Drag Racing

a brief history of time tickets or I know what you did last weekend

by Des Taylor


I've driven drag racing cars for many years and thanks to my brother-in-law, Mark Flavell I'm still racing today. My first drag car was a 69 Mach 1 Mustang with a stock 4 barrel 351 Windsor engine, it ran low 15's and took me to the semi-finals of the street racer championship at York raceway in 1979.

I called the car Motown Gold. Then I ran out of money! I decided that if I was going to go faster I needed a better power-to-weight ratio so I sold the Mustang and with the paltry proceeds I built a street/strip car using a Ford Pinto compact bodyshell. I bought another 351 Windsor engine, a C4 auto box and a Ford 9 inch axle out of a written off Mustang. The car was an immediate success and with the addition of nitrous oxide injection [quite a novelty in Yorkshire in 1981] winning events at York and competing in the roadster class [street legal cars] at Santa Pod Raceway Bedfordshire and Avon Park Raceway Stratford upon Avon.

The Pinto ran 13.1 super quick then, only a few streetcars ran in the 12s at that time. Then I ran out of money! Fortunately, the Pinto was a very photogenic car and had gained a lot of publicity which attracted the attention of a major company who wanted to buy the car and give it away as first prize in a National competition.

Well, the competition was a huge success the Pinto was given away to its lucky new owner in a blaze of publicity at the famous Manchester Belle Vue custom car show. The winner Terry Ross was such a good model maker he then got a job with Street Machine Magazine presenting the Smalltalk model feature for about ten years.

The Company bosses were so pleased with the media exposure that they would sponsor a Top Modified Championship [doorslammer class] and the running costs of a new Top Modified car, providing I built it, only snag was, funds were very limited. The only way to put together a competitive car was to use a lot of second hand bits. Fortunately, I knew where there were most of the bits I needed. Pete Goddard had For Sale the famous Liquidator Ford Pop comp altered which had been a splendid car and a real crowd pleaser. The car was halfway through a major rebuild and would need a lot of work to adapt the car from a solid axle altered to a coilover shock 4 link rear-end modified car.

But it was worth it. The well proven 440 Chrysler engine and 727 torqueflite box took the car to a string of 10.8s off the trailer first time out at Santa Pod we won the Super Modified class August 83 at York. The only weakness on the car being the 1958 Olds axle which had the alarming habit of blowing the diff to bits or snapping halfshafts on the line. We cured that problem over the winter by installing a trusty Ford 9 inch axle. We were loaded for bear and ready to rumble, then out of the blue the U.K. arm of the company became the European arm, my guys left, the French took over and it was merci and au revoir . I haven't touched garlic since! I had one of the best doorslammers in the country and no money to run it with, so we didn't. We went to the last ever custom car show at Belle Vue and won best competition car, we also won best competition car at the Doncaster Custom Car show. We picked out a few events in 1984, we raced at York and won, we also won the entertainer of the year trophy running 9.6 at 136 m.p.h. which would be respectable today in a Ford Pop at York. We raced at two big events at Santa Pod in the new Super Gas class and won them both.

Super Gas racing wasn't as close as it is today but the competition was fierce with the likes of Sylvia Hauser, Clive Mechael, Mick Cheley and the great Al O'Conner who is still going strong today. I even had the privilege of racing Britain's future European Top Fuel Ace, Barry Sheavills, I won! We also won the fastest doorslammer trophy at York 9.6 at 136. We won Best Competition Car again at Doncaster. Then we ran out of money. For the next few years we ran when we could afford to, we won a couple of Super Gas events at York but if we broke, we simply had no money to mend it. But I had a cunning plan! Truck racing and truck shows were attracting big crowds and a number of promoters were offering money for demonstration vehicles to attend these events. I decided to build a new drag racing/demonstration vehicle based on a1929 Ford model A Van. I used a B&H tube chassis, a Rodshop fibreglass bodyshell and all the running gear from the Ford Pop. It was a shame to break such a successful car but we had gone as far as we could with no money. As it happens, a spotty 17 year-old youth took the old Pop chassis and shell and built himself a decent streetrod. He then grew up to become Ed Gasket editor of that well known filthy sewer mag, the excellent Hot Rod Gazette. We named my Model A Delivery Van Overnight Sensation in a attempt to attract sponsorship from a overnight delivery firm.

We took the car to York and it ran 9.5 off the trailer, that would do nicely. Well I hit the truck show circuit, you name it, I did it. I did burn outs in fields, not easy on slicks on grass with a thousand people stood a yard away behind a rope. I did burn outs across outdoor sports courts whilst a netball match was going on! I did burnouts at Aintree racecourse, where the bookies stand at the Grand National. I was told to fire the car up at one show, I had four brewery shire horses on one side of me and birds of prey from a falconry centre at the other side. Well, I don't know if you've ever heard a 440 V8 on open headers but its VERY LOUD. I could not see anything for hooves and feathers! By the time I had switched the car off the birds were up at a 1000 feet and the horses were in the next county.

The next show I did was a trip to the Inglestone racing circuit near Edinburgh, it was quite spectacular. Ronnie Picardo nearly blew down the Grandstand with his Jet Truck. I did four burnout demonstrations, all went well until the last one. I was halfway down the straight and man, we were smoking, then there was a big bang but the engine was still running and sounding strong, the crowd were all waving so I waved back. Then they started pointing and I noticed my feet were getting hot, I pulled up and bailed out, the whole engine bay was on fire big style! I dived back in the car and pulled the on board extinguishers, that put the fire out instantly. Afterwards, a spectator asked me why I hadn't pulled the extinguisher straight away, I pointed out that those extinguisher bottles cost £50 to refill, he said I was a typical Yorkshireman, I thought that was a bit rich coming from a Scotsman. Unfortunately, when we got the car home the engine damage was found to be extensive, we had run out of money so the car got parked up for a while, it took over a year to repair the engine, if we had the money we could have done it in a week. The engine was like me, worn out, old and tired. The end came at York raceway, one burnout too many and one of the twenty year-old conrods let go, even then the engine kept running and for a brief moment I thought about running her down the strip, but the steam and oil smoke told me to sideline the car and switch her off.

