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Exclusive interview with John Spuffard and Gordon Smith
We spoke to 1999 Cannonball runner-up John Spuffard and fellow Fuel FC pilot Gordon Smith in the week leading up to the 2000 Cannonball at Santa Pod Raceway. John Spuffard has won the Cannonball more than once, and Gordon was looking good for a place in the final at his first Cannonball last year when a shut-off for a fluid leak ruined his chances. Both come to the Cannonball on the back of spectacular performances; John Spuffard with a European-best 5.39 at the FIA Main Event and Gordon Smith with a career-best 5.79 at Super Series 1.
Eurodragster: Gordon, this is your second Cannonball. What did you make of your first?
Gordon Smith: Last year was exciting and disappointing. I was in with a chance of getting to the final but for a fluid leak.
John Spuffard: If you had got to the final you would have won.
Eurodragster: How many Cannonballs is this for you, Spuff?
John Spuffard: I can't remember!
Eurodragster: What does the Cannonball mean to you?
John Spuffard: It's the one event for the Funny Cars, and we always rise to the occasion. It's a consistent car which wins - anyone can run fast once. The big problem is that we have bundles of power, but if it runs as well as it did at the Main Event we'll be OK. If it runs big ETs then it runs them, but we're not here specifically to do that. I know Bob Jarrett and the guys will do a good job whatever. I'm there to get to the final and win it this time!
Eurodragster: Gordon, you must be confident about your chances after you ran the 5.7 at Super Series 1.
Gordon Smith: It'll run 5.7s if we can get it to stick. If we can run three 5.8s or 5.9s then I think we have a chance. Shockwave is in as good a shape mechanically as it's ever been. I'm looking to upset John's day in the final...
John Spuffard: It would be nice to see two Fuel cars in the final!
Gordon Smith: ...but you've got to look to the likes of Micke Kagered and Lex too.
John Spuffard: That's right, the Alky cars have the consistency.
Gordon Smith: It only takes one bad run in a Fuel car and you're out of it. John's car is making more power than ours and so it's easier for him to blow up or smoke the tyres. Mind you, if we had a direct drive then ours would be a 5.5 car...
John Spuffard: I would think that our car is capable of a 5.2
Gordon Smith: ...but even if John stays in the 5.3s he can afford one bad run.
Eurodragster: If you couldn't meet the other in the final then who would you like to face?
Gordon Smith: Micke Kagered, because I'd love to turn him over after what he did to John last year!
John Spuffard: They all want to beat the Fuel cars! And every one of them is a threat, but on past experience you'd have to say Micke. He runs hard, he has an excellent team, and he has won the Cannonball.
Gordon Smith: And Smax could be a real threat with Al Jackson tuning.
John Spuffard: It's a pity that Andreasson is not coming, he would have been a danger.
Gordon Smith: They're all quick - there are no easy races in the Cannonball.
John Spuffard: The threat is in the final round. You mustn't beat yourself. We have no problem with running the full quarter mile although I'll get off it if I have to; you can lose a race and still have a car. But Bob's definitely got a grip on this car. We've now got eight runs on it, we sorted the clutch and we never looked back. We've got fresh parts and we're making more power.
Gordon Smith: Dave Bryant, my Crew Chief, is right on the game. We got a good tune-up at Super Series 1: Dave stuck his neck out and it worked. He gets help from Bob, John and the team but the tune-up is his. We run 88% nitro and there's no reason to up it. We've not yet run the car right through the quarter with this tune-up, but if it feels good then I'll do what John's going to do and stay on it.
Eurodragster: Of the guys who are no longer racing, who would you like to be able to run?
John Spuffard: Rune Fjeld. I think he ought to get back in a Funny Car.
Gordon Smith: Tom Hoover. He's everyone's hero.
John Spuffard: And Tom Hoover!
Eurodragster: The Cannonball is a very intensive race for the teams involved.
John Spuffard: It is hard on the guys. If we did it every time it'd be different. You've got to get a good run in first time out and then keep it up.
Gordon Smith: My crew are used to the work and they are as good as anyone on the turn-round. You definitely want to post a good time in the first round - have them thinking about you and not you them.
Eurodragster: Is there a maximum number of runs you can stand in one day, physically?
John Spuffard: No, it doesn't bother me.
Gordon Smith: I'd say three. I find it mentally tiring. My crew have the harder job though - all I have to do is drive it. But we all look forward to the Cannonball.
John Spuffard: We have four Fuel cars this year which is the most in a while.
Gordon Smith: And the Cannonball always has one of the biggest crowds of the year. I hope the fans will turn out and support all of the Funny Car teams.
Eurodragster: Who's going to win?
Gordon Smith: I am of course!
John Spuffard: If anyone else wins, it won't be through the lack of trying!
Gordon Smith: Our aim is to be the number one Funny Car, but we wouldn't be where we are without the Showtime guys.
John Spuffard: This sport is very friendly and close-knit - until the cars are on the start line, then the friendship's out the window!
Eurodragster: Thanks very much guys, good luck, and we'll see you at the weekend.
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