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1973 Dutch sprint demo by UK racers
In September 1973 two cars and seven bikes from Britain attended an International Sprint event held just outside Amsterdam by the ‘Explosion’ Sprint Club. The event was held on a closed public road. Drag racing in Holland at the time was limited to sprints on closed roads, as there were no courses available. The sport was not large enough at the time for Circuit Zandvoort, and it was two years later that the airport at Drachten began to be used for drag racing. However the sprint event must have been a fantastic motivator for the sport to be developed.
The use of a Dutch public road for a demo of full-on cars and bikes must be one of the riskiest ventures ever undertaken in European drag racing. The cars were both to be driven by Allan Herridge who had to acclimatise himself not just to the totally unfamiliar conditions, but also to entirely different machinery.
The fueler Firefly had a well known reputation for a near-total lack of directional stability. Stardust, a then-state of the art Funny Car which had only arrived in the UK in June was fairly new to Allan who had only raced it at two meetings previous to this demo; fortunately he did do double duty with Firefly at these events.
The road course had neither the width nor the length of the Madeira Drive, the long established UK road venue for the Brighton Speed Trials. Apart from a few straw bales protecting the lampposts from an errant vehicle there was no protection at all, and the crowd which numbered in the thousands, were kept back only by 10-15 feet. The bikes were among the quickest of the era with Mick Butler to later run a nine, and all the British machines capable of 130mph speeds.
The following report is adapted from the October 1973 edition of Drag Racing News, the official journal of the British Drag Racing & Hot Rod Association.
In the bike division, Mick Butler took fastest time of the day on Super Cyclops. He ran a best of 10.308/143mph after a very hairy 11.06 in the wet in the morning, conditions improving after noon.
Dave Clee had an equally worrying run when he went sideways and his foot clipped one of the straw bales protecting the street lights. That run gave him a 12.6, but later he improved to 10.49/130 on his old single engine ‘Shotgun’.
Tony Weeden ran a 10.68/130 but on his last pass the fuel in the oil system made the oil overflow out of the tank right onto the rear wheel. Tony managed to keep the bike upright, going through the traps in 10.84 seconds.
Another bike with problems was Chris Bartram who ended his day with a holed piston on his only run of the day. Meanwhile Chris’s brother Tony on the 1200cc Harley managed to wear a rear tyre out together with hitting 132mph on his smokey blasts.
The best performance put up by a Dutch rider was Henk Vink (pictured at top) with a 900cc Kawasaki 4 running on nitro. His best run gave him a 11.01/132 but even Henk was caught by a blower seizure which knocked him out of the competition.
Around mid afternoon came the highlight of the day, the two cars, which were in fact the introduction of drag racing cars to Holland. These two cars were the Firefly Fuel Dragster and the Stardust Funny Car, with Allan Herridge to drive both.
First out was Firefly and after firing the car on the strip, the crew had to lift it round by the front axle to face in the right direction. This highly risky action with the engine running was necessary through the very narrow width of the road being used, around 20 feet wide. After a short burnout the car was pushed back to the start line and the run itself ended in an out of shape pass with Allan forced to shut off at the 1000ft mark. The crowd absolutely loved it – but there was more to come.
After a short breather Allan again suited up and climbed into Stardust. This time the remote starter saved the turning problems and with the car fired the bleach was laid. The first burnout stopped with one wheel off the track but a quick reverse-up sorted that out and it was back for another burnout. This blew the crowd’s minds with clouds of smoke everywhere.
Back to the start line, and the car was ready for the run, the light showed green, and Allan was away, roaring all the way up the track as straight as an arrow to record a 8.66 at 164.37mph.
As Allan came back down the track the crowd went wild and were probably hoping that it wouldn’t be long before more cars were on the Dutch scene.
Picture credits: Drag Racing News Oct 73, Peter Quinn (Tony Weedon), ukdrn.co.uk (Super Cyclops)
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