Autosport magazine's annual Motorsport Industry fest again included drag racing representation, with Santa Pod Raceway's travelling display attracting large numbers of visitors and welcoming members of the racing community over the two public days of the Show.
Eurodragster.com went to the NEC on the second Trade/Press day and the first public day in association with American Car Imports.
Santa Pod Raceway's display on the Public days featured Andy Carter's B & Q show dragster, about to go to the workshops of Adrenaline Race and Performance for a 2006 spec upgrade before being raced by Rob Turner, the Showtime Fuel Funny Car, Martin Hill's Jet Funny Car in its Santa Pod-themed Fireforce 3 body, Santa Pod's Supertwin Fuel Bike and Junior Dragster, and Andy Barnes' nine-second Nissan Skyline.
Andy Carter, Barry Sheavills and John Spuffard held autograph sessions and were joined on an occasional basis by Martin Hill and visiting racers such as Martin Bishop, and a large contingent of Santa Pod staff including new employee Darren Prentice and the racers present all worked very hard talking to visitors about the sport and promoting Santa Pod's events including a repeat of last year's highly-successful ticket give-away for the Saturday of the FIA Main Event. The new "wallchart" calendar and Easter Thunderball flyers were also available.
The 2005 FIA, FIM/UEM and NDRS Bilsport Pro Modified season review DVDs were played all day and the area around the TV screen was thronged with visitors a lot of whom went straight from the TV screen to the desk for the FIA Main Event give-away.
You can find out what those racers to whom we spoke at Autosport had to say on our news pages for 13th, 14th and 15th January 2006.
Days one and two of the Show hosted Autosport Engineering and a number of drag racing-related companies were in attendance. Eurodragster.com visited the engineering section on the second Trade and Press Day and this is what we found out.
Nigel Hoskison of Eurodragster.com Home and News sponsor ATI Titanium International said that the company has yet to finalise its 2006 plans, but that titanium is gaining acceptance in the racing world. "We receive regular enquiries and orders from drag racers", he said. "There are a couple of new things will be looking at. Titanium Racing Products has become a regular customer, and the indications are that business will grow especially with American racers. From our perspective it gives us credibility with our customer base. We take them to races and show them that we're involved, and they keep coming back". ATI Titanium International had the Showtime Fuel FC on display on Thursday and Friday. On Saturday and Sunday the FC was booked in for display on Santa Pod's stand right at the other end of the NEC, so on Friday evening it was pushed along the concourse to its new location.
Fuel Funny Car racer John Spuffard owns Titanium Racing Parts. "John Force and Terry Haddock are testing some of our parts at the moment, and there is a lot of interest", said Spuff. "We're looking at making more parts in titanium, with quite a few products in testing, such as a new design of beadlock bolt, and others on the drawing board. We have developed a black coating which eliminates galling - it's a bit like a non-stick frying pan but it doesn't hurt when your old lady whacks you on the head with it! We are testing the coating on engine components to reduce friction". I asked Spuff how much of the Showtime FC was titanium. "Studs, valve retainers, clutch stands and this year the motor plate", he said. There is a significant weight saving: forty per cent lighter but two and a half times as strong."
Whilst I was with Spuff I asked him the latest on the Showtime team's game plan for 2006. "We did a test session last year and it was very worthwhile", he said. "There was no pressure on us and we were able to make some radical changes. After we hit the wall twice at the European Finals we figured that something was wrong. Bob (Jarrett, Crew Chief - Ed) and I reviewed the data and came up with a radical change. And the car was instantly driveable and just like the Cadillac it used to be. I could see everything when I was in the car. It also helped that the track crew and everyone else at Santa Pod did a great job."
Having been told about the anti-galling coating for TRP's components I stopped by the Balzers stand where Component Coatings Production Manager Andy Bloyce told me how the company are starting to get involved in drag racing and will shortly be starting a motorsports arm. "We produce engineering coatings for components and tools to reduce friction and wear", said Andy. "We're the biggest company of its type and the UK company is part of a Swiss-owned multinational. Tool coating is a major part of our business, component coating depends upon the market and here in the UK a significant part of that is motorsport. We produce a Titanium Nitride coating as well as a range of other coatings. The Titanium Nitride coating is one tenth the thickness of a human hair, and the hardest coating we produce is four times the strength of hardened steel. It's a nice business: people are willing to pay for a good product and good services.