I was bored, bored, bored, bored. My race car engine was trashed, the car was gathering dust in the corner and I was bored. A couple of mates built racing bikes and their prototype racer, a 500cc Yamaha was no longer used and they kindly said if I'd stop sulking they'd let me race the bike. The deal being that if I fell off it I had to mend it, o.k. I had ridden motorcycles from the age of 16 so I jumped at the chance, and for the next few years I raced at assorted hillclimbs and sprints around the North. I was truly average, my best ever result being a 3rd place at Baitings Dam.

I went over the handlebars at the three sisters and threw it down the track at Oliver's Mount. I didn't mind falling off, what I could not stand was not being good at it and I was beginning to sulk again. I gave my mates the Yamaha back [in one piece] thanks, Brian and Simon. I needed to get back in a drag car. Fate was about to take a hand. My brother-in-law Mark Flavell was putting the finishing touches to a dragster he had been building for a couple of years and running a dragster is a two-man job [minimum]. After a period of negotiating ie, me begging and pleading we decided to team up and run the car together. I have a great deal of respect for Mark, he has also raced for over 20 years, becoming a excellent and successful driver winning one P.D.R.C. Top Car Championship in the Flavell Bros., Ford Pop and three P.D.R.C. Super Gas Championships in his self-built Chevy Monza Super Gas car.

Mark enjoys all aspects of drag racing, he keeps abreast of latest technological innovations, researching potential performance gaining modifications in great detail and utilising proven weather station computer programmes to predict the cars performance to within one one hundredth of a second, and sometimes he just guesses! In 1997 we took the car to Santa Pod to make its debut in the new 8.9 Super Comp class.

Mark had dialled the car in and he made a damn good guess because my first two full passes in the car gave us 8.8 and 8.9 second runs.

I also managed to run 8.9 at York and keep most of the wheels on the track most of the time. We ran every Championship event that season [the first time I'd ever been able to afford it ] and we did pretty good We took it in turns to drive the car and both drove consistently, being no.1 qualifier at a lot of events . Mark won the main event and I won the Cannonball. We were putting a lot of strain on parts and we blew the transmission up four times. But with a lot of teamwork we kept on, working through the night on occasions and we were rewarded with the 1997 Super Comp Championship.

I think the thing that surprised everyone who knew us, was just how well we worked as a team, given the fact that we are entirely different people. Mark races for all the right reasons, not only does he like the challenge of man against machine, but he enjoys the camaraderie of fellow racers. Over the years he has also spent many hours of his own time organising events, attending drivers meetings and committee meetings. He is totally committed to the improvement of Drag Racing as a sport for the benefit of all. I like to drive fast and beat the guy in the next lane. I love that.

Over the years I've won a lot of stuff and I've also lost a lot of stuff but I don't remember losing, I purposely blank out all the first round loses, the endless breakages, the red lights and the break outs 'cos I can't stand it, it upsets me. So I must apologise for being unable to remember 1998 to 2002 - it's a complete blur apart from a few highlights.

In 1998 we ran in Super Pro, the fastest e.t. bracket class .We wanted to run the dragster flat out and see how fast it would go. Lots of work lots of modifications, lots of breakages. I ran out of money. Mark had took his 440 Chrysler out of his motorhome and put a diesel in, he dropped the 440 at HUDDERSFIELD EXHAUST CENTRE, the house of quality car repairs and using the motorhome stock block, pistons and rods I rebuilt my Model A Van engine just to get it running so I could sell it. I took it to a meeting at York just to see if it would run, it ran 10.90 no nitrous and won the event!

After that it became a 10.90 Super Street car and with Dave Cherrat at the wheel only won the 2000 European Finals at Santa Pod. I was test driving and crewing on the dragster, Mark was driving the Championship rounds, BIG, BIG, highlight car ran 7s at Avon Park and Santa Pod. The car had finally achieved its potential. It never did again. Something was seriously wrong with the dragster we spent two years trying to find the problem.We couldn't, some of the best engine builders in the country couldn't. We decided we would stop racing and dedicate all our track time to testing. We were testing at Avon Park and it seemed just like another run to me 8.4 @ 153 m.p.h. nothing special. I shut off and pulled the chute, slowed the car down and turned off the track as I braked to a standstill the car just stepped a bit sideways, funny I thought to myself, someone must have put some oil down. I undid the belts and there was a lot of smoke about, 'transmission's probably overheated' I said confidently as I got out. I turned round and was amazed to see three firemen two marshals and a fire engine. 'What's up?' I enquired, your engine blew up just through the finish line, 'I saw a couple of rods and a bit of piston come out the side and fly into the field', said a fireman. 'Oh dear' I said. I knew it was bad when Mark arrived on the trike took one look at the engine and flung his helmet in the field, very unlike him , more like me, in fact. I would like to say thanks to the F.A.S.T. safety team, if I had been in big trouble they were right there, well done.

Now Mark had run out of money! Fortunately, North Eastern Super Gas Super Star, Frank Mason had his old 9.90 Super Gas engine For Sale. Unfortunately, it had already been rejected by one buyer cos it was a tired old smoker, not Frank the engine. Anyway it was better than nothing and it was available. Mark put the engine in the dragster and rang the guy who blew up his last engine and told me that I'd be first down the track testing the new engine the following weekend. It was a great gesture which I appreciated. He also pointed out that he would kick my head in if I blew this one up! Undaunted, we went to a Test & Tune day at the Pod and I ran the car flat out down the track, guess what, it ran 9.90 - Oh Dear, A Super Gas rear engined Dragster. We had some work to do, so we got stuck in. In order to tell if our changes were working I had to drive the car exactly the same on each run. We changed the jets and we went faster. We changed the timing and we went faster. We changed the R.P.M. shift chip and we went faster. We got down to 9.00 but it was flat out and our box of tricks was empty, apart from one last throw of the dice. We took the wing off, the result, 8.90 we had ourselves a 8.90 Super Comp car. We took the car to the European Finals and Mark put it on top of the pile as no.1 qualifier. In eliminations, we rolled through stage and got bulbed. The next meeting at the Pod Mark qualified no.2 with a 8.93 we went right through eliminations to the Final. Then it rained. We hung around for an hour or so but it got worse and the meeting was abandoned. The good news was, we were back in business and the car went home in one piece. That was that for 2001. At the moment I've run out of money, but as the man said 'I'll be back'.

