliberately lined me a little right of the groove too, so as to avoid some obvious bald spots that had appeared during the long Fuel session. Anyway, I kept it nailed and kept it straight in the groove and I could not see or hear my opponent, but then I saw the score boards as bright as you like in the gloom and his win light was on, shit I’ve pulled my first red, six seconds on the gas was a little much and I had to be quick on the chutes and on the brake, wow what a ride and I was sure that was the fastest and quickest I had ever been and it seemed twice as quick as it was in the dark. I was so elated that it was a good run but devastated that I had pulled a cherry, Johnny Arten came over and commiserated with me saying he had dodged a bullet on that one and he was lucky and also said he knew how I felt as he had been there, but congratulated us on the run, the team arrived to collect me and my head was in my hands but they were all pretty good about it and at least they knew they had a car to be reckoned with again.
Thank you also to all the NHRA safety safari teams and all the track and NHRA staff that I dealt with during my USA tour, you guys and girls were brilliant and you all made me feel very welcome, and I really appreciate everything you did for me and what you do for the sport, thanks, and thanks to all my fellow competitors who also made me feel welcome.
The highlight of the tour was obviously qualifying in the quickest TAD field ever and that memory will stay with me for a long time, it was also so neat to see and meet up with so many European fans giving us encouragement and support even when things were not going quite so well, also all the emails and facebook comments that I got were neat too so thanks to you all for that, and thanks to Tog and all the staff at Eurodragster for all your encouragement and support.
I really hope that this was not a one off and that some day soon I will be back in the USA living the dream again as I feel I have some unfinished business and whilst I feel over all I drove the car quite well, I know I can do better, especially after learning so much during this experience.
Thanks again one and all it was just awesome!
Pictures courtesy and ©Roger Gorringe and Fiona Flynn
Thursday 5th November 2009: Living Las Vegas.
Hi ya all from the USA, I do not have my computer with me so I have just sent a few updates to Tog via my Blackberry.
Vegas is just awesome, and that includes both Strips; after the Nationals where unfortunately we did not qualify, we could venture down to Sin City on Saturday and celebrate Larry’s birthday in style, which we did, as well as take in the sights of Vegas on Halloween, which was a real eye opener; they take it very seriously here and nearly everyone was dressed up.
Back at the Drag Strip the following morning, I must admit we were all suffering a bit from the previous night's over indulgence, as well as being a little depressed that we had not made the show proper for finals day. Watching the day's racing was great; it is not often you get to see much racing when you are competing, as you are always busy tending to things in your own pit.
I had met up with Lex, Thomas and the Andersens over the weekend and wished them all luck, and I have seen Urs around and about the place as well as sharing a pit with Spencer, and I know they were all just as excited as I am about being here. So far I think the Europeans have put on a great show that has been appreciated by the large contingent of European supporters in the stands as well as the US fans. After our last run, which incidentally was against Hillary Will, just thought I should drop that in because I can, I was quite pleased that I left on her at the tree before she went up in smoke. The bump was 5.50 at the time I ran, and our 5.51 just was not good enough, although the bump ended up being 5.42. Anyway, after that run when we towed back in front of the grandstand, I could hear all the Brits cheering and started to wave and give them the thumbs up when the commentator also mentioned about me coming from the other side of the Pond and to give us a cheer for coming, it was so cool and really cheered us all up, but, hey, how down can you be, here I am living the dream and actually racing in the USA.
I must say a huge thanks to Larry, Jim and all the Miersch Racing Team for an excellent job and for looking after us so well; the car is showing good promise but unfortunately, as I had reported to Eurodragster, on our best run I had to lift due to my HANS transferring all the chassis vibrations to my helmet and head and just could not see. Anyway, that is all fixed now and I am a lot more comfortable in the car and cannot wait to get back in it. Which I am pleased to say is sooner than I thought, as Larry has kindly offered me the chance to race at the Vegas Divisional as well; obviously I jumped at it; we are treating this as more of a test and tune for Pomona as Jim and Larry want to try out a few things; we think we have had a clutch issue and we have a different clutch going in, so we are not sure what is going to happen, but I am sure Jim and Larry will soon have it sussed.
So after spending a bit of time at the other Strip, downtown where we parked up the RVs at Circus Circus Casino and RV Park, we are now back at the track and getting things ready for tomorrow.
Thanks for reading and when I can pinch Jim’s computer again I will blog soon; obviously with Jim tuning four cars at the meetings his computer is kept pretty busy. Also I would just like to say hi to Gary back at Gold RV and all the rest of the Go Gold Crew who could not make it; wish you were here guys, it’s not quite the same without you all!
Thursday 22nd October 2009: Preparing for the Gold RV / Miersch Ind. Battery Pack Tour.
As with all tours, you need a tour bus and as of the other day, that's been sorted and yes unsurprisingly it is an RV. We decided we wanted to make the most of our NHRA experience and what better way than to stay at the tracks and eat, sleep and live drag racing for nearly one month with a couple of road trips across the desert thrown in! Again I must say a huge thank you to the Rizzoli and the Miersch families who have been so helpful yet again and looked at a couple of RVs for me and then helped with getting me my insurance, registration and storage sorted. We plan to keep the RV in the US for a while and hopefully make use of it when ever we can get over.
I don't know about you, but I am one of those people who packs last minute, apart from my race suit, crash helmet etc - they are all with Jim already, as I did not want any last minute hitches like the airline losing them. So I have a few piles of stuff waiting to go in the suitcase, twenty Gold RV Racing T shirts, almost enough for one a day, shorts, sun tan lotion, sun glasses, oh and my silly pants as my team call them. Actually they are brightly coloured baggies and are just so comfortable and cool, and thanks to Richard, Julie and Pete Walters for the good luck card and the new addition to the silly pants collection, they are great. The temperature in California right now is in the mid 80s and mid 90s in Nevada, I know Fiona is really looking forward to some sunshine and warmth, although I imagine I am going to be a TAD warm (pun intended) in that kind of heat all dressed up in my fire suit etc.!
The final entry list for both Vegas and Pomona has fields of 27 and 26 respectively all going for 16 car fields, wow that's neat and when I look down the list of names, it is a who's who of Top Alcohol and I am still pinching myself that yes that is indeed my name amongst them. This is just going to be an experience of a lifetime and I really hope I do my side of things alright and do not let the side down. It is going to be so great to meet up with all my US buddies again and even neater to be racing some of them especially Mark Niver and ex-pat Mike Manners. But I should not get too far ahead of myself, most of these guys and girls do more runs in a season than I have done in my career, also Larry's new car is still a work in progress and has only competed in a handful of events so far, but it is showing good promise and with three race weekends in a row I am sure Jim and Larry will get it dialled in and hopefully we should get it a little more competitive with the more data we collect!
As usual you can keep up to date with our progress here on Eurodragster.com as well as Drag Race Central and can even listen to it for free on Sundays on the official NHRA site, and if you hear them say my name on Sunday, that means we have not only qualified but made it through to second round, but you might like to sign up, as NHRA members can listen to all the days just in case, and they even send you a copy of National Dragster nearly every week. I will try and keep the blog updated as often as I can, as it will save on quite a few expensive calls or texts.
Thanks to everyone who has sent us good wishes and I know some of you are even coming along, so please come by our pits and say hi, race number TAD 800. Also Spencer will be with us racing the Gold RV / Rizzoli Automotive Camaro in Stock Eliminator, I thought I had it tough to reach Sunday but Spencer has over ninety cars to get round and would have to have won several rounds to make it to the final day.
I will blog again when I am Stateside. I might even persuade some of the team to write something as you will probably be bored with me by the end of one month.
Monday 5th October 2009: 2009 SPRC Top Methanol Champions.
My first ever Driver's Championship, although I would like to call it a team Championship, as I owe it all to the Go Gold Crew as well as Jim Rizzoli and Larry Miersch, without the support of all you guys it would not have been possible, and special thanks to my Crew Chief and Gold RV business partner Gary Jenkins and of course my wife Fiona for all her help and support.
As seems to be usual this year with our drag racing, we had a weekend of highs and lows. After the engine rebuild due to the bent crank at the Euro Finals, we decided we should take things a little easy on our first pass, however the car ran the best it had ever run in the 1/8th and for us a massive 220 MPH, I really wanted to stay with it but was off the throttle just a shade over four seconds but we still ran a 5.54 at only 221 MPH and we were number one qualifier. Wow, finally at the end of the season we had our power back, and providing everything was all OK with the engine we were going to be trying all out for that 5.3 that we know is in our car. However once we got back to the pits, much to our amazement we had blackened number four main bearing again on the replacement crank that was so kindly given to us by Mark Niver of the Billet Bullet team of the US. Sh*t (actually we said a lot worse but this is a family web site), we were sure the bent crank was causing this problem at the Euro finals, and we even had the block line honed as well just to be sure everything was all OK. So we decided to miss the next qualifiers and strip the engine down to the bare block yet again and check and re check all the oil ways, clearances etc. etc. and we changed all main bearings again and even changed the cam bearings and although we had really good oil pressure, we even tweaked that up a little to try and help the situation.
Sunday morning and we had another qualifier, but we decided with the Championship at stake and even though Dave had now taken our number one qualifying position and was on for both the E.T., and speed records, we should sit it out and save the engine for eliminations as even though Dave had the points for number one and even if he did set both records (which he subsequently did, well done Dave and all the Silverline Crew) we knew that providing we beat Steph Milam in Eliminations we had the Championship, so sorry to all that were there for our no-shows but I trust you can now understand the situation we were in and that we badly wanted our first Championship and we were protecting a bit of a wounded bullet, also if we were to win this Championship we would have beaten Steph twice, Timo the incoming FIA Champion as well as the Turners to get to the position we were in, so we did not want to throw it away by not making eliminations.
I was so nervous going in to that round of eliminations; you think about all the things that could go wrong, the car not starting properly, the engine dying after the burn out, not getting reverse after the burn out, not getting forward after backing up, being shut down for a leak etc. etc., all the things that have happened to us before, OK, not so much with this car, but these have all happened to me during my relatively short career.
We start up and everything is just fine but after the burnout on the way back I notice Steph looks to be having problems so I slow up to try and give them a little more time to sort it out and hopefully make it back for the run, but then I see her out of the car, so we are on a solo and providing I stage properly and break the beams we have won the SPRC Championship. So now I am back, waiting to go into stage, sure enough Ian Marshall comes over and shows me the single finger to ensure I know I am on a solo, then Gary gives me the final OK to go into stage, all the time I had been sitting there waiting for the call to go into stage, I was thinking so what do I do now? poodle down the track and save the engine for the finals? Nah, that's no way to win a Championship, give it all you got - if we brake the engine then at least we went all year in Europe without being beaten in eliminations, or if it is now OK then we can really go for the 5.3 in the finals. Funny how all this is going through my head as I am about to unleash 3500 horses but it was, so much so, I lit the top bulb and then waited for my opponent to stage, derrr, Ian's already advised you are on a solo and that's her car out there at the side of the track you plonker, just get in full stage, go for it and win this Championship! So I bump it in to full stage, the lights run and I mash the pedal and by half track it is hauling ass again even though we had detuned it a little, but then at a 1000 ft it drops cylinders and I really feel the car nose over as it reacts to loosing cylinders, under the gantry, pull the chutes, off the throttle and apply some brake, normally I then shut off the fuel and then the mags but this time the engine just died and made a funny little erch sound and went silent, I was straight on my radio to tell the crew I think it's hurt, as I came to a stop on the track. I needed to be rescued by the excellent Santa Pod Top End Crew, they are so cool, straight over to check that I am all OK and I give them a thumbs up, then they push me round out of harms way and wrap up my chutes around my rear wing to ensure they do not get in the way of the next cars coming down, thanks guys and girls you are great and I really appreciate that you are there!
The crew collect me and the car and take me to Tech and the weigh bridge and providing we are all legal with regard to the minimum weight or if required pass a fuel check, then we are Champions; when the Tech guys announced all was good, we well and truly started to celebrate.
However, once back at the pits and with the spark plugs removed, the crew were unable to turn the engine and as I had expected the engine was indeed hurt, diaper off and we find what looks like a bullet hole one side and a rather big ding the other, we drop the sump and our worst fears confirmed, number seven rod was broken after just five runs on the new set of rods, the crew were all a bit down in the mouth, but I said hey guys come on no long faces, put the sump back on we shall send it to Brad Andersons, they can fix it and we will sort out the rest over the winter so lets celebrate our first ever Championship. I advised Grumpy he would be on a bye in the final as we were out with a holed block and congratulated him on his first ever event win with his A Fueler.
Thanks to everyone who congratulated us at the track and for all the great emails and telephone calls, it means a lot to us all.
So normally that would be the end of the season, but not this year as you may have read on Eurodragster, next stop Vegas and then Pomona on the Gold RV / Miersch Industries Battery Pack Tour, I just cannot wait, more about that soon!
Pictures courtesy and ©Andy Willsheer and Ivan Sansom
Friday 18th September 2009: Bent crank halts progress.
After a mammoth effort just to get our car and parts repaired to make the Euro Finals, it was great that we put in a some good qualifying times and finally got the car improving again, with a team best for speed and ET achieved, it was so disappointing to have to miss out again on eliminations, this time due to a bent crank.
I would like to thank all the Go Gold Crew, Jim Rizzoli, Larry Miersch, Dave Lehey of Electromotion, Jeremy and all at Brad Andersons, Gary Burgin, UPS and FedEx for all their efforts, help and assistance in repairing, sourcing or sending us parts to ensure we made the meeting, it was not easy after the carnage at Germany.
Again we missed out on one of the best eliminations of the TMD class, it became apparent about 10:00 pm the previous night that the blackened bearing on number four main bearing was due to a 5 thousands of an inch bend in our crank and whilst we could have staged the car, no way could we have put a hard run on it, so I decided we should bow out gracefully and advised Esko he should be ready for the morning as he would be racing and able to back up his new Finnish record he was after, well done Esko.
Congratulations also to Timo and all the Habermann Family on the FIA championship and although we won as many events as Timo, we fell well short on the consistency that they achieved, and I must say we have been a little unlucky at key times this year too.
Congratulations also to everyone in the Bavarian Thunder team for the event win and on another team best of 5.36 in the final and what a final that was - side by side 5.36s unbelievable and well done Krister for all your 5.3s.
Thanks as usual to Jim Rizzoli and Larry Miersch who were on the end of the phones and computers again and a huge thank you to all the Santa Pod Crews, you were great as usual. We finished fifth overall in the FIA TMD Championship and we carded our first FIA event win in Finland, which also happens to be the first and only FIA event win by an A Fueler, so overall not bad, but as my school report used to say; Derek could do better! Also, I must say on behalf of myself and all the Gold RV Racing Team we are all just so proud to have been part of what must be one of the best years of racing by the whole TMD class and congratulations to all our competitors for putting on a great show, although I have the feeling there is still more to come, which bodes really well for the future of TMD and we will have to step up again if we want to compete, and I am confident we will.
We have the National Finals coming up next week and we currently lead the Santa Pod Top Methanol Championship due to the fact we won at Easter so we shall be going all out for that and I would like to say a huge thanks to Mark Niver of the Billet Bullet Team in the USA for giving me a crank so that we can make this event!
Thanks for reading and hopefully see you at the National Finals.
Wednesday 26th August 2009: Bits and pieces.
Well, I guess we broke the run of DNQ or win, as well as a few parts and I will not go over all the runs that are well documented on Eurodragster.com; in the end we qualified seventh. Our last qualifier was very disappointing. At the start line Gary and Jim were watching avidly as I launched, the tune up in the car should have been at least a high 5.4 and to me it felt like the car launched well but we had holes out and some tyre shake down track, and then the engine died. Apparently Gary turned to Jim saying "What happened there Jim", and he commented "Derek probably knew the run was gone and lifted to save the engine"!
So we got back to the pits and were all quite upbeat that we had qualified in the quickest TMD field ever, although I explained there was quite a pop during the run and the engine just died, so the team removed the plugs and rather than just windmill it with the starter we turned it over by hand, and our worst fears were confirmed: the motor was seized solid. Off with the diaper and a quick look around the block and pan and sure enough there was a ding in the block, but at least no windows.
Well, during the tear down, the pile of broken parts just kept getting bigger, it would seem that the wrist pin in number six cylinder had broken and parts of the rod and piston were everywhere. The look on our bottom end guy James' face when he dropped the sump with its pile of bits in it was quite a picture. Usually James diligently goes through the hot oil in the sump and brings us the odd slither of bearing or whatever for us to diagnose, but this time the pan was just full of broken bits. Whilst this was a disaster for us, we were in fact quite lucky; what was left of number six piston had stuck up in the bore and the rod stayed pretty much intact from the wrist pin down and just damaged the liner as it went up and down after the break rather than coming out the sump or block. Also parts of piston got up to the cam and stopped that turning which obviously stopped the mags and killed the engine which was just as well or it could have been much worse.