Andy explained the company's involvement in motorsport. "We have had good feedback from the Showtime team and Titanium Race Products", he said. "Our motorsport business is growing and we want to get into sponsorship. Drag racing is a great spectacle to show potential sponsors. Our customer base is UK F1 and their major sub-contractors. We are interested in this globally: our American arm sponsors Kurt Johnson in the USA and we have had success in the States with piston rings and valves. With forty five minutes to turn round you don't need a bolt sticking!"
Further up the same aisle in Autosport Engineering I found the Grip Tyre Softener stand where Geof Hauser and Ray Eldred were promoting the popular compound. "The softener is selling everywhere", said Geof. "We doubled our volume in 2004-5 and our web site at griptyresoftener.com has helped with that. We have dealers all over Europe and have started to do business with India and South Vietnam. We will shortly be marketing a version for radio-controlled model cars.
I asked Geof how things are going at his business Hauser Race Cars. "Business is good", he said. "We need another fabricator with the skills to do the job". Geof added that HRC still have two complete Junior Dragsters and spare engines, wheels, tyres and engine parts from the consignment which he brought over from the USA. Jay and Scott will be racing Junior Dragster again in 2006 and that the JDs' engines are currently being refreshed.
The Air Sea Logistics Super Comp/Super Gas Pontiac Grand Am of Eurodragster.com Home and News sponsor Malcolm Francis spent all four days of the show on the Toyo Tyre UK stand, where I met Technical Engineer Alan Meaker. Alan told us about the company's involvement in drag racing and with Malcolm's race car. "Toyo Tyre have been in business for sixty years, and for twenty five years in Europe", he said. We manufacture all types of tyre from street to race. We produce tyres for drag racing, and we are starting to manufacture slicks for the circuit.
"I did some research at Santa Pod so that we can cover the whole market. Malcolm tested rear slicks for us, and we also had some tests done in Scandinavia. The fronts on Malcolm's car just landed this week. I was very pleased with the tyres' performance on Malcolm's car, and in fact he ran his seven-second pass on our tyres. The rollout and temperature were consistent". Alan said that Toyo Tyre UK are serious about drag racing. "We don't do things by halves - you introduce your product when you know that it's as good or better than the competition. Hauser Race Cars and Wheelgame Racing are the sole UK distributors, we'll rely on their expertise."
Alan introduced me to Toyo Tyre UK's Marketing Manager Mike Rignall who told me some more about the company and product. "We have a big and succesful operation in the USA and it has developed from there", he said. "We researched what people wanted and tested in the USA. The initial tyres were OK, but they didn't flex enough. But now they are as good as the competition: made to a very high standard and enable better car control. We have an initial range of sizes with more coming. One of our advantages is that all of our tyres come direct from Japan and not firstly via the US, and we only order small batches, so they're still fresh when they get here. There is still a lot of work going on, and the big boys have been in the market a while.
"Santa Pod is a US-standard track and Malcolm did the testing for us. We finished just before the National Finals and Malcolm said that he was happy to leave the tyres on the car for the race. We'll be watching his progress."
Yuta Oishi of Toyo's European arm added that Toyo Tyre are involved in sponsoring Malmö's Meca Raceway, and that they are planning to repeat last year's King of Europe event for street-legal cars. "We are also working on supporting a race in Italy", he said.
The blown-alcohol engine of Eurodragster.com Home and News sponsor Andy Robinson's Pro Mod was on display on the Brown and Miller Racing Solutions stand (Picture courtesy and ©Bob Roberts). Paul Knight explained the choice of display. "If we'd had a Cosworth engine here, no-one would have looked", he said. "We've had a very successful couple of days". Paul showed me some special injector lines on the Studebaker's engine. "These lines are smooth-bore Teflon with Kevlar braid", he said. "They don't expand when the throttle opens. It came from Sprint Cars in the USA, they were feeling a lag when they hit the throttle. But they felt it instantly with these hoses. Schumacher uses them in the USA so why not the Europeans? Barry (Miller - Ed) and I used to race, we want to give the racers the best product they can have."
Robin Jackson of Eurodragster.com Home and News sponsor Blueprints For Travel said that bookings are starting to come in for the Trip to America. "That's the important thing!", he said. "Our web site has had a thousand unique visits, and I've met some interested people here. Lex Joon's announcement that he plans to race in Las Vegas and Pomona will also help."
Reports and pictures ©Eurodragster.com