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Exclusive interview with Gary Page
Gary Page licenced at seventeen and started his career racing the Panic altered with his brothers Dave and Clive. He has since raced in a number of classes including Pro Comp, Fuel Funny Car and Top Fuel Dragster, and was last seen on track driving Rune Fjeld's #2 Top Fueller at the 2001 Flame and Thunder Show at Santa Pod Raceway.
In March 2002 Gary took over the driving seat of Mark and Jackie Hawkins' North Herts Engineering Fuel Funny Car. We spoke to Gary a fortnight before his first appearance in the car, in the Pro Fuel Shootout at the Easter Thunderball at Santa Pod Raceway.
Eurodragster: Your drive in the North Herts FC seemed to come together very quickly. How did it come about?
Gary Page: Well, Ian King was the Svengali! Mark Hawkins wanted to talk to me, I wanted to talk to him, and every time we spoke we skirted round the subject. Ian brought us together. Mark said that if Norm Wilding couldn't drive the car then he would ring me. And he did! He rang me up and said "You'd better come and see if you fit in the car!".
Eurodragster: When was the last time you drove a Fuel FC?
Gary Page: I don't remember the year. It was a few years ago, but I do remember that I kicked Spuff's arse!
Eurodragster: What will you have to do in the way of licencing in the North Herts FC?
Gary Page: I've not driven the car before so I will want to get used to it. I will probably launch it on the first pass, then a half-pass to get the feel of it.
Eurodragster: You must be pretty excited at the prospect?
Gary Page: It's all come together so quickly that I haven't had time to get excited! I've spent most of my time getting one of those fancy new helmets with an air supply.
Eurodragster: Having driven both, do you feel that your natural home is a Top Fuel Dragster or a Fuel Funny Car?
Gary Page: Definitely Funny Car. It's like the office. Top Fuel's like the potting shed!
Eurodragster: On to the Pro Fuel Shootout. 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?
Gary Page: It's easier to get away with pedalling a Funny Car. I would say that with our relatively lower-powered car we stand more chance than anyone, especially if the weather's iffy. You can only de-tune the other cars so much.
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?
Gary Page: I'd rather race against the Top Fuellers, but to be honest I've never cared who I am racing. I run my own race and do what feels comfortable. I'm not even bothered who stages first.
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. Say you get to the Final, do you think that knowing you have a head start will affect your approach in any way?
Gary Page: You have to look at your own lights. You're more inclined to red-light if the other guy goes first, but I'll be going first and I only look at my side of the Tree anyway.
Eurodragster: Again if you get to the final, having left the line do you think that you will be conscious of the fact that the Top Fueller is coming up behind you, or will you just be focused on what you're doing? If you're cocooned in an FC can you hear anything going on outside?
Gary Page: All the cars out there can run quicker, so whenever you leave the line you're looking out of the window. I think you can see more from the Funny Car than from a Top Fueller. You can hear a lot in the Funny Car but I would say that you sense that they are there, rather than hear them.
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?
Gary Page: I haven't done it before so I don't know. If we win, I'll say leave it as it is - if not then we want more of a head start! Maybe they should do it on age, then Sheavills will get a week and a half start...I love him really!
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?
Gary Page: It's good to have something like that at the first race of the year. Everyone's revved up, and it's good for the crowd because they get to see both types of car run.
Eurodragster: Aside from yourself, who do you think is most likely to win the Shootout?
Gary Page: Barry's car is potentially the fastest but the problem is calming it down. Andy's car runs like clockwork. Robin's been 295. On the day it's the one who won't smoke the tyres.
Eurodragster: This will be the first time that you compete in the British Fuel FC Championship. What are your impressions of the Championship?
Gary Page: It's good that they finally did something for the Funny Cars. I was match racing Spuff ten years ago. The Championship means that you don't just want to win, you want to kick their arses because it's worth something.
Eurodragster: How do you see your chances in this year's Championship?
Gary Page: We're going to see how Easter and the first Championship round go and then evaluate the situation. Mark wants to run 5.80s and keep it consistent, and let the others beat themselves. He has a few things up his sleeve!
Eurodragster: You're obviously looking forward to working with Mark and Jackie and the North Herts team.
Gary Page: Mark does it because he enjoys it, and he wants to have fun. You can be serious yet at the same time you've got to be able to laugh, and that's how Mark is. I would like to thank Mark and Jackie for the opportunity, and it's nice to know that they're confident enough in me to let me play with their toy!
Eurodragster: Have a lot of fun playing, Gary. It's good to see you back.
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