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Drag Racing made its annual trip to the Autosport Show at Birmingham's NEC in the second weekend of January. As usual Custom Car magazine was hosting a stand on all four days of the show, with Santa Pod Raceway joining in with a major display on the two public days. The first of Eurodragster's two visits to Autosport International, in association with American Car Imports, was on the second of the two Press and Trade Days.
On arrival we made a beeline for the Custom Car magazine stand where Nobby Hill's new Houndog Fuel Funny Car was unveiled yesterday. The Camaro body is in yellow and blue and of course features the famous Houndog on the bonnet. The car is currently carrying the number FC1, we figure that John Spuffard may have an opinion on that and as you will see shortly we asked Nobby about that.
We started by asking Nobby who would be driving the car as it is carrying the names of both legendary show Owen Hayward and Junior Olley. "Two years ago, I told Owen that I was building a new car, and I said "I don't suppose you will want to drive it" ", said Nobby. "Owen said 'I will tell you if I don't want to drive it!'. Owen will drive to start with, and he will teach Junior who will be driving by tne end of the season."
Nobby estimated that the FC was three-quarters finished. "There is about two to three months' work left, then we will be running", he said. "I'm building a forty-foot gooseneck trailer so there is plenty to do". Nobby designed and built the chassis and is proud of his work. "I am proud that it is British built!", he said. "If anyone looks at the car and likes it then maybe I can start to build cars for them. I love building things! I also have a team member, Gary, who is an aerospace engineer and can weld anything. He has done a great job - the chassis is within 25 thou square."
We also noticed Stuart Bradbury's name on the car, as Crew Chief. The legendary Santa Pod starter has long been involved with Nobby Hills Racing and jumped at the chance to work with the new car. "Stuart's job will probably expand to involve promotion", said Nobby. "It will start with me telling him what to do but it will end with me having to do what he says!"
Nobby said that there are some radical ideas on the FC which he will be testing before competing. "l have a different fuel and clutch system on this car which will allow you to get off the throttle and it will recycle as if it was back on the start line", he said. "We will be able to turn the car round a lot quicker, so you may see us out within half an hour of running. Initially I want to spend a week with the car doing longer and longer burnouts then longer and longer runs. But it depends whether a sponsor comes in if I do that and for how long."
Nobby explained the appearance of the FC1 on the car. "It always used to be our race number", he said. "Now things have changed so I can't use that number any more. But believe me if I have to fight to get the number back then I will!"
We asked Nobby how he felt about coming back to Funny Car racing after twenty years. "I'm back where l should be", he said. "I'll tell you a story. As you may know I had a serious accident a few years ago. I was in hospital and then I didn't work for a long time. I spent ages at home watching videos of my old cars and one afternoon I made up my mind - I was coming back. That evening I told my wife Anne and my eldest daughter Jody that I was going to have a Funny Car again. Anne said "You see Jody, we should have pulled out the wires and smothered him when we had the chance!"
Andy Kirk's Rat Fink Super Mod and Wayne Allman's Phunky Phantom VW Beetle were also attracting a lot of attention on the Custom Car stand; hopefully we will be able to hook up with Andy and Wayne tomorrow.
We met a number of other racers around the Show, the first of whom was Pro Mod racer Gordon Appleton who was accompanied by Crew Chief Adrian. The Wheelgame Racing team appear to be having an easy off-season. "We usually start looking at it about a week before the season starts!", said Adrian. "We've got a new sheet to put over it for it this off-season though."
Fellow Pro Mod racer and race car builder Andy Robinson told us that he will be taking on a seventh member of staff at Robinson Race Cars very shortly, and that he would again be sponsoring Custom Car Street Eliminator in 2004. Stay tuned to Eurodragster News for more about both of these stories.
Fuel Altered racer Jim Seward said that he is also having a slow off-season, although he spent the Christmas break getting the transmission out of the Harry The Spider altered. "I wasn't very happy with our last time out at Shakespeare County Raceway and we thought of quitting", he said. "We needed a good result and we didn't get it. We broke quite a bit from the tyre shake. The engine mounts on the left hand side broke, and we broke a body mount. Only half the car got to the other end! But in the end we decided not to quit because what else is there to do?"
FIA European and British Top Methanol Dragster Champion Dave Wilson told us that the American Car Imports TMD team are off to the USA again on 23rd January. "We are attendiing two of the PRO Warmups before Pomona", he said. "They give us the opportunity to try stuff which we they don't normally get the chance to try, and to consolidate on the 5.3 which we ran at the NHRA Finals. And of course it's a chance to the get driver and crew back into the swing of things before Pomona."
