New benchmark set for Kiwi drag racers
The sport of drag racing doesn't make a lot of noise about metric units of measurement.
But with the 4-second and 300mph terminal speed benchmarks now in the New Zealand record book, the next big performance target might need to be a metric one.
Late on Saturday afternoon, Top Fuel dragster driver Anthony Marsh (Auckland) made use of an expertly prepared Meremere track and some evening atmospheric conditions to blast his nitromethane-fuelled dragster down the quarter-mile in 4.872secs and pass through the top-end speed trap at 307.72mph.
It's the quickest pass ever recorded in New Zealand - bettering Marsh's own 4.975secs effort in January - and also the fastest. With the car running strongly all the way to the top end of the `strip Marsh achieved a staggering 19mph increase in speed for the first 300mph run in this country.
So what about a new metric record? Marsh's speed converts to 495.227km/h - leaving the 500km/h benchmark as the next target for the rival Top Fuel cars of the Marsh Motorsport and Fish Family Racing operations.
Reece Fish (above) ran 5.045s at 260.16mph in the opposite lane as the Saturday evening match-up provided the weekend's nitro racing highlight. Both teams ran into some engine problems while making Sunday runs until Fish made a late afternoon 5.012secs solo pass for a new personal best.
It wasn't only the nitro burners that upped the performance benchmarks at Meremere last weekend as a slickly run IHRA Nationals meeting was hurried through to avoid any possible Sunday afternoon interruption by Cyclone Pam.
Records was also delivered in Top Alcohol with Red Beach racer Shane Lodge wheel-standing to a 5.516secs/252.95mph qualifying effort to edge out Pukekohe's Chris Johnston with a 5.685s/251.81mph run.
Both drivers used those numbers to back up previous efforts which means Lodge now holds the Top Alcohol elapsed time (ET) record (at 5.516secs) and Johnston has the speed record at 251.81mph, and also has a first round effort at 254.90mph needing a back-up run within 1 per cent to re-set the record again.
Lodge had the best reaction time when the pair met in the final but slowed to a 7.4secs pass and Johnston claimed the IHRA Nationals honours with a 5.653secs/250.23mph run.
Qualifying in the nine-car Top Doorslammer field saw four teams race deep into the mid-6secs bracket.
Defending champion Mark Bardsley (Auckland) set the pace with a 6.441secs pass at 223.10mph in his `68 Camaro with Beachlands racer Trevor Smith (Holden Statesman), Upper Hutt's Rod Benjes (Chev Beretta) and Pukekohe's Ross Taylor (`57 Chev Coupe) also in the 6.5 and 6.6s range.
In eliminations all four progressed against their first round opponents although Taylor had a very sideways run to take a narrow win over Nigel Dixon (Camaro).
Taylor then beat Bardsley in the semi-final while Benjes progressed when Smith was unable to take the start.
In the final the close racing continued with Taylor's reaction time a mere 0.006secs better than Benjes but the Hutt Valley racer won the race to the line with a 6.638secs/207.53mph run just good enough to edge Taylor's 6.651s/215.17mph effort.
Tauranga's Karen Hay won Competition eliminator and twice bettered her AA/Altered national record she had reset in February. A 6.474secs qualifying effort with the twin turbo big block Chev Evil II roadster was then improved to 6.418secs in the semi-finals and she beat the four-cylinder dragster of Auckland's Phil Hirst in the final round.
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Motorcycle racers were also in record-breaking form at the IHRA Nationals.
Ian Wilkins' turbocharged Kawasaki Afterburner II set a new 182.35mph AA/Drag Bike record in qualifying and Wilkins also has a 7.263secs ET (a massive 0.387secs under his current record) awaiting a back-up run.
Ian Hilder (West Harbour) on his ProStock Suzuki raced to a new A/Drag Bike ET of 7.810s but it was Bill Hamilton on his Bird of Prey Suzuki Hayabusa Pro Street machine who won the Competition Bike final against Hilder and reset the AA/Altered Bike record at 8.090secs.
Top performers in the DYO (Dial You Own) racing classes were Pukekohe's Lee Sherwin and Motueka's Craig Griffiths.
Craig Griffiths made the most of the trip north with his rear-engine dragster and won the Supercharged Outlaws title while Sherwin gain showed his mastery of reaction times and consistent driving of his Quarter-master Ford Escort V8 to race through the five rounds of Super Sedan eliminations.
The last major event of the season at Meremere Dragway is the annual Bay Rodders Nostalgia Drags on Easter Sunday.