Later that night the pile of bits included:
Jim, myself and Gary were surveying the carnage and Gary casually turned to Jim and said in a deadpan voice "So Jim, exactly what part of the engine did Derek save when he lifted?". Well you have to laugh or you would cry about it and as the saying goes it is no use crying over spilt milk. Jim advised in his many years of racing he has never seen a wrist pin break and these were Top Fuel pins too, oh well, just unlucky I guess. So we went through the trailer and started sorting out all the spares required and it looked like we had everything apart from a cam bearing and wrist pin. So we started cleaning stuff up so we could start the rebuild, realizing this was going to be a late one!
Jim and the Go Gold Crew were brilliant, they just set about the tasks at hand and I have to say a huge thanks to so many people who also assisted us and I am sorry if I forgot anyone, both Dave Wilsons were straight in lending us some air tools and even helped to cut out the liners etc. and clean up the block, Harry (also from Wilson's team) duly went around the pits looking for cam bearings and wrist pins. Danny Bellio lent us a tool with which we could cut down to help install the cam bearing, Peter Schöfer turned down the tool for a precise fit, my great mates the Turners lent us slide hammer/piston sleeve removal and insertion tool, Spuffard lent us a cam bearing and, to be honest, I cannot remember which Top Fuel team lent us a wrist pin, but I will find out and return it.
We were obviously the evening's entertainment, especially after the Night Show had finished. We all missed the Night Show but when the crowds started visiting the pits they all seemed quite impressed with all that was going on and our pile of broken bits. Sarah even managed to sell quite a few pieces as souvenirs. I joked again with Jim that I finally managed to make some money in drag racing, sell your broken bits. Later on, once the crowds had gone, I think it was about 3:00 am when the bare block with cam finally got put back in the car and the rebuild could continue in earnest. We thought it would be easier to install the sleeves with the block in the car and this turned out to be one of those moments you never ever forget. It was quite funny as all the Turner Motorsport crew were now sitting on one of our bench seats watching what we were doing with a row of bystanders behind them. The Turners were great, as and when required they kept wandering back to their pits and coming back with that special tool or part that just made things a little easier.
Having never changed a liner before, this was all new to my team and I but Jim led the charge and duly started whaling on the slide hammer tool to insert the new liner, apparently it is a lot easier when the block is warm and the liner frozen, we had put the liner in the icebox but the block was cold. Jim was soon sweating buckets and handed over the slide hammer saying "Time for a big guy to have a go". A few others also helped including Team Turners and then back to Jim. The sleeve was almost in but the last half an inch was proving difficult, then all of a sudden I could see Jim had one of those lightbulb moments, you know the type, if it were in a cartoon, the bubble appears and shows the thought. Well he just walked away muttering under his breath. He came back moments later saying that Larry used to have a standard deck block and he had probably inadvertently sent us the sleeves for that block which are half an inch too long. Shit, now we had to try and get it out, well again the slide hammer was being passed round as we tried to remove the sleeve, it was a sword in the stone type thing and by now even the Pro Mod pit opposite had obviously decided that there was no point going to bed with all the noise going on from our pit so they started clapping in time with the slide hammer and offering cheers of encouragement. I was getting a bit worried about the noise and thought any moment the security staff would be round to tell us to stop before we could finish the re-build. Anyway, much amusement and merriment by the crowd later and with the correct size sleeves lent to us by the Turners, the block was finally in and the team all went about rebuilding the engine, finally around 5:00am they finished. As a driver who is not much of a mechanic, it is a very humbling experience watching your team and others working their nuts off all night to get you back in the races and, again, thank you guys and girls you were all awesome.
The team were up early and spot on 9:00 am, once the noise curfew had lifted, we fired the engine, and first go it roared into life and we were all elated, but I spotted we had low oil pressure so we shut it off. We have had this before after a rebuild and normally we just re-prime the oil pump and it is all OK, but not this time. Anyway after much fiddling around with oil pumps, filters etc, we got the call to go down and we decided that whilst the oil pressure was still low we would go for it.
We fired up, did a short burnout, and whilst I was backing up Werner Habermann noticed that Timo's pre stage light was stuck on and was pointing at the Tree and doing the cut across the throat signal to the start line crew and to Timo to shut us off, and then the starter told us to shut off. Just after we shut off one of the start line crew put their foot through Timo's stage beams and re-set the tree and all was OK, and we were told to fire up again. Jim ran to the start crew and advised them that we cannot re-start as the cylinders were full of nitro and it would explode if we tried, and that we had to go back to the pits to remove the plugs and windmill the engine to clear the nitro and cool down a little. Once back at the pits we windmilled the engine, cleared all the nitro but I noticed that we now had no oil pressure at all, and whilst the guys were trying to fix the problem, the Habermanns had gone down and we were advised we had to go now as our opponents were waiting, hence why we did not show for the re-run. After about five minutes we had found the problem, an oil gallery plug had come out and was soon fixed and we were ready again, but the re-run had run and that was us out. It was so disappointing after such a mammoth effort by the crew and it was a real shame that apparently the Habermanns were not allowed to wait for us, especially as the lunch break was looming and that would have given them ample time to do a turn round should they have beaten us, but they do not have to wait and they took the bye. Apparently they did the re-run in our lane which I was later advised they should not have done and we could have objected, but I decided against it as it may have been considered sour grapes, however we do take some solace that we are still undefeated in eliminations this year!
I would like to congratulate the Bavarian Thunder team on their Personal Best during the event as well as congratulating them on the event win and I know they were all absolutely delighted to end the event as German Champions!
We have already sent one of our heads back to BAE and we have started the shopping list. Larry is also helping us to organize all the parts required
and hopefully we will make the European Finals.
Saturday 1st August 2009: On the roller coaster.
We just seemed to have one problem after another in Sweden, in Q1 which according to our data was our best run of the weekend and should have been a 5.50, I had a problem staging. As I was going in to pre-stage, the top light did not light, just the full stage light, and as I had not seen the top bulbs so much as flicker, I figured perhaps the top bulbs were out and I was in full stage. I was running against Rob Turner and obviously from his perspective it looked like I was in fact in deep stage, so he went up on his revs and I went up on the high side, but instead of the Tree running the starter called me forward some more, obviously I have to do as the starter says, so I bump it forward again but now have no stage lights up and then I get a clear signal from the starter to go up the track. That was that run screwed, but I decided to give it everything as at least we would have some data. Gary and Jim duly approached the officials to find out what was going on and were advised that they were having a few troubles with the staging beams and the full stage beam was being triggered by the body rather than the wheel. Oh well, we thought, the car ran pretty good and we will get it next time, how wrong we were.
Q2: We tuned it up a little and were hoping for a 5.4, but struggled to do a burnout and up in smoke on the hit. Obviously I did not see it from where I was sitting, but the car was running very wet and was showering the crew with nitro and dripping fuel from the headers and unfortunately the tyres were covered in nitro on the hit. Back in the pits, Jim found that the butterflies on the injector were not closing fully and allowing too much fuel to the engine at idle, this explains some of the inconsistencies we have been suffering from in the past and even though we ran quite well in Finland with the new check valves we had installed, it would now seem that the butterflies were the problem all along, ho hum.
Q3: We decided the tune-up would need to be adjusted a little and were confident even with a conservative tune up in the car, we should make the show, and whilst the car launched well, it hazed the tyres mid track and with the loss of load we put cylinders out and were on the bump with a rather disappointing 5.8 but after checking the data, at least the fuel system after its overhaul the previous night, was finally all behaving now.
Q4: We were still quite confident even though we were in last chance saloon and had changed the tune up to soften it a little in the middle, that we would still get a 5.5 and make the show, but on the hit we put out cylinders straight away and Paul Ingar Uditan lowered the bump and that was us out.
The whole team was gutted again not to qualify and after checking the data we found that the BDK valve that controls the fuel system and had been serviced the night before, and had worked perfectly on the previous run, decided it was going to stick wide open and drowned the engine on the hit causing the cylinders to go out. Aghhhh! This sport can be so frustrating sometimes, and I am sure from the outside it looked like we still had the same problems, in fact it was different parts that all caused the same problem.
I would really like to thank Jim and Kay Rizzoli for coming over and helping, and whilst Jim was absolutely beside himself that we had not made the show, the team and I really appreciated all the help he gave us and I would like to say, no matter how good the tuner is, all the bits on the car have to be right for the tune ups to work and Jim was brilliant at diagnosing the problems as they arose. Personally, we learned so much dealing with all these issues under Jim's guidance that I still feel quite up beat about the future, if things had all gone perfect we would not have learned about all the little details of our fuel system etc. Also, had Jim not come over, I don't think we would have got to the bottom of the various issues we were suffering from and they could have cost us another couple of meetings before we got to the bottom of them.
So the team and I have to bounce back just like last time from our DNQ and do all we can to try to win at Hockenheim, I would also like to say a huge thanks to all the Go Gold Crew - you were brilliant yet again and hopefully we will keep this roller coaster run going for just one more meeting!
Pictures courtesy and ©Ivan Sansom
Thursday 9th July 2009: Team Zeroes to Team Heroes.
Well who would of thunk, after such bitter disappointment at the Main Event to the elation of winning our first ever FIA event and I believe the first for an A Fueler!
To say the whole team is delighted is an understatement, we were all hurting really bad after the DNQ and I could tell as soon as we got to Finland there was a steely determination about the crew and even though we did not speak about it we all knew we had a point to prove and prove it we did, the team was excellent the best I have seen them, with six perfect turnarounds in two days, well done guys now we must keep this momentum going to have any chance in the championship.
Special thanks have to go to Larry for coming out and helping, it was really neat to send him home so elated as I know he was absolutely gutted after the Main Event.
Things did not quite start as we would have wanted with a tyre smoking launch and an idle through for an eleven second run, but personally I was quite happy as it meant the beast was back and we had obviously cured our problems of the Main Event, so all we had to do was tame the beast and we should be in the show!
We ended up number five qualifier with what turned out to be our only full pass in the qualifiers due to weather and down time which meant we had to race our good friends the Turners in E1 and they would have lane choice, it was a very close race and I am pleased to say I got it on a hole-shot! However once we got back to the pits we found we had damaged a head, number six cylinder that had refused to stay lit after the launch during the Main Event obviously decided it was going to try and do all the work to make up for it, well it eat both spark plugs and damaged a valve seat and this is where the Go Gold Crew really made there point with an absolutely awesome turn around, I am so proud of you guys, this was not like the mad thrash we had at Easter, they just went about the tasks at hand as if they had been doing it for years, rather than just the two or three meetings some of them have now been with us. I have to say my crew chief and business partner Gary Jenkins was awesome orchestrating the turn around and Larry also jumped in and was soon up to his elbows in oil helping out our new bottom end guy James who was doing a grand job.
Next up was Krister who was number one qualifier with an excellent 5.47 in his A Fueler, but this time we had lane choice and we managed a rather nice 5.48 to get round him, to set up a final against the TMD points leader Timo.
The turnaround time was the minimum 75 minutes allowed and again the Go Gold Crew did a great job and we pulled down to the fire up road and waited for the Haberman's to show. We had lane choice again as we had just ran the fastest run in eliminations, everyone knows Timo is a bit of a demon on the tree, but not to blow my own trumpet to much I was not doing to bad myself during this meeting and although we tuned it up just a little we thought a 5.47 could probably win it as long as I was on my game. Even though I did not see him mainly due to the shroud and to be honest I was so focussed keeping it in the groove that I was not looking, but according to the timing ticket, he pulled an absolute storming 0.016 light to my 0.058 and he was ahead up until the 1000ft where I passed him, winning by just .038 of a second, awesome, you just gotta love these A fuelers they just keep pulling until you lift.
The grin on my face was huge when the team came to pick me up and Timo and his team were really gracious in defeat congratulating me and the team on our first ever FIA win.
Now, huge thanks have to go to the star of this show who in fact was not even with us but locked away in his spare room at home in the US, glued to his PC and phone and that star was Jim Rizzoli, due to the time difference this meant he had to stay up all night to assist us and assist us he did, before and after every run Jim was on the phone and computer analyzing every run from the data we sent him as well as keeping up to date via Eurodragster with who ran what where and when, it was like NASCAR where they have a spotter telling you what the other teams were all doing. Obviously this help and support is a magnificent advantage for us and I learned so much about tuning our A Fueler and unlike last time when Jim was unavailable the car was actually responding to all the changes we were making. Jim, Larry and myself had agreed not too change too much for the Final and we tuned it for a 5.47 and got it, Jim Rizzoli you are the MAN.
The crew and I had an absolutely brilliant weekend and we would like to thank everyone who congratulated us on our win, the people who came to our pit, the telephone messages, texts, emails it was awesome. I have to say when I got back to the pit and started to congratulate the team and started telling them how proud I was of there efforts the emotions got the better of me, after such a low to such a high and to finally achieve one of my ambitions to win an FIA event was all too much and as it sunk in I ended up speechless and blubbing on the phone when I was thanking Jim and ended up saying I would have to call him back later, when I could talk properly.
We would like to thank the FHRA and all the Finish fans who made us feel so welcome, I would also like to especially thank Mattie our pit marshal he was brilliant, cheerily keeping us informed about what where and when as things unfolded over the weekend.
Oh and I would like to thank Timo and the team for the dunking in the barrel of water after getting the trophy, just so you know I have a long memory and what goes round comes round!
Roll on Sweden we just can't wait and this time Jim and his wife Kay will be with us!
Pictures courtesy and © Ivan Sansom & Rose Hughes
Wednesday 3rd June 2009: Totally and utterly delighted.
After our DNQ it was really neat to see the youngest member of the Gold RV Team flying the flag and all of us here at Gold RV are really proud and would like to congratulate Lisa Selles and the team for a great effort in reaching the finals in the now called “when I grow up I want to be an A Fueler" Gold RV Junior Dragster.
I will leave it to Mum Henriette Selles to explain the rest:
We left Holland a crewmember short; Jessica was in the middle of her exams and had to stay at home. The team that travelled were pleasantly surprised by the great weather enjoyed all weekend at Santa Pod. On Friday the Sportsman classes were treated to no less than seven runs! Because of some changes we have made on the Junior, Lisa had some difficulties with reacting at the tree and because of that, we ended…. number fourteen, which was last qualifier. On Saturday we had one run before we could watch the Pro's have a go at it; but couldn't improve much, BUT we ended up lucky number 13. Number 13 has always played a significant part in our drag racing experience; so we were satisfied. (Before Lisa's race number became lucky number 13, Jessica's race number was lucky number13!)
After getting sunburned on Sunday - of course we forgot to pack sun block - while watching our sponsor Gold RV Racing, and fellow Dutch racers as well as Danny Bellio, whom Lisa's Dad, Jaap also crews for, we had one run in: still number 13. We did get the Junior to run consistent 7.9s, so we headed on in to eliminations with a good feeling, helped by a visit to the Pod Shop for some much appreciated After-Sun! The first run of eliminations was a gift for Lisa: Charlotte red-lit, so we got ourselves ready for Rhiannon. That was a close battle; but Lisa came out winner. The next opponent was a tough one; Joe Kellet, winner of the Easter Thunderball. There was no way of telling who nailed it at the tree or hit the index: only when the lights came on, it became apparent that Lisa had beaten him.
That left us finalists! We were up against Matthew Seamarks; and it was a great final to run against him. He knows Lisa from when she was crewing her sister's car and was exited to run against her. He beat her for the number one spot, but to us, being runner up felt like winning!
Our gratitude goes out to our sponsors that make this all possible: Derek Flynn and everyone at Gold RV, Classic American, Briggs & Stratton and of course our loyal members of the Club of 100.
Thursday 28th May 2009: Totally and utterly gutted.
From hero to zero in just two meetings and the crew and I are totally gutted not to qualify, although it has to be said that was one hell of a meeting especially for TMD. Whilst our best qualifying time of 5.75 would have qualified us 7th in Top Fuel, this was not good enough for TMD which goes to show how far the class has come on in the last couple of years and I must say it was still really neat to be a part of the best TMD event ever in Europe - all this from a class that nearly lost its FIA status a few years back, so thanks to everyone who kept us as part of the show and hopefully your faith in our class is now being repaid. Congratulations to all our competitors in TMD it was just awesome seeing record after record being set.
Our problems started with the late arrival of our block due to a certain courier that shall remain nameless. I would like to thank all at BAE for doing such a great job on our block and heads and for the quick turn around. Normally we would have fired up and tested our setup prior to arriving for a meeting but this time we actually finished building our engine at the track.
