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Exclusive interview with Gordon Smith and Dave Bryant
Gordon Smith and Dave Bryant have run the Shockwave Fuel Funny Car together for eight years and were MSA UK Nitro Funny Car Champions in 2004. Their preparations for 2006 season show that their ambition and resources have moved forward and they hope that this will be readily apparent at the forthcoming Easter Thunderball, where the team have entered the Pro Fuel Challenge. In addition Dave Bryant has recently started race car shop and Eurodragster.com sponsor Adrenaline Race and Performance together with Danny Bates.
Eurodraster.com interviewed Gordon and Dave by telephone during the run-up to the event.
Eurodragster.com: How are the preparations going for the Easter Thunderball?
Gordon Smith: We stripped the car down to the bare chassis to check that there were no cracks in it. We have moved the motor by an inch and a half back to its original location and added some weight to the front axle in an effort to avoid lifting the front wheels. Last year, with the motor a little further forward, I felt the car didn't handle as well.
On the fuel system, the only change to the basic setup is in the fuel jet. On the transmission side, we have bought a new AFT clutch cannon to replace the one we ran last year, the car damaged the cannon last year and we were forced to drive by the clutch, which ended up hurting parts. We have also reverted to a six stand, four disc clutch setup from last year's nine stand, five disc clutch as the four disc clutch seems easier to tune for us.
Our tune-up will be left to the track and conditions at Easter will dictate what we put into the car in terms of blower overdrive, nitro percentage, mag settings and so forth. We plan to start with a sensible tune-up to run a mid-five with and then step up.
Eurodragster.com: What was your view of how 2005 went?
Dave Bryant: We were disappointed with last season, to be honest. We finished 2004 on a high by winning the championship and started 2005 with the same car, freshened over the winter break. However, we didn't get enough runs to bed in the changes we made and consequently didn't really move forward.
Eurodragster.com: How will the car look at Easter?
Gordon Smith: We will retain the black paint scheme for the moment, and will be adding the graphics of our new sponsor Salon Interactive TV this week.
Eurodragster.com: What is the format for the Pro Fuel challenge at Easter?
Gordon Smith: The Funny Cars will have a 0.35 sec advantage as their index will be 5.35 and the Top Fuel Dragster index will be 5.00. There will be three qualifying runs and the cars with the fastest aggregate runs against index will meet in the final. There may be run-offs, but only if weather and conditions allow.
I think we can run three decent runs and, based on previous years it should take two decent passes and one half-decent one to get into the final. However the competition is the strongest there has been in years! I believe that John Spuffard is close to getting the combination to potentially run a 4.90 or 5.00 and will definitely be a threat. Then there are the top five Top Fuel Dragsters from the 2005 Championship! Lex is definitely a threat and Andy Carter's got a huge will to win. And then there's the drivers licensing…We're looking forward to the event.
Eurodragster.com: What is your depth of spare parts this year?
Gordon Smith: We hurt a lot of stuff last year, especially main bearing and block damage. We've now got three freshened blocks. We also sent three sets of heads back to Brad Anderson Engineering for freshening as well. In effect we have three complete motors and will be prepared to use these to turn the car around at Easter. It is important for our team to run harder this year and we have the finances in place to do so at the Easter Thunderball and the Main Event. The only weak link, I feel, is the nine and a half inch rear end. We know that tyre shake can break this and have spare gears but no spare case.
Eurodragster.com: How did your plans for entering Top Fuel come about?
Gordon Smith and Dave Bryant: We actually have two plans! We understand that another team is buying a Fuel Funny Car. If Showtime, Leif Helander and this other team are all willing, we would be prepared to make a proposal for a Nitro Funny Car Championship with one or two rounds being in other European countries as well as the UK. The aim is to attract some of the current methanol teams to move up to fuel. However, spending £150,000 plus on a Nitro Funny Car is a big financial risk unless there is commitment from other competitors and the promoter. With a commitment from other teams, we then need to see what the promoter's thinking is. In short, the crowd love the Nitro Funny Cars but we do need a European Nitro Funny Car Championship to revitalise the class. If this comes about we potentially would be able to obtain the resources to run two cars - but only if a Championship takes place.
If we can't see a 2007 European Nitro Funny Car Championship being on the cards by the latter half of the season, the alternative plan is to move to Top Fuel Dragster. We have looked at cars that might be available in the US from some of the top teams such as Budweiser, Kalitta and David Baca, however we would only be looking to deal in another six months' time. If we do Top Fuel Dragster, we don't want to be also-rans, and we are prepared to move if the finances come through quickly enough. But ultimately I would prefer to stay in Funny Cars, as this is where my heart is.
Eurodragster.com: How did you obtain sponsorship from Salon Interactive TV and what is their product?
Gordon Smith: Salon Interactive TV are based in Hove, East Sussex and specialise in putting TV packages into hairdressing salons and retail outlets. They can make money by selling targeted advertising for the type of outlet being displayed in. It's a growing company and they will be prepared to give us more than enough resources to go Top Fuel racing. Their major shareholder, Steve White, will be taking an active part in the team and will be with us on the crew at the Easter Thunderball, learning about the cylinder head maintenance procedure.
Eurodragster.com: Who are the team's other sponsors?
Gordon Smith: Autolite spark plugs have been with us since we started in Funny Cars eight years ago. ABAC compressors and air tools continue to support us and we are resellers of their equipment too. Loctite continue, as do FRAM filters, Goodrich hoses and fittings, RCS Cables and Flint Insurance.
We have other sponsorship deals on the burner, some potentially major, and I look forward to bringing new sponsors into the sport.
Eurodragster.com: How are the crew responsibilities divided?
Gordon Smith and Dave Bryant: Apart from Dave and myself, Steve Loader, who used to work with Andy Carter, is the assistant crew chief and is an all-rounder who works on the right hand heads. Sammy Farr looks after the bottom end of the motor, and Nicky Hales sets the timers for the fuel and clutch as well as being an all-rounder generally. Steve Brindle does the left hand side of the heads. We have Terry Young on clutch with Neil Titheridge as well.
Dave's wife Laura keeps the crew clean and tidy and watered and Bert Brindle is the car clean-up man, including clearing the sump.
Eurodragster.com: What is your current view of the state of the sport in the UK?
Gordon Smith: I feel it could go either forwards or backwards in the future. A lot of money has been invested into the sport with sponsors putting more into it than ever before. However, the promoters have to play their part and I feel we need more Pro classes at UK events to get bums on seats. Although I am an admirer of the FIA European Championship, it's disappointing there is no Pro racing in the UK any more between the Main Event and the European Finals.
Eurodragster.com: Dave, how is Adrenaline Race and Performance going?
Dave Bryant: I didn't anticipate how fast it would grow. I set the company up last year with my partner Danny Bates, who used to work with Hauser Race Cars. We're based in Rushden and are well-equipped - in fact we pride ourselves on being the only company in the UK that can build a Top Fuel car from scratch, take it to the track and dial it in.
We're able to supply a huge range of drivetrain components as well as engine components and complete motors. We do a variety of other work too – we're working on three track day cars for instance, installing roll cages and tuning the car generally to make it suitable. We're also working on two hot drag cars, and a top secret experimental car, which I can't say much about just at this moment!
Our machinery includes grinding and boring equipment and we also have close links with top machining companies in the area such as Cosworth, if work needs to go off-site. Our web site at www.adrenaline-race.com has a forum which has attracted sixty six registered users since January 2006.
Eurodragster.com: Gordon and Dave, thanks for your time and best of luck at the Easter Thunderball and in the forthcoming season.
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