Saturday, 17 September 2016

Dragstalgia under the Spanish Plumes

Dragstalgia 2016 - July

The British summer was finally upon us, with a little help from the Spanish. A ‘Spanish plume’ of very hot air headed to the UK and brought with her 30C temperatures. This happened when hot air from Northern Africa and Southern Spain was pushed into mainland Europe, bringing with it some very humid conditions, and thunderstorms. Britain baked on the hottest July and social media went into heatwave meltdown over sweltering trains and boiling offices. It was a scorcher and we were all in sandals and summer dresses.

Dragstalgia 2016 - July

The mini-heatwave came with warnings, with officials issuing health advisories. The Met Office declared a Level 3 heatwave alert. St. John Ambulance reminded people to be aware of headaches, cramps and dizziness which could be signs of heat exhaustion and heat stroke. Public Health England urged people to drink plenty of water and close curtains to keep rooms cool.  Pollen levels was sky-high, causing havoc for hay fever sufferers, and there were restless and uncomfortable nights as temperatures reached 22C overnight.

Dragstalgia 2016 - July

And on the hottest weekend, we made our way through the sizzling countryside towards Northampton. It was 18C when we left the casa and climbed higher and higher as we neared our destination. The verges alongside the road had turned brown and was a tangled mess of grasses and most of the meadow wildflowers were over, except of pockets of moon daisies here and there. The traffic was flowing along the way but as soon as we saw entered the lane to Santa Pod, we joined the slow traffic into the arena.

Dragstalgia 2016 - July

It’s become our goal in life -- to leave others behind

As the motor of the monster -- slithers up to the line

We curl up the meat -- once they light up the tree

As the rubber catches hold -- we spit flames from beneath

Dragstalgia 2016 - July  

     And here we gather for Nitro Nights

     Some Bad-Ass Mutha’s that are comin to life

     Strapped in for a suicide ride

     Under thunder of the demon’s eyes.

Dragstalgia 2016 - July  

     You can’t tell if you’re dead or alive

     Blowin down the track at 185

     Pushin limits for the time of your life

     To be the victor of Nitro Nights.

     To win the final at Nitro Nights

Dragstalgia 2016 - July  

With the thrust of a rocket -- launching into next week

We blast from the line -- addicted to the need to

pull our faces from skull -- to push our senses to the brink

So white knuckled to the wheel -- they have to pry it from me

Dragstalgia 2016 - July

     And here we gather for Nitro Nights

     Some Bad-Ass Mutha’s that are comin to life

     Strapped in for a suicide ride

     Rolling thunder under demon’s eyes.

Dragstalgia 2016 - July

     You can’t tell if you’re dead or alive

     Blowin down the track at 285

     Pushin limits for the time of your life

     To be the victor of Nitro Nights.

     To win the final at Nitro Nights

Dragstalgia 2016 - July

          We push man and machine way beyond the red line

          We burn away our lives away a quarter-mile at a time

          We live for a thrill that’s only four seconds long

          Injecting full throttle speed, getting’ blown, and hangin on!

Dragstalgia 2016 - July

     And here we gather for Nitro Nights

     Some Bad-Ass Mutha’s that are comin to life

     Strapped in for a suicide ride

     Under thunder of the demon’s eyes.

Dragstalgia 2016 - July

     You can’t tell if you’re dead or alive

     Blowin down the track at 385

     Pushin limits for the time of your life

     To be the victor of Nitro Nights.

     To win the final at Nitro Nights

~Brian Bayley ‘Nitro Nights’   

Dragstalgia 2016 - July

All the ticketing boxes had been opened but there was still a long queue. We could smell the burning oil and tyres and the sound of screeching tyres and thundering engines. Our hearts were pumping and the adrenaline kicked in. We followed the hundreds of cars lining the freshly-mowed fields. Everyone was out carrying picnic baskets, deck chairs, blankets but we just brought our cameras with us. Amidst the madness, a Red Kite was riding the waves its mewling barely audible, welcoming us.

Dragstalgia 2016 - July

Santa Pod Raceway turned the clock back to the golden years with Dragstalgia, a weekend dedicated to the bygone era of the 60’s 70’s and 80’s  with classic dragsters and funny cars, altereds, hot rods, American muscle and more. In just its 6th year, Dragstalgia had became a major event on every drag racing fans calendar and thankfully, ranked highly with the hot rodding fraternity too. The event started on Friday which was the arrival/RWYB day and Saturday was the first race day. There was championship Drag Racing and Run What Ya Brung sessions on the track along with Jet Dragster and 2 seater Dragster Rides.

Dragstalgia 2016 - July

“Once you’ve raced, you never forgot it … and you never get over it.”

~Richard Childress~

Dragstalgia 2016 - July

We were quite surprised to see the lack of stalls, tents and arenas that usually dotted along the path but later found out that they were in the paddock, behind the strip. We took our place in the middle amongst the thousand of spectators on the grassy banks lining the raceway and checked out our surroundings. It was a huge party atmosphere as people marked their places on deckchairs and mats and having picnics amongst the burning oil, screeching tyres and thundering engines.

