The 2002 UK SFI Day was successful for all involved with an almost perfect pass rate for clutches and bellhousings. Chassis legend Murf McKinney and clutch expert Tim Hyatt inspected parts for a number of Fuel and Top Methanol racers and even a Pro Mod racer, which bodes well for this season!
Murf McKinney's is one of the names in chassis building, counting Don Prudhomme, Kenny Bernstein, Tony Schumacher, Darrell Gwynn Dean Skuza and Frank Manzo amongst his customers. His "very busy" business employs twenty three people, all currently working flat out.
Murf took us through the bellhousing inspection procedure. "I check the flange thickness, that it is not too thin", he said. "I check that the cover bolts are the correct type, that the threads are not stripped, and that the cover fits. I also check the mounting holes in the flanges, the tolerance is 1/32 of an inch. There is a visual inspection for damage or alterations. If the flange is cut away too far, or if any of the bolt holes are oblong or oversize then it's a fail. As far as internal shrapnel damage is concerned, it's a judgement call."
All but one of the bellhousings inspected today passed, with the other one needing very minor repairs. "The quality of parts gets better every year", said Murf. "We used to see a lot of bad stuff which didn't pass, but that's all gone now, and that's the whole point of the SFI programme."
Murf told us that he has been drag racing in Europe, and liked what he saw. "It's very good, better than I expected", he said.
Tim Hyatt follows the NHRA and IHRA circuits, inspecting clutches on-site at the races. He will be attending 31 races this year, covering some 50,000 miles. He originally worked for Mr Gasket in Cleveland before being picked for the SFI Committee.
Tim was inspecting clutch components, including the use of a machine which sounded very much like a dentist's drill. "I check that the hardness of the components is up to spec"; he said. "Aluminium is prone to damage from heat/cool cycles, but titanium isn't. I have to check every part of the clutch, both visually and mechanically."
Tim has never seen an actual drag race in Europe, but has a good impression from what he has seen on his inspections. "Of course, the components are the same", he said. "I see a lot of parts which are older, but that's because they are not used so much. Everything I've seen here today has passed - when I first came here eight or nine years ago , sixty per cent of parts would fail."
Chassis builder Andy Robinson was also at Santa Pod, having brought along a couple of clutches for checking. "I'm certified to carry out SFI inspections on bellhousings made by Trick Titanium and Browell, and also to repair and modify bellhousings", he said. "It saves racers the expense of sending them to the USA, and in fact Trick Titanium themselves tell racers to send bellhousings to me rather than to them". Andy had a lot to tell us about the resurrection of UK Pro Mod this year, which you can find on our news page for 2nd March.
Whilst Top Methanol Dragster racer Lyndsay Deuchar was having his bellhousing and clutch inspected, his partner Angie told us a funny story. "Lyndsay went off to a car boot sale", she said, "then there was a phone call to one of the crew - 'Can you bring the van, I've found something'. Lyndsay had found some black and white checked lino for the floor of our pit. So now we've got that, we're definitely racing this year!"
On our way out we paid a quick visit to Santa Pod's office, where the 2002 calendars were ready for despatch. If you are not on SPR's mailing list and would like a calendar then you can join the list at www.santapod.com.
Stay tuned to Eurodragster News over the next couple of days for news from a number of the racers whom we met at Santa Pod today.
Many thanks to Murf McKinney and Tim Hyatt for their time, and to Kjell Petterson and Paula Marshall for inviting us to the SFI Day. This report was brought to you in association with American Car Imports.