Meremere to host largest 400km/h funny car field ever seen in NZ
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Australia’s Aeroflow Outlaw Nitro Funny Car series races into New Zealand this weekend.
The 400km/h drag racing spectacle is supported by two full-size semi-trailers, two shipping containers of spares and about 50 crew members carrying out the carefully choreographed routine of between-rounds maintenance and tuning tweaks critical to achieving nitro performance.
The funny car series runs at tracks throughout Australia and is making its international debut at Meremere Dragway on Saturday.
Six cars from the Rocket Industries/Aeroflow Performance stable of Graeme and Wendy Cowin, two from Queensland’s Donnelly Blasting Services team and Kiwi racer Karl Boniface provide a nine-car funny car field that promises to be the largest gathering of earth-shaking nitromethane-fuelled drag racing cars seen at a New Zealand dragstrip.
There are also two rear-engine “wheel stander” funny cars that make flame-spitting side-by-side runs on their rear wheels.
Along with the nitro funny car racing the series always features exhibition runs by rear-engine "wheelstander'' funny cars. Photo / Colin Smith
Overseeing the exercise is Kiwi Morice McMillin, the now Sydney-based former New Zealand Top Alcohol champion who is the AONFC series manager, nitro engine tuner and also driver of the One Bad Kiwi 77 Pontiac TransAm.
“We have shipped two trailers as well as two containers,” said McMillin.
“The trailers are a similar set-up to the Supercar teams and there are about 50 people heading across the Tasman to run the cars and the show.
“We have a really good team at the shop in Sydney who have worked hard to ensure the cars and trailers are all up to spec and ready to go.” McMillin goes into what is a home round having raced to a career-best 5.626s/408m/ph pass at the most recent AONFC fixture at Perth Motorplex in early December.
And he’ll be performing a host of race day responsibilities on Saturday.
“Race day is busy for me, driving One Bad Kiwi, tuning two cars as well as my role as series manager,” said McMillin. “Thankfully we have a good team on the car and also from a managerial standpoint to look after things for me so I don’t spread myself too thin.” McMillin said campaigning eight nitro cars takes commitment and resources.
The `57 Chev Bel Air-bodied Nitro Express is the quickest funny car headed to Meremere with a best performance of 5.52secs at 428km/h. Photo / Colin Smith
“Graeme and Wendy Cowin from Aeroflow Performance and Rocket Industries have put so much time and commitment into this deal it’s incredible,” he said.
“To run eight cars, we need to have eight of everything plus spares of everything so we’re bringing tyres, gearboxes, clutches and cylinder heads.
“We carry enough spares to rebuild pretty much 90 per cent of the car if we need to.
“This series is all about the show and our goal is to do everything we can to make sure every car goes out for every run.
“Same with the track. Meremere Dragway have been great and we are working together to make the sport better and more entertaining for the general public.”
The funny cars have an on-track Salute to the Crowd fire-up at 1pm with three rounds of nitro racing scheduled at 2, 4 and 6pm.
The quickest performer of the AONFC pack is Nitro Express — the ’57 Chev Bel Air piloted by Rick Gauci that has posted best quarter-mile numbers of 5.52secs at 428km/h.
The Dark Horse `73 Ford Mustang is typical of the nostalgia style cars which race in the Aeroflow Outlaw Nitro Funny Car Series. Photo / Colin Smith
Joining Nitro Express and McMillin’s One Bad Kiwi at Meremere are Terminator (Justin Walshe), The LA Hooker (Anthony Begley), Dark Horse (Paul Messineo) and The Bandit (Josh Leahy) along with brothers Dan and Jake Donnelly piloting The Avenger and Bumble Bee.
Local teams are a regular addition to the AONFC mainstays at Australian events and this weekend Invercargill’s Karl Boniface fills that role with his Castrol Edge Nitro Flashback 74 Chev Vega which has been a stalwart of the local nitro and nostalgia racing scene.
The support programme for the funny cars and wheel standers is the third round of Meremere Dragway’s 2017-18 competition series.
The funny cars race a round-robin rather than elimination format so cars aren’t eliminated after a loss.
The format of three points for a round win and one point for a loss creates close competition through three rounds with any points ties decided by final round elapsed times.