The Word of Pod
2018 is going to be a very exciting year at Santa Pod Raceway! Trakbak CEO, Keith Bartlett (KB), is pleased to announce the undertaking of a major new project that will be a landmark in the continuing development and improvement of Santa Pod Raceway. Construction of a brand new full quarter mile concrete track, in partnership with Knights Construction Group, is well underway.
KB is expecting big things for the season ahead – “This is a very significant investment, heading towards £1m, and I believe it shows our commitment to the sport of drag racing, and to the racers in particular. I am confident that we will start the 2018 season with an extremely fast track – possibly to become one of the best tracks in the world.”
Though Santa Pod hosts a variety of different types of event, it is the track itself that is the beating heart of the venue, and the new surface will be welcomed by everyone involved in the sport. The prospect of presenting the European drag racing community with a new concrete track fills KB with a sense of anticipation.
Speaking as work on the track began, KB said, “The current surface, along with all the previous racing surfaces at SPR, were asphalt, and we have been long-term holders of many records set on asphalt, but we have had numerous problems with the tarmac surface since it was laid in 2013. We are starting from scratch, and the work will entail ripping out the entirety of the existing track, including the 1943 WWII runway that lies beneath the track, and the foundations beneath that. Knights will then install an extensive drainage system to ensure the track’s integrity over the long term, and then the process of rebuilding the foundations can start. I’m pleased to say that the entirety of the old WWII runway will be recycled and included in the sub-base.”
Watch this space for more updates, and in the meantime, Happy New Year from all at Santa Pod Raceway!
So the month of November comes round yet again, with the chance of meeting some of my drag racing heroes at the annual British Drag Racing Hall of Fame Saturday afternoon Bench Racing Session, organised by former drag bike racer Geoff Stillwell and his company, Beech Underwriting. With the Gala moving this year to the swanky Oatlands Park Hotel, Weybridge, once the site of a grand Tudor palace built by Henry VIII, it also provided the opportunity of looking round Brooklands and climbing that mammoth racing banking made famous in the Twenties.
As usual, the afternoon featured a stellar line up of drag racing dignitaries, who were kept in order by author and journalist, Bob McClurg. With Street Outlaw racer Jeff Lutz on the panel, the inevitable questions were about the show and his favourite event, Hot Rod Drag Week, though you wouldn’t think it going by his immediate answer – “Its pure hell. You’re in survival mode. Winning is easy, but getting to the tracks is hell.” We’ve yet to see the footage on Street Outlaws, but Jeff also paid tribute to his family and team after crashing the same car three times in two weeks!
Another popular choice of questions for the panel was their most spectacular incident of their careers. Dale Emery, one time Top Fuel and Funny Car racer with the legendary Ray Beadle of Blue Max fame, remembers the incident, along with others, at the 1978 US Nationals – “I had signed for Mike Burkhart to run his Camaro, but in qualifying I ended up wrecking the car, almost killed myself when it flipped, landing on its side just inches from my legs on top of the steel barrier,” recalls Dale. But the scariest was when he landed upside down in a ditch after the steering wheel came off. “They got me out and the ambulance driver tried to take my helmet off without undoing it. One of my crew hit him and he ended up half way across the ditch.” Dale had been a frequent visitor to Santa Pod as driver of the Chadderton & Okazaki Vega Funny Car (which later became Bootise’s Gladiator), and with the famed Blue Max team.
Sydney Allard Media Award winner, Mike Collins, asked Dennis Priddle about his recollections of the first night race at Santa Pod (June 15th, 1968) which was an episode I remember well because dad was racing his dragster that night too. As a safety measure, insisted upon by the RAC, all open wheel cars (including drag bikes) had to carry cycle lamps front and rear. Dennis recalls, “Tony Densham was in Commuter and I was in Tudor Rose. We looked and we both thought that [the top end] didn’t look too bad.
Back in those days you sat very low in the car and all you could see was the back of the supercharger. We got to the end and it was completely black. I got stopped and it was totally silent. I heard a voice calling ‘Dennis?’ and I called back ‘Is that you, Tony?’ He replied ‘Yes, where are you?’ We could only see when the push car came. I promised myself that I would go to the top end of the track and see how dark it was.” After going rounds, dad got beat in the final by Reg Sommers with the MAB straight six Zephyr dragster, which was “Dr Bob” Hawkins’ original Time Traveller Wild Bunch dragster!
We’ll pick up on some more stories from the Bench Race in the next issue; unless some other earth shattering news breaks in the meantime!
Grand Slam image
photo’s by Jon Spoard
One of the most hotly anticipated events of 2018 is the return of the Doorslammers event to Santa Pod Raceway. Last run in the early Nineties, this weekender is purely for door cars – no dragsters, altereds or funny cars – and with a whopping prize fund of £75,000, the buzz is already hotting up. Speaking about the new event, Trakbak Racing Ltd CEO, Keith Bartlett, said, “We’re putting on an event that should appeal to every racer of a door car; the class structure we have settled on will provide a place to race for everyone, from Pro Mod to Front-Wheel Drive. There are six heads-up classes, plus a huge bracket class. With £75,000 at stake I expect the competition to be extremely fierce.”
It all happens over the weekend of May 19th and 20th; that’s the weekend before the Main Event. Bracketeers will get their ‘sighting lap’ in the morning, with then there’ll be eliminations on the hour until one lucky winner walks off with £10,000. Plus there’s the option of a first-round buy-back for those knocked out early, and open qualifying on Saturday for a spot in the field.
“We are planning something very special for eliminations in the heads-up classes: a randomised draw to decide pairings, with no ladder of progression in place,” MR Bartlett continues. “Number 1 could face number 2 in the first round, which is very exciting; the identity of the racer in the next lane depends entirely on the draw – right up to the final round. I like the idea of drawing pairings and lane choice at random – it will really shake things up.”
Another highlight will be the prospect of seeing the finest Pro Mods in Europe being released from the constraints of the rule book – it’s not an MSA or FIA event, so the blower, fuel and weight restrictions don’t apply in the Pro Doorslammer class. And with a £20,000 payday for the winner, it’s expected to bring the top door cars from all over Europe… and beyond?! Further event information including classes, rules and entry details are available on the website www.thedoorslammers.co.uk.