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