'Flavell blows back into Super Pro.'
The Limited Performance dragster raced by the UK's Mark Flavell will be returning to the ranks of Super Pro ET this year.
The Performance Unlimited dragster has an updated chassis and a 475 ci blown gas-burning Chevrolet.
"Running a blown set-up has always been on my list of things to do", says Mark, "so I set about this latest project almost the day after the original Super Pro 496 engine spread itself all over Stratford. The object of the exercise is still to run a combination which isn’t on the ragged edge, and to put the car into the 7.8s (-ish). That wasn’t quite how it turned out when the new motor was dyno’d at EDA. A little over a thousand horsepower with similar torque was felt to be excessive without having to re-think the stock block and the rest of the driveline combination.
"A second set-up was devised and built, which we tested on Monday. Many thanks must be extended to Kenny Coleman for his input and expertise, his no-nonsense approach to baselining and quickly maximising the motor's potential. I always feel that you’ll learn more in one dyno session than you would in two years at the track. Now that we know what we’ve got we can get on with our job of achieving the car's potential.
"The Super Comp 427 (Frankie’s Racing Engines) set-up is now our back-up, and depending upon how the blown engine performs we may well revert to this for the European Super Comp series.
"I’ve done this a few times over the years. We run a combination which we are just about getting a handle on with a solid data base and then bingo - change everything, which renders it all but useless. Not really the most practicable of approaches but it definitely keeps our racing exciting. Super Comp has always been brilliant with the competition intense, but I think that when it comes right down to it I’m simply a horsepower junkie. My good friend and Crew Chief Craig Owen summed it up with a single simple comment: Awesome, let's go racing.
"If you’re a scantily-clad female, a tyre-kicker or just simply fancy a beer and a chat, we hope to be at all Championship rounds this year and look forward to seeing you."
©Eurodragster.com
Introducing Huddersfield Exhaust Centre's new promotional vehicle - a 1934 Ford 3-window coupe (streetrod).
I've come up with the car, Mark has provided the running gear. We have rummaged through the dragster spares and come up with enough bits to put together a 431 cubic inch motor, with a two-speed glide.
We've got a 9 second block from Mark's Monza, a 9 second cam from Allen's pop and 7 second heads from the dragster. Add them all together and we should run a 25 second quarter!

We are still running the dragster at all the big championship events. The coupe is just for a bit of fun through the summer. But if anyone is interested in joining us in running one of Britain's fastest streetrods, any financial help would be appreciated. Any potential sponsors please:

Click here to E-mail

Or call 01484 421 311 (work hours)

<< 2002 Review >>
June 28th/29th NSRA Nostalgia Nationals.
I'd been looking for a street rod project for some time and I had come close a few times but I just didn't have enough money to get what I wanted. Then I came upon the ex, Bernie Chodosh / Simon Lane 34 Ford circuit racer. The car was a turnkey, taxed and tested ready to roll, unfortunately the car was too dear for me and that seemed to be that. Then the engine let go in a big way and the car was available as a rolling chassis for half money. I re-mortgaged the house and the deal was done.
Mark had loads of old big block Chevy bits from different engines enough to put together a motor and three good transmissions, and a selection of torque converters. Mark kindly offered to lend me the bits providing I put them all together. My problem was all too familiar. I'd blown all my dosh on the car, so the engine was going to be a real low budget assembly.
Now what follows is how not to build a race engine, please do not try this at home. Take 1 repaired block, 1 cast crank, stock rods, used main bearings, used big end bearings, 1 set of discarded pistons, used rings, second hand used head gaskets, a used cam with a assorted selection of jumbled up lifters and factory pressed steel rockers. Mark insisted on me buying a new set of SPS rod bolts as he didn't want me to be accused of doing a shabby job! Me and my mate John Balmforth built the engine using what we had.
I wanted to run the car at the Nostalgia Nationals but it was only a week away the engine and box wasn't fitted and I was still a few bits short, no carburetor, no shifter, no rear wheels, no money. I hit the phone and rang everybody I knew, and one or two I didn't. Super Gas racer Nev had a carb, it had been under the bench at work for years but Nev was confident it would bolt on and fire up. Tony Wynn Jones gave me a shifter, it looked like it had come out of a sunk U boat but beggars can't be choosers.
Next bit was a little tricky I'd been told that Ian from Leeds had a pair of brand new centrelines for sale for £200. So I rang him, " Hi, Ian its Des Taylor, those centrelines you've got, I need 'em for the weekend but I've no money can I borrow them and pay you later?" " 'Course you can Des, when do you want them?" says Ian, "Now" says I. So at 11.30 on a Friday night I'm at Ian's house collecting a pair of wheels.
I'd like to thank everybody who helped especially Ian Armitage who saved the day 'cos you ain't going nowhere with no wheels on your wagon. The weekend of the races was upon us, I went into the garage at 5am Friday and came out at 4am the following day, Karen slept in the van in the yard while I worked through the night but the car still wasn't finished I loaded it on the trailer and we set off to Avon Park. To make absolutely sure I didn't fall asleep with disastrous consequences we had the window down, the radio on full blast and Karen sat next to me with a bottle of cold water and a wet flannel, occasionally throwing water on me and slapping me round the face with the wet flannel. I'm convinced she enjoyed hitting me more than I felt was necessary. Again don't try this at home.
We arrived safely, pitted up and unloaded the car, Mark arrived with Pierre Pete and asked what needs doing. I replied, we had no throttle linkage, no shifter linkage, no floor, the trans tunnel didn't fit and I've never started the engine up. I must admit I expected a bit of a bollocking but Mark just jacked the car up and got stuck in. I'd brought all the bits I had left over nuts, bolts, screws, pop rivets, bits of tin, assorted cables, and lots of tie wraps. The throttle linkage could have proved difficult but whilst I'd been round at John Balmforth's garage I noticed that the mechanism on the top of his office door had an adjustable linkage on it, well it doesn't now, but my carb linkage is fully adjustable. By 2 O'clock in the afternoon the car was ready to fire up. Ignition off, turn over the starter, good oil pressure, Ignition, on, fuel pump on, two squirts on the gas press the starter and the engine fires up first time ticks over and runs perfectly. Good old Nev, that carb was a good 'un.
It seemed too good to be true .Now was the time to check everything, run the car through the gears on the axle stands, warm the engine and trans, check tyre pressures, 4pm and down to scrutineering where I waited and waited and then waited a bit more 12 hours to be precise but the good news was I was first to be scrutineered Sunday, you betcha. Into the pairing lanes and in just under an hour I was given the signal to fire up, into the bleach box, quick burnout bit sideways, into stage and a quick squirt down the track, easy launch, short shift, three quarter throttle and car seemed to slow as it went through the traps, 12.7 not bad for a shake down pass and the car went straight and felt good
Now there was only one thing that concerned me a bit, the big Mc Creary slicks said they were 13 inches wide and my borrowed wheels were only 10 inches wide, which in my opinion that was just about on the limit for fitment. Unfortunately, when I measured the fitted tyres they were actually 16 inches wide sidewall-to-sidewall that's a bit big for 10-inch rims, any way they were all I had and they felt o.k. On the shake down run, and I'd been a tyre fitter for 25 years so yeah they'd be fine. (Familiarity breeds contempt) Now to run flat out and see what we could do, once more into the bleach dear friends,
Linelock on 4 grand on the tach, tyres lit up, smoking, smoking, smoking, coming round sideways and let go the line lock like I had a thousand times before, and then all hell let loose, the car just went berserk, left, right left, right, left, I see, Armco, Christmas tree, grandstand, Armco Christmas tree, startline marshal, the car felt like it was stood on one front wheel when the awful thought went through my mind I'm going to crash it on the burnout, how embarrassing , That thought must have done the trick cos just when it seemed all was lost the car responded to my (frantic) steering efforts. I stopped and backed up feeling like both my elbows were dislocated, Mark stuck his head in the window and said "Stop messing about and chill out " It didn't get any better I pulled into stage getting extremely dirty looks from the starter and the marshals (sorry chaps).
As soon as I put the trans brake on and floored the accelerator the engine cut out, if I eased off, the engine picked up again, put my foot down and she just cut out. So that's how I went down the track, on it, off it, must have looked like I was riding a rocking horse. Back in the pits, Mark says I had the wheels in the air as I crossed the start line but they were the back ones. From Marks vantage point he could see that as soon as I came off the throttle in the burnout the car unloaded the tyres and the sidewalls just collapsed as the car went sideways it felt like driving a blancmange with two punctures on ice!
Temporary fix, blow the tyres up extra 5 psi Now what's the story with the engine, we checked everything and it was all ok, it must be fuel related so we checked the tank, the fuel lines, filter and changed the fuel pump. We ran twice more, easy on the burnout! But the engine problem just got worse it simply would not run after ¾ throttle.
We returned home older, wiser and a little disappointed but we had learned a valuable lesson, the beer is expensive in the clubhouse. Next day I thought I'd have a look in the carb, Nev had said just bolt it on and it will fire straight up and sure enough it had, but it was worth a look. I removed the primary float bowl and metering block everything was spotless and both jets were clear. I repeated the procedure with the secondary float bowl and metering block I looked to see if the jets were blocked only to find that the jets weren't there, not blocked jets or wrong jets, NO jets just two threaded holes where they should have been! It transpired that over the years Nev had needed a couple of jets and what could be more normal than to borrow them out of the old carb, only he forgot about it. No wonder the engine wouldn't run flat out I'm amazed it ran at all. 12.7@ 120 with no jets gave me cause for optimism next time out, " WE WOULD SEE."
I had one or two things to sort out, firstly I had to pay Ian for his centerlines but there was a minor problem, when I had borrowed them they had been brand new but now they had been used they were second hand so I could not possibly pay the full price. I pointed this out to Ian who had to agree and so a suitable price was worked out. Next I needed a pair of slicks that fitted my discount rims and you know how you get all that junk mail through the letterbox, well I was just about to bin it when I saw a credit card company offering 0% interest free credit for 9 months, I thought I,L have a bit of that. The card arrived and I rang Summit and ordered my new slicks .

