Exclusive interview with Dave Bryant and Gordon Smith
We spoke to Dave Bryant (Crew Chief and co-owner) and Gordon Smith (Driver and co-owner) of the Shockwave Fuel Funny Car team in February 2002, shortly after Dave's return from the USA where he had been purchasing new parts for the season. With the second British Fuel FC Championship recently announced, we asked about the 2001 Championship, the 2002 Championship, and the work on the car over the winter.
Eurodragster: What are your thoughts on last year's inaugural Fuel FC Championship?
Dave and Gordon: The 2001 inaugural Fuel FC Championship proved to be exciting not only for the spectators but also for us. Thanks to the hard work of all involved it was great to run in competition rather than match racing and this certainly made for better entertainment for the spectators seeing four cars competing against each other for a Championship. It also gave us the opportunity to run against Smax and Mark Hawkins' car with most of our track time in the past being against Bob and John with the Showtime car.
Eurodragster: And what's new with the 2002 Championship?
Dave and Gordon: The four meetings have been confirmed for this year and the ongoing endeavour to make the Championship bigger and better each year.
Eurodragster: How would you say Shockwave's 2001 season went?
Dave and Gordon: With the 2001 season being the first with Direct Drive we were pleased to be able to compete in every final: something only achieved by the Shockwave team. However we were obviously disappointed not to win at least once. The new parts performed well and the crew did a great job in assisting with our steep learning curve, pulling well together to keep the car running as good as it did.
Eurodragster: What have you done to the car over the winter?
Dave: The major problem last season was that a large-volume fuel pump along with only a four-stage management system and small mags caused us to drop cylinders consistently. However the art of nitro racing is to introduce as much nitro as possible and to burn it! 'FUEL makes POWER'. So for this year we have purchased a bigger fuel pump, a twelve stage 'Stateside' Otterman fuel management system twinned with two new 44-amp MSD mags and a new ITC pro mag advance/retard magdrive to control the burn rate and prevent dropping cylinders at half track. We have also recently purchased from the States an updated clutch management system, and we are updating the Knut/Al Jackson clutch cannon to accept this. I have also designed some new clutch features, hopefully to counteract the problem of flipping fingers and destroying clutches. All of these changes bring the car up to current NHRA spec. In order to stop all of this we also thought we ought to buy some new parachutes. Oh, and we also now have a new complete spare motor, 'Elvis', sat in the trailer
Gordon: Due to the increase in power that Dave believes we will make from the fuel and clutch changes, we have had to make some radical changes to the body for 2002. This includes a new, bigger and stronger rear wing which should assist in preventing the tyres from losing traction past half-track. We are also expecting to make more speed this year, so the body has been strengthened in some areas. Unfortunately due to finances we were unable to purchase a new body from the States, although this is still an option later in the season. The colour and design will stay the same as last season although the new rear wing will be more distinctive. Aside from the car, and with a view to travelling more, we have purchased a new tractor unit.
Eurodragster: Would you like to make a prediction about Shockwave's performance in 2002?
Dave: With all the changes we have made this winter we feel we can become a real Championship contender this year and we are not looking at finishing second at every event as we need to win in order to advance on last season. The capabilities of the car should see us running very close to, if not level with, Showtime's impressive performances of last season.
Eurodragster: Obviously everyone is gunning for Showtime in the Championship again this year but how do you rate the rest of the competition?
Gordon: Obviously we are unaware of the changes the other teams have made, but we are sure that nobody is going backwards and everybody is looking to improve on their last season's performance. Smax showing his capabilities at the Cannonball and Mark Hawkins' FC winning the final event shows that all the teams have the ability to win.
Eurodragster: We understand that Shockwave will be running in the Pro Fuel Shootout at the Thunderball. Is this special race as much fun for you as it is for the fans?
Dave and Gordon: Running against the dragsters adds some excitement to the start of our season and it is always good to beat these 'long pointed girlie cars'. With all the changes to the car it also gives us the opportunity to see how they are going to work for the rest of the season, and we can also see if the opposition have stepped up for this season. With the Funny Cars leaving on the dragsters it does add to the excitement for the team as they see the dragster sitting on the line and hopefully not catching Gordon as he dissapears off down the track. Unfortunately for the crew they have to work as hard at this event as all the other events as we are always looking to snatch a win from any event we enter.
Eurodragster: What would you set the handicap to this year?
Dave: I would rather see a couple of hundred pounds of lead added to the dragsters and run heads up!
Gordon: I disagree. I would rather see the handicap set at 0.4 of a second to give me a chance to get out of the way before they try to spear me by half track!
Eurodragster: Which sponsors have re-signed for this season, and have you any new sponsors?
Dave and Gordon: All of our current sponsors have committed to us for this season including ABAC, AUTOLITE, CJT PROMOTIONS, FLINT INSURANCE, FRAM, KOPROPO, MILLENNIUM COMPUTERS and RCS, with most of them providing product-only support.
Eurodragster: Any changes to team personnel?
Dave and Gordon: Unfortunately we have lost one very valuable team member, Danny Bates, who was an excellent all-rounder and had been with the team since we started, but two new crew members have joined us, Sam and Jason.
Eurodragster: Anyone else you would like to thank?
Dave: Elvis, for being born
Dave and Gordon: Keith Bartlett, Terry Gibbs and Bob Jarrett for organising the 2002 Championship, all the other teams for their support and participation, John Spuffard for all his assistance during the winter. We also welcome Jim Broome as the Nitro Funny Car Championship co-ordinator
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