Exclusive interview with Barry Sheavills
We spoke to UK Top Fuel Dragster racer Barry Sheavills 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 Barry 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?
Barry Sheavills: At this particular event the weather is the biggest handicap. Although it might surprise us and be a fantastic weekend. Also, anyone who leaves first has an advantage!
Eurodragster: We understand that qualifying will be same-class. Would you rather run against the other type of car in qualifying to get more used to it?
Barry Sheavills: What you've said is exactly what I think. I would rather run against the FCs in qualifying so that I get more used to it!
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?
Barry Sheavills: I find it very off-putting. When the Funny Car leaves the ground shakes and you definitely notice it. I find it very difficult to hang on!
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?
Barry Sheavills: Usually you're watching the Funny Car go up in smoke and weaving from side to side so you are concentrating on staying in your own lane. I'm not conscious of reeling the Funny Cars in because I've normally gone up in smoke!
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?
Barry Sheavills: As I said, the weather is the biggest handicap so I think we should leave together.
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?
Barry Sheavills: I enjoy it. It's a good way for us to start the season, to get the team together and work out which way the spanners turn and how to point the car. Also it's good for testing new set-ups.
Eurodragster: Aside from yourself, who do you think is most likely to win the Shootout?
Barry Sheavills: It's a lottery. Gary Page is my bottom-end man but he's gone for the easier option and is driving a Funny Car; Lee, a crew member we borrow from Spuff, was finding it too much like hard work on a Top Fuel team so he's gone back to Spuff for Easter. So my team is depleted! But I would like to say good luck and safe racing to Andy, Robin, Spuff, Gordon and Gary. It's good to see Robin back and I hope that he will be able to do some FIA rounds.
Eurodragster: What work has been done on the car over the winter to prepare for the coming season?
Barry Sheavills: You should ask Rune really! The car has been in Norway over the Winter and has been completely stripped, to the last nut and bolt, everything has been checked and then the car has been put back together again. We have a new computer. Rune has spent some time in the USA with Joe Amato's team picking up some new ideas.
Eurodragster: How do you see your chances in this year's FIA Championship?
Barry Sheavills: I've got to win it - this is probably my last chance.
Eurodragster: Would you say that starting your season early, by competing in the Shootout, gives you any advantage over your FIA competitors?
Barry Sheavills: Yes! Any track time is good track time, as far as I am concerned.
Eurodragster: We hope you have some good track time at the Thunderball, Barry. Thanks very much.
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