Mark stuck a pair of jets in the carb and we were ready to go. The question was what could we run now, how much difference would a pair of jets make, I was confident the car was good for elevens and in my heart of hearts given perfect conditions I wouldn't be surprised if we hit a ten ninety.

 

<< Hot Rod Drags >>
Now someone somewhere has decided that dragracing gets far too many spectators at events and in order to make sure they don,t get too many fans through the gate they make the best events clash with each other. A cunning plan, which proved stunningly successful as Mark was at the Pod and I was at the Park when along with a thousand other fans we would have attended both events. As it was, it was down to me Karen and Jade to run the car, first a shakedown pass to check out the handling on the new slicks, car launched well and revved clean, I shifted to second and the box went straight through into neutral I shut off quickly but not before all the valvesprings bounced a bit.
Back in the pits I found two problems, one was that the shifter cable wasn't properly adjusted and the other was that I tend to hit the shifter handle with all the finesse of a Mike Tyson right hook.
The first one was easy to cure, the second impossible. In to the queue and I would like to say now that it is a damn long way from the top of the pits to the startline for a fat old git and two girls to push a race car. The good news was that in the two and a half hours it took to get to the startline, the track had really come in, the startline was sticky, the air was good and there was a good breeze blowing straight down the track.
Perfect conditions, I fired the car up with a air of anticipation. In to the water on the linelock the car burned out strong and straight, the motor sounded clean and crisp.
Into stage on the trans brake and floor the accelerator, the lights run down and we are gone. The car hooks up hard and picks up the left front wheel, top of first gear and shift, slight sigh of relief as second bangs in, just keep her straight, gently correcting a little bit of high gear wander and through the traps flat out, felt good. I returned to the pits to see my daughter Jade excitedly waving a time ticket at me, 10.6 @ 125 mph.
Excellent, better than expected and very satisfying given the financial limitations and timescale of the build . We buttoned the car up for the night and went to the Pub. The next day the weather was good, but the usual drag racing problems meant there were a lot of unhappy campers, oil downs, breakages, incidents, accidents, meant that their was a three hour queue round the pits to get a run.