Due to the fact we had hurt our engine at Easter, we were being conservative on our first run out, but due to yours truly really messing up whilst staging and the launch, this meant we had no real useful data from that run, so we had to be conservative in the second qualifying session too, but we lost a mag trigger after the burnout and were shut down due to the unusual popping and banging whilst backing up. This was just as well as we also found a push rod damaged when we got back to the pit and we may have been picking up engine bits if we had tried to run like that, so a big thanks to Ian and the start line crew. However, no data again, so we were up against it. The third qualifying session produced our best effort of 5.75 and we briefly made it to the bump and at last got some decent data to tune with but it showed we dropped cylinders early which is unusual for us and it really hurt our time. We tried hard to tune it up to overcome the dropped cylinders for the do or die fourth qualifying session and personally I thought we would get a 5.4 something or smoke the tyres on the hit but unfortunately the data shows a fuel issue and maybe a slight double step on the throttle by me which meant we still dropped a cylinder early so the car did neither and the power was just not there and that was us out.
I guess we have to put this in perspective; we have had only sixteen full passes with the A Fueler and that includes my licensing runs and this car is so very different to drive and tune. We have achieved number one qualifier at two events, won one, runner up in another, a rain out and a DNQ, so that's not too bad, but to be honest even this does not make me feel much better right now. We have done really well getting down a tricky track in not so good conditions but this was a great track, probably the best I have ever seen in Europe and for once the weather gods gave us brilliant weather, which goes to prove how good the Santa Pod Track Crew are, especially when they get a break with the weather and they can give us a NHRA style track. Well done to them all and you cannot believe how I am kicking myself for not getting in the show and really showing what we can do on that type of track, although watching the rest of the TMD event unfold with the times achieved, it would have been really tough to go rounds and I think this year will be one of the best ever for TMD, and I am sure we shall play our part in the future!
I would really like to thank Larry for coming over and helping us. I and the rest of the crew learned loads from Larry, which should really bode well for the future. Thanks also to the rest of the crew, you worked so hard and were great and I am sure this will make us more competitive as a team for the future as I know this DNQ hurt us all.
Sorry to our fans, and thanks to all of you who popped by to cheer us on and then commiserate with us, but don't worry, we shall return with a vengeance and as a driver, I know I can do much better than this.
Thanks to Mark P for the photograph!
PS Have you visited our new online store with over 10,000 accessories for your RV at www.goldrv.co.uk/parts/?
Sunday 10th May 2009: Looking forward to The Main Event.
Unfortunately our first event win came with a bit of pain. As I reported in my last blog, we had blown a head gasket and damaged a head in our semi-final against Timo and after stripping the car down the following week at our workshop we found we had blown a head gasket on the other side in our win against the Turners. Unfortunately, this time it had not only damaged the head but the block also. That Nitro is really neat stuff but it is unforgiving and my heart sank when I saw the damage, as I did not know if we could get it repaired in time for the Main Event. Whilst the damage was not huge to the block, it would need some professional fettling and the two heads repaired.
After a few frantic calls to the US with Larry, Jim and then Jeremy at Brad Anderson Enterprises, we decided to send the block and heads back to BAE in California. Larry has been a real star for us once more, running around sourcing more spares as well as overseeing the repairs at BAE. Whilst I have yet to see the repairs, Larry says the block and heads look as good as new and I would like to thank him and all the guys at BAE for looking after us. Our stuff should be on its way back to us this week and we will have our work cut out to rebuild the engine and car in time for the Main Event, but I am sure we will make it providing the couriers do their job and Customs don't delay things.
One good thing to come out of this is that Larry will be coming over to help us at the Main Event, which has given the team another lift after our win. It is going to be a real tough meeting for us at the Main Event as there are ten very competitive cars going for an eight car field. Whilst I do not personally know Fred Hansen, I do know the car he is racing, as it was the car owned by Howard Main and I had a real close look at it when I was in the US looking to buy a car last year, and I must say I was very tempted with the package. It had some quite trick Medlin Heads, loads of spares and had run some really stout times when it was piloted by Darvin Martinets, also I must say Howard is a real nice guy to deal with and we have remained in contact since. When Howard dropped me an email to say he was coming over to help Fred, I was really pleased that I would get to see him again and hopefully be able to return some of the hospitality he showed me whilst I was visiting him. I was also a bit worried that yet another really competitive car was joining our ranks. Fred is also brining out US tuner Will Hanna who used to tune the car for Howard in the US. On top of this, Esko has entered his new car which is yet another A Fueler in the ranks. This means four Nitro burning monsters in TMD. It is so good to see the TMD ranks full again and I believe there are at least another two or three cars out there, which should ensure full fields where ever we go this year and will probably produce some of the best qualifying sessions and closest racing that TMD has seen for a while. I just hope our bits arrive in time and we make the show and really hope that we can qualify and do well again, we will have to be on our game that is for sure!
Gold RV Racing will have some new T shirts for sale at the Main Event at a cost of £12 each for adults and £10 for children. Special thanks to my mate Pete of PWRD for coming up with some great designs for us yet again. They will soon be available online too on the all new Gold RV accessories online store www.goldrv.co.uk/parts/ with over 10,000 accessories for your RV.
Thanks for stopping by and please come and say hi at our pits as your support is very much appreciated.
Thursday 16th April 2009: Our First Event Win.
As I said in my earlier blog, I have always liked the Easter Meeting and this one tops the lot, our first ever event win. I would like to dedicate this win to my team, the Go Gold Crew, you guys and girls were absolutely magic and the last thrash between the semi and the final was awesome, so thank you to my Crew Chief and co-sponsor Gary Jenkins and the rest of the crew, John and Sarah Foster, Vladimir Urednicek, Mole, James Blackman, and the two new crew members Ian Moore and Colin Chapman, you guys just fitted right in, and thanks to my wife Fiona who kept us all fed and watered. Many thanks also to our good friends and US consultants Jim Rizzoli and Larry Miersch, Jim was a real star allowing me to phone him in the wee small hours of the morning to discuss our tune up, despite the fact he had only just returned from racing in Vegas about midnight, what a star.
Well, the weekend did not start so well, up in smoke and flames and an idle down the track for a 13 second run. We had mis-read the track and definitely over powered it, but we were not alone on that one, and whilst the flames looked quite spectacular, it was just a problem with the header (exhaust) gasket and no damage done. With the track and weather getting colder as well as the fact we were still checking everything after buzzing the engine on the launch and when I tried to get on it again, we decided it would probably be best to sit the next qualifier out and make sure everything was OK for eliminations. The funniest thing of this run was that Jim was listening to Nitro FM on the web and when I phoned him later he said the burn out sounded a bit high on the RPMs, sure enough when I checked he was right, isn't that cool tuning by radio, thanks Nitro FM, I am really pleased Gold RV sponsored you to buy that piece of kit.
So straight into eliminations and, like last year's National Finals, we had drawn Steph again in the first round. We took all we could out of the tune up to ensure we got off the line this time and made it from A-B and we were very pleasantly surprised that we managed to run a 5.57 @ 245 MPH; we were expecting a 5.8 – 6.0.
It was a normal turn around, nothing out of the usual and we were to race Timo next. This should be a good race, I thought, and I would have to do much better on the tree against him, as he is usually very sharp. There was a bit of confusion on the fire up as Timo's team fired up at the same time as us and Timo was off and into his burn out before we had even got our car on Nitro and trimmed. I was getting a hurry up from the starting marshal, but you cannot hurry an A Fueler, or it goes bang if you switch to Nitro too soon. I was getting a bit anxious in the car and hoping they would not stop us going around. I came through, did a short burnout, and then could see Timo was stuck out on the track and being pushed back. I had to wait for what seemed like forever and thought I was probably on a solo, but, no,Timo was still running and just had no reverse and he was going into stage with me. So pre-stage, up on the high side (full fuel pump pressure) and bump it into full stage and hit it. After about two seconds I got some tyre shake and could see Timo edging ahead, I stayed with it and it soon cleared, and I was after him, catching him around the 1,000 ft mark and taking the stripe by about three foot, phew that was close!
Now this is where the team really stepped up to the plate, as despite what was reported by Simon on the pit notes, when he came round to check with us, everything was going fine; shortly after he left our pit we found bits which turned out to be scorched aluminium from one of our heads. So it was off with the head, only to find it torched on one cylinder, a blown head gasket and a piston that had started to melt. The guys did brilliant to change the head, fuel rails, one piston, change all the bearings and get me running again in just over an hour; awesome, well done guys. Also, like last year we were to race our good mates the Turners in the Final and just like last year they said they would wait for us if needed and they were allowed. What sportsmen, as it happens there were a couple of incidents on the track and we managed to pull down the lanes and join our allocated slot. Steve Turner knows the score with the A Fuelers and waited for a nod from Gary before they fired up and we both pulled round together. I was determined to try and win this one as the guys had worked so hard to get me out, also we had been to three previous finals and not won. I got a reasonable light and away first but again had really bad shake and things started to go white so I slapped the throttle to break the clutch free and I was sure Rob was going to come by me like last year, but the car hooked up again and I did not see him again. Obviously I did not know he had broken, but I can tell you I was just so excited, shouting "Yes, Yes!" Finally we got one. Commiserations to the Turner Motorsport team and we look forward to racing you again soon, as this was a bit of a hollow victory considering you broke.
John Foster summed it up as he said “that was a proper final, the sun setting in the background, smoke pouring off the back of our car from the manifold seal that had let go and the Turners car parked to one side with a broken drive shaft all cheering us as we towed past"; it was just awesome and I cannot wait for us to do it again, hopefully without quite so much damage next time and hopefully some better times.
I can't quite believe how many of you read this blog; it was neat to get to meet some of you and thanks for all your support and best wishes, and finally a special thank you to all the Santa Pod Crews too, you guys and girls are great. Oh and well done to Darryl and Colin I thought they did very well on the commentary front and Jim and Larry appreciated the mention.
Thanks for reading and catch you soon!
Living flame shot courtesy and © Guy Wilmot and team shot © Andy Willsheer
Sunday 22nd March 2009: All Fired Up and Raring to Go.
At last, the spring has sprung and it is time to get back in my other office! The team have done a great job on rebuilding the car and we fired it up over the weekend. It started first go on alcohol but we had a small leak from the methanol fitting that connects the little methanol tank, so we shut it off and sorted that and then fired it up again, checked the clutch and ran it in forward and reverse and then the part we had waited so long for: once the engine was warm enough, we switched it over to nitro, the engine note changed and the monster was back, cackling and banging just like it should. We then performed a tug, no not that kind of tug, it is where we turn it on the high side, hold it hard on the brake and dump the clutch, this really excites the nitro as it is under load and on full fuel which makes the engine sound really angry, it performed just great so we shut it down and evacuated the premises as by now the thick yellow smog had completely filled our workshop, all of us had tears streaming down our faces and the silly grins were back. Well done to all the Go Gold Crew and thanks, it was awesome. We would like to welcome a new team member for this season Ian Moore; he fitted right in and whilst he has been an avid drag race fan for years he decided it was time to leave the bank and really get involved and work with a team, it's a shame I won't get to see his face when he sees, hears and feels our monster's first run from the start line.
Our good friends and US consultants Jim Rizzoli and Larry Miersch are also excited about our first full season with the A Fueler and will be assisting us throughout the year. Despite the rain last year, they still had a great time this side of the pond and are both keen to try and make it to a couple of our FIA events, providing they can fit it around their busy schedules and race dates. We all wish them luck for their season.
The Easter Thunderball has always been a bit of a special event for me as it was five years ago when I made my first run on a drag strip when we were running in Super Pro, and we managed to get number one qualifier and made it all the way to the final. Last Easter was disappointing, however this year we are in control of our own destiny and we just cannot wait to get some more runs under our belts and hopefully build on our very successful debut we had at the end of last year.
Talking about anniversaries I can't quite believe I have now been blogging for a year, and I would like to thank Tog, Simon and the gang at Eurodragster for giving us such a great drag racing site here in Europe and thanks for all your help and support and for providing me this opportunity (you're welcome - blog editor). I would also like to thank all of you who read it and all the messages of support you have sent us, keep em coming!
Another anniversary this month is that Fiona and I have been married for 25 years, I often joke with Fiona that you get less for murder, but I can honestly say “Fiona darling, you are truly the light of my life and here's to another 25 years and thanks for all your help with the team and for sharing this passion we have for racing, I could not have done it without you and all your support".
Monday 16th February 2009: Rain, Rain even more Rain and then a Wally.
Having just returned from a holiday in the USA, where we celebrated Fiona's birthday at Pomona - it is so neat that my wife shares the same interest in drag racing as I do and when I asked her “what do you want to do for your birthday" and she said “I fancy some sun and warmer weather, let's go to Pomona"! “Oh OK, if I have to darling", the sacrifices one has to make!
We joined up with Larry and his crew, all of whom made us feel so welcome again, as well as our tuner and US consultant Jim Rizzoli. Our Clutch Man John Foster also travelled to Pomona with us and was soon up to his elbows in clutch dust and loving it. Well, it was a bit of disaster weather-wise and of course we got the blame for bringing the English weather with us. We still had a great time despite the weather, and it was good to catch up with Andy and Sarah Carter, Roger Gorringe, Andy Willsheer as well as Gittli and the Bavarian Thunder Team. It was also neat when Jim introduced me to Mr Lucas Oil himself, Forrest; Jim explained who I was and how we are sponsored by Lucas Oil UK and our exploits when Jim was over helping us last year. Jim knows Forrest well, as he used to be crew chief for his son Morgan when he ran the Lucas Oils A Fueler. We celebrated Fiona's birthday at the track and Jim and son Kyle cooked us an excellent BBQ with one of the biggest cuts of beef we have seen between showers and we partook in the odd aperitif or two with the rest of the team.
Sunday came and we still had not had a full session of Alcohol qualifying in, as it rained during the first session shortly after the TMFC field had run and only a few pairs of dragsters had run. Luckily for us we were one of the first pairs out and managed to get a run in, but it was a cylinder-dropping run with the car suffering some real bad vibrations too. I felt for Leif Andreasson and his team who were pitted just a couple of bays up from us, as on his run he hit a reflector and crossed the centre line on what was going to be his only run and he would not make the show. Leif, I wish you better luck for your remaining US races!
Larry got his new car into the show, qualifying sixteenth even though the car was still only running on seven cylinders from the hit which turned out to be a valve and seat problem that required a head change, but at least he was in and the vibration was gone after a tyre change. We then had to sit around and wait for the rain to stop which turned out to be Tuesday when we finally we got the call to go to the lanes. Jim and Larry were happier that with the cylinder-dropping hopefully sorted, we should be good for at least a 5.4 that would be required as a minimum to try and get past Cowie, and Larry would have to be on his game with regard to the tree. Unfortunately the power was back after fixing the valve issue and back with a vengeance, it smoked the tyres on the hit and whilst Larry got a 0.04 light and managed to pedal it early, Cowie was gone, so Larry gave it up. Jim and Larry were both disappointed to be out, but they both reflected that at least the car was making power even on the reduced 94% nitro and both reckon it is going to be a really tough season if the percentage remains the same, especially as the blown cars were running in the 5.20s.
A highlight of the weekend (apart from Fiona's birthday) was that Larry won a Wally for the best engineered car at the event which, when you consider the competition (a certain Sheik that has spent millions) was no mean achievement at all and bears testament to the workmanship of Spitzer Race Cars and the way Larry and his team puts his cars together. Apparently this was his second best engineered Wally as he had won it previously with our car. No wonder I fell in love with it as soon as I saw it.
With the racing finally over we travelled up to Jim's home in San Louis Obispo and met up with his wife Kay and family. We had a couple of great days there and celebrated Fiona's birthday once again. Thanks for all your hospitality guys, it was very much appreciated. Jim and Kay suggested we drive up to San Francisco via the Highway 1 coast road, which was absolutely stunning, ocean views and winding mountain roads that the Dodge Charger we had hired seemed to love as much as us. I can highly recommend that route as one of the best I have ever driven. Kay had kindly packed us a picnic and we stopped by a beach, watched the waves crash in and the sea lions bask in the sunshine (which at last had arrived) and had a thoroughly lovely day. We then had a couple of terrific days in 'Frisco, which I have to say is one of my favourite cities in the world and it was good showing it to Fiona for the first time. We took in all the usual places like Fisherman's Wharf, more sea lions and great views of the bridge and Alcatraz, drove across the bridges as well as most of the roads driven by Steve McQueen in that classic car chase scene in Bullitt including Lombard Street; well it has to be done if you are a driver! Then alas all too soon it was time for us to head home, although it was great to be back and see the progress that has been made with our race car trailer and race car; more about that soon!
Monday 2nd February 2009: Looking back on season 2008 for the Gold RV sponsored Junior.