Dragstalgia 2016 - July

“To achieve anything in this game, you must be prepare to dabble in the boundary of disaster”

~Sterling Moss~

Dragstalgia 2016 - July

I noticed that a lot of the women were dressed up in vintage and quite a  few were beautifully tattooed too. The men were mostly in colourful Hawaiian shirts and vintage ‘car-themed’ t-shirts. There was even a group of men on their stag-do, slowly turning lobster-red under the blazing sun. We planned to be on the grandstand which was free for the 3-day event and wasn’t surprised to see it packed. When the races started, I realised that I’d left my ear-plugs at home. Grrrrr….

Dragstalgia 2016 - July

“What set these-and-all-racers- apart from less dare-devilish mortals is their complete lack of fear and their joy of doing something on the edge. They love to speed because it is dangerous”

~Peter Golenback~

Dragstalgia 2016 - July

We watched the selected few RWYB vehicles up first to pound the quarter mile. Their mission was to accelerate from a standing start and covered the quarter mile in the shortest possible time. Jonny Smith in his Enfield 8000 was eager to get some times in and he smashed a world record with an incredible 9.86 pass at 121mph making that the quickest pass from a road legal electric vehicle! There were some stonking passes from all of the invited race classes and we saw 6 second passes a number of times. Joe Bond with his Slingshot Dragster had the weekend of his life, not only celebrating his 30th birthday but also taking the victory in the first ever slingshot showdown with a brace of 6 second passes.

Dragstalgia 2016 - July

“When you win a race you’re on top that day, so take it for what its worth, have a good time and party, cause the next day when you get out of bed, the meter goes back to zero again’'.

~Bobby Allison~

Dragstalgia 2016 - July

Match Racing was the order of the weekend for the 2 visiting American Ron Hope with his Fuel Altereds Rat Trap and Randy Bradfoed with Bradfords Topolino. The home grown entry of Nick Davies with his Bantam Altered Havoc added some spice to the mix and Ramon Van Der Weurf in the Wild’r at Heart Funny car completed the Europe vs America foursome. Seeing the scoreboards light up several times with side by side 6’s, often within a tenth of each other was a sight to behold and one that many of us will remember for a long, long time.

Dragstalgia 2016 - July

“Hell, if it was easy anybody could do it and it wouldn’t be called racing”

~Bruce Pedretti~

Dragstalgia 2016 - July

During the lunch break on the track, we drooled over the Show paddock that was filled to the brim. Woo..hoo There were nostalgia dragsters on display, a handful of custom cars, Show & Shine, Historic Car Display. All types of cars were there, whether impeccably-detailed rebuild and classics, modified motors, quarter-mile demon, highly-tuned track weapons or rusty machines of all ages, models and styles.  One of the highlights at Santa Pod was that spectators could wander among the competitor’s team pit-side action at close quarters. If they weren’t busy, they would answer any questions, pose for photographs or sign autographs.

Dragstalgia 2016 - July

“Chick reporter: So are you the driver”

Tim: Sometimes … sometimes I’m just along for the ride”

~Tim Hay~

Dragstalgia 2016 - July

We only managed to browse only half of the huge complex before the next race schedule started. We headed to the Grandstand and managed to get a seat. Among the spectators, were very well-dressed back-up girls. The purpose of a back-up girl was to guide the driver of the car as they backed up to the starting line after doing a burn out. The objective was to help the driver steer the car backwards to precisely follow the wiped clean and heated path of the slicks to improve traction.

Dragstalgia 2016 - July

“A racing driver has to be a good driver.”

~Emerswon Fittipaldi~

Dragstalgia 2016 - July

The starting line was always a flurry of activities. Billows of smoke poured from the cars, like a bull pawing the dirt before he charged, the deafening roar of engines filled the air with tension. Then with a loud squeal, the cars surged down the track past the ‘Christmas tree’. a traffic light system in the centre of the track just off the start line. The ground shook and the air instantly filled with the familiar fumes of the alcohol-fed engines. As the smoke cleared, the crowd’s attention moved to the back-up girls running out onto the track. They motioned their team cars emphatically with their hands, guiding the cars back into position. Many of these ladies wore costumes that matched their team colours or other ‘very’ interesting apparels.

Dragstalgia 2016 - July

“Don’t let the mascara and perfume confuse you, she can go from makeup to mud in three minutes flat.”

~Kaloy  Engstrom~

Dragstalgia 2016 - July

We watched a few mouth-watering races and among them were the Outlaw Street, Super Stock, NSA Bikes, Wild Bunch, Outlaw Anglia and Slingshot Showdown. There was nothing on earth quite like watching the sheer adrenaline rush involved in winding open the throttle of the high-powered motorbikes from the riders. The Outlaw Anglia made some unique and spectacular heads-up with their ‘Sit-up-&-beg’ style Ford Anglia, Popular, Fordson and Perfect.