From a purely personal point of view I had already achieved what I had come for, so I just chilled out and stood in line, it was around this time that there was a serious incident in the pits, Mark Needham's race car was completely destroyed when fuel was accidentally ignited in a flash fire. Mark suffered burns and had to be airlifted to Hospital for treatment. I am glad to say that Mark is now recovering from his injuries. Unfortunately this meant that along with Avon Parks (SCR) perennial problem of too late a start and too early a finish there were simply too many cars to run in too short a time. We loaded up and went home happy with a ten second streetrod

 

<< Sammy Miller >>
Legendary rocket car pilot Slammin' Sammy Miller was killed in an oil pipeline explosion on Tuesday 29th October 2002 whilst working in the Texas oilfields for his company Applied Force. The incident was unrelated to any of his own work. 1967 Sammy began his racing career in the US driving an A/Fuel dragster with an injected small block Chevy motor. He competed at tracks around New Jersey and New York running 7.80s in the Super Eliminator class.
Sammy was racing Funny Cars through 1972 and '73. He had a six-month stay in hospital in '72 after a fire at Indy and drove Fred Forkners Top Fuel Dragster in 1974. Racing fuel cars was costing Sammy more than he was winning and he began to look for a different direction. Sammy was at the eighth mile Charlotte track in North Carolina when Dave Anderson lost control of Tony Fox's 'Pollution Packer' rocket dragster, killing himself and two dragster drivers who were shut off at the top end. Sammy contacted Tony Fox as a witness to the accident and Tony asked him if he would like to drive the car. Sammy didn't need to be asked twice and he was promised the driving seat if Vern Anderson, who was to drive the car in 1975, should back out.
During the winter Sammy dropped into Irwindale Raceway in Southern California and Tony gave him his first drive. The track officials restricted him to 280mph for his first pass, which he ran exactly. He told Tony that he didn't find the car as impressive as he had expected so Tony upped the pressure for the next run. The officials never announced the details of that run but Sammy left the venue with a timeslip that read 348mph!
He continued to drive the car, and John Paxson's Armor All rocket dragster, for the first part of 1975 while preparing a car of his own. I first saw Sammy race at the 1979 World Finals at Santa Pod Raceway, it was the seasons premier meeting. He ran a best of 4.31/317.40 which was the highest speed recorded on British soil at that time. (Guinness Book of Car Facts and Feats) July 7th/8th 1984 SPR. The Cannonball. Sammy Miller ran an amazing 3.583/386.26 in the Vanishing Point rocket funny car. I saw that pass and I still remember not being able to turn my head fast enough to watch as he went past, it was like trying to watch a bullet out of a gun This still stands today as the quickest 1/4 mile pass ever on a dragstrip anywhere in the world, although he did run 396-mph at the Bonneville Salt Flats in Utah over a quarter-mile from a standing start.
He was the first man into the fives, fours and threes in the USA and Europe. I was racing my Ford Pop at Santa Pod in the early 80s and at one event we were stood on the back of my tow truck next to the fence, watching the funny cars when a distinctly American voice said," Hi, mind if I stand on your ramp truck " I turned round to see the smiling face of Sammy Miller, If he'd said get down on your hands and knees and let me stand on your back I would have let him. It was a bit like meeting Elvis. After getting over the shock I found we were just chatting away, a couple of racers with a mutual interest in cars. He asked about my "little Anglia hot rod" and did genuinely seem impressed when I told him we were running 9.6s which made me feel really good coming from a guy running 3s. Sammy was a true drag racing legend a very brave man but most of all he was a nice guy.
With acknowledgments to trackbytes and eurodragster

 

