Portland Raceway - December 1st, 2012

We were supposed to take 4 cars to Portland, 2 Funny Cars and 2 Dragsters, but one of the Dragsters pulled out, so it was decided that we would go anyway, and even do bye runs if we had to so the locals could sample Nitro Dragster racing.

We left Sydney on Portland-Ringwood-Bollards-etc 029the Wednesday morning, as we had a sponsor commitment for Teng Tools in Melbourne on the Thursday, which was an all day deal with a few start ups as well.

We decided to also take our 'Le Rocket', which is our Ice Blasting Peugeot work van, as it is built for cruising(Turbo diesel with a 6 speed...) so we loaded a heap of gear into that to get some weight out of the trailer and hit the road with Dude and I in the Chevy C30 truck/trailer and Normy in the 'Rocket....

Read more: Portland Raceway - December 1st, 2012

Cruzin Magazine Nostalgia Drags, November 18th, 2012

We towed from our Central Coast base on the Saturday morning to the sacred piece of asphalt known as Sydney Dragway....  We arrived about lunchtime to help setup the ANFA Pioneer Awards marquee for the Reunion and Awards that night.

Vinnie and the guys had a 073few adjustments to make and started the engine up a few times, and with all being fine packed the camp up to enjoy the nights festivities.

Sunday dawned quite nice, so the team set about erecting Camp Widow and prepping the car for the pre lunch warm-up prior to our first round of racing.

The team had an easy morning as the pressure was not on yet as the car was sitting quietly waiting for its attack on the track.

Read more: Cruzin Magazine Nostalgia Drags, November 18th, 2012

Day of the Drags, March 10 - 11, 2012

The team had anxiously looked forward to this event since our test day in January.  We were pretty sure that the bad luck that had dogged us for the last 18 months had 'left the team' and we were certainly looking forward to some quality laps over the weekend.

We left the Central Coast about 8am for the 90 minute trip to Sydney Dragway and meeting up with the 'Band' on the entrance road.  Was like a long lost reunion.  The band was actually back together. We entered the venue, sourced our allocated pit bay and the guys eagerly set about setting up Camp Widow and Wendy's Cantina (our catering area).

SD20120310_DOTD_NFD_1469We welcomed our new driver Peter Byrne to the driving duties at this race.  Peter had done an awful lot of laps in his Modified altered over the years and then drove an AA altered as well, so we were pretty sure that he would adapt to the added horsepower that Vinnie was now taming.  This turned out to be an understatement...Peter did good!

We had decided that we would have Peter complete the first half of his license requirements on the Saturday afternoon, which was to be a burnout and around a half pass.  Greg Schultz was to oversee the licensing upgrade for Peter, so we set about getting the 'Widow ready for a lap.

At this stage I should make some positive comments about some guys who were at only their second event with the team.  Brett Copping and a guy who says he is Brett's Dad, Garry Copping. These two guys are really warming to fuel racing, and are keen as buggery to learn more.  Garry has progressed to left side head man after one event and Brett has unanimously been moved to the 'Everybody's Helper' position.  It was no coincidence that the team called on Brett to help with ANYTHING and EVERYTHING around the car.  The kid is learning quickly, and if he keeps away from Tommy, he will possibly learn much quicker....  The 'Band' were also in complete attendance, with Vinnie, Joey, Fred and that guy Tommy.  Super Team....

Back to the lap.  We warm the engine, check the timing, valve lash and for any leaks and change the oil and top up the fuel.  Hmm, all seems ready, OK let's head to the lanes.

The great crew at the track said to belt Peter into the car and when we were ready, just let them know and we could bring him through under the tower to the line.  Fantastic as it's a bit hot sometimes sitting for a while in a 5 layer fire suit....   We roll the car to the start up box, plug the starter in and wind her over.  She fires straight into life.  Gees, that's a good sign!  Peter rolls through the water toward the start line where Joey gives him the Indy 500 'GO' sign where Peter brings the revs up and burns out across the line.  Nice sharp deal.  He brings the 'Widow back behind the line, stops, and Vinnie checks the logger to make sure all is right then motions for Peter to put her in the beams.  Now, there is one small piece that I have to stick in here.  As Vinnie has changed sides on the engine to be on the data logger side, NOBODY was allocated to pull the throttle stop off the injector as Vinnie had always done beforehand.  So, as Peter brings on the second light, Joey points me to the throttle stop still on the injector and I start moving toward the car as Billie the starter looks at me... too late.  Green light.... car ambles off the line as Peter realises that something is not quite right and throttles off.  OK, hopefully that's our one mistake for the day.  Roll down to the bottom of the track, hook up and tow the jigger back to the pit.  On the way back, we decide that we came here to do a lap and that was what we were going to do.