Top Fuel Dragster racer Micke Kågered told us that he and the Bahco Tools team are now working on the new Top Fueller which has been built by Matts Eriksson. "The chassis is complete and the motor is in", he said. "It's starting to look like a car now". "It will be on display for the first time in Gothenburg in February", added Team Manager Åsa Kinnemar. "We have signed with Bahco Tools for two more years. We will have new colours on the trailer and the Top Fueller, it will look a little different, but the Top Methanol Funny Car will stay in the Sandflex colours". Micke said that the Bahco team would this year contest the FlA Tour but were unlikely to attend the Top Fuel Tour at Piteå.
We asked Micke and Åsa how they thought Niclas Andersson had fared in his first year in the Top Methanol FC. "We were very pleased with Niclas", said Åsa. "We think that maybe he will put a lot more pressure on himself this year now that his first year is over". "We think that Niclas will be a Championship contender this season", said Micke. "Last year we started with a gentler tune-up in the Funny Car but by the end of the season it was a lot harder and of course it will be like that from the start this year."
British Nitro Funny Car Champion John Spuffard said that his hand is almost recovered from his accident a few months ago. "I've had to take a bit of a back seat because of my hand but now I am back working on the car", he said. "Everything is coming together - we are remounting the body this weekend. Carlo Gandolfi has done an excellent job repairing the body after it came off at the European Finals. The body cracked and all the supports inside were bent. We had to take it straight back to our shop after we retrieved it from the track because people were straight round to our pit looking for souvenirs!"
Top Fuel Dragster racer Barry Sheavills told us to say that he declined to comment - but he promised us an interview tomorrow.
Titanium International Limited, who sponsor Dave Holland's Funny Bike and have more or less single-handedly introduced titanium into European drag racing, have a stand in the Engineering section of the show which closes at the end of today. The stand, which was one of the other gathering points for racers, was bedecked with TIL's new promotional posters which include a spectacular picture of the Showtime Fuel FC as well as the Funny Bike. "We are having a fantastic Show", said Nigel Hoskison of TIL. "The poster is drawing people in and we have done a lot of business. We have parts on display from one of the Carbon By Design Top Fuellers, the Showtime Funny Car, and the bike. We are using drag racing to promote our products since we have made quite a contribution to the sport since we got involved - we have customers from Top Fuel to Sportsman and racers in the USA are starting to become interested in using titanium parts". As members of the Titanium Information Group TIL have contributed to a CD-ROM which is now available from Nigel. TIL's contribution includes photographs of the Showtime FC and the Funny Bike.
A few stands along we were delighted to find a Hauser Race Cars stand. Geof Hauser explained that HRC were at the show to promote the Tire Power rubber softener formulated by Antony Billinton of G Max Research, "It works on pretty much anything", Geof said. "We have had a good couple of days with interest from South Africa, Spain and Italy. We have been selling this product since 1989 and it is very popular. I would like to have a walk around the show but we're tied to the stand!"
Geof said that he is building two new Junior Modified Dragsters for his sons Scott and Jay. "They have the same engines as last year's cars", he said. "I have also got a datalogger which will make them easier to tune. I'm getting lots of enthusiasm but not much help from the kids!". Hauser Race Cars is of course also keeping Geof busy. "We're doing a lot of Ascar work - they have a magnetic attraction for concrete!", he said. "We have had four dragsters in recently and we are currently back-halving one."
Terry Gibbs of Obsession Motorsports said that the Obsession Super Mod is ready testing and that the first outing may well be the first Webster Race Engineering Test Day in March. "Craig can't wait to get in it", he said. "The car will be unveiled on the Specialist In Design stand at The Xtreme Wheels Show in February. Gary Malin, Ian Apsley and Bob Glassup will be débuting new cars and we will have a workshop area featuring cars-in-progress such as Ray White's Zephyr."
Terry said that Xtreme Wheels had generated a lot of particular interest from the Max Power/Redline market. "We have got a fine balance between traders and exhibits", he added. "Hauser Race Cars and Webster Race Engineering have taken space at the show, and Santa Pod Raceway have also signed up. We are still looking for trophy sponsors so please contact Obsession Motorsports if you are interested. We would also like to hear from anyone with a nice-looking street car as we are setting aside an exclusive parking area which everyone entering the show will pass."
Terry said that he was missing organising race events and that Obsession are working on venues. "We have found some potential race tracks and we are working on developing them", he said. "We think that the country needs more venues because of the rate of growth of the sport."
We took a number of other photographs at Autosport today, which you can view by clicking here.
Tune back tomorrow and we will bring you another report including all the news from Santa Pod Raceway's stand.