Autosport International
The NEC, Birmingham, 12th-15th January 2017

Report and pictures by Tog and Simon

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The Hauser Race Cars dragster has become a regular fixture at Autosport Engineering, which takes place on the two Trade and Press Days. Builder and sponsor Geof Hauser and dragster driver Scott Hauser were on hand showing visitors around the car and answering questions, even hosting BBC's Arabic Service on the Thursday. "The car will be the same as last year", said Geof. "Everything is running nicely so there is no reason to change anything. We will aim for consistency this season. Super Pro ET is a good class with a nice bunch of people, everyone enjoys it, and that means that if you lose a race then it's not the end of the world". Twice Champion in his class, Scott took runner-up in Super Pro ET last season at an epic UK National Finals during which the title kept changing hands. "To go into the race leading and come out third or fourth, how does that happen?", he said. "One more round win would have made the difference for us". "That was the first time we broke out in competition", said Geof.

Barry Miller and Wade Brown said that Brown and Miller Racing Solutions' revolutionary Pro Black DR range of hoses and fittings had had remarkable success in NHRA in 2016. "It's getting better and better", said Wade. "Antron Brown won the Top Fuel title with it. Pro Stock, Pro Mod, just missed out on Funny Car. The fastest cars in NHRA are running our stuff and they are very happy with it. We should see some big new customers with all the Crew Chief changes".

Representing sponsor VP Racing Fuels were Freddie Turza (left), Chris Wall and Marc Wesler (right) who is in charge of International Sales and who joined the company from Virginia Motorsports Park where he was Raceway Manager. Marc brings particular expertise in track prep and traction compound. Marc said that VP's Lane Choice 5 had proved particularly effective for a radial-tyre event at South Georgia Motorsports Park and that as an added bonus every racer who has won the event used VP's fuels. "We also fuelled every NHRA World Champion in Sportsman in 2016", added Marc, "including of course Jonnie Lindberg. I think he'll do well in the nitro Funny Car this year. He'll drive the wheels off it and he brings enthusiasm."

Anders Hildebrand (above with wife Eva) of sponsor the Anglo American Oil Company took a moment from what was his second very busy day to have a word. "Sunoco as an NHRA spec fuel has been going well", he said. "The SR18 Pro Stock fuel is getting interest, it's a nice fast-burning fuel. We are selling a lot of traction compound; we blend it ourselves under licence from PJ1 using their ingredients."

Les Downey of sponsor Lucas Oil Products said that a new oil would be released shortly but in the meantime he told us about a new additive with which he was very pleased. "Our Complete Engine Treatment is a system cleaner and lubricant", he said. "You can put it all in the oil, or put it all in the fuel, or put in half and half, you can't make a mistake with it", he said. "Put it in your car and within a hundred yards it will have cleaned everything and the difference is unbelievable. We also have a new brake cleaner which contains no solvent. It's brilliant, you don't need a lot of it, just spray on and wipe off. You can use it to clean EGR valves and everything. Les also expressed himself pleased with the left lane sponsorship deal at Shakespeare County Raceway. "It's always very relaxing at Shakey", he said, "you have the time to sit and watch."

The 2017 colours of Super Pro ET racer Brad Jackson's dragster, part of the Nick Good Motorsport stable, were unveiled by Les Downey and multiple FIA European Top Fuel Dragster Champion Andy Carter on day one of the Show. Brad's dad Wayne Jackson (right) said that he was very pleased with the design by sponsor Peter Walters Race Design and its application by DNS Signs. The dragster was the subject of particular attention from a group of students from Loughborough University. "They asked some incredibly technical questions which I couldn't answer!", said Wayne. "I had to take all the panels off and show them everything". The dragster is race-ready, a lesson which the team learned last year when the car was attended to after Autosport International and time almost ran out.

As well as the Brad Jackson Racing dragster and their own exhibition Fuel Funny Car, Santa Pod Raceway's stand featured a huge video wall which attracted a lot of attention. Footage from the excellent Box Lane Productions and Zeon TV was shown on a loop. Staff and promotion girls were kept busy handing out leaflets and goody bags and answering questions from visitors. Your Reporter even did his bit by debating a visitor who could not get his head around a modern Fuel motor generating up to 10,000 horsepower.

Fuel Funny Car racer Jason Phelps explained the background to Birgitte Bremnes' assumption of the seat of FGR Motorsports' Gladiator tribute Funny Car. "I was offered a sponsorship deal", said Jason. "Jamie Willis and I spoke and he agreed to work with me. After some soul-searching I thought that maybe it was time to give someone else a chance. I want to see the car run with the detail it deserves. Birgitte understands and respects what she is dealing with in a car of that name. I wouldn't let just anyone drive it but everything Birgitte does she does well. The car will stull be based in our workshop. Jamie will be tuning, Mark Dear will be Team Chief and will do the bottom end. Birgitte will drive it in competition, I will drive to test it and I might drive it at non-Championship events like the Flame and Thunder Show. And I get to spend more time with my family!"

Close runners-up in the MSA British Drag Racing Championship, Pro Modified racers Bert Englefield and Andy Wright, already have their 2017 game plan worked out. "We're going to beat Andy Robinson, and when we beat him we'll beat him again!", said Bert. As well as a major workshop reorganisation the team have been refreshing rather than replacing after frequent PB performances last season. "We don't want to mess up a good thing", said Andy. "We're experts at changing stuff and going slower!", added Bert. The team's second car is progressing slowly due to the success of the current car plus the workshop reorganisation.