Push the car into the pit, have a quick discussion with the 'band, and decide to turn the car around as quick as we can.  The guys dove into everything.  30 minutes later, we were freshened and towed back to the lanes.  We're ready to go again!

Fire her up, burnout...nice.  Just before Peter got back to the line...the engine shuts off!  WHAT!  We start pushing her back thinking what the hell is wrong now...the start line guys tell us to just push to the side of the burnout pad, back the engine down, let her cool off a tad and let them know when we're ready.  Fantastic.  At this stage, Vinnie and I lean into the cockpit and ask Peter what happened?  He sheepishly admits that he bumped the OFF switch coming back.  Yep, that'll turn the sucker off every time (he did say beforehand that the switch on the butterfly wheel in his opinion was too close to his gloves...hell of a way to prove a point). We go through the procedure of readying the engine for another fire up and hopefully...a lap.

Peter had a huge grin on his face...actually, we did to.

OK, we're off again.  Start her up, short sharp burnout, back her up, Peter pulls on the beams (with the throttle stop off as well) and zoom, he's away.  About 800 odd feet, Peter thinks that's enough for what he had to do, buttons off, pulls a chute and cruises through the braking area.  We arrive down the bottom and Peter has a huge grin on his face...actually, we did to.

Read more: Day of the Drags, March 10 - 11, 2012

Rocket Retro Drags, November 19 - 20, 2011

Well, the Black Widow team had not been out since July 31st for anything let alone a race. The last time out, while still experimenting with a fuel system, we ran a 6.39/225 but we burnt the front 2 pistons and rods. With Vinnie now at the helm, we returned to our old fuel system and crew and will just concentrate on doing some laps to break in our new fill-in driver Luke Shepherd to the 'Mouth of the Dragon'. Luke is joining us for a short stay as we were intent on promoting our own driver through our ranks.

Vinnie spent all of October/November going through the engine and fuel system and readying everything for the November 21st event. There were a fair few people who helped get us to the event, and the few who really stand out were Graeme Cowin at Rocket who kept harassing us to be there and Craig Foster from Duncan Foster. Can't say enough about this engine engineering firm. First class people, first class service and first class product. Thank you to both you guys and especially your staff that made it all happen.

Vinnie, Joey, Buddy, Wendy and I arrived at the track on the Friday after lunch and set about washing the whole rig down as it had been stored outside for 4 months and was showing signs of turning into a paddock basher. We then rolled the old girl out of the trailer as well and set about cleaning all the clutch dust and grime from making a few passes at the earlier event. Ah, I just LOVE clutch dust....especially mixed with 70 weight oil!

By early evening we had lifted the short engine into the chassis and by the time we decided that we had had too much fun, the blower to oil pan was bolted up. We packed up and headed out for a supposed good nights rest.....well, as Wendy and I have now moved up the coast, we had to get a motel, so being cheap skates, we chose the Formula 1 at Wentworthville. As I now know, EVERYBODY has a story about the Formula 1 motels.....

Anyway, back to the track at 8am Saturday and welcome a few new faces to the team, our In-Laws Jenny and Fred Dudek, Luke Shepherd and his 'trusty sidekick' Cameron Roelofs. Freddy kept mumbling something about a Hemi all the while patting it on the injector like a puppy.....sick Polack! Luke tore into getting familiarised with the cockpit and driving chores while Vinnie and Cameron assembled the clutch, put it in the car and buttoned it up. Gees, 11am and we are looking good.

Most of the guys wanted to see the Rocket Open Day, so they downed tools ('cept Vinnie and Dude) and took off to grab a burger, coke and some Nitro fumes at Rocket.

We all assembled back about 2pm where Vinnie and Dude had the engine ready to fire. Must mention at this stage that our newly promoted Crew Chief Joey decided to make his presence about this time and with Tommy turning up for the afternoon as well (definitely a story here) the whole gang was here.

Crank the engine over, get oil pressure......nope, no oil, needle didn't move. We had heard of some pumps needing a prime before they will flow, but never had it happen to us before. You're always learning. Fixed that problem and moved on. So, fire it on petrol, check the timing and check for leaks....nuthin. Shut her down, inspect all over again and light her off on fuel. Hmmm, sounds good. Done that a few times while Buddy and Vinnie went over the logger and checked for temps and pressures. Changed some nozzles, adjusted the barrel valve a tad, and she seemed good to go. At this stage it was about 5pm and people were arriving for the Pioneer Awards and BBQ put on by the ANFA. While the guys kept pottering on the car, I excused myself and started prepping for the presentations that were to start at about 7pm. Did I say yet it was damn hot?