<< European Doorslammers >>

European Doorslammers, a new event on the calendar with big bucks up for grabs .I pre-entered to make sure we would get to race, the Outlaw street car class looks a real blast, heads up racing, for road registered, taxed and tested cars running with silencers. For once the car was ready to go, all I had to do was get rid of the nasty Golf Turbo Diesel silencer boxes I'd knocked up for the M.O.T and fabricate a pair of Lakes pipes which would be more in keeping with the Bonneville looks of my 34 Coupe. No problem, I've fabricated thousands of exhaust systems, I could do it in my sleep. As it turned out I had to. So 5 pm Friday and we are already to go apart from the 90 degree 4 inch bends I'd ordered to finish my sidepipes hadn't arrived. I contacted the suppliers only to be told they weren't coming until Tuesday and it wasn't his fault. I have to admit that there was some bad language and threats of violence uttered, at this point it was decided that it might be a good idea if they sent a van to pick up the parts from another supplier, which they did. The bits they came up with weren't ideal and it took me until 2am to get everything welded up and load the car. I couldn't stand being hit with the wet flannel again so I went home and went to bed. Up at 6 a.m. and off to the track, we arrived in time to get a good space in the pits and quickly unloaded the car and got scrutineered and signed on. It was a bit disappointing that there were only 4 CCSE cars in attendance, the rest of the big hitters were absent, surprising with such a good prize fund, although on second thoughts my mate Steve Niemantis doesn't need the money! We got a few runs in and qualified with the exhausts on, the car sounded good but had an unusual handling problem, the car was wagging its tail at half-track and feeling loose.
If you have ever towed a caravan or trailer at speed and experienced that nasty snaking that wags the back of the car and just gets worse, it felt like that, with the exhausts on and the wag we slowed to 11 zeros. We had a good check round the car to make sure nothing important had fallen off but everything was where it should be and tight. The car was still running 100 mph in the 1/8 th, so maybe it was a lack of rear end down force, which could really only be cured with the addition of a wing and I didn't fancy spending all night making one of them at the track. One of the aims of the Doorslammers event was to attract street cars that didn't normally run in the high profile street car classes, this proved successful but caused problems for the organizers as without a separate entry list for the street eliminator Lee Child had the impossible task of trying to identify every street car that qualified at the event. First round of the Outlaw Street Eliminator, I was lucky and was up against one of the slower cars in the class,
only to go through to meet one of the fastest cars in the second round, Andy Frost in his Vauxhall Victor. Funny that, Andy had run a string of 9 zeros and was gunning for an 8 so my 11s were never going to be good enough. I don't know if Andy was asleep on the line or just giving me a chance but I was two car lengths out on him before he moved, but when he moved he really moved, 9.01/155 mph to my 11.04 and I was "blown away"
Andy went on to run a 8.90 and a 8.97 but it was his turn to be blown away in Sundays final as Jeff Meads 8.91 was too good for Andy's 9.01. A great race and a great final. Check out Andy's website www.redvictor1racing.co.uk and all you Americana drag racers and Hot Rodders don't be put off cos it's a Vauxhall Victor, it's a good car and a good site.
Jeff Meads about to beat Andy Frost in the Final
We were running in the Sportsman class (10.51 to 11.75) and should have been in with a chance but I have to hold my hand up and admit that I COCKED UP! First round of Sportsman and after the burnout I convinced myself that the car was going to stall so I brought the revs up and approached stage, I moved forward bringing the revs up more and more so that by the time I staged I'd got about 3 grand on the tach, if I'd got straight on the trans brake I would have been O.K but just for a fraction of a second I lost concentration and had to glance down to see where the trans brake switch was, and before I got my finger on it the front brakes couldn't hold the car against the amount of revs and the car moved, I looked up to see a big red light and the race was over before it started and all entirely my fault. I was gutted. My bottom lip was stuck out so far I could hardly get my helmet off! I took all my racing gear off and threw it in the van I dragged the trailer round ready to load and packed everything up swearing that I hated ******* racing and I was never going to ******* race again! (In case anyone is wondering, I am nearly 50 years old) I've made more passes than David Beckham and I can still screw it up. Mark came up and said there was going to be a open practice session and if we were going to run a 10.00, I ought to get my gear back on while he fueled up the car, removed the exhausts and checked the tyre pressures. O.K. I said. (Boy have I mellowed) We fired the car up checked it out everything was fine so we just needed someone to race. Dave Cherrett 2002 Super Series Super Street Champion was looking for me. Dave had bought my Model A Van as a turnkey 10.90 car and as a Rookie driver in his first season racing won the Super Street class at the 2000 European Finals at Santa Pod, an outstanding achievement (of coarse he did have the best car) he followed this up with the 2002 Super Series Championship.
Now he wanted to race me, a sort of pupil and teacher thing and to add insult to injury Dave, and Tim were giving me grief, well it was more a bit of banter all the way down the pairing lanes, when Dave asked me if I could remember what the back of the Model A looked like cos I was going to get a good look at it! That was it, I'd not had a good weekend and there was as much chance of me seeing the back of his car as Ian Paisley becoming Pope! Even if it meant me setting off while he was still fastening his seat belts up.
[Photograph courtesy of Tog]
We burned out side by side and I chirped up to the line, giving Mark a nasty fright as he was cleaning the slicks at the time, SORRY Mark, both in to stage, focus on the lights, AMB-I am gone. I can see Dave out of the corner of my eye he's just behind and that's where he's staying, 1/2 track and we are both doing 100mph, ¾ track and I'M FLAT OUT and he's still there and I can't do any more, so just to make sure he thinks twice about coming past I drift out to the center line to make him think I might T bone him. As it was Dave was flat out and pulling on his steering wheel to try and keep his foot down trying to catch me. I ran 10.7 @ 121mph Dave just came in second with a 10.6 @ 121 mph My reaction time a .343 to Dave's .560 . O K I red lit but I didn't see the back of my old car, and Dave got a good look at the back of my new car. Dave was really sick right up until crewman Tim told him I'd red lit and then he felt a bit better. Congratulations to Dave and Tim .On the whole a mixed weekend for us, I felt the event was a success with a few teething problems, I would like to thank Tina Gibbs for being particularly helpful and wish L A Racings Lee Child all the best promoting events in 2003. Coming Soon The sweet smell of success, Mark drives dragster to victory. The ups and downs of our season in Super Comp.

 

<< Super Comp Season >>

Mark and crewman Craig had worked all winter getting the race car transporter ready, installing the living accommodation and preparing the dragster for the coming season. Lack of sufficient funds and a number of prior family and work commitments meant that Mark could only run at two events at Santa Pod so we knew that we had no chance of winning the Championship but we went with the intention of doing our best. We could run at all the Super Series events so we would have a go for that title. I have to work Saturdays, so I missed a lot of the one-day only qualifying sessions but I crewed at every event apart from the European Finals ( I was driving at the Hot Rod Drags ) and even then kept in touch with proceedings by phone.

 

<< Super Series Spring Nationals >>

Not a particularly noteworthy event for us. Qualifying was decimated by a large number of delays through oil downs. With the great benefit of hindsight we failed to take our opportunity to put a solid qualifying pass on the board, damaging our Championship hopes. It turned in to a roadster testimonial, as Martin Curbishley qualified number 1. Tim Adam qualified number 2 and in eliminations we were beat by Dave Day 9.04 @ 137 to a 9.13 @ 146. In a close final Tim Adam ran 8.95 @ 148 only to be beat by Martin Curbishly's perfect 8.90 @146.

 

<< Main Event, Santa Pod >>

Mark put down a solid 8.92 Qualifying run but such is the quality of the opposition it didn't get us in the top two spots. In the first round we had the Chrysler backed P.T. Bruiser of Paul Marston. Mark again shoed the dragster to a shut off 8.92 @136mph to beat Paul's late charging 9.03 @ 161 mph ?? The next round saw us up against no.2 qualifier Martin Curbishley's, John Webster built roadster. In a close race Mark was just edged out running 9.00 @ 149 to Martins 9.03 @149 In the Final, unbelievably BOTH competitors broke!

 

<< Super Series Mid Summer Nationals >>

In qualifying our car was Incredibly consistent unfortunately it was consistently too fast. Not by much but enough to put us at the bottom of the pile and that gives you a hard route to the Final. Hard but not impossible. Mark frustrated with qualifying was stung in to action and in the eliminations drove like a man possessed. He put away a red lighting Zane Llewellyn with a solid 8.97. Then in a really close double breakout against my old mate Ian Tubb driving Kenny Colman's EDA backed dragster, Mark went through with an 8.88 to Ian's 8.85. We were in the Final against Paul Marston's PT Bruiser; by the time it came to run I was so wound up I couldn't bear to watch. Craig and Ann were on the startline I was at half-track and by half-track it was all over. Mark just drove away from Paul to win with a shut off, on the brakes 8.96 @ 140 to Paul's 9.15 164 mph. A great driving job by Mark. I find it much harder to watch than drive and it was a very emotional and well deserved victory.

