With the IHRA’s scope now truly encompassing the globe, there is rarely a time when the rumble of finely tuned racing engines can’t be heard somewhere around the planet.
When the tracks in the Northern Hemisphere close down for the winter, we never skip a beat as our friends in New Zealand jump in and keep the action going from October through April.
Both Fram Autolite Dragway at Meremere on the North Island and Powerbuilt Raceway (Pegasus Bay Drag Racing Club) near Christchurch on the South Island have their 2012-2013 racing seasons underway, and their loyal fans and competitors are keenly anticipating the year ahead.
Fram Autolite Dragway
This season is particularly significant for Fram Autolite Dragway, as it marks the 40th anniversary of the track. In 1972 the members of Pukekohe Hot Rod Club decided that a purpose-built dragstrip was needed in New Zealand, so a local farmer provided some land and in April of 1973 the first race meeting was run at what was then called Meremere Dragway. Now, forty years later, the dragstrip is still owned by the club and the venue has grown to include a dirt track, a jet sprint boats track and a vintage speedway.
“We have a busy season ahead of us, with a four-round track series, a Junior Dragster championship meeting, two rounds of the IHRA New Zealand National Track series and a six-round Friday Night Street Car Shoot-out,” said track manager Gary Bogaart. “When we are not running our events the track is being utilized every weekend by car clubs and private promoters. As this is written there have already been two very successful race meetings, including the Prestone Spring Nationals on the last weekend of November. At this event Ross Taylor set a new NZ Top Door Slammer record of 6.41 with his ’57 Chev.
“It was also at this meeting where Anthony Marsh laid down the fastest time and speed of the race in an A/Fuel dragster in the Top Alcohol class, running a 5.49 at 263 mph and qualifying number one,” said Bogaart. “The interest in nitro cars has certainly grown with the addition of a Top Fuel dragster in the Marsh team as well as another Top Fuel dragster to be campaigned by Reece Fish, who also has the distinction of owning and driving NZ's fastest and quickest street-legal car.”
The 40th Anniversary will be celebrated at the NZ Nationals in March, and there are a number of things being organized to celebrate this landmark event. One of the founding organizers of the dragstrip, Ralph Wright, is also working with the current board of management to celebrate the heritage of New Zealand’s only dedicated quarter-mile dragstrip.
“Our organization, the Pegasus Bay Drag Racing Club, Inc., has been drag racing on the back straight of the Powerbuilt Raceway circuit track at Ruapuna Park in Christchurch for the past 43 years,” said manager Todd Stevenson. “We get one race date per month, and our summer race season goes from late October to April each year.
“We are in New Zealand’s less-populated South Island, and in any year, licensed comp racers tend to be around the two dozen mark for the whole island, so we rely on racers from the North Island, and on street cars to make up our racer numbers. We race the full quarter-mile and our track records are in the 5.90s at around 240 mph.
“As we traditionally do, we started the season with the running of the Kevin McInroe Memorial Challenge,” said Stevenson. “Kevin McInroe was a popular racer who unfortunately died in a track accident fifteen years ago while racing his 1938 Chev Coupe. Since then, each year the club has run a hot rods and muscle cars meeting in his honour, although over the years, hot rods are seen less and less at the track.
“This year, two local hot rodders, Rick Ives and Alan Ross, decided the event needed a re-launch and thanks to their efforts, some 104 hot rods and muscle cars lined up to race. We had twelve clubs represented by the twenty six teams of four cars, and they raced for the Kevin McInroe Memorial trophy, and $750 in cash.
“All cars racing in the Challenge were required to be street legal – with current registration, a “warrant of fitness” (or 6 monthly independent mechanical check) and all cars had to run on street-type rubber. DOT tyres are allowed but were only seen on a few of the quicker cars.
“The quickest time amongst the Challenge cars was a 10.80 for a chev-powered Holden Torana, and the fastest speed through the traps was 141 mph for a blown bucket that couldn’t get any traction off the line (2.1 seconds for the 60ft)
The race meeting was a huge success, with the winners being the North Canterbury Rodders, second place went to Southern Street Rodders and third went to Americars.
“In the near future we have December’s Scrap Palace/Stud Welding Bikes Challenge. The North Island riders put their bikes into a 40-ft container for the trip down and then either drive or fly in for the day’s racing. This will be our second year of the event and we see it growing into something big over the next few years. We hold “Nitro Sunday “ at the end of January, and it’s our biggest meeting of the year with many of the top cars from Auckland travelling down to race. It’s the third round of the IHRA National Series, and the one meeting where our track records will be at risk of being smashed.”