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Rob Loaring on Super Modified
Super Modified is a limited-tuning doorslammer class which has been suggested and formulated for the UK by Rob Loaring and Nick Davies in consultation with racers and officials. It is open to doorslammers with normally-aspirated or nitrous engines, and with automatic or manual transmission. Weight breaks have been factored, for example to allow a small nitrous engine with a manual transmission to race a large-displacement normally-aspirated automatic, with both cars of the same weight. ETs are expected to be high sevens or low eights, and speeds of up to 175 mph. The class is heads-up, first to the finish line with a .4 Pro Tree.
We spoke to Rob Loaring at the start of March 2001. He explained the background to the class, the process undertaken so far, its future, and its place and role in UK drag racing.
If you are interested in Super Modified then please E-Mail firstname.lastname@example.org for a copy of the current draft of the rules.
Eurodragster: What gave you the idea for Super Modified?
Rob Loaring: Nick and I were discussing Pro Modified somewhere around the end of 1999 and we couldn't see how it was going to move forward. We could see the obvious financial issue but felt there were other problems to.
Eurodragster: Did you start with a blank sheet of paper or did you see a gap in the market and designed a class to fill it?
Rob Loaring: Right now the slowest 'non brakelight' class you can run with slicks here is Pro Mod, that seemed a little strange. I suppose we've tried to address that.
Eurodragster: How do you go about setting up a new class? (who do you have to approach officially and so on)
Rob Loaring: First we needed to find out why people had walked out of Pro Mod. I spent some time talking to Dave Mingay and Dave Warne to get their views, once we had some idea of what they felt combined with our own ideas we came up with a rough draft for a rule book and gave it to people who had shown interest in the idea.
Eurodragster: How far have you got with the process? We're on the third draft and just about there with a start point.
Eurodragster: Have there been any radical changes to the rules from your first draft, or was it just a case of fine-tuning?
Rob Loaring: Small stuff really, weight breaks and nitrous mostly.
Eurodragster: What reaction have you had from racers and officials?
Rob Loaring: Initial reaction from officials was fairly cool but they've warmed up a lot now. The commitment we've had from racers has been way beyond our expectations.
Eurodragster: I understand that one of the most important criteria was keeping the cost down.
Rob Loaring: One of the reasons Dave Mingay gave for walking away from Pro Mod was the continual upgrades that seemed necessary every year as new technology became available. What we've tried to do is shield people from it as much as possible. You can't tell someone that the clutch he paid £2,000 for last year is now obsolete and he's only going to get back 30p in the pound when it's sold, it's ridiculous. The same thing goes for cylinder heads, blocks, valvetrain parts and so on. You have to either give racers a reasonable return on their stuff if they need to upgrade or don't put them in a position where they need to do it.
Eurodragster: I would imagine that you have had people ask you "why not just run in Super Pro?"
Rob Loaring: The first time we got together with all the interested parties it was the first question I asked them. Super Pro or some kind of 7.90 class was going to be much easier than this flat out limited tuning deal. Two or three of them were more 'curious' than convinced about a no breakout thing but there was also a hardcore element that already had cars and absolutely would not run any kind of bracket, so, we moved forward with it. If we had got any other kind of reaction the whole thing would have stopped right there.
Eurodragster: Do you envisage that Super Modified will be a stepping-stone to Pro Mod, or do you think it will become established as a class in its own right, with racers staying there for years?
Rob Loaring: Both. If somebody has the budget and the drive to run Pro Mod they'll just pass through, hopefully picking up some of the relevant technical skills on the way. However, not everybody wants to make that kind of commitment and it's these people that should form the consistency in numbers that a class like this needs for long term survival.
Eurodragster: To play Devil's advocate, what would you say to someone who said that it wasn't that long ago that the classes were streamlined, and that to introduce others would be a step backwards?
Rob Loaring: I think the introduction of another brakelight class could be a subject for debate but as I stated previously Super Mod was engineered to fill a specific gap and is in no way a variation of the same theme, except perhaps Pro Mod. I believe the current class structure doesn't provide a natural career path into the 'promoter' classes. The skills required to succeed in super class and bracket racing differ enormously from clutch classes, this situation doesn't exist in the Scandinavian countries. Take any recent Euro Finals, Hakan Nilsson gives a master class in Pro Mod, sure there are pockets of resistance but the onslaught is just so obvious. On the other hand you don't expect any of the super class or bracket racing silverware to leave the country.
Eurodragster: So what have the Scandinavians got that we haven't?
Rob Loaring: A different class structure with a natural path leading to the Pro classes, we don't have that in the U.K. Take a look at the people who have enjoyed success in the methanol classes in the last few years, they're not going on 18-30 holidays, it's the same with Pro Mod.
Eurodragster: And you think that Super Modified will help to change this state of affairs.
Rob Loaring: It's a start.
Eurodragster: Would you care to expand?
Rob Loaring: It's a class where you have to think how to make your car run faster. You can't adjust a throttle stop or a dial in, the difference between winning and losing is in that thought process, going faster isn't just a side issue.
Eurodragster: A major factor in stepping up to the Pro classes would be expertise with blowers, but they're not allowed in Super Modified.
Rob Loaring: We already have a number of different combinations to balance and we felt that the blower thing would have made the idea unrealistic. IHRA has been trying to balance the nitrous and blower cars for over a decade and they're still struggling and since no one has tried that option in U.K. Pro Mod anyway we just wrote them out. You could argue that the methanol classes are suffering, to a lesser extent, from the same thing that has hit Pro Mod and perhaps a similar solution could exist but we've got our hands full already.
Eurodragster: Getting back to the ground work on the new class, what's the next step?
Rob Loaring: We've opened dialogue with both tracks and the doors open, we'll try and fly it sometime in July.
Eurodragster: I guess that will be as a demonstration, do you have any idea of the number of participants?
Rob Loaring: Ten or eleven committed at the last meeting, things can change but they all know the importance of the first impression.
Eurodragster: Assuming the class is approved to run in the UK, would you like to see it run elsewere in Europe?
Rob Loaring: That doesn't concern me at this time, we're looking at this as a domestic issue.
Eurodragster: If you had to write the advert, how would you sell Super Modified to the fans?
Rob Loaring: Super Modified isn't going to pull people through the gate. Noise, smell and speed fills the stands. Top Fuel has all three, the methanol classes have two and Pro Mod-Pro Stock have one. It could be good entertainment to fill out a meeting while cultivating talent for Pro Mod or even Pro Stock, we think that's enough to justify giving it a shot.
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