 

<< European Finals, Santa Pod >>

Mark and Craig had the car dialled in pretty good, but just couldn't hit the magic 8.90. Qualifying with an 8.91. A breakage meant Mark had a first round bye, a good opportunity to run the car flat out and see how close to the numbers we were. Mark ran 8.86 @151 confirming that the setup was spot on .To be a successful team in Super Comp you need a number of things, a reliable and well dialled car, a consistent and experienced driver, a good crew and a little bit of luck. In the second round of eliminations we had everything except the luck. Mark was up against Zane who had all of the above. Both drivers left the line with almost identical reaction times- .482 for Mark .481 for Zane, side by side Mark just finished first by ½ a car length, Zane ran 8.931 @ 145. Mark ran 8.897 @148 breaking out by 3 thousandths of a second, a bit of a sickener, but that's drag racing. Some you win, some you lose. Rain stopped play, track too wet to continue.

 

<< Super Series Fall Nationals >>

In qualifying Martin Curbishley again proved super consistent taking the number 1 spot. We didn't. In eliminations Mark cut a bad light, it happens to everyone, sometimes you can get away with it but unfortunately Paul Knight in the other lane cut a killer 0.411 light. Mark tried hard with a on index 8.91 @ 135. but to no avail. The Final was another close one, Tim Adams 8.94 beating Martin Curbishley's 8.96.
Note: Me at the back in a checked shirt badly distorted by a wide lens!
So that was that for the 2002 Super Comp Season. It is always difficult to be self-critical but both Mark and myself believe that if you are going to learn by your mistakes you must first identify them. We almost certainly lost our chance at the Super Series Championship by not qualifying well. It is vitally important to get a "Slower " than 8.90 pass on the board first, because that one counts. Until you have that, a string of 8.80s are worthless, they don't count. On the positive side in the Super Series Super Comp Championship, we finished third, out of eleven Top competitors. In the 2002 National Championship we came sixth out of twenty competitors, even though we only ran at 5 of the 8 events and in the SPRC Championship came tenth out of nineteen competitors, only running at 2 of the 5 events ! Mark had to finance the whole season out of his own pocket, receiving no financial help whatsoever. It was quite an achievement to get to as many events as we did and stay competitive. At the moment regular readers will be surprised to learn that I've run out of money but I will keep you informed of plans for the 2003 season as soon as I know myself.

 

Please accept my apologies for taking such a long time to update my website, so much has been happening, I just haven't got round to it.

So here's a very quick summary of the more notable events.

    2003:

    I won the National Hot Rod Championship at York with my 34 Ford Coupe Street Rod, with spectacular smoky burnouts and wheel standing low 10 sec. times.

    Ran out of money, sold engine. Good News: Sponsor promised to provide Super Duper replacement engine. Bad News: it never arrived.

    No engine, no money, sold car, bit depressed.

    Fortunately my mate Reg Seward said I could have a go in his genuine 1937 Sprint Car. I was a bit concerned at thrashing a nearly 70 year old car up the strip, but when the lights turned green, I thrashed it.
    What a great little car. Real fun to drive and with a bit of fancy driving and consistent shifting (3 speed crash box) we managed to beat everybody with the slowest car at the event and won the Sportsman et class at the York Raceway 2005 UK Open Nationals

    Found an old kit car that had been under a tarpaulin in a garden for 10 years.
    Towed it back to the Garage fixed it up a bit, and took it racing, people said it looked a bit like Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, so I named it "A Bit Chitty"

    .

    2006:

    Raced the car at York in Sportsman et, beat everybody, won the Championship.
    He who laughs last, laughs after everybody else, or something like that!

    Mark kindly let me run a half pass (1/8th mile only) in his fantastic New Super Comp Dragster at York. I ran 5.0 at 141 mph, shut off at the 1/8th mile, pulled the chute and the car still ran 8.7 through the quarter mile clocks.

    Mark returned to York for the UK Northern Finals and ran the fastest time of the season at York, a tremendous tyre smoking 7.1 at 185 mph.
    Quite an outstanding achievement for which he was awarded the PDRC trophy at the annual dinner dance.


    Just occasionally in life an opportunity arises to achieve a lifetime's ambition. Out of the blue, that opportunity arrived and I hung on to it (literally) with both hands.

    Team Flavell's Six - The View from the Hot Seat
    (as reported on Eurodragster.com)

    If I had known that Craig was behind the car trying to do the
    Live Long and Prosper sign from Star Trek
    I would have been really worried"

    As many Eurodragster readers will know, Mark and the team have been flying all year with the car consistently running 7.0s but a series of bizarre and frankly freak incidents and accidents had seemingly conspired against the team. Every time they looked to hit the magic six,something weird happened. This culminated with Mark getting knocked down in the pairing lanes and damaging both his ankles and feet so badly that he couldn't walk, never mind drive. Even though it seemed destined not to happen, anyone who knows Mark knows that he is not the type of person to ever give in and he decided that he was not going to put the car away without one last attempt to run a six, and he very generously rang me and told me that if there was time I could have a drive and run my first seven, which I was really looking forward to.

    So on a cold and misty October morning we pulled up in the pits at Santa Pod and joined the queue of what seemed like three hundred street cars, only to find that Ian and the start line crew were having a nightmare with half a mile of anti-freeze in the right hand lane, and the problem with modern anti-freeze is that it does not evaporate.

    So after a long and expensive cleanup it was lunchtime before we came round for our first run. Obviously the team had the car set up to produce absolute maximum horsepower, so after a word with Ian and the startline crew we were told to run only in the left hand lane. Crew chief Craig "Coil" Owen was driving the car due to Mark's injury and immediately laid down an impressive shut-off seven flat, even though he had to get out of the throttle at three-quarter track when the car got very loose.

    Because of the large number of cars at the event our turnaround time seemed like forever, but hey that's RWYB, unfortunately in spite of the start line guys' tremendous efforts the start line was good but the rest of the track was going away fast. Craig had two more runs, both of which he had to abort as each time the car pulled big wheelstands, violently shook the tyres and turned hard left, then right. Craig did a fantastic job keeping the car out of the wall. Mark and the whole team were desperately disappointed, it appeared that events had yet again conspired against them: antifreeze, cold weather, dust and water from hundreds of street tyres made the car simply undrivable with its high HP tune up.

    Mark then decided that it was time to go but he knew I had been waiting patiently for my go, I had signed on seven hours earlier, so he told me to get suited up. Craig came up and shook my hand, he wished me luck and shaking his head added "You'll need it". Now the last time I'd driven a dragster regularly was back in 1997 when Mark and I had won the National Super Comp Championship with Mark's old dragster running 8.90s on a single four-barrel carb. Unfortunately due to certain financial difficulties (no money) 2006 saw me rather depressingly running an old plywood street car which I had pulled out of a garden, just so I could keep racing. I won the 2006 Sportsman ET Championship at York with the car (nicknamed A Bit Chitty), devastating the opposition with a string of blistering 16.5s. So the dragster should be no problemo.