Dragstalgia 2016 - July

“Motor racing is like one big family, ultimately, and when you come back to it, that’s really what it feels like.”

~Mario Andretti~

 Dragstalgia 2016 - July

It was getting very hot on the grandstand and we were famished by this time. We headed back to the car and it was a challenge to find our tiny blue car among the thousands. When we found it, we’d a picnic in the car and we weren’t not the only one doing it. After fuelling up, Babe droved the car closer to the entrance so that we don’t have to walk far and also made finding our car much easier.

Dragstalgia 2016 - July

“Racing is a great mania to which one must sacrifice everything, without reticence, without hesitation.”

~Enzo Ferrari~

Dragstalgia 2016 - July

We went to the same place we stood earlier. Race session 3 was going full throttle. Outlaw Street, Outlaw Flat 4, Gasser Circus, Super Stock E1, Wiley Wars, Slingshot Showdown, Nostalgia Canonball amongst others were battling it out. We enjoyed the heads-up racing between cars powered by VW flat four pushrod based engines which were capable of running 12.99 and faster. The Slingshot showdown was another heads up shootout with qualifying and eliminations, open to front engine dragsters that were proven to have a run quicker than 8.50. They were really powerful machines.

Dragstalgia 2016 - July

“I’ve been racing for my whole life, and I know what I need to do to be able to win’”

~J.R. Celsli~

Dragstalgia 2016 - July

Then we went back to the paddock to check the rest of the complex. Again, the pits were buzzing with spectators and filled to the brim with static displays of nostalgia goodness, awesome street and strip machineries. It was incredible to see an engine being stripped in minutes with some of the best team-work. At the Historic vehicle section, there was a display on the evolution of Dragsters showing the early Hounddog 1, Backdraft Slingshot and Glacier Grenade which were  really jaw-dropping machines.

Dragstalgia 2016 - July

“When building engines I have found the piston to ground clearance to be ever so critical’”

~Geri Tarvin~

Dragstalgia 2016 - July

We enjoyed it so much that we nearly missed the last few races. We managed to get a seat and while Babe rattled hundreds of shots, I videotaped all the actions. There were plenty of long smoky burnouts and wheels up action.  And one of it was when Keith Freeman of the Supercharged outlaws crashed into the wall. He took off at full speed, then the car took a hard right, a little spin, and then made contact with the wall. Ouch!!! Thankfully, Keith came out ok thanks to his driving skills and damaged to the car was kept to a minimum.

Dragstalgia 2016 - July

“There is no place for arrogance or complacency in racing because you are up there one minute and on your backside the next’”

~Tony McCoy~

Dragstalgia 2016 - July

Next was the moment to savour for the throngs of fans. It was the recreation of the first ever run ever made down the Santa Pod dragstrip in 1966. The plan was for the sons of the original drivers to drive their respective mounts side-by-side up the strip as a 50th anniversary tribute. But as the dragsters swung out from the pairing lanes and approached the start line, it was the original drivers at the controls. At 91 years old, Harold Bull became not only the first driver to traverse the quarter-mile but the oldest too. His opponent, Ken Cooper, was 69 years old. Applauded by everyone all the way to the finish line, the pair received a further ovation from the track marshals as they pulled to a halt at the end of the shutdown area. What a marvellous tribute.

Dragstalgia 2016 - July

“Finishing races is important, but racing is more important.”

~Dale Earnhardt~

Dragstalgia 2016 - July

Next was the hotly-awaited cacklefest with 9 dragsters lining up in front of the grandstand. Whoop…whoop!!!. Cacklefest was a term coined to define the cackling and cracking of these mighty engines as they reached full power with the addition of nitromethane. They hissed, cackled, spat fire, noise and smoke into the air as fearsome as any mythical dragon of old. They lighted the evening as they fired up the engines.The noise was unbelievable loud with the crowds cheered them on. It went on and on and on…. No one wanted it to stop.

Dragstalgia 2016 - July

“I have no time for people who dislike the sweet smell of race fuel, burnt tyres and the sound of loud engines”

~Unknown~

Dragstalgia 2016 - July

Then a fireburnout  closed the track for the evening. The crowds had their hearts in their mouths as Bob Hawkins in his Slingshot Dragster Time Traveller was engulfed in flames. They went wild when the car turned into raging infernos. Thankfully, it only lasted about 5 minutes cos I think I forgot to breathe. It was exciting but quite scary.

Dragstalgia 2016 - July

“I started racing myself and once you get bitten by that bug you really are hooked’”

~Nick Mason~

Dragstalgia 2016 - July

We left at 8 pm when the track closed for the night. There were live band playing for those who were camping and anyone who wanted to stay and party. We stayed in the car and finished our coffee while waiting for the traffic to ease, It took 30 minutes before we left the stadium. It had been an amazing day and we will definitely be back again.

Dragstalgia 2016 - July

“As I lay rubber down the street, I pray for traction I can keep, but I spin and begin to slide, please dear God protect my sweet ride”

~Trucker’s prayer~

Dragstalgia 2016 - July