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Exclusive interview with Andy Carter
We spoke to FIA European Top Fuel Dragster Champion Andy Carter in the run-up to the 2002 Easter Thunderball at Santa Pod Raceway, which includes the third annual Pro Fuel Shootout in which Top Fuel Dragsters and Funny Cars race together. We asked 2001 Shootout finalist Andy his thoughts about the Pro Fuel Shootout and his plans for the FIA Tour.
Eurodragster: Apart from the handicap, would you say that the differences between a Top Fueller and a Funny Car give either type of car an advantage at this event?
Andy Carter: I don't really think there is a great advantage for a Dragster or Funny at this event. The weather and track are usually so cold that it is really tough to get any fuel car down there at this event.
Eurodragster: We understand that qualifying be will same-class. Would you rather run against the other type of car in qualifying to get more used to it?
Andy Carter: I would rather run against a funny car in qualifying, after all that's what this event is all about isn't it, Top Fuel v Funny Car, and of course the practice at leaving late would be good when the racing starts.
Eurodragster: 0.4 seconds doesn't sound very long, but from racers' comments in previous years we know that it's an eternity for the Top Fuel driver. How off-putting is it to hear the Funny Car go first?
Andy Carter: I have only run at this type of event once, last year when I was runner up to Spuff, and did not hear any of the Funny Cars leave. Remember that a Fuel car is not easy to stage correctly and at this point in the run the concentration level is so high and there is so much noise coming from the car you are strapped into anyway, that I would be surprised if anyone hears the other car leave!
Eurodragster: Having left the line, are you conscious of the fact that you are reeling in or even passing the Funny Car, or are you just focused on what you're doing?
Andy Carter: Of course you are totally 110% focused on what you are doing, if you were not you shouldn't be driving a Fuel car. You are also very conscious of the fact that the car you are racing is being caught or going away from you. If my foot was down and the car was 'on a good one' there would be very strong words with Eddie if I was not catching a Funny Car up!
Eurodragster: We ask this every year, but we like to see how the replies change. If if it was up to you, what handicap would you set this year?
Andy Carter: I said this last year and I say it again. I would like the format changed to no handicap, just a straight Fuel shootout, open to anything running Fuel: Dragsters, Funnys, Fuel Altereds, say everyone qualifies for an eight car field. The weather at this time of the season is a great leveller so this would make exciting racing for drivers and spectators.
Eurodragster: This is the third year of the Shootout and there are two more competitors this time around. What do you think of it as a race and how can you see it developing?
Andy Carter: I think it's a great race to start the season, I just wish it was a bit warmer, but you can't have everything I suppose. As long as the spectators come through the gate I can only see it getting bigger, maybe up to an eight car field next season.
Eurodragster: Aside from yourself, who do you think is most likely to win the Shootout?
Andy Carter: I see my main threat as Spuff. I didn't like it when he drove away from me in lasts year's final, and I don't aim to let anyone do that this year!
Eurodragster: What work has been done on the car over the winter to prepare for the coming season?
Andy Carter: Normal winter servicing for a Top Fueller. Without going into much detail, the car has to go back to a bare chassis: everything is cleaned, inspected then put back or replaced. We have also managed to lose about fifteen pounds in weight.
Eurodragster: How do you see your chances in this year's FIA Championship?
Andy Carter: Unfortunately, with a budget for only one or maybe two rounds, at present not very good. If, and it's a big if, we had a budget I would say our chances would be very good. Myself, Eddie and the crew are all hungry and feel we could retain the title. We learnt a lot about different conditions and weather at the European tracks which we would not have to learn this season.
Eurodragster: Would you say that starting your season early, by competing in the Shootout, gives you any advantage over your FIA competitors?
Andy Carter: Yes, I would say it gives us an advantage. It gives us a chance to sort any small issues with the car and tools, it gives the crew a chance to work again under race conditions, and it gets the driver back into the cockpit. Remember that even someone who is FIA European Top Fuel Champion, Allan Herridge Trophy holder, and ET track record holder at Shakespeare County Raceway needs practice!
Eurodragster: Thank you very much, Andy. We look forward to seeing your next practice session!
Andy Carter: I would like to thank everyone who is making it possible for Carter Motorsport to be running at this event.
Visit Andy Carter's web site
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