As some of you may know, Gold RV have been proud to sponsor a number of Junior drivers, Arlo Reddick, Daniel Giles, Peter Walters as well as Jessica and now Lisa Selles. In the words of Mum Henriette Selles, here is their take on last years season:
For rookie Driver Lisa, the season started with high speeds: once Lisa tried out the new Junior, she had the taste for it and immediately shattered the old best of the Junior Dragster with 7.85 seconds. Needless to say, Derek Flynn of Gold RV the main sponsors of our Junior Dragster team was delighted.
It was time to get a little more experience for both the girls; Team Chief Jessica Selles and Driver Lisa Selles. On the invitation of Top Methanol Funny Car ace Danny Bellio, we were able to make a few demo runs in Chambley. Lisa could adjust to the role of Driver and Jessica had to play a whole other part as well: Crew Chief. It turned out to be a race instead of demos; and lo and behold: the number one qualifier spot was a tiny girl in her second race. The reaction times and speeds were very consistent and from the hands of Jean Dulamon, Lisa received the Number 1 award. The girls had adjusted just fine.
After putting the pedal to the metal, we started the official season. Due to Lisa's young age, we had to restrict the Junior, which proved to be a very big challenge. we ended up with a very low-tech solution: a block of wood under the gas pedal. Now Lisa could run no quicker than 8.9 on the 1/8 mile, as required.
We started off at the Main Event at Santa Pod; Lisa qualified nicely in a very experienced field, but the rest of the race was dominated by rain, so no results there. We had some data though: the Junior wasn't happy with the restriction.
The Drachten Nationals was a strange weekend weather-wise: while in the rest of Holland, basements flooded, the skies above Drachten stayed blue and sunny although it was cold and windy. With a RT of 0.033 Lisa was 1st qualifier and kept that spot all weekend. With this weather, the ETs were very inconsistent, and Lisa managed to take home the 1st prize.
Drachten Internationals next; the weather perfect for racing, and Lisa took the opportunity to end the first day of racing with a near-perfect reaction time: number 1 qualifier with a 0.001. Again, it was a bit of a battle to keep the ETs low. The Team was third when the rain came down and spoiled the fun.
So with a great Team and a bit of an untameable Dragster, we entered Sweden's Veidec Festival. To Lisa's joy, the block under the pedal could be removed for this event as different rules applied. The 1st run was the best of the weekend: 133 kmh in 7.87 seconds. A tad too fast, so the reaction time didn't count. 30/1000 of a second too fast is still too fast. The clutch called it a day as well, so our Crew Chief Jessica ran around the Junior Teams for a spare clutch and ended up with no less than 3 new ones! We missed a race in the blistering hot weekend; but had a working Junior Dragster. We still didn't qualify so with a conservative run we made it in to the field.
Drivers and Crew are a breed apart: they hate the rain, but dislike the sun as well; a Driver strapped in a tiny cage with a black suit on, drinking frozen bottles of water that turn in five minutes to a warm beverage; and there they are: waiting for ever in the line-up for a run that takes just sevem seconds. And in Lisa's case, getting acquainted with deep stage. Lesson learned: do not react the same way you normally do, certainly with a new, perfectly running clutch, or you will be seeing a red light. Out came the bikinis. The Junior was still a little monster that ran too fast; we had a Driver that loved the Dragster and still managed to get good reaction times out of it, and a Team that had loads of question marks for our next race.
Under good weather conditions we entered the Drachten Finals. The Junior was fed up with the restriction and gave us really fast times. Lisa had to get her foot off the gas at 100 metres and still went too fast. Qualifying was a battle for Lisa, yet she managed 2nd qualifier. On elimination day she went out at the 1st run. With Rosie from England out as well, the pair were kindly given the opportunity to run a few demos.
Even though we have encountered some problems, we have to say that Lisa and Jessica did a great job. In her rookie year, Lisa took home a lot of trophies, which we added to the ones Jessica has collected; and in her rookie year Lisa is eXplosion Club Champion 2008.
We are all looking forward to this year's racing. The restriction is out the door and the Junior can do what it's supposed to, along with Lisa. Being number one qualifier was fairly normal this season. Hopefully Lisa can pull that off next season as well. The Easter Thunderball 2009 will be a special one for Gold RV Racing and our Junior team, so be sure to check us out.
We would like to thank our club of 100; a tight group of people that supported us from the beginning and our Sponsors: especially Derek Flynn and everyone at Gold RV, Briggs & Stratton and Classic American. Without all of you, this wouldn't be possible.
I would just like to add my congratulations to all the Selles family for a job well done in 2008 and all of us at Gold RV would like to wish them all the best for the 2009 season, go Lisa go!
Monday 19th January: Three Great Weekends of Racing: Part 3, Pomona
Jim and I left Vegas and headed straight for Pomona. We arrived in the early hours of the morning on Tuesday and I was blown away by the number of trucks and teams already in the queue to get in. After a few hours sleep we were up and out to move Larry's truck and trailer in to the pits for him as it was left at the front of the cue last week.
Jim was going to be pretty busy this weekend as he was helping Larry with his new car, assisting the Nivers with their A/Fueller as well as running son Kyle who would be pulling double duties with the Stock Eliminator and Comp Eliminator cars. We set up Kyle's cars, the stocker was ready to go but we had to move the dash back to fit Kyle again, and the rear end gearing was also changed to suit Pomona.
Next day, once Larry arrived, we could get big brother out of the trailer and get it ready for its debut and fire it up for the first time. Larry's car, which is a brand new 300 inch Spitzer chassis, is absolutely stunning. The attention to detail of both Spitzer Race Cars and then Larry, who had virtually put it together single handed from the bare chassis supplied, really showed. There were a few subtle differences to our chassis and setup but overall it looked just like ours. The combination had not yet been weighed since it was built, so after dressing it all up, we towed it down to the weigh bridge, there was much interest in the new car and as Larry checked the weights, wing angles etc. the scrutineers checked it out and seemed pretty impressed with it and said it was probably a contender for best engineered car at the event. The car with Larry was under weight for the combination and we would have to add quite a bit, although there was no fuel in any of the fuel lines or tank which normally would equate to at least a couple of gallons or 18lbs even after the run. We got back to the pit and the rest of Larry's team had now got there, and it was finally time to fire up. Obviously the car had developed quite a bit of interest and once people heard Larry getting oil pressure it seemed like everyone and his dog was watching including most of Del Worsham's team who had all seen it or had helped a little in putting it together at Del's workshop, no pressure then! The car fired up for the very first time on methanol, and was quickly shut down for some adjustments and then fired up again and the timing adjusted, it was now running nice. The grins on everyone's faces was a picture. Unfortunately time had cracked on and by the time we had fuelled it with nitro and primed the systems we were about to fire it up again and put it on to nitro but the curfew was upon us and the pit marshals were busy shutting teams down and advising no more fire ups till tomorrow. We would all have to wait to see if ran OK on nitro, which must have been so frustrating for Larry, for those that don't know the Methanol uses it own separate gravity fed fuel system, which obviously meant that none of the nitro fuel system, pump etc. had been tested.
I checked out of Jims RV and left for my hotel and then it was off to Ontario Airport to collect my team mates John and Sarah Foster who were flying in to the US after having to go back to work for a week after the Vegas Nationals as they did not have enough holiday leave to stay the duration. Talk about keen, just about get over jet lag and it was time to go back again, goes to show what drag racing means to these two and I am so lucky to have them on the team.
We got to Pomona bright and early Thursday with TAD qualifying due to start at 12:00. Larry did not have much time to set the car up, suffice to say Larry had done a great job in putting it all together and it fired up just fine on nitro, so the team then went about setting the car up for its first pass. I had to add the additional weight required to the car and John got stuck in helping out where he could and he was loving it, "A dream come true, working on a car at Pomona, it does not get better than this" he said later. Well it did get better, as both John and I managed to get signed on as crew and we would be allowed on the start line, which we were both very excited about.
The 30 minute call came and Larry's pit was frantic, especially as he was to be in the first pairing. I kept out the way and let his team do what they do, and then followed them to the pairing lanes. It was neat to be amongst so many A Fuellers, BADs and TMFCs . After Larry was all strapped in and ready to go, I shook his hand and wished him all the best and made my way to the start line. The car was pushed into position and given the go ahead to fire up. It burst into life and was soon switched to nitro, I love the cackle these cars make once on nitro, especially when you let the clutch out and the motor gets a little bit of load as it moves forward. Jim gave the go ahead for the burnout and the car jumped up and smoked the tires instantly, Larry backed it up and with all the pre stage checks done, he was called into stage. Now personally, I would have liked to have done a check out pass before nailing my new car, but not Larry, such was his confidence in Mike Spitzer and the chassis he builds. He just floored it! The car seemed just a little lazy from the line but soon picked up and was nice and straight, but holes out by half track, still a nice 6.1 at nearly 200 mph straight out the box.
I stuck around to watch the rest of the qualifying and see how the Nivers got on. Unfortunately the tire smoking was still plaguing them, as well as ex-pat Manners. This was my first chance to see Bill Reichert run who had already won the Championship again and has run the fastest and quickest runs ever in TAD. I showed more than a little interest in this car as he is Dave Wilson's Guru as Dave has purchased a Reichert tune up and Bill seems to be helping Dave like Jim and Larry help me. He ran a 5.34, dropping cylinders at the top end but at a massive 273 mph, WOW! It was great to see the Force A Fuellers doing better after both DNQ'd at Vegas with Courtney grabbing number one qualifier with a 5.28/263 and Brittany number six after the first session.
Once I got back to the pits, the service was nearly complete and all seemed OK, but Jim and Larry spotted that the BDK valve which controls the fuel had stuck, and that is why the holes went out. That seemed to be the only problem. With only two qualifiers left and no real data to go on with regard to the fuel tune up on the run it meant Larry and Jim would have to be conservative again for tomorrows next qualifier just to make sure they did not melt the heads etc. which is easily done I am told, if you get too greedy too soon, (note to self; baby steps on the tune ups).
Well if I go on like this it will take forever to tell you about the rest of the weekend so I will summarise a bit if you don't mind as it was an action packed weekend that I will never forget, especially as we were on the start line.
Larry's next run improved to a 5.60/246 but still holes out at three quarter track but improving as was the 60foot time but obviously still plenty left in the there.
Next run and Last Chance Saloon for Larry and whilst he improved again to a very respectable 5.50/253 this was outside the 5.47 needed to make the show, oh for another run and I am sure Larry and Jim would have got it in, whilst they were both disappointed not to make the show Larry was quite philosophical saying "It was a bittersweet feeling as the car had run well out of the box and they did not break anything, but disappointed not to make it in".
The Nivers made it in to the number 15 spot, but ex-pat Manners' woes continued and like Larry failed to make the show.
Reichert clinched the number one spot with a 5.25 and again a massive 273 mph and Dave Wilson was now in tow and obviously part of his team in the pits and on the line wearing a Reichert Team shirt, oh I hope he does not learn that tune up too quickly. We met up with Dave on numerous occasions over the weekend and the banter was flying back and forth between us although I must say it was nice to have the bragging rights over the winter, of beating him last time out.
Rather than going through the rest of the runs and what happened when follow this link for the NHRA results and the full story www.nhra.com.
Ah good, you came back then, did you see the numbers Reichert ran in the semis? WOW, 5.16/and an absolute barnstorming 282 MPH, if Dave learns that one we are really in trouble.
Congratulations to the Nivers for making it to the quarter finals and their highest finish in the National Championships.
Another high for us was watching Urs make the show and going rounds in Top Fuel, it was great, we even had the Americans around us in the stands cheering for him, as we were going crazy when he made the show and won two rounds, and gave him a standing ovation on each of his tow backs.
We seemed to be bumping into UK and European friends the whole weekend and it was great to catch up with photographer Andy Willsheer who was part of the official media covering the event, thank you so much for the photos. Also Nigel Turner and Rick Cooke seemed to cross our paths on several occasions as well as all the Habermann family.
Another of our highlights was the final evening at the Worshams' pit, as they were having the End of an Era Party as the Father and Son team that have raced together for years and years was finally going to end, and due to our association with Larry we were invited, it was like a whos who of drag racing with numerous drivers, crew chiefs and team members in attendance. Unlike me, John and Sarah seemed to recognize them all, saying things like you just trod on Alan Johnson foot, oh that's Tommy Johnson Junior you just bumped into. I did recognize Urs though, and congratulated him on his great weekend. Unfortunately I was designated driver and after two small bottles of beers I had to stop drinking, but Sarah and John joined in the various drinking games that were going on, with tequila shots that Larry's sponsor Pura Casta had kindly supplied and they seemed to be really enjoying beer skittles against two of the Worsham's team and I am not sure if they won or lost but they definitely seemed worse for wear after that. I was enjoying the band and DJ that were excellent, and watching everyone having a really great time, wow these guys really know how to throw a party. Apparently they always throw and end of season party and normally have a working mini blown nitro motor that runs a Marguerite mixer, but due to health and safety issues they decided not to bring it for this one, eventually we said all our good byes and it was time to head for the hotel and then home.
Thanks to all of Larry's team: Alex, Victor, Matt, Cameron, Lefty, Lauren his dad Roy and especially mum Dianne and the rest of his family who kept us fed and watered most of the weekend. Thanks again to Jim and Kay who also fed and watered us and looked after me for most of my trip and it was great to catch up with the Niver team again, and thank you to the Worshams for a great party and best of luck to you all.
For me this was a trip of a life time and I feel privileged to be a part of this great sport and the world wide drag racing family, although it has really whetted my appetite to race in the US one day!
Launch and Derek with dragster shots courtesy and ©Andy Willsheer
Wednesday 31st December 2008: Three Great Weekends of Racing: Part 2, Vegas Divisional.
With the Vegas Nationals finished, Jim and I had a few days to kill before he had to get the Comp car and the Stocker ready for the Divisional, so we decided a trip to the casinos was in order. We packed up his RV and made our way to Circus Circus Casino as they have an RV park. We had a great evening including one of the best steaks I have ever had. During the night we heard from Larry and things were not going quite to plan with his car build, so we checked out early the next day and hired a car and it was off to Del Worsham's workshop in LA where Larry was putting his car together. Del and Larry go way back when they both used to race the BMX tour. I hired a cheap shoe box, but it would not start so they gave me a Dodge Charger - nice! I really enjoyed the drive across the desert and we got to LA around lunch time, then worked all afternoon, most of the evening as well as most of the next day helping Larry put his car together. All the big stuff was done but there was plumbing and wiring still to do as well as a few brackets. The main fuel pipe had to be finished as well as the air systems. We helped for as long as Jim dared, as we had to head back across the desert to Vegas to meet Jim's wife Kay who was due to fly in around 4pm. Well all I can say is Kay is a true star and had already planned for the fact that Jim and I would no doubt be late, and we were - by about three hours! Kay said she would meet up with us at New York, New York Casino once we finally got there. We had another great night out and a meal and it was neat to meet up with Kay again, then it was back to the track.
Thursday morning, and things were already building up for the Divisional and for me it was neat to see the the Alcohol Pits building up. I think there were some 19 dragsters and 24 funny cars going for eight car fields - amazing! Late Thursday night, we heard from Larry and the car was still not quite ready and he still had to collect his truck and trailer that was at his Dad's place a few hours drive away from where the car was. Anyway the long and short of it all was eventually late Friday night the car was finally ready and was all loaded up in the trailer and he would try and make it to Vegas very early Saturday morning for Saturdays qualifiers. Unfortunately all his work was to be in vain as, on the way to Vegas just outside LA, the truck broke down with a busted alternator. I felt so sorry for Larry and his team. He had busted a gut to try and make it but, after all his efforts the truck lets him down! He ended up fixing the truck the next day and taking it to Pomona very disappointed.
With Larry out, it did at least reduce Jim's work load a bit and he could now concentrate on running the Comp car that was to be driven by its owner rather than son Kyle for this meeting. They were hoping for a Comp record that I am pleased to say they achieved it as well as running his son in Stock Eliminator. Jim also assists with the tuning and running of Mark Niver's A fuel dragster and obviously I showed a keen interest in the A Fueller and I must say a huge thank you to all the Niver Team for an absolutely brilliant weekend. They made me feel like part of the team and were more than happy to share information and race stories and even let me work a little on the car, something my team don't, or if I do it is under a barrage of comments like ‘watch out driver working on the car, check what he has touched' etc.etc.! In Mark's team it is the exact opposite as he is crew chief, top end mechanic as well as the driver. A machinist by trade, Mark is a true technician and I would say a bit of a perfectionist and it really showed in the way the car was prepared, serviced between rounds. The amount of equipment and tools that were on or around the car that he had made were pretty cool too, like the rear end housing that he made from a solid block of aluminium. The team's name is Billet Bullet and it is a real tight family affair of dedicated racers who want to have fun and win races. Again, many thanks to Mark, Tanis, Bobby, Ronny, Cory, Samantha and Alexis; I had a great time with you guys.
