Drag records accompanied by mechanical mayhem at IHRA Nationals
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Drag racing national records and personal bests were accompanied by mechanical mayhem during the IHRA New Zealand Nationals raced at Meremere Dragway last weekend.
The pace of quarter-mile competition took a heavy toll as the quickest classes became a race of survival as much as performance.
A strong eight-car Top Doorslammer field fronted for Saturday’s qualifying but after Sunday morning’s first round eliminations only two cars remained in the contest.
Defending champ Barry Plumpton (Auckland) with his 15.7-litre nitrous-injected `68 Camaro qualified with a 6.168secs/235mph pass — the second quickest Doorslammer pass ever recorded in New Zealand — for a clear performance advantage.
Rod Harvey powered to the Top Doorslammer title subbing for Trevor Smith in his TSR `75 Holden Statesman. Photo / Colin Smith
But it was Rod Harvey at the wheel of Trevor Smith’s supercharged `75 Holden Statesman who reached the final and clinched the title with a strong 6.405s/221mph run while Plumpton lost traction early in the run and clocked 8.227s.
Shoulder surgery has kept Smith out of the driver’s seat at recent meetings but he said parking the car till he was fully fit was not an option.
‘‘We have sponsors to look after and some development work we wanted to do,’’ said Smith.
‘‘Rod’s a great driver. He’s run in the fives in Australia and he’s done a lot of laps. And he’s a good mate of mine.’’
Harvey has achieved his main success on Australian drag strips in a Factory Extreme six-cylinder turbo Toyota Celica and driving a blown V8 Doorslammer has been a different challenge. It wasn’t till late in Saturday’s qualifying that Harvey clocked a 6.331s/225.82mph pass, his first full run under power in the big Holden.
"It’s been a good experience although I struggled for a while,’’ said Harvey.
Tauranga's Cory Abbott was in record-breaking form with his turbocharged Mazda RX-7 making a best run at 6.829secs. Photo / Colin Smith
‘‘But I always thought I had a chance today and my plan was to get through the rounds and pick them off one-by-one.
‘‘The best thing is Trevor has a great team with some clever people helping him. We could service the car and run it today again if we needed too.’’
The mechanical toll in Top Doorslammer sidelined Hamilton’s Nigel Dixon with a damaged top gear after setting the first round pace with 6.354secs/217.0mph win over Rod Benjes (Wellington). Mark Bardsley’s Camaro went out with a torched a cylinder head after a first round win over Craig Brown (Waiuku).
Top Alcohol began with six cars and finished up with a wounded Bert King (Upper Hutt) idling through the start lights on a solo run to clinch his first major Top Alcohol success.
‘‘We smashed a lifter in the semi-final,’’ said King.
‘‘We took out the broken parts and started it on seven cylinders. It’s not how we like to do things but we didn’t have another option.’’
Top Alcohol rivals Johnny Alsop (left) and eventual Nationals winner Bert King complete a side-by-side 5secs qualifying run. Photo / Colin Smith
King has worked away at his performance numbers through the summer and Sunday produced another improvement to 5.841s/243.0mph.
The weekend’s most spectacular failure saw Anthony Marsh broke a gudgeon pin causing his A/Fuel dragster engine to explode as he raced through the finish line on a 257mph qualifying run.
It was a successful Saturday for the Top Alcohol Altered of Christchurch-based Alsop Racing with Johnny Alsop clocking a new 5.896secs personal best but transmission problems sidelined the team on Sunday.
Competition Eliminator came down to two drivers in class record-breaking form. Carterton’s Dwane Osborne in his small small-block Chev powered ‘48 Ford Pop raced to a narrow win and reset a C/Altered national record that has stood for 13 years. Runner-up Charlie Bates (Whangarei) driving his triple-rotor dragster extended his sequence of RRR/Dragster record improvement to lower the mark to 6.524s/210.0mph.