In a weekend of mixed fortunes, Brisbane based racer, Steve Ham has cemented his name in Australian Drag Racing history by claiming both the national time and speed records for the hotly contested Top Alcohol Funny Car category.
Ham stunned onlookers during qualifying with a blistering 5.467 second run over the quarter mile to eclipse the former record of fellow Queenslander and Top Alcohol legend Gary Phillips, by over five hundredths of a second, returning in the first round of eliminations to back up the record with a 5.485 but at a groundbreaking 265.38 mph (427.08 kph) to seal the national speed record in the process.
The groundbreaking run came at a cost however, with the right-rear tire exploding as Ham crossed the finish line, sending the ECL Lubricants Funny Car towards the wall, ironically beside Phillips, who won the race on a holeshot.
“It was out of nowhere! I knew we’d run quick and we were right beside Gary, and then this massive bang happened, and I thought Gary must have hit me! When I got out, the track marshall told me the tire had gone, and all that was left was the inner liner, which was what saved me really. It’s amazing to think that the liner was good for 260mph!” a relieved Ham said.
“After experiencing that, I think tire liners should be made mandatory. Most guys use them but not all, and we’ve just proved it can happen to anyone. We need to do some development on protecting the driver too from debris when that happens.”
Post race inspections revealed that not only had the tire rupture shredded the right rear of the funny car body, but after dragging on the wheelie bar, had bent the front half of the chassis.
“It’s amazing how thing work out. If we had have won the race and made it to the semi finals, we may not have noticed that the chassis was bent, and just got into our usual servicing routine between rounds. But it was only when we were loading the car up into the transporter that we noticed the bend.”
Despite topping the record books, Ham had little time to celebrate, contracting McKinney Chassis to fast track a new chassis front half and send it to Australia.
“We got on to McKinney as soon as we knew, but now we’ve slept on it a bit, we think we’ll just go back to the old chassis for the Winternationals and take our time rebuilding the new car. I’m not sure what we’ll do about a body though. The ECL Mustang is pretty torn up!”
The East Coast Lubes Team have less than a month to prepare for the Winternationals in the second weekend of June on Ham’s home track of Willowbank Raceway. Ham and crew wants to thank all of its sponsors including ECL, RD Williams, and Mobil.