Another A Fuel racer I got to know over the weekend was Mike Manners who was sporting a Union Jack on the car and also had Union Jack braces, so I had to introduce myself. I found out that he was originally from Manchester but had moved out to the US many years back. It was quite interesting talking with him, as like me he had only just purchased the A Fueller and loved it and had previously run in Top Dragster where he was the fastest in his class before stepping up. Previous to this event he had won both Divisionals he had entered with his newly acquired A Fueller, which was a pretty impressive debut.
I must say the qualifying for TAD was just amazing, Manners had put in a very strong 5.26 and was number one and the last qualifying session on Saturday night was the best I have ever seen. As the night went on, both the Force A Fuellers had not qualified and my now good friends the Nivers were yet to get in. So it was last chance saloon, the Niver Team were all on tenterhooks, especially Marks wife Tanis who said after helping to strap Mark in she had butterflies doing summersaults in her tummy. Jim was doing his normal pacing up and down the track checking conditions between each pair, then finally it was Mark's turn to run. The bump was currently a high 5.4; his run was a nice and straight but dropping a few holes at the stripe, then the time came up 5.36 and the team went mad and he was currently number five and surely that was enough to get in. The team went to collect Mark whilst Kay and I watched the rest of the qualifying from the stands as there were still about four pairs to run. Well the bump just got lower and lower and ended up at a record setting 5.37 so Mark was just in at number seven and we had just witnessed the quickest TAD field ever, awesome, and it was led by the Brit Mike Manners!
As you can imagine, after making the field, the Nivers' pit was really buzzing during the evening service and after a few beers to celebrate and the usual bench racing and story swapping went on, mixed with some very serious talk of what tune up to put in the car for the next days eliminations. It was really neat poring over the computer data with Jim and Mark, and I was listening intently to what they had to say as they analyzed and explained to me the runs to date, including some of their event wins earlier that season.
Finals Day, and the Nivers were against their good friend Duane Shields. Jim was pacing again and Tanis and the team were all taking deep breaths and talking about butterflies. I think the coolest guy there was Mark, any more laid back and he would have been horizontal. Well Mark cut a good light and managed to win on a hole shot, 5.40 to Duane's losing 5.38. The team were all excited and for me to actually be on the start line at the hallowed Vegas strip was awesome too, I was really excited and nervous for this run too and when Mark did the burnout all the hairs on my arms and the back of my neck stood up. Unfortunately, the rain really came down before the Semis and the meeting was called for the day, yep that's right here I was in the middle of a desert and the rains had followed me from England - well, that's what they all said as they teased me in to the night. Unlike in Europe, even though it was the final day, if the meeting gets held up by rain they just carry on the next day, like you do, after all, work can wait and finishing the meeting is far more important, especially as this was at the end of the season, Championships were at stake and most crews were not going back to work anyway as they were heading straight off to Pomona like we were.
The pits had thinned somewhat as you can imagine when you have over 200 cars in some of the classes and you get to what would have been the final half day. Unfortunately whilst the Comp car had set a record and was through, it's owner had to go back to work. Jim's son Kyle was still in as were a couple of his mates that also seemed to get fed and watered by Jim and Kaye; their RV was like a feeding station most nights with numerous people coming and going grabbing a bite to eat and a few slurps of Jim's Canadian Mist and all with a story or two to tell, it made for some very entertaining evenings I can tell you.
Mark's semi final opponent was one of the few racers that were not able to stay, so it was a bye run and then the Final. It was decided that Mark would just take the green and push back as Marks rear slicks were chunking a bit and they would save them for the final, also the fact that there were very few fans in meant no one would be too disappointed and it would speed things up a little. Next up was Cowie verses Manners in the other semi, Cowie in the blown car with a 5.46 beating an up-in-smoke Manners.
Obviously, Mark's car was basically ready for the final and they waited nervously for the call. Now hind sight is a wonderful thing, but the fact they had not run on the bye in semis was just about to bite them as unfortunately they lost the final to Cowie who ran another consistent 5.46 as Mark's car, like Manners beforehand, went up in smoke at the hit, which they could have found out earlier when it did not matter. Oh well, I guess that is racing and just goes to show how difficult these type of cars can be to tune. Still, it would not be long before they would have the opportunity to put things right, as we now just had to pack everything up and head for the season's finale at Pomona, where Larry would be making his delayed debut with big brother, no pressure there then, brand new car at the most prestigious meeting of the year!
To be continued...
I hope you all had a great Christmas and I would like to wish you all a very happy New Year. Here at Gold RV Racing we are so excited about next year and can not what to see what we can achieve with our nitro burning monster!
Wednesday 17th December 2008: New sponsor for Gold RV Racing?
Just thought I would tell you some things that I'd like
I would just like to wish everyone a very happy Christmas and a nitro New Year!
Special thanks to Pete Walters of PWRD for the Santa rendering.
Three Great Weekends of Racing: Part 1, Vegas Nationals.
I have recently returned from the US and then suffered a bad dose of man flu, you know the type, if your wife gets it, it's just a cold and she seems to be able to carry on but when a man gets it, he is dying and the world is about to end, so apologies for not blogging sooner.
Having attended the Vegas Nationals and then the Vegas Divisionals followed by the Finals at Pomona, I had a great time and saw some great racing and learned oh-so-much and also managed to meet up and make friends with some great people.
It was really neat to meet up with Jim, Kyle and Karen Rizzoli again but I was a little disappointed not to see Kay there, but I guess like Fiona someone had to stay behind and run the show while the boys were away, although Kay did join us for the following week's racing. I would really like to thank all the Rizzoli family for their hospitality over all three events; by the end of it I am sure they thought they had adopted me. Thanks again guys, you were great and I cannot wait to do it again, hopefully in Europe, where we can return the hospitality. Jim, like me, believes we have some unfinished business due to the weather stopping us in the Semis at the Euro Finals!
There were no Top Alcohol cars at the Vegas Nationals, but there were some awesome Pro Mods, also Jim's son Kyle was racing in Comp Eliminator, so for this meeting, we were there purely as spectators. I met up with my good mates Bob and Cathie Glassup as well as Steve and Kim Wright who managed to get me into one of the hospitality boxes that they had organized. It was really neat, high up in the stands with excellent views of the whole facility and our air conditioned glass fronted box gave us some respite from the heat, although I must say we spent most of the event out on the balcony to get all the sounds and smells we could after being starved of drag racing for a while.
The trip started by meeting up with my team mates John and Sarah Foster who were already out there and no sooner had I got to my room at some unearthly hour of the night (my time) they said we had to visit Freemont Street, even though I was not really sure what day it was due to jet lag. I was blown away by this experience, not only were the majority of the pro drivers in attendance to sign autographs and do interviews, but Freemont Street is a high street that is covered with a roof, but like no other roof I have seen before as it was a giant video screen the whole length of the street and every half hour or so they put on a show and the drag racing show was just awesome, with dragsters and funny cars flying every-which way up and down the roof and a sound system that nearly made you think you were at a track. So if you are lucky enough to attend the Vegas Nationals yourselves this is a must see for your agenda.
Saturday night also happened to be Halloween. I must say the Vegas Strip (not the track but the city) was absolutely heaving and I have never seen so many scantily clad women, ghouls, goblins, nurses, Draculas, and did I mention the scantily clad women and the like walking the streets, bars and casinos. Both John and I ended up with stiff necks looking this way and that, with Sarah saying it was like going around with a couple of dogs on heat!
The weekend of racing was absolutely awesome too but unfortunately Urs did not quite make the show, due to the fact his quickest run of the weekend was done in the evening session and was therefore dropped which was a bit disappointing and confusing for me till someone explained that the last four spots are re- contested in the next day time sessions, but he had put in a good show and whilst 17th he had out-qualified the rest of the field which included the likes of Vandergriff and Herbert, so I was proud of him. Schumacher was unstoppable again although Hot Rod did give him a good run for his money.
In Funny Car, the amount of close races were unbelievable with Cruz finally taking the honours in another tight battle against Hight in the Final 4.1 to a losing 4.11.
The Pro Mods also put on a great show and I was really hoping to see my first five second run of a Pro Mod but with a corrected altitude of around 4000 feet, it would be tough and in the end the best run of the weekend was fittingly in the final 6.001, oh so close. The bump spot for qualifying was an amazing 6.16. Something I had not seen or heard before were the turbo Pro Mods, they made a hell of a din, popping, banging and back firing when in full stage, whilst they seemed a little lazy to the 1/8th they really seemed to have some mile an hour at the stripe and apparently they are going to be allowed in Europe next year.
The event seemed to be over all too quick and unfortunately John and Sarah had to go home for a weeks worth of work before they could return for Pomona, but for Jim and me, we were there for the duration and no sooner had that meeting finished we started preparing things for the next weeks divisionals.
To be continued…
Monday 27th October 2008: Gold RV Racing gets a Big Brother.
Larry Miersch of Miersch Racing wasted no time in replacing the car he sold to us. Originally Larry was going to go Top Fuel, but after talking things over with his team and Mike Spitzer of Spitzer Race Cars, he has decided to stay with A Fuel and is now the proud owner of a 2009 Spitzer, 300 inch wheelbase chassis, and we have been invited to the Christening at Vegas.
Gold RV Racing Team members, John and Sarah Foster and myself, are off to Vegas and then Pomona to watch and learn some more about running and tuning an A Fueller. Larry's setup will be very similar to ours, and we are really looking forward to meeting up with Larry and Jim again.
Larry and his team are up against it a bit, having only just got the chassis and will have had only a couple of weeks to totally build the car up from a bare chassis and body. Knowing Larry as I do, I am sure he and his team will be doing everything possible to make sure it happens, as they did for us.
So this Thursday, we are off to Vegas to watch the AC Delco Las Vegas NHRA Nationals at the weekend and then on Monday hopefully, or on Wednesday if things don't quite go to plan, watch Larry test Big Brother. The following weekend it is the Vegas Divisionals, where he will christen his new ride in a competitive event, but with twenty plus TMDs going for an eight car field it is going to be very tough. Then it is straight off to the season's finale at Pomona (Larry's home track) where there are nearly thirty cars going for a sixteen car field. So if you are going to Vegas or Pomona, as I know a few of you are, please come to say hi and join us in wishing Larry and his team all the best. Despite our weather, Larry & Lauren and Jim & Kay had a great time in England and made quite a few friends, and I know they would appreciate you coming to say hi.
Oh, how I wish we could race in the US!, three events in seventeen days with some testing in between and the weather promises to be 20 – 30 degrees C., and hopefully not a drop off the wet stuff in sight, oh I hope I haven't just jinxed it; I went to the desert race in Phoenix last year and the first day was rained out!
We hope Larry's debut with Big Brother is as successful as ours has been; thanks to his and Jim's efforts, and when I come back I look forward to telling you all about it.
Sunday 5th October 2008: The National Finals: On our own and without our crew chief!
Wow, what a weekend that was, with my crew chief away and the Americans gone home, it was really neat to put on a good show. Not only did we achieve number one qualifier again, but I also think we achieved the quickest run ever in an A/Fuel Dragster in Europe to date. Special thanks have to go to my stand-in crew chief Vladimir as well as our Dutch contingent, Jaap and Jan Selles who helped us out brilliantly for this event. As usual, a huge well done to the rest of the Go Gold Crew who took on board everything we were taught and were absolutely brilliant. Thank you to John Foster, who has been our clutch-man-in-waiting, as we ran a torque converter until this year. He has been like the proverbial pig in you-know-what since he has had a clutch to play with; absolutely black as the ace of spades with clutch dust apart from the huge white grin on his face after each and every run. Thanks also to his wife Sarah who was assistant crew chief. Well done to Mole, our bottom end guy who was rather busy, and new team member James who fitted right in and was blown away by his first ever drag race meeting. Thanks also to the light of my life Fiona who looked after everyone, and thanks to Bob Glassup who was a star again.
The weekend was not without its trials and tribulations though; we missed the first qualifier due to a timing sensor failure on number one mag, but with a replacement kindly loaned to us by John Spuffard we were soon ready for the next round.
I must say I was a little nervous for this event as my business partner, co-sponsor and usual crew Chief Gary Jenkins was not with us after booking a holiday to join one of the biggest Harley rallies in Europe when we had lost our ride earlier in the year. Gary is the man that usually leads the team as well as strapping me in, so it was down to my good friend Jaap to strap me in, and, as soon as the car was fired up, the nerves disappeared. The Turners had put down a rather stout 5.47 in the first qualifying session that we missed but we had tuned up our car a little from our last run at the Euro Finals and were hoping for a bit better.
The car sounded great once we switched it over to nitro, a bit angrier than before due to the extra fuel we were now giving it. The burnout was all good and as we were on a solo run we could stage at our own pace. Once I hit the throttle the car launched real nice and all was going well until about 2.5 seconds into the run when I felt it shake quite badly. The back stepped out a little and I had to correct it but kept my foot in until the line and although we had dropped cylinders again at the top end I got the screams on the radio, 5.47, but it was not till we got back to the pits did we know that our 5.47 with a 2 beat the Turners 5.47. The Turners are a great team and good friends too and they were soon in our pit congratulating us on the run and the team's best run ever, this is something I really like about this class, whilst we are competitors a good run is always appreciated by the other teams.
The dropped cylinders had caused some bearing damage on the opposite side due to the fact the engine was imbalanced and they were working harder. It was quite a team thrash to get us out for the next round of qualifying, but we just missed the call, which was a bit disappointing as we wanted to show off those bunny ears again as dusk had fallen.
We fully serviced the car that evening, stripping the engine right down and rebuilt it just to make sure it was all ok and as it turns out it was just as well, as we had some minor damage to a main bearing that we had missed in the earlier thrash.
In the morning we warmed up and whilst doing our usual pre race checks we found a missing screw from the injector. We could replace the screw easy enough, but where the hell had it gone in the engine? So, we missed that qualifying session too and played hunt the screw, but after further investigation we believed the screw was already missing and had not been there for a while.
So straight in to eliminations and we were to run against Steph Milam in the Funny Car. I knew a 5.60 would be enough, so tuned it accordingly and went for the round win rather than backing up the MSA record breaking run we had done yesterday and would try and back that up in the final providing we made it through. Which I am pleased to say we did, although on that run, we dropped cylinders early which is not like our car and after the run we found out why. Two adjusters were damaged due to a lash cap coming off as well as a push rod jumping out. We had been lucky.
We had to strip down the engine again and also inspect the cam just in case it was damaged as well as replace the damaged parts. With perfect timing, Andy Robinson visited our pits and he was soon stuck in re-tapping the rocker arm threads for us, thanks Andy. We were struggling to make the call and I would just like to say a huge thank you to the Turners. Not only did they lend us the replacement parts but they also agreed to run later than our allocated spot providing the race director agreed which I am pleased to say he did. Again, what sportsmanship from the Turners, rather than take the victory with a bye run that they were quite within their rights to do. They waited patiently for us be ready as they wanted to race us on the track and ensure the Top Methanol cars put on a good show for the crowd.
The race director scheduled us for last pairing that would end the meet. As I said earlier, we still needed to back up our record run especially as the Turners had already bettered theirs with a 5.46 and currently held the record in their eliminations. With Sarah showing me the Kestrel 4250 that displayed how the temperature had fallen nearly ten degrees from when I set the tune up earlier and the fact I was now all strapped in, we had no option but to run with the fairly aggressive tune up in it, so we were either going to break the record, blow the tyres off or shake real bad. I could see Steve changing the main jet on his car at least twice and knew he was detuning it to match the conditions. So if our car stuck we would have it providing I did my job on the tree!
I was away first but then hit some bad shake and had to pedal, that's what happens when you are tuning and driving and you get too greedy, which gave the advantage back to Rob, but it hooked up again after the pedal and I was catching him at the top end but just run out of real-estate as they say and he pipped me by just .030 seconds, but it was a good side by side battle to end the meeting on and congratulations and many thanks to all the Turner Motorsport team, you deserved the victory for the sportsmanship alone.
We were a little disappointed not to win our first final round, but we all learned so much more about the car and how it works and to come away with the runner up trophy and to go quicker and faster than when the Americans were here (although I must say thanks to both Larry and Jim for the telephone support) I reckon it was a good weekend's work by the Go Gold Crew. Next year we cannot afford to miss the rounds we did here and I am confident that once we get a better handle on it all and with the right tune up and the conditions allow, then a 5.3 something is possibly on the cards. We just can't wait; no sooner had we got going this year then it was over.
Sunday 14th September 2008: Just Awesome part 3 apart from the weather that is..
As we all know, despite the heroic efforts of the Santa Pod track crews, Thursday, Friday and Saturday of the FIA Euro Finals were lost to the wet stuff and, as with most of the racers, cabin fever was setting in and so was the frustration. Here we were, new car, US consultants flown in, some great shakedown passes but unable to do what we love doing, race. We had our new sponsors Ceratech and their guests booked in for some VIP hospitality for the Saturday but, unfortunately, they did not see any track action what so ever. Even so, they said they had a good time in the pits and, in between showers, managed to go around the various cars and crews, who were only too pleased to show them around. You got to love that about drag racing, none of the cloak and dagger stuff of some motor sports.
