Track record reduced to ashes
http://www.stuff.co.nz/nelson-mail/spor ... -to-ashes/
John Neilan doesn't just break records; he breaks them, shreds them into small pieces, sets them alight and dances around the bonfire.
The Southland drag racer laid siege to the record books at Motueka's The Rock 94.4FM Dragway on Saturday, pushing the boundaries to a point undreamed of by the organisers, the Nelson Drag Racing Association.
The Motueka track, which serves for 361 days a year as a working runway at the local airport, has a short stopping distance and racing is regularly interrupted so skydive planes can take off and their dangling passengers can later land.
But the NDRA has invested huge amounts in resealing and widening parts of the tarmac, and adding safety features to make it a viable part-time dragstrip.
Their efforts were rewarded on Saturday.
Competing against an open track record of 6.41sec (set by Australian visitor Victor Bray in 2002) and a domestic mark of 6.85sec held by alcohol dragster driver Bert King, Mataura's Neilan blew everything into the weeds with his first ever pass on the Motueka strip.
Neilan and crew members Lou Barclay and Bryan Norman had towed through from Southland on Thursday and Friday, arriving in Motueka and walking the track to gauge stopping distances and the area where the prepared surface blends into the raw seal at midtrack.
If they were concerned by what they saw, those concerns were dissipated in the space of 6.018 seconds.
Neilan fired the 3000 horsepower MBR Hemi in his alcohol-fuelled dragster, smoked the tyres over 150m to lay down a trail of sticky rubber across the startline, staged the car and left the line as if chased by a swarm of bees. There was one, later, disrupting racing for 15 minutes, but that's a separate story.
Neilan's car barely deviated from the straight and narrow and it was clear the record had been broken but few in the crowd were prepared for a 6.0 at 224 miles an hour (360kmh). He stopped safely and later said that he had 100m of braking space up his sleeve.
"Through first and second, the car was beautiful," said Neilan, the national general manager of car sponsor Digga NZ.
"It wasn't moving at all and, when I got to that transition point, it was hauling hard so I just pulled top gear and stayed on it."
Neilan had planned to get out of the throttle at the three-quarter point to ensure a safe stop but was surprised by the speed of that first pass.
"The end of the track came up really fast. I was going to back out at 1000 feet but probably went to 1150 because the flags marking the finish seemed to arrive sooner than I'd expected."
A full quarter-mile dragstrip is 1320 feet long, with the sport preferring to keep its measurements in imperial standards, consistent with drag racing's American roots.
Two hours later and the skeleton crew had the Digga dragster back at the startline with the headwind abating, a track temperature of 47 degrees and the prospect of something special building.
Neilan again delivered the perfect pass but, this time, stayed on the power a little longer, the result being a 5.88sec run at 239mph (384kmh) to slice almost a second off King's New Zealand mark while leaving Bray's open track record gasping six-tenths adrift.
"I hoped, after the first one, we could get a 5.9-something," Neilan said.
"The 5.88 surprised me and that miles per hour reading was about the limit of where I think I'd push it.
"The Nelson guys have done a great job, giving us a half-track that can handle those numbers and the car has driven through the transition points.
"I doubt we'll be able to push any faster, the goal is to back up those numbers."
Neilan's third run was an exercise in car control, hanging on to his dancing dragster at it tried to turn inside out on a 6.301sec pass, slower than the others but still faster than anyone else had traversed the Motueka quarter.
Fellow Southland traveller Bruce Smith had a steady day in his Arias-powered dragster, running as quickly as 8.11sec despite the engine dropping a cylinder on each of his three runs.
Competition car racing featured a personal best of 9.6sec for Nelson's Avon Compton and the return of Blenheim's Ian deBoo, who posted an 8.75sec pass in his altered class dragster.
The Web's Rod Shop Hot Rod Challenge drew a big field of show cars, rat rods and street machines, ranging from the 11sec cars of Stewart Gill, Dylan deBoo and Gordon Smith to a couple of flathead Ford-powered sedans that covered the quarter in a leisurely 25sec.
The final dash for the cash saw Greymouth's Lance Toplis (Ford roadster) head off Motueka racer Craig Griffith (Corvette).
Super street went to Phil Hazeldine's Torana in a close contest with Mike Trounson's Valiant Charger while Blenheim's Ant Schroeder shone in a small bike field, running 11.89sec on his tiny Yamaha dragbike.
Burning rubber in NZ with HEMI style...