Sunday dawned beautiful. Who would have known that it would bucket down with rain about 3pm.....damn Sydney summer weather?

We warmed the car up about 11am for the first lap at 12.30pm, set the lash while hot, adjusted the clutch after a bit of load on it, then set about prepping for the first pass.

Into the Staging Lanes and we are the second car out with Longy and Dave Armstrong in front of us. Oh oh....both cars were shut down after the burnouts. Gees. OK, we're next. Fire it up, I am down on the line as I got booted from the starter job and bring Luke into the water and roll just past it and give him the signal to light them up...which he does. He went out to about 300 feet, pulled reverse and backed up. Stopped just past the start line when everybody within eye sight of the oil pressure gauge were throwing their arms around. Joey lent in and shut it off......his first over-riding decision as Crew Chief. We all look at each other and think the worst......

We towed the car back into the pit, where we noticed that the belly pan was full of oil, but also remembering that we had to shut the car off. So, the result of all of this- on the scavenge side of the oil pump, the roll pin (20 cents worth if that) sheared off, which allowed the pump to put oil into the engine, but take nothing out back to the tank. Consequently it pressurised the oil pan, and the least resistance component was the front oil seal. If it had been down track, we would possibly have lost the bottom end.

OK, pull the seal, replace that and obtain another dreaded roll pin, button it all back up and she was ready to go. Fired it up, yep, all is just beaut.


Just as we turned it off to tow out for the next lap, down it came. It apparently had a large 'storm front' behind it so the decision was made to can the event. Can't say that's the first time that's happened to us with this car.

So, after a whole lot of gremlins and just plain bad luck over the last 18 months, the whole team is looking forward to lapping the car to get some consistency on it. We had direction at one stage then lost it. We need to find that again.

Unanimously voted on by the team was to go back to the track on the 28th January and try to fit in 3 good solid laps.

Check back in and we will let you know how we went......

It also goes without saying....the crew work damn hard (when they turn up!). Big thanks to Vinnie, Joey, Tommy, Buddy, Fred and Jennifer Kay, Luke and Cameron. I know that I have said it before......and I will say it again.....(if I can remember)...Oh yea, we couldn't do it without you guys, and we literally mean that. Thanks!

Steve and Wendy...

Pictures enclosed....Rocket Retro Drags November 19,2011 in the Gallery

Test 'n Tune - Saturday January 22th, 2011

Since we had hurt the motor at the November event just previous, we decided to put all of the new parts that we had into this new motor. It was over the Christmas break that we were really trying to get everything finished machine wise and then build the engine and install it with the intention of trying to get to this test day, as the testing opportunities at Sydney are very limited.

We did get to the event with what we thought was possibly our best motor ever, everything machined up great, new crank, pistons and rods and we were looking forward to getting a few decent test passes in on the day to give us a base line to move to the next step.

We unloaded and set up the pit and went about our designated chores. Everything was fine, so we started the engine a few times and kept dropping oil pressure. We changed oil, put a spacer in the oil pump to increase the flow, etc etc. Well, it seemed to be stable so we thought we might as well give it a small run to determine if all was good.

Went to the line, started the engine, did the burnout and backed it up. All the team noticed the oil pressure was REAL LOW and they notified the Crew Chief who thought that they were alerting him to something else (we still don't know what). He then gave the order to send it. It was only to go out to about 300 feet and the click it. Well, didn't quite get to 300.....and it went 'Snuff'.....will never forget that sound and that is just what it sounds like, a 'Snuff' then all is quiet. You can only hear the cleanup crew as the vehicles roll....

Zoomed to the bottom of the track and the car was parked in the braking area with the motor and drive train locked up.....we eventually got her off the track and basically knew what the problem was, well it's not Rocket Science when you see oil all over the place and a hole in the oil pan. So we towed her back to the pit to whence everybody was very solemn. This was a big hit to the budget the team has (which is NONE) and was going to take some time to recover.

We tried to ascertain the problem that the engine had apart from the obvious, and loaded her back into the trailer and headed home.

We pulled the engine the next day and sourced 2 problems. One was the oil pump had grabbed the relief plunger which stopped supplying oil to the engine and with the new blower being super tight, it grabbed us as well. You live and learn.

We have now obtained a new oil pump section, fixed the bottom end plus the heads and are nearly ready to go again.

We have been super diligent on getting this unit back together, and have even blown ANY budget we had to make it happen.

We will be back out soon.

Ah, this Drag Racing......worse than drugs!