With only Sunday to go, it was now going to be a one shot qualifier followed by hectic turnarounds to try to get the event run, and, with even more wet stuff in the morning, the field was limited to just the FIA classes. Sunday morning, and the pits were buzzing again with the sounds of cars firing up and crews busy, preparing, testing, checking and re-checking their machines and equipment. An analogy that I use is that the race car is like a queen bee and all the worker bees fuss around her and protect her, and make sure she has everything she needs and nothing else in the world seems to matter.
As a driver, race days are special. Whilst any track time is great, there is just something about race days that really help to focus the mind and get your juices going, so to speak, also the fact we knew we now had a competitive car, all the crew were really up for it too. So from now on, every run really mattered, due to the fact we had not raced this year and were therefore the lowest in the points standings, we knew we would be the first pair out and would be qualifying alongside our good friend Dennis Habermann, now sporting the Whipple blower that we had just sold him. After a couple of delays due to more of the wet stuff, finally we got the call; Top Methanol Dragster to the pairing lanes, Jim and Larry advised me that we still had a conservative A to B tune up in it and they just wanted me to get down the track and get a time on the board so, whatever I do, do not leave before the tree activates and we should be in the show.
Strapped in and ready to fire up, and the excitement was really building as this would be our first run in this car with another car in the other lane. The Go Gold crew were great, they just went through the same routines that we had been taught on our previous runs. I fired up, burnt out, backed up and finally after three days of frustration, into stage, wait for the green just to be really safe and hit it. Dennis away first, and I started to chase him down. It was just an awesome launch and half pass, but I was drifting left and out of the groove and I was getting a little too close to the wall for my liking but I knew we were really on one as the car was pulling harder than ever before, so I was desperate not to lift and just tried to gently coax her away from the wall and drove it through the back door, chutes, brakes, fuel off and shut off the mags, wow that felt good! When the crew told me the time on the radio, I could not believe it 5.49 at over 250mph and I knew that was going to be a tough time to beat, especially as the track was still green due to all the rain and so little racing. Again, hats off to all the track crew for giving us such a good track considering what they had to cope with. Congratulations to Dennis on his personal best and I am pleased our old Whipple works well, although maybe a little too well for my liking.
The crew arrived at the top end to collect me with huge big grins all over their faces, saying that the crowd had cheered them all the way down the return road, which was neat to hear as they really deserve it for all the effort they put in and with all the frustrations they had been through this year.
On the way back to the pits, after being weighed, we could hear the rest of the class doing their runs and could hear the commentators saying Derek Flynn still number one and as the last pair went down, we heard the best news we had had for years as it was confirmed we had kept the number one spot as the only car to run in the 5.4's. Well, I have never seen the team so happy as they enthusiastically got the car ready for the first round of eliminations. Going over the run data with Jim, I said “if that is your A to B tune up, I hate to think what it is going to be like when you set it to kill!"
The crew did an excellent job in servicing the car and, with no problems found, I went to find out who we would be racing. It turned out to be the reigning five times European Champion Dave (Grumpy) Wilson in his A Fueller, just like last year in Sweden although both of us had different cars and this time we were number 1 qualifier and he was 8 and it was going to be the battle of the British A Fuellers. I was quite pleased about this, as this meant we dodged all of the Championship contenders who could battle it out between themselves and we would not be a spoiler for any of their Championship hopes. As it turned out, the Championship was decided in the first round and congratulations to all the Bavarian Thunder Team for their hard fought Championship win.
After a few delays, we got the call Top Methanol Dragster to the pairing lanes. As number one qualifier we had lane choice and the choice of running first pair or last pair and we chose to go first to give ourselves a little more time to turn the car round providing we made it through. The call came to fire up, the engine whirred but did not fire, oh no, come on start, please start – let's not lose it like this I thought, again whirr and it fired, phew! The guys did their normal routine, we fire up on a separate methanol tank and once the engine is warm enough we turn on the nitro and remove the starter and then the little methanol tank from the rear wing, trim the fuel and engine RPMs and then I get the message to go. Burn out was fine, selected reverse but then had terrible trouble trying to trim the fuel pressure down, I decided to reverse back with the fuel pressure still high and tried to trim it as I reversed but the car was having none of it. Now, due to the fact I was fiddling with the fuel lever and not really concentrating on my track position, I was all over the place and had to do several hard steering adjustments to try and get back in the groove. As we were called into stage, the fuel pressure was still higher than it should be as were the RPMs, but I was given the ok to stage. Pre stage, deep breath, down with the visor and I was in full stage first, quickly followed by Dave, see the orange and hit it. I was worried I may have gone too soon, so it was a quick glance sideways at the tree on the launch to confirm there was no red, and then concentrate on keeping it in the groove; at about 3/4 track I felt some cylinders go out and the car nose over; “come on, come on" I was screaming as I thought Dave might just pip me at the line like last year but no, I was there first and this was the team's first ever round win in TMD. “You've won, you've won" came the screams on the radio. Now I had heard that Dave is really grumpy when he loses, but as he told me later, how would anyone know as he does not lose very often. He was out of his car and congratulating me on the win and the team when they arrived and vowed he would get us next time. For me, Dave has always been a bit of a legend and last year I felt chuffed just to race him, but to beat him was just a dream come true!
Unfortunately, just as we were about to be fired up to run the semi finals, more of the dreaded wet stuff, and the news came back that it was raining very hard at the top end and the meeting was unfortunately called. Even so, this did not dampen our spirits and as we packed up all the tools and equipment we were all just so happy with our new car that did exactly what Larry said it would do, so a big thank you to him and also to Jim; we could not have done it without you guys.
Thanks to all the Go Gold Crew, as well as Bob and Matty Glassup and to everyone who stopped by to congratulate us on our awesome debut.
Special thanks to our sponsors Gold RV, Lucas Oils and Ceratech.
Thank you for stopping by and I hope you enjoyed reading about our awesome experience just as much as we enjoyed doing it!
And in the words of the Californian Governor “I'll be back"!
By the way, if there are any interested sponsors out there, please get in touch as we would love to give it a real good go at the Championship next year but we are in need of some additional funding to assist us with our Championship aspirations, in return we can guarantee you some excellent publicity, brand promotion and hospitality.
Picture courtesy and ©Richard Stirling
Sunday 14th September 2008: Just Awesome, Part 2: And The Tail Had To Go.
After two shakedown passes on the Saturday and the five fairly easily achieved we were looking forward to the RWYB on Sunday, but alas rain stopped play. The Americans left for London to do a spot of sightseeing and would be back in time for the Pro Test and Tune on the Wednesday before the Finals.
We reassembled on Wednesday morning and the car was prepared for at least a couple of runs. The Go Gold Crew were very keen to get my tail today as they had seemed to have forgotten the new rules re the pony tail and wanted to chop it off when we had run a 5.8. However I stuck to my guns and said no, it had been changed to a 4.99 or better when we were going Top Fuel and Knut had publicised that my pony tail was going to hell. If I had continued down that route the tail would have been safe after the results achieved this year with that car, but after buying the A Fueller I reset the cut-off point to a respectable 5.5.
Having already run on a rather green track, Jim was keen to have a few more cars go down before we ran again or at least he wanted to wait for a little more heat in the track. After the lunch break, despite the fact nothing had gone all the way, we towed down for our first pass of the day. Jim advised he had tuned it up a little more from the 5.8 pass the other day and explained that if it drops holes (cylinders) again I was ok to keep my foot in. I was now getting a little more used to the routine as were the team but again the tingles went through my body as I was waiting to be fired up. It is hard to describe the feelings that you go through just before a run. Personally I go through a little meditation routine to slow my heart rate and then I visualise and practise a perfect run in my mind and, from then on, it all seems to be in slow motion; the runs seem like they last minutes instead of just a few seconds, apart from the launch that is. I don't care what anyone says, going from a standing start to 100 mph in or around 1 second is just an awesome exhilarating experience that is virtually indescribable.
This run was absolute stormer and another team best, a 5.65 into a 20 mph head wind at an awesome 245 mph with a whopping 210 mph at half track. The 'chutes hit real hard and the engine died shortly after they deployed due to the fact the fuel was forced forward away from the fuel pump, and the car came to a halt in the shutdown area again. The track crew quickly came to the rescue and tugged me off, as a commentator once said, thanks guys. When the team arrived at the top end to collect me I was accused of all sorts, shutting off before the line, lifting, etc. etc. just to save my tail. Believe me, I didn't. We had just dropped cylinders again at the top end and in the words of my tuner, the car was still a turd off the line; oh, I am in trouble now if that was a turd, I thought.
It looked like the weather was going to change later in the day so we serviced the car and were ready to run within an hour and just waited for word from Jim when he wanted us to go down again. The team were now baying Jim for just a little more of a tune up and teasing me that the pony tail's days were numbered and, as it was tucked in to my suit for one last time, we towed to the line. Larry told me it was now time to work a little on the reaction time, as I was getting used to the start line routine and to try and keep the car in the groove, .09 reaction achieved and a fairly straight run, another whopping 210 mph at half track and a new team best 5.58 at 250 mph and the tail was history.
After watching the video and the team's reaction on the line when the time came up, it was really neat to see the buzz they were also getting from running this nitro guzzling monster. As a driver I feel a bit guilty that I am the one that gets all the fun, but no they were all having a blast too.
We had a mock tail cutting for Eurodragster before we serviced the car and due to the fact we were not racing the next day and I needed some anaesthetic (a beer or two) before I allowed them to cut it off for real. The engine was totally stripped down with no problems found, which just goes to prove that the Lucas products that were kindly provided to us by Lucas Oil (UK) were doing their job just great. The engine and clutch were then rebuilt and we were ready for our first qualifying session scheduled for Friday, apart from one last deed. As you can see from the pictures the honour of chopping the tail off was given to Larry Miersch and was duly hacked off with a pair of kitchen scissors, much to the delight of my crew. I would just like to say a huge thank you again to all the Go Gold Crew and especially to Larry and Jim for all the support they gave us as a team; they too seemed to be having a great time getting us quicker and faster.
We were all filled with excitement and anticipation to see what we could achieve in qualifying and after some of the usual evening bench racing there were threats of a head shave if we could beat the 5.42 European record, I flippantly said they could do what ever they like if we got a European record, however, both Jim and Larry were fairly confident that if the track came to us with a bit more rubber down and the weather was right then Jim could indeed apply some more of the power that apparently we still had in reserve, in which case a 5.42 would not be out of the question with four runs of qualifying; me and my big mouth!
To be continued.
Thursday 11th September 2008: Just Awesome! Part 1.
Well, where do I start? Unfortunately, I do not have mobile web access on my computer, so apologies for not blogging sooner; we spent a total of ten days at the Pod and it was just so neat to be racing again!
Our new car is just awesome and our US friends and consultants Larry Miersch and Jim Rizzoli were an absolute pleasure to work with. We were just so disappointed the weather was not on our side, and they did not get to experience the very best that Santa Pod has to offer. Even so, they were very impressed and appreciated the massive effort that the track crews and everyone associated with the facility put in.
We picked up Larry, Jim, Kay and Lauren from the airport a couple of days before the VW Action weekend, and despite the fact the plane was delayed by over three hours, and in Jim and Kay's case, they had been travelling for nearly twenty hours, it was straight to the hotel to drop off the bags and they wanted to come straight to our workshop to fire up the car. Within an hour or so we had done all the pre checks and roar! - the car fired into life and after a couple of tugs (their terminology for warming it on methanol then across to nitro and on with the brake and let out the clutch on the high side) the workshop was soon full of noise vibration and a thick yellow smog. Well, the crew's (and my) faces said it all - those big cheesy grins had returned and we soon forgot all about our previous disappointments this year.
Next day we loaded everything up in the truck and trailer after performing one last tug just to go over the start up routine, and to be honest just because we could. Having never used our newly acquired truck, trailer and awning before this took more time to load up than usual, also the fact we had not raced since last September meant all our parts and tools were all over the place after removing them from our old trailer. At this point I would like to say a huge thanks to my mate Bob Glassup and his very understanding wife Cathie; Bob spent the best part of a couple of weeks with us, helping to get everything together, installing cupboards, collecting fridges, driving my RV, putting up the awning etc. etc. etc. He was a real star - thanks mate.
Anyway, later than expected we finally leave for the Pod, I could hardly contain my excitement and anticipation, it seemed like an eternity since I bought the car, and a lifetime since I last raced. Due to the late hour and the gates would now be closed we spent the night at the M1 services and off to the Pod in the morning.
We finally got set up and ready to run just before the lunch break and we towed to the line, the track crew gave the track a final sweep and a bit more glue for us which was very much appreciated and finally it was time to fire up, the tingles going through my body were incredible as well as a touch of the butterflies, but as soon as it fired and we went on to the nitro, the race face was back. Jim called me through for my first burnout in this nitro monster and I had been given instructions for a good burnout as we had new tyres on (oh well if I have to), well it leapt up on the tyres and the noise was awesome, I had a little trouble trimming the fuel and staging the car and ended up going straight into stage without doing the right routine, the tree ran and I just ignored it and tried to recover the situation and left once I was ready (5.3 seconds after the tree ran), pump the brake up on the high side (full fuel pump pressure, about 30 gallons per minute, going to the engine), out with the clutch and then nail it, holy crap it just went like a bat out of hell and it was oh-so-hard to lift at the eighth as I was supposed to, but I did and it was an unbelievable 6.0; now the grin was hurting.
After getting back to the pits, the crew serviced the car and it had seemed we were out of time to get another run in that day as the VW action session had started, but Bob went to see the powers that be and we got the OK for another run. It was now dusk and I had been given the OK for a full pass, but to be aware, should anything not feel right then lift. After messing up the first staging, I was determined to do better, which I am pleased to say I did and then floored it again, well this time Jim had hopped it up a little, and it really flew up to about 900 feet when I felt it nose over hard so I lifted as instructed, pulled the 'chutes which hit the hardest I had ever felt and over the radio came the message I had been waiting two years to hear - our first five, in fact 5.8 and it was not even a full pass. Well, when the team arrived there was much whooping and hollering I can tell you. Back to the pits, service the car, at first I thought I had hurt the engine but Jim explained that we probably just dropped a cylinder and the Racepack confirmed it, and the service showed nothing untoward. Then straight into the RV to watch the run, well I could not believe it, bunny ears both sides of the car nearly as high as the rear wing, the reaction of the crew when the time came up on the board, listening to them cheering and carrying on brought the goose bumps up again, the whole experience was just awesome.
I will give you a break now and continue the story in my next blog.
Huge thanks to the Go Gold Crew - you are brilliant and no matter what cars or situations I put you guys in, you always seem to cope admirably, a very special thanks to my business partner and crew chief Gary Jenkins, my wife Fiona, my best mate Bob Glassup and of course Jim, Larry, Kay and Lauren.
Thank you to our newly acquired sponsors Lucas oil and Ceratech & their Accuratus brand, your support allows us to do what we do.
And thank you for stopping by and to everyone who came up to say hi, and thanks for all the messages of support that we have received.
Picture copyright and courtesy of Ian Blackett
Wednesday 20th August 2008: Better late than never.
Finally Gold RV Racing is back and we hope back in some style, whilst our precious cargo had a detour via Rotterdam it was finally delivered and it all arrived safe and sound, unfortunately too late to go to Hockenheim.
We are now busy getting our truck and trailer and everything else ready, the car has its new SFI stickers and is nearly ready for our debut at Santa Pod later this month for some testing before we go into some real competitive action at the European Finals.
We are so pleased with our new car and hope that we can finally be competitive in TMD, but A/Fuel cars are pretty tricky to tune but with the aid of our American friends Larry Miersch and Jim Rizzoli who are coming over to help and have previously driven and tuned the car respectively in the US, we are hoping we might be able to hit the track running so to speak. We are not taking anything for granted though and we know we have oh so much to learn, Jim and Larry are really looking forward to coming over this side of the Pond and are fairly confident that providing I can drive it and the team can turn it round that we should be able to put on a good show.
This year has been so frustrating for us and we just cannot wait to get back to the track and start racing again, and surely we will finally get that five second run, that we were robbed of due to the blower belts coming off at the end of last year! Bit of an overkill though buying an A/Fueller to get rid of that problem I guess but we are so looking forward to seeing what fives this baby will do, if we can get it going as good as it looks we shall be very happy.
