In the 90’s the family fun days were Drag Racing. My father would organize for us to go to the Nationals that were held at Calder Park in Victoria. This place was also known as the Thunder Dome. Was a place for NASCAR type racing, V8 Super cars and top fueller’s.
First things first, an esky full of Rolls with Cheese & Ham, 24 cans of Coke and some chips and lollies. Also some water for hydration. The drive to Calder to me felt like hours, but only when I was older did i realise it wasn’t that far. I guess it kind of felt like that because the traffic was absolutely ridiculous.
Dad’s thing was to get there early so we could park in the Thunder Dome. The coolest part was lining up to drive through the tunnel that goes underneath the track, at the end of the tunnel you were presented with a huge green grass field, with a 360 degree view of the track circling around us. Sometimes there would be a car on the track as well, maybe a NASCAR type or an old HQ.
Was a bit of a walk from the car park to the quarter-mile straight that we would fixate our eyes on the for the rest of the day and night, but it was worth the view inside the Thunderdome. Old Bob Jane would pop in by Helicopter and the Caltex girls would walk past every hour or so to refresh our view. The only thing better than looking at cars were girls.
I can’t say I remember every race, or crash or girl for that matter, but I do remember a few moments that are as clear to me as this day. The first would have to be the burnout. Funny Cars, Top Fuellers and motorbikes would rip up the rubber on the wheels to warm the tyres up before the quarter-mile race. We would run down to pit lane, the most packed part of the track and breathe it in, oh yeah that sweet sweet rubber. Probably not good for a child, but I’m still breathing.
Night racing was the best, the top fueller’s were loud and the flames from the exhaust looked like engines from a futuristic space craft. The blue and orange, flickered with power, the exhaust lid and supercharger eyes would flick open to inhale precious oxygen. The engine cracked, it cracked loud like little fireworks going off. Enough to almost blow you ear drum, but just not enough to actually do it. The only thing better than the sound was the rumble in the ground when they took off. Was the closest thing to an earthquake I ever felt.
So you take that Top Fueller and you feel the ground shake and your ears almost bleed. Then, you up the ante. The Funny Car Jet Car comes out.
This is basically a jet engine with four wheels, a shell that looks like a funny car and a guy with balls of steel holding on to the wheel. I don’t think he actually drives it, he is just there to keep the wheel straight.
There is a hill behind the quarter-mile starting block, which is usually full of people. These people have to move with the jets come out. The power of the jet blows all the little, dirt and rubber up the hill. The heat is intense. The sound is like holding a can of fly spray and squeezing it into a flame, that quick burst of flame, the brwwwwwqqq sound, then the hiss of the engine. The sound of the turbine spinning inside, like a passenger jet taxing, then another burst.
From memory, these things don’t do burnouts. They just sit there constantly leaking fuel into the jet, the flames and sound increasing with every spurt.
Before you realise they have taken off, your brain captures up to the cars around half way and a pressure appears on your chest. You can feel the thrust, the power as these jets fly past. It almost knocks you off your feet. You almost have to push forward to make sure you don’t fall over all while screaming so loud that the jet engines vaporise any sound waves from the entire crowd. You don’t hear anything but the jet engine.
Then, like slowly turning a radio up you hear the crowd sound waves appear about 4 seconds behind the jet cars and they have already deployed there parachutes and are slowing down. You voice is now part of 1000 more, cheering and laughing. The most common phrase I think is, “Holy Shit, that was madness”
Your heart rate is through the roof, you feel adrenaline pumping through your veins.
What a rush.
That was a family tradition for sometime. Then they took the Drags away from Calder park. Eventually we replaced the family ritual with the Avalon Airshow before I left to live in Brisbane.
But guess what?
The Nationals are at Calder Park on January 23-24, 2016 at Calder Park Raceway. Then the Winter Nationals are in Queensland on June 9-12, 2016.
Looks like I got a date or two with a funny car.