    Mark had let me do a burnout and half pass in the dragster at York earlier in the year but this was to be my first full pass in the car. Mark came up as I waited to fire up, and told me that the team had retarded the car six degrees taking a huge lump of horsepower out of the set-up, they had also increased the tyre pressure a bit to help with the tyre shake. He also told me not to use the transbrake, as the car had been hitting the tyres way too hard, OK on the startline but too much to maintain traction on the cold track once past sixty feet. He also told me I would have to shift manually in to high gear due to an electrical glitch. He then said "Just try and stick with it and steer it and lets finish with a full pass". That's all I needed to know. After many years of waiting for a chance, I now had the opportunity to go faster than I ever had before, and I had the Boss' permission, all I had to do was keep it between the white lines. I then got the news from the startline, someone had just dropped anti-freeze the full length of the "good" left hand lane, if we still wanted to run it would have to be in the "bad" right hand lane. It was five o'clock, cold, damp and getting dark, but I said OK.

    This was it, showtime ! The team fired the car up and I blipped the throttle in the bleach box and I noticed that the assembled onlookers all jumped about eight inches in the air! The car still felt pretty damn strong to me. I had too many revs on in the burnout and hit the limiter so whilst the burnout was a bit too strong it was also a bit shorter than intended. I had a bit of difficulty selecting reverse, Steve shifted it for me and I got on the transbrake button and backed it up. I staged the car and then paused to make sure the car was set up, wheel straight and in first gear, let the Tree run and then holding it on the foot brake carefully brought the revs up to load up the converter and then pushed the pedal to the floor. I didn't just floor it, I pushed it down firmly.

    The car hooked up hard and banged the wheels high in the air and seemed fairly straight to sixty feet. It then started to break loose, the revs went up quickly and the cockpit really vibrated, so I shifted in to high gear. The car never really hooked up fully and just moved around all the time, I stuck with it and just steered it as per team orders. It went up on the tyres and took a big move around three quarter track and I had to just feather the throttle slightly to get it back, I then squeezed it back to the floor and was extremely glad to see the traps. As I passed the gantry I noticed for the first time that we seemed to be going a bit fast. I pulled the chute and I think the car must have still been a bit out of shape as it lifted the rear end off the ground and took a hard move to the right and bounced a couple of times, before pulling up straight and safe.

    I suspected something special had occurred when the two-man tow buggy appeared with Mark, Craig, Steve, Mally, Andrew and Sam all clinging on for dear life, and all trying to look a bit disappointed. Craig came up shook his head and said "Sorry mate, you haven't run a seven, (pause) but you have run a ******* six! 6.98/195. Lots of handshaking and backslapping and a bit of whooping and hollering mainly from me. I asked Mally if I had been closer to the wall or the centreline, he thought for a moment then said "Wall, centreline, wall, centreline". I think Mark was still in shock, he was obviously really disappointed that because of his injuries he was unable to drive himself but he was genuinely pleased for me and absolutely delighted that against all the odds the Team had finished the year with a six second car.

    Following the event I have received lots of congratulations, but I want to make it quite clear that it is Mark and all the guys who deserve all the credit. They have done thousands of hours of work building, tuning, preparing and producing a fantastic six-second car. My contribution was tiny by comparison. I was just the guy who was in the hot seat for the last pass of the season. I want to take this opportunity to thank Ian Marshall and all the guys who worked so hard to keep the track open, and to genuinely and most sincerely thank Mark and all the guys who crew on the Mark Flavell Racing Super Pro ET dragster for allowing me the privilege of driving the car and giving me the opportunity to achieve a lifetime ambition

    Thanks to Eurodragster.com for the above report

    2007/8:

    Mark and the crew had to wait all winter before returning to Santa Pod. Where Mark blasted into the six second zone with a couple of splendid 6.90s to start the 2007 season with a bang.

    Mark and the team, sustained some serious engine damage mid-season and had to remove the six second engine. Mark had already arranged with Steve Murty that he would take the dragster to York to support the August UK Northern Nationals, York's biggest event of the year and Mark was determined not to let anyone down, so he, Craig, Steve and Mally did a fantastic jobb building a spare motor from old parts and spares to get the car to the track.

    Mark again kindly allowed me to drive the car and I had a bit of a mixed weekend. In eliminations I didn't get my finger on the trans brake button properly and the car buggered off when I got on the throttle pedal, resulting in a red light. I was desperately disappointed, I felt I had let everybody down and gone from hero to zero in one pass. I naturally said it was down to lack of practice, strange car, funny trans brake position, sun in my eyes, visor steamed up,blah, blah, blah. Mark considered my excuses and said it was more likely that it was 'cos I was a total plonker. He was probably right.

    I asked Mark if I could have another go, this time over the full ¼ mile and thankfully he said yes, I knew he did have some reservations because I remember his driving instructions were, not to cock it up and act right in your noddle?

    Fortunately I did as I was told, and we were all pleased and a little relieved to run a 7.91 @ 171mph which turned out to be the fastest time of the season and a personal best for me at York, my previous best being 8.40 in Marks old Super Comp car.

    I would like to say that the track at York does come in for a lot of critisicsm, but from my experience, the startline is excellent and whilst the track is a bit bumpy in places that seven second pass was straight and felt completely safe and remember the dragster has no suspension at all.

    As usual I owe a great debt of gratitude to Mark and the team for all there hard work, and trusting me with the car, many thanks,

    Des.

     

    Strangely enough, I have run out of money, which is a bit of a shame. Any company interested in sponsoring a 6 sec. driver, a current Champion and a proven winner, please get in touch. Click here.

    It is not easy to succeed and become Champions in any sport. It takes a lot of hard work by dedicated, professional single-minded people. Men who are prepared to work night and day, many times sacrificing their social life, rejecting the temptations of alcohol and fast women in order to achieve their ambition. Always steadfastly politically correct.

    Here are those men.

    Mark Flavell, Steve Metcalf, Des Taylor, Craig Owen

    Cheers everybody,

    Des

 

 

 

Cheers,

Des Taylor