There were many ups and downs during my licensing weekend at Santa Pod Raceway at the Jap Show Finale. To begin with, Saturday was a wash out, the rain came down all afternoon until it stopped and we made the decision not to run due to the track temperature conditions. There were three runs left to make in the Shockwave Nitro Funny Car to finally complete my licence.
On Sunday morning the team were all up and eager to go, we did a warm up around 10am and prepared for the first run of the day at 11am. There was no hanging around as we had to fit all three runs in that day. I was quite nervous about getting back into the seat, as it had been a year since my last drive - the year wait went incredibly fast.
During the preparation to completing my first pass down the drag strip I was approached by the Sky Sports F1 film crew, who were at Santa Pod Raceway filming with Natalie Pinkham for the Japanese Grand Prix. Along side Martin Hill with the Fireforce Jet Dragster, the Shockwave Nitro Funny Car was one of the fastest vehicles at the track over the weekend, which brought great attention to Nitro Racing.
Once Ian Marshall had given us the thumbs up to go, I got strapped back into the car (which was a bit more of a squeeze compared to last time) and we were ready to go! As I approached the start line and began to burnout, I felt my foot drop suddenly beyond the throttle stop which picked up the rpm. I caught it quickly, however it caused the motor to over rev. The Shockwave team made the decision to continue as I had a lot of runs to complete in that day and the engine sounded smooth - which didn’t imply any damage had been done. I was comfortable with the decision that had been made after the motor was checked.
During stage, the car felt good and I was prepared to make a half pass. I left the line fast and made it to 60ft in 0.92 seconds on a slow tune. I reached around 300ft before I felt the motor slightly die off followed by a big explosion. It happened incredibly fast, there was a small flash fire which filled the cock pit followed by a lot of smoke, I pulled the car to one side as I could feel oil on the slicks. Once I had brought the car to a stop the cockpit began to fill up with smoke so I jumped out and was met by the fire crew and the paramedics, who got to the car extremely fast.
Whilst I was in the medical centre, the team took the car back to the pits to assess the damage. I can say, I have never been so anxious waiting to find out what exactly happened during that run, and if there was any other way to get down the track and complete my license that weekend. There were no other options as this was the final engine available, which ultimately cost me a year out of the 2017 Funny Car Championship.
Since the weekend, there has been many positive outcomes. One being, featured on Sky Sports in front of over 400 million television viewers during the Japanese Grand Prix coverage. This has not only helped me become more established as a racing driver but also enhanced the visibility of European Drag Racing. Secondly, the weekend gave me more experience as a Nitro Funny Car driver and has given me the confidence to be a good contender in the European Funny Car Series.
This overall experience has taught me a lot and we are currently reviewing our options to complete my A Class License. It’s going to be a busy winter…