We very pleased to welcome Lucas Oil as associate sponsors of the Gold RV A/Fueller and we look forward to working with them, we already sell and use their products in our workshops and know the benefits of using the high quality oils they supply and the superior lubrication that they offer. By a strange quirk of fate Jim Rizzoli our US tuning consultant used to be Crew Chief and tuner for Morgan Lucas with his Lucas backed A/Fueller from 2004 - 2006.
Thanks for stopping by and sorry for the lack of blogs recently but there is only so much you can say while you are waiting for your new car to turn up, if you are coming to the European Finals please drop by and say hi and join us in sniffing the nitro!
Sunday 20th July 2008: Supporting Drachten.
What do you do when you're waiting for your new car, well go to Drachten of course and support your junior; I think we had the biggest team there! One funny moment was when the junior failed to start at the line and within seconds there were TF, Pro Mod as well as Top Methanol Mechanics all over it and with that many crew we managed to scare it back in to life. Lisa did really well despite the added pressure of most of her sponsors present and managed to get number one qualifier with a 0.001 reaction, unfortunately due to the fact we had to slow the car down with a lump of wood under the loud pedal it was a little inconsistent on the runs and she lost in the first round, personally I blame Dad for getting the dial in wrong he blamed me for choosing the wrong lane, however it did not seem to bother Lisa too much and she was back doing her other job of assisting the timing crew. I would like to thank the Selles family for all their hospitality and wish them good luck in Sweden, with over fifty juniors competing for a 32 car field it is going to be tough but I am sure Lisa will make the cut if she continues with the near perfect lights.
It was really neat to be back at Drachten and congratulations to everyone at the club for all their hard work at the event and for making sure Drag Racing is back in Holland. It was also good to see a few Brits competing and supporting the event, congratulations to Mark and all the Flavell Welding Team for being number one qualifier especially as they did it on the last qualifier after a late night thrash, and for reaching the final in Super Pro. It was just a shame the rains came before all the finals could be run. From what I saw, everyone seemed to have a great time and the new track looked real good and hopefully next year we might get invited to run the first A Fuel Dragster in Holland.
Our new car should be here in August and we just can not wait to compete again, it has been far too long since I have been able to mash a loud pedal, in fact it was last October.
Thanks for stopping by and hopefully in my next blog we will have the new car at our workshops, I am looking forward to making some noise and telling you all about it.
Tuesday 1st July 2008: New car, new colours.
Well the car should have been loaded on the ship and sailed yesterday. This is the bit I really hate, the long wait until our precious cargo arrives and hopefully all in one piece! Thanks to John Price of Flint Insurance for insuring the car and parts during its long journey. As usual, John managed to get us a very reasonable quote to insure against accidental damage and theft as well as total loss, should the ship sink or God forbid the container is lost at sea, this happens more than you may think, apparently they just fall off and then float just below the surface and are a real hazard for yachties.
I would like to thank Larry Miersch, his Crew Chief Jim Rizzoli and Miersch senior for all the hard work they put in to ensure the car and spares are virtually race ready, after rebuilding the engine, heads etc. Larry even sent the mags, Racepak computer and crank away to be tested before rebuilding it. They fired it up to make sure everything was all OK and as you can see in the picture Jim looks pretty pleased with the fire-up. They loaded the car and parts in his trailer and delivered it and unloaded it all at Montana Exports, who have arranged all the packing and shipping for us.
Pete Walters of PWRD has come up with a new scheme for us. We really did not want to cover up all that beautiful carbon fibre and as you can see we have reverted back to our more traditional flames.
Just to whet your and our appetites for our new car, this is one of the last runs that Larry made with it: www.youtube.com/watch?v=U1XTV4-bjrU.
Tuesday 17th June 2008: A Fuel it is then.
Apologies for not blogging sooner but as you may have read on Eurodragster I have been a little busy, after reaching an out of court settlement with regard to our Top Fuel ride, it was a trip to Finland to look at Mats Björklund's car, then to Houston and checkout Howard Main's Car, and then California to check out Larry Miersch's A Fuel Dragster, I must say I was smitten right away with the A Fueller. The whole car is a work of art and looks to have the best of everything, the chassis is beautifully built and the one piece carbon fibre body is awesome, it was just so light I could not believe it; the one piece body on the Top Fueller weighed at least three times as much.
It was really neat to meet with some good honest racers and I would like to thank them all for their hospitality, all three cars had their merits, but at the end of the day we decided on the nitro route, I reckon if we can get a handle on it, this car will perform just great and we own it, which we feel much more comfortable with, but again we have oh so much to learn!
We are trying to get the car here in time for Hockenheim but shipping from the East Coast at the moment is very busy and it may be that we will have to wait until the European Finals. Larry is busy preparing the car for us at the moment after stripping it all down so I could see everything and has already had the crank crack tested and has ordered a new set of rods to go in it. He has had all the restraints re tagged and he is doing everything he can to ensure we have a good shot at running well over here and has even agreed to come over with his Crew Chief and tuner Jim Rizzoli to assist us. We have never had this kind of support before and it should prove invaluable. They are both really great guys and are looking forward to coming over and helping us and I would like to thank them in advance for their support.
We are all really excited about our new acquisition and the Go Gold Crew are up for the challenge, but these type of cars are very difficult to set up and tune and can be dangerous if you get the servicing and starting routines wrong, so we know we have our work cut out to try and learn everything.
No sooner had I got back than it was off to the Pod and resume my duties as Crew Chief for Matt Glassup and his first time in our old rail, Matt was excellent and got his Super Pro licence at the weekend, qualified and even went a couple of rounds knocking out my mates Mark Flavell and Steve Johnson after both red lit. It was looking like it might be Matt's day as, if we could get around Crunch in the next round, we would have a bye to the final but alas it was not to be. On our run against Steve we broke a rod when Matt lifted after the run and that was us out. Matt, Bob and the Xtreme team were all happy with our achievements and Matt smashed his previous PB of nine seconds down to a very respectable 7.3. Well done Matt and thanks also to John and Sarah of the Go Gold Crew for coming down to help out too!
Saturday 31st May 2008: Driver turns crew chief.
It was not quite what I had planned for the Main Event, but it was great to be back amongst friends in the Super Pro Pits. I was helping my mate Bob Glassup to get to grips with our old TMD, now with the Chevy from his altered installed; it was great fun too.
Our biggest challenge proved to be getting Bob to wait for the sportsman tree to run, due to the fact he normally runs on a pro tree. I have pulled some cherries in my time, but never left before the tree activated! How things have changed; it only seems like yesterday that the roles were reversed and Bob was telling me what to do and when to do it on my debut runs in Easter 2004.
Bob had never driven a rail before and I think he thought they just went straight, which in comparison to what he normally has to do to wrestle his altered down the track I guess they do. But on his first run he drew a perfect S on the track which made me chuckle as I knew he now realised that you still have to drive these things. Anyway he handled it all very well and straight off the trailer, and after short shifting both gears he managed 192mph a new PB for speed for him; well done mate. Unfortunately our best run of the weekend was the one without the ticket but the data showed the car was doing around 217mph when he lifted. One amusing moment was when we decided that, due to earlier gear selection problems, this may be our last chance to qualify. We insisted that Bob did a really short burnout and try to stop before the staging beams, so we did not have to use reverse. Bob did it perfectly stopping inches before the blue line. On this occasion he waited for the green before launching but obviously the tyres were not to temperature and the launch was more like a second burnout, until it hooked up and flew. Whilst we were miles off our time we had qualified, phew.
Then the rains, ho hum, weekend over, but I enjoyed the experience of being crew chief and Bob seemed to enjoy driving the rail. Matt has asked if I could be crew chief again for him at the Summernationals, as he will be driving our old car this time, sure why not. There is definitely some unfinished business here as I reckon with a bit of fine tuning there is a mid six in the current combination at over 200mph.
Thanks to the Go Gold crew who attended and helped me and the xtreme team and I'm sorry we were not sniffing nitro, but it was good to all catch up again and at least make some noise.
I would also like to say a big well done and commiserations to Peter Walters who got his Super Pro licence and at sixteen. I think he is one of the youngest Brits to do so, but unfortunately broke his crank.
We have started our comeback and have already purchased a truck and trailer ready for the new car and we are currently working on a few options at the moment and hopefully in my next blog I can tell you what and where next for Gold RV Racing; we are aiming to try and get out again in time to make our debut at Hockenheim, having never raced there before.
Wednesday 14th May 2008: Down, out, but not finished.
It is with a very heavy heart that I finally have to admit defeat with regard to racing at the Main Event and probably the 2008 FIA Top Fuel Championship.
I would like to thank everyone who has telephoned me and the team as well as all the people who sent us E-Mails, offering messages of support and commiserations. Thanks also to my team who had worked so hard and have been on and off standby since being let down. I had been working very hard to try and secure another ride for this season and to get my Top Fuel licence but to no avail, it was just too last-minute.
Thanks also to Rune Fjeld for agreeing to licence me at this weekend's Peak Performance Day, at very short notice, but due to the fact I have been unable to secure a ride for the Main Event, I have passed up on Rune's offer at this time. This is mainly due to the fact that in the unlikely event that something went awry so close to the Main Event I would not want to be responsible for ruining another driver's opportunities.
We have gone legal with the situation we find ourselves in and I am afraid I can not comment any further about that, until the legal eagles have done their job.
Having sold our race car, trailer and equipment as well as all the spares we had built up to assist funding our Top Fuel aspirations, we are now in the situation of having to start all over again.
We have decided to take some time out for now. I won't say retire, mainly thanks to Tog who talked me out of that when I was feeling particularly down, but maybe once the lawyers have done their thing, we shall return.
Gold RV and myself will continue our support of the sport, as we have links with several teams now as well as a great deal of respect for Eurodragster.com and everything they do for the sport and their sponsors, and more importantly we have so many friends in the sport too. But at the moment I cannot see Gold RV Racing being out again with another car for a while. Having said that, the people who know us all know that the team and I do not give up easy, nor am I a very good spectator. So who knows, something might just turn up with those Gold RV logos on it and with Yours Truly back in the hot seat. I do hope so, as this would be an awful way for us to finish!
Good luck and safe racing to everyone competing at the Main Event, in particular Bob Glassup who is driving our old car with the recently-installed blown Chevy from his seven-second altered. This is his first outing in a rail and will probably be some of the straightest runs he has ever done. Good luck also to Peter Walters and to Lisa Selles who will be flying the flag for Gold RV, and good luck to everyone competing for the Gold RV/Eurodragster.com Perfect ET Award.
Tuesday 29th April 2008: Done before we started.
Well I thought the first entry of my Blog was the hardest one I had to write, but this one is now proving to be. As you have probably already read on Eurodragster.com News, Knut and the Gold RV team have parted company. The team and I are absolutely gutted and despite taking a couple of days out, I am still very angry at the way we have been treated, so much so I need to reflect a little longer on what has happened and decide what we are going to do about it and where we go from here. I will tell the whole story over a couple of Blogs if you don't mind, but I needed to start with some apologies and some Thank Yous:
I would like to apologise to Brian Burrows for not running at the Big Bang, also to Darren Prentice and the fire and safety crews that were brought in especially to allow us to run, sorry guys but the situation we were confronted with was just untenable.
I am also sorry we disappointed the fans that were looking forward to seeing us run and thank you for all the support we have received.
Thanks to the Go Gold Crew for all the hard work you put in to get the car virtually ready, I would estimate as a team we put well over three hundred man hours in getting the car ready to run and able to pass tech, something we had not planned on as it was supposed to be a turnkey car capable of competing at this high level and should have met FIA and SFI regulations. Anyway thanks guys and girls and sorry you did all that for nothing.
Thanks also to Andy Robinson who at the eleventh hour managed to squeeze the work that was required into his already busy schedule and for burning the midnight oil at our workshop on a couple of occasions to ensure the car was brought up to spec after the Tech guys visit.
As you can see thanks to the boys at J&W and Peter Walters, the car was looking good and we were really looking forward to flying the flag for Britain.
I will tell the full story after I have calmed down a little and not smarting quite so much over the £20,000 plus we had invested into
this season so far as well as selling a perfectly good race car to help fund this year's proposed adventures.
Wednesday 23rd April 2008: Big Bang preparation.
We are getting very excited now, and hopefully in my next Blog I will be telling you about what it felt like to unleash over 6,000 horses, as well explain what the team had to do to get me down the track and between runs.
We still have a few things to do before we can load up and head up to Santa Pod, Andy Robinson is busy modifying the shroud and few other bits and pieces. The Go Gold Crew were at our workshop all day on Saturday but we were still waiting for some parts to arrive from the US that Knut had ordered and they duly arrived yesterday from Gary Burgin's, what helpful guys they are and they seem to know everything about drag racing, they have helped us in the past with Chevy Parts as well as parts for our Hemi in the TMD and now with Fuel parts.
Alan Jackson (our Tuner), has been busy too, getting our Racepack computer running as well as building a new fuel slide valve that Knut has had manufactured. Once we get to the Pod Alan then has to programme all the ignition timing curves, fuel and clutch timers, then hopefully some time on Saturday we will be able to do the first launch and after that the required half pass. All going well and I get signed off on the launch and half pass, we are planning to change motors Saturday night and with the new bullet installed we shall be going for an all out assault on the two full passes, which have to be 5.4 seconds or quicker and one run in excess of 260 mph. Whilst these numbers are well within the cars capabilities, obviously track and weather conditions will also have to be with us (as well as yours truly getting everything right) and when you consider in Vegas last week after three rounds of qualifying some of the guys were struggling to get 5.40 and this was their fourth round of the Championship plus all the testing they have done, so it is not going to be easy.
If you are coming to the Big Bang this weekend then please come and say hi and keep your fingers crossed for us, that we can get the licence runs out the way, at least then we will know we can attend the Main Event and the next goal will be to try and make the show, last year at Mantorp qualifying in TF was just awesome and you basically had to run a 4 to make it in. Hopefully if it all goes well this weekend, we can collate some useful data to help us for qualifying next month. If you can not make it to the Big Bang in person keep an eye out on the excellent Eurodragster coverage and keep those positive vibes coming we really appreciate all the support we have been getting.
Sunday 13th April 2008: Top Fuel Racer In Waiting.
I am starting to really dislike that title, but again I am blogging you before driving our Top Fuel Dragster and watching the other guys at the Easter Snowball get three rounds in on the Monday albeit over the eighth was just so frustrating for me and the team, as we wanted to be out there too.
My Team Manager Gary Jenkins managed to get his licence at Easter though, not for driving a car but driving the monster of a tailgate that we now have, and just to prove his proficiency he managed to lower it to within a centimetre of an egg without breaking it, things you do when you are bored! Pictures courtesy of Richard Stirling of Top nitro, just in case you have visited his excellent web site and wondered what that was all about.
Now we have had the car at our workshop for a while, we may not have been able to run at Easter anyway as we have found a few things that needed to be rectified, so perhaps the bad weather was a blessing in disguise for us.
With the car only arriving just before Snowball, this was my first chance to check out the modified seating position Knut had done and with all my race gear on, one time I did not mind getting suited and booted as at least it kept me warm during the sub zero conditions and gave us the opportunity to check out the new seven point harness that we now have to use.
Andy Robinson of Andy Robinson Race Cars as well as Mark and Tim of the Tech Crew are booked to come to our place this week to ensure the car is all up to date and is well and truly race ready. We have used Andy many times before on our own race cars and can not speak highly enough of the help and support he has given us in the past, we are very fortunate to have Andy almost on our doorstep and as an excellent chassis builder and racer himself he has a vast amount of experience to help any racer in any class and I was really pleased when Knut said he had spoken to Andy and he was to do what ever needed doing. Also all the Gold RV crew will be at Gold RV next weekend to button everything up and get all the equipment and tools ready for the following week's assault, thanks guys.
There have been quite a few rule changes from when our car was built in 2006 and whilst most of the equipment we have is pretty much state of the art and the same as they use in the US - things like seat belts, HANS devices and shrouds - the rules have changed back and forth so much so that even the FIA have struggled to keep up with them. We normally run a year behind the US with regards to rule changes but if it is a safety issue then we tend to adopt the changes as soon as possible.
We have now sent our dragster body etc. away to get Gold RV'd. I am really pleased with the results and I would really like to thank Peter Walters of Peter Walters Race Design for coming up with the designs and Richard and Lee of J&W Automotive for applying the paint in the very tight time frame we had. In fact they could paint it quicker than my graphic guys could sticker it and at a price that was comparable too, thanks guys. So if you want a quick spray job rather than a sticky job look no further than the J&W boys, as you can see we have modified the scheme slightly as I liked the red so much, especially as it matches our team mate Bob Glassup's Altered, that I decided to dispense with the fade.
The Big Bang is fast approaching and we just cannot wait to unleash the monster and see what it can do. If you are at a bit of a loose end on the weekend of the 26th-27th April why not come along, the Big Bang and Bug Jam are quite different to your normal drag race meeting especially if you like VWs and the racing and evening entertainment is like no other meeting you would have seen before. So why not come along and please come and say Hi as your support is very much appreciated.
