Getting a purpose-built drag racing vehicle to travel in a straight line might not seem to be a difficult task, but for Gail Rowles and her Mazda RX4 it has proven to be a challenge.
Of course, this is no ordinary Mazda RX4. Lying up front is a small block Chev with a Procharger supercharger system that produces 1151 horsepower.
Rowles said that the car had been unpredictable, with hard turns sometimes occurring in the middle of a run. That has made her driving job difficult.
“The car launches well and I don’t have a problem but as she gets down track I start to feel uptight because you don’t know what it is going to do,” she said.
“In December it stepped out badly and I was lucky not to hit the wall, damage the car or hit my opponent in the other lane – but that scared the bejeezus out of me.”
Since then, the team has been changing anything and everything in an effort to cure the Mazda’s handling woes.
“My husband Phil dropped the rear suspension out and redid it all, and we’ve ordered two new rear tyres,” Rowles said. “I’m hoping that cures the issues because otherwise I’ll have no nerves left!”
The Procharger centrifugal supercharger system is still fairly rare in Australia, though many drag racers in the USA now use the setup. The system is crank-driven like a supercharger, but uses an impeller and housing similar to a turbocharger.
“Phil always had a dream that he wanted a supercharged car, and we took the Mazda off the track seven years ago to rebuild it,” Rowles said. “At the time no one was using Prochargers in Australia so Phil wanted to do something no-one else had done.”
When all goes perfectly the Mazda is seriously quick, having clocked a quarter-mile in just 7.90 seconds at 279kmh, however there have been many gremlins to eliminate along the way.
“Last meeting out we broke a supercharger belt and a burst panel, and we’ve had a few hiccups with the fuel system over the years.”
Rowles will be competing in the Top Sportsman class at the Night of Fire event at Perth Motorplex this Saturday. The event features Jet Dragsters and the Summer Slam Top Doorslammers.
While many of those racers will be chasing record times, Rowles has a simple and humble goal.
“If the car would go straight it would be a perfect weekend, that would be my ultimate,” she said.
Qualifying begins this Saturday from 11am with the feature program commencing from 5.30pm. For more information, visit www.motorplex.com.au
Words: Luke Niewhof
Pic: High Octane Photos