Starring on the Serck Services Motorsport stand was Wayne Allman's seven-second blown-alcohol Mental Breakdown pick-up, another inspired choice by Graham Smith: the split-cab VW was surrounded by gape-jawed visitors as no-one was able to walk past Serck's stand without stopping for a look. Wayne said that he was almost ready to go. "We'll run when we feel like it", he said. "We advance the timing and it goes quicker each time, there is more to add so I hope that I can run a six this year. I would like to do it at Shakespeare County Raceway as it's my home track". Wayne said that one of his PB runs, in the 7.5s, was far from straight. "I think that run was about a third of a mile", he said. "If you can do 7.5 on a third-mile run... The chassis is tagged "6.29 or quicker" so I can go as fast as I like, but I am not sure I want to go "6.29 or quicker"!"

2016 UK National Super Pro ET Champion Chris Parker (above with wife and Crew Chief Becky) won the title a year early according to his game plan. "The expectation last year was just to try hard", he said. "The plan was to be seriously in contention in 2017 but it went better than expected. Nothing jumped up and bit us on the arse; it all worked, we just hope it stays all working. I'm happy with it but we still have a lot to learn. I am happier driving the car in less-than-perfect conditions and sometimes you have to learn to drive round the problems you have - we still have a problem with shake, something is inducing it but we can't find it."

An example of the non-drag racing output of sponsor Andy Robinson Race Cars was the Clayton-Robinson Studebaker Lark Classic Saloon Car on the stand of Aurora Bearings who sponsor Andy's Camaro Pro Mod. Bob Roberts told that the car was imported from California a couple of years ago. It was a long-term project which was finished at a pace when when ARRC were invited by Aurora to display it at the Show. Fully built but not, yet tested it will hit the tracks later this year.

Having so far spent a year and a half behaving in a dignified manner in the face of goldfish attention spans and doom-mongering on social media, Shakespeare County Raceway Marketing Manager Jerry Cookson said for the nth time that 2017 is safe at the Warwickshire venue. "It's business as usual this year, and as soon as I am told anything about the future I will tell everyone else", he said. "It is great to welcome Lucas Oil Products as a lane sponsor and I am grateful to Serck Services Motorsport for renewing their lane sponsorship. We will be running the Pro Street Series for Jap cars again this season, too."

Top Fuel Dragster racer now Fuel Funny Car racer-in-waiting Steve Ashdown, who will this year be racing The Undertaker with the Shockwave Racing FC team, said that "Everything is sorted" for 2017. "Thanks to everyone for their support", said Steve. "I am really looking forward to working with the team. See you all at Easter - that's the plan!"

The day before the Show opened sponsor Jon Webster kindly revealed on our News page the design of his Mustang Pro Mod which is currently in preparation at Webster Race Engineering. "I am waiting for a container from the USA containing the body", he said. All the main components are there so we are doing the parts we can do until then. The body will arrive at the end of January or the start of February and then it will be all-guns-blazing with early mornings and late nights and weekend working so that it doesn't affect our work for our customers. I can schedule the work, it is finance which is the constraint although I have sold my Street Eliminator Comet."

Deborah Laugher said that her 'Vette will be back in competition this season, maybe in Comp Eliminator, with crash damage repaired. "We have taken the blower off it until it settles down and we have ordered new tyres - we think that a tyre issue may have contributed to the crash", she said. "We're happy with it. Taking a year out gives you some surprises though, you find you have something called "money" in your bank account".

Andrew Agroment said that he may run his VW Beetle in Pro ET or Comp Eliminator this season. "We will be out at some stage this year", he said. "Fingers crossed we will be at the Main Event. I am trying to make the car lighter with shiny new brakes and other bits. I have to book some time on a rolling road and the roll cage needs to be tagged."

We bumped into Topspeed Automotive Street Eliminator racer Mark Todd in the NEC's hideously-expensive sandwich bar. Mark said that he will be contesting the entire season in his 200 mph GTO. He was overjoyed just having been told by Kenny Coleman's EDA that his motor was in great shape with pistons and bearings showing no wear at all. "I drive it on the street and I race it hard but that proves that I'm tuning it right", he said. "It's a shame I didn't make all of last year but it was great to run at the Finals and I was pleased to crack the two hundred."

Fellow Topspeed Automotive Street Eliminator racer Al Williamson said that sponsor Jeff Bull Race Engines are working on repairing head and cylinder damage and replacing the block of his low eight-second pick-up. "Hopefully we'll get the motor in February", said Al. "We have changed a few things on the spec. I have also bitten the bullet and will be using E85, I just wish my local petrol station sold it."

Andy Bond's Topspeed Automotive Street Eliminator '56 Chevy is almost complete. "We had a successful dyno test", he said. "On a scale of one to ten I would say we are nine and three quarters ready. Just small details to finish then test in time to be up and running at Easter."

TV personality Edd China visited the Santa Pod Raceway stand.

Multiple FIA European Top Fuel Dragster Champion Andy Carter and Les Downey of sponsor Lucas Oil Products unveiled the 2017 colours of Brad Jackson's Super Pro ET ride on day one of the Show. Picture courtesy and ©Callum Pudge

Picture courtesy and ©Callum Pudge

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