Thursday 27th March 2008: Close, but no cigar.
Unfortunately, I am writing this Blog still with no experience of driving a Top Fueller. As most of you probably already know the weather gods were against us at the renamed Easter Snowball. I remember my first time at Santa Pod with our first car, where it ended up with me in the cockpit with a lapful of hailstones and eventually the test day being called off and no racing. Snow drifts outside our RV definitely topped that one, drag racing can be a frustrating sport at times, especially here in England with our climate but I have learned not to get too down about the weather as that is one thing as a team we cannot do anything about.
Knut Söderquist (car owner) and Alan Jackson (Tuner) decided on Sunday evening that although the car was now virtually ready (still missing a few parts but that could have been overcome) and whilst there was a possibility of a weather window on the Monday, the temperatures could still have been a bit of a problem for a rookie's first launch and we should regroup and try again another time. Whilst the team and I were obviously disappointed not to get out on the track, we did understand their concerns, as with no experience it could have been easy to smoke the tyres and, being the rookie that I am, I may not have reacted in time to save the motor.
All was not lost though, as once the 50 mph winds finally dropped we got our excellent Leanders Brothers awning up on Saturday night, just in time to catch all the snow. On Sunday morning we were finally able to get our monster out of the trailer and in sub-zero conditions the team were able to do some much-needed work on it. We rebuilt the engine, found a couple of pistons that needed replacing, the cam end float also needed adjusting, set up the clutch and cannon as well as built a spare short motor etc. Special thanks to Alan Jackson without whom this would have been impossible, what a knowledgeable and great guy to work with and we are so pleased he is helping our team.
Going through the trailer was an experience too. The amount of spares Knut has is phenomenal. Open one draw, two draws, full of a multitude of MSD parts, another full of piston rings, open a box and it is full of rods, another box full of pistons, another pile of boxes full of complete fully-built cylinder heads, spare injectors etc. etc. It was like an Aladdin's cave for the team and I, it also helped to reinforce Knut's commitment to us as a team that he really wants us to go as many rounds as we can and that parts or lack of them should not be an issue.
The team really achieved so much on the Sunday despite the weather and we did manage to fire up the beast in the evening, just on a bit of petrol/methanol mix poured in through the injectors but I finally got to sit in the office with the engine running and the wheels going round and I felt right at home, although as I say it was not running on nitro yet! Despite all the smoke and fumes I was not moving for a while, I just sat there taking it all in and visualising what I will have to do on a run.
It was great to be back at the Pod and to see so many of our friends again, although at times it was hard to leave the warmth of the RV. Also it was quite difficult to go visiting as we had so many visitors ourselves wishing us well, and we were a very popular place to visit what with our central heating and underfloor heating going flat out along with our kettle that never seemed to stop. Sorry, got to plug the benefits of having an RV and you have to plug your sponsors you know, also as a few of our friends/customers who came by also kept commenting to us they were so pleased they bought an RV from Gold and all with rather smug looks on there faces. I would like to thank my wife Fiona who was probably one of the busiest members of the crew this weekend, the army still needs feeding even when you are not racing, as well as supplying endless cups of tea and coffee to all and sundry, so much so we both forgot our twenty fourth wedding anniversary, so a belated Happy Anniversary darling. I got told off for the come on no gagging bit last time so I won't mention that again, oops.
Also, even though we did not get out on the track ourselves, a huge thanks and total respect to all the Santa Pod crew, Fire and Safety crews, scrutineers, tech guys, sign on office, and everyone else who worked so hard at, on, in or around the event to ensure the meeting was completed for the racers and crowd who bravely stuck it out and I do hope you have all thawed out. Thanks also to the Go Gold Crew for sticking it out too!
We have now arranged to try and get our licence runs at the Big Bang on the26th-27th April. I just hope the weather will be better, surely it could not be any...no, don't tempt fate Derek. I would really like to thank Brian Burrows and Darren Prentice for allowing us the opportunity to do this. This is not Gold RV Racing's first adventure at the Big Bang as we entered the ET Challenge a couple of years back with our six second Super Pro ET car and had a great time, so we are all really looking forward to it, again thanks Brian much appreciated. So why not come along and give us some support it will be very much appreciated and going on past experiences it is a really fun event.
Blog ya later and thanks again for stopping by.
Thursday 20th March 2008: White rabbits.
I'm late I'm late for a very important date, no time to say hello good bye I'm late I'm late I'm late. I feel just like that rabbit at the moment. Well, the car finally arrived and, for various reasons, about four weeks later than planned, and unfortunately as you may have read on Eurodragster.com News the truck broke down at the docks.
With all the delays, we have not had time to even get the car out of the trailer, so sorry no pictures this time either. This also means we will have to run in Knut's Tre Kronor colours and not the new Gold RV scheme for this event, which is disappointing, but hey at least it is here.
We had so much we planned to do to the dragster, truck and trailer before Easter but our first job was to find a replacement truck to take it to the meeting and I would like to say a special thanks to Animal for coming to the rescue with his truck and agreeing to pick it up and bring it back to us. Next we had to fit a new awning to the side of the trailer or we would have no where to work, which my guys did in the freezing cold, thanks guys. Then sort out the wheelie bar that was not quite finished, but are now mandatory for Fuel cars and we would not be able to run without it. But that is all we had time for before it had to leave for the track.
Once we get to the track we still have so much to do, Alan Jackson has to rebuild the clutch cannon and slide valve, the rest of the team have to tear down the engines and rebuild them as they have not turned a piston for nearly a year. Overhaul the fuel pump and fuel systems, a new set of HT leads to make, get the Racepak systems talking to the computer as well as a multitude of other things that I don't even know yet, good job we have got an army of crew with us.
It has been a really unusual off-season for us as a team this year, as this is the first time we have not owned our own car and usually we are busy all winter rebuilding and tinkering with it, organising spares, getting things checked and tagged for the up and coming season. Since we did the deal with Knut we have just had to wait for the car to be updated and tagged in Sweden and the first my team will get to work on it will be at the track, obviously we are not in competition this weekend and the aim is to familiarise ourselves with the car and for me to get some seat time and hopefully my licence runs. This requires that I do an observed launch, then a half pass with chute deployment and then hopefully two runs of 5.4 seconds or quicker, which is nearly a second quicker than I have ever been, also one run has to be in excess of 260 mph, let's hope the weather is kind and the car runs well.
I just can't wait to mash a loud pedal again it seems like an eternity since I did it last, but this time I am going to have over three times the horsepower than I have had before as well as a clutch pedal and a hand brake to get used to. Oh crap, I have so much to learn, so little time to do it, so many horses and I am so so looking forward to achieving my dream of driving a Top Fuel Dragster, I just hope it does not turn in to a nightmare.
Thanks for all the supportive E-Mails and telephone calls we received wishing me and the team all the best, it is really appreciated and rest assured we shall be giving it our all!
If you get a chance please come say hi to us in the pits, we shall all be flat out putting this monster together and your support will help to spur on the team.
Hopefully the next time I write I might be able to tell you what it felt like to unleash over 6000 hp and give you a bit of an insight of what the team had to do to get us there.
Thursday 6th March 2008: Blog of a rookie.
Well if you are reading this then I guess the blog has started! Thanks Tog and all at Eurodragster (I think). Welcome to you and thanks for stopping by! Let's call this the "Getting to know each other" phase of the blog and I will try not to go on quite so much next time.
Never having done a blog before I am not really too sure where to begin, a couple of people said I should start one especially as "This is your rookie year in Top Fuel". I was assured people would be interested, I guess we shall see... When blogging was first suggested I was worried people might think I was a bit up myself, after all who is this bloke? Some rookie that has been in the sport five minutes, but again they said the fact you have a blog won't be the problem, but what you write in it might be true!
I intended to start this blog on our own racing site, a little more private than here on Eurodragster.com, but I was both honoured and a little nervous when Tog advised me that Eurodragster would be interested in hosting it, also the fact that I have not driven a Top Fueller yet is also a bit of a worry as this could be the shortest running blog ever, as I might totally crap myself after the first run and vow never to do it again! Which will be a little embarrassing in such a public domain, we shall see. I can't wait to see what it is like having over 6000 hp under the control of my right foot and then trying to explain that feeling to you will also be interesting, at the moment I can only imagine!
So for those that don't know me, and why should you, my name is Derek Flynn, I am forty six years old, married to the light of my life Fiona for twenty four wonderful years, come on no gagging, we have no kids but have a real cute thirteen year old three-legged terrier that we spoil rotten and we all live in our RV and work at Gold RV in Alton, Hampshire.
My life changed when at the age of forty one I made my first visit to Santa Pod to watch some racing, well actually I got badgered by Darryl Bradford for eighteen months to sponsor him and the Wildside team, after that one visit that did it for me, thanks Darryl, Lesley and John. "Let's get a car and go racing" I said. So here I am, lucky enough to be the driver for the Gold RV Racing team as well as being the team owner. I drove my first dragster in 2004 and just loved it, oh how I wish I had started this earlier. The Top Fueller will be our fourth car in nearly as many years, I like to keep the team on their toes. We have steadily worked our way up the speed charts mainly in Super Pro, what a great bunch of folks and I am forever indebted to them. Then a year in TMD, again great people and special thanks to the Turners and Dave Wilson for all their help, and now Top Fuel, I can hardly believe it myself. I do hope the need for speed will be satisfied here, but if not I guess I will have to have a go in that Virgin Galactic thing (busy saving my air miles just in case), although apparently the launch Gs of the Space Shuttle are less than a Top Fueller, oh crap what have I done?
So in drag race terms I am a rookie especially when you think there are Junior Drag Racers that have been racing longer than I. The journey so far has been great fun, hard work, full of highs mixed with a few lows and I feel very privileged to be part of this excellent sport and a part of the global drag racing family, because that is what it is like a family. Rather than bore some of you too much (too late you say) who already know me or the team, if you are interested in a more in-depth history of Gold RV Racing, then please see some of our earlier reports on our racing site at www.goldrvracing.co.uk. A good place to start is my review of our first year's racing at www.goldrvracing.co.uk/news/news_121004.htm. Or use the excellent search facility now on Eurodragster.com.
This is hard work this blogging thing, you try it, but I think it is coming along now, don't you?
At this point I must say a huge thanks to all the Go Gold Crew, past and present, you guys and girls, yes girls too, we are an equal opportunity team, you have all been brilliant. Also very special thanks to my Gold RV business partner Gary Jenkins who has been my Crew Chief to date and is now the Team Manager and always straps me in, a man I literally trust with my life, and of course my wife Fiona who has always been very supportive and is the Team Secretary and also looks after the crew whilst at the track. Fiona is a little worried about this years exploits, she's worried, I have to try and drive the thing! Without the support of these people none of this would have been possible, so thanks to you all.
Anyway you will be pleased to hear this blog is not going to be all about me but the team, the car and our exploits, and sometimes if I say I, I really mean we. As we are a team, we compete as a team, win as a team and we lose as a team, apart from when I redlight, but even then the team are pretty good to me saying stuff like "If you don't redlight occasionally then you are not really trying". It doesn't help though, I still feel gutted, as I know I have let them down and they have all done so much work to get me to the line. We also have great fun as a team too, which is just as well as they all volunteer their time and I really appreciate that they also use most of their annual leave from their day jobs to help make us go faster.
I would just like share a couple of little stories that have made me so proud of my team and at one point even brought a bit of a tear to the eye, I know, big softie. One of my proudest moments was our first all-night thrash, that's right the whole night, we were competing in Super Pro ET when on the last run of the day the blower literally exploded about three quarter track and the car caught fire. Anyway rather telling the whole story, suffice to say the excellent Santa Pod crew ensured the fire was quickly out and I was safe, although a little wet. Once we got our rather sorry looking car back to the pits the team soon decided if I could get another blower, they would rebuild the engine as bits had gone through everything, overhaul the injector and gearbox, re-wire the melted wires, we would try and make it for eliminations in the morning. With literally minutes to spare after working all night we pushed our way through the fire up road and made it to the Super Pro pairings that were already running. I was just so proud of the team and the looks from some of our peers, who had seen the carnage the night before, were priceless and the comments of "Didn't think you would be out again", or "We would have put on the trailer" also made us feel good. Well I think this was the start of the Go Gold Crew never-give-up attitude that I know is required as a norm at this level.
The tear in the eye moment was the day after running my first 200 mph run, which I had been trying to achieve for quite a while and after four 199 mph runs in a row at a previous meeting, we finally nailed it. Now I wrongly thought that this was my goal as it meant so much to me, but as I say the day after, I was watching the video of the run that the crew do so we can see what the car does, anyway when the 205 mph came up on the board they forgot to switch off the camera and they went mental all hooping and hollering and a few other choice words that I can not repeat here. Obviously the team's reaction at the line is something I don't normally see or hear, but that was the moment I realised the goals that I thought I set for myself, meant as much or even more to the team too.
I also need to thank all those people who have and are helping us to achieve our goals, sorry there are just far too many to list here, it's a big family spread far and wide, but I am sure their names will pop up from time to time in this blog, providing I am not shut down.
So to the point in hand, the new car. Hoorah, at last you say! It is a virtually brand new Top Fuel chassis built by Mats Eriksson in Sweden and it will be the first European chassis that I have driven, having sourced all my previous cars from the States. I believe the car has only done a handful of runs in the more than capable hands of Harlan Thompson in Bahrain and it has got most of the latest bits available. I will go into specifics another time, yeah, once I have learned what they all are, I hear you say. Cruel but partly true and I am told it should be more than capable of competing at this top level, let's just hope the team and I are.
When Gary and I went to Sweden to see the car and do the deal with Knut Söderquist of Carbon By Design, Knut was explaining some of the major differences between our Top Methanol Dragster and the Top Fueller. From a driver's perspective, apart from the obvious that it will be faster and quicker, his exact words were "It would be a right animal and when the clutch locks up it may lift the front wheels again and it will just keep pulling all the way to the line". I am not sure if he was trying to scare or warn me, anyway the infamous Flynn Grin appeared as soon as he said "right animal", then got wider as he said "just keeps pulling all the way to the line". I guess he was satisfied that I thought I was up for the challenge.
From a team perspective, Knut also asked were we as a team ready for all the extra work? He said you don't just check the engine to see if you are going to pull it apart as we have been doing with the TMD, you just pull it apart after every run and between every meeting! OK, more team members required then, and preferably with Fuel experience!
I am very pleased that we have managed to secure the services of Ian Pellant, Laurie Bamford and Rob Inglis, all of whom have been involved with some top teams for a number of years and their experience will be invaluable. In fact after numerous telephone conversations and E-Mails as well as some recommendations, we decided to offer the Crew Chief's job to Ian, who is keen to progress his own Top Fuel career further by leading a team for the first time. We are also really looking forward to working with Alan Jackson who will be tuning the car for us, and of course with King Knut who is a fuel legend.
So here we are then a new car on the way, another rookie year for Yours Truly, a new Crew Chief and some new team members, I do hope it all comes together OK! We are all very excited about the challenges that we know we shall have to face and I hope to share these with you through this blog. So the talking will soon be over and the doing about to commence.
All going well, I will try and update the blog as much as I can or people say they want, my intention is to include some pictures and regular updates of how our adventure is going as well as try and get some input from some of the other team members of the Go Gold Crew, so they can give you an idea of what it is they do for the team and their take on life in Top Fuel.
We would be pleased to answer any questions you may have, if we can. We would appreciate some suggestions of what you would like me or the team to discuss in this blog. Or if you just wish to send us a message of support that will be very much appreciated too. You can write to us at firstname.lastname@example.org. I am really proud to be flying the flag for Britain in the FIA European Top Fuel Championship, but please be patient: we have so much to learn, but rest assured we shall as usual be giving it our all, at every meeting we attend!
The blog will not be so long next time ("Half a denarii for me bleedin' life story?" as the ex-leper said in the Life of Brian), but I had to get you up to date and tell you a bit about who we are, after all it is not as if we are Top Fuel Champions writing a blog and I promise it will be a bit more interesting with some pics of the car, engine etc.etc. Stats and reports of our exploits, he says trying to keep you interested and wanting you to come back.
Beat you to the book AC, might be the only time I beat Andy this year, but it won't be for the lack of trying. The banter has already started between us and he says he is looking forward to kicking my proverbial, although I must say he has also been very supportive. I wonder what he will feel like if he is beaten by a previous sponsor in the other lane, that he has helped, remember what I told you about those Gold RV logos, Andy.
The car should be arriving any day soon; I am just so excited, like a big kid, how many days till Santa comes Mum?
Thanks for stopping by and I look forward to blogging to you again soon!
By the way please come and say Hi to the team or I at any of the race meetings, your support is very much appreciated!
All the best,
Gold RV web site
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