For as long as I can remember I have had a passion for all things cars, bikes and Motor Sport. I basically taught myself to read as a young child by watching various forms of racing on TV or looking in magazines, and throughout my life I have attended all kinds of Motor Sport events all over the UK. There are drivers and riders from across the world who I would call icons of their respective Motor Sports. But there is one that is closest to my heart. DRAG RACING!
Saturday November 6th 1993 was a hugely significant day. This was the day that my dad took me to my first Drag Racing event at Santa Pod Raceway. I had little knowledge of the sport at the time, only footage from America on some VHS tapes that I used to watch, but the chance to go and spend the day looking at fast racing cars was enough to excite 7-year-old me. The event was Santa Pod’s traditional Flame and Thunder Show, which they still run annually. Back in ‘93 it was a day of bracket racing and I remember being fascinated by the variety of vehicles going head-to-head down the track.
The other thing that was instantly special, and remains special to this day, was the feel of the venue itself. I was in awe of it all: Santa Pod’s iconic finish line gantry with SANTA POD spelt out in huge letters right across the end of the racetrack, back up the other end there’s the start line area with the Christmas tree starting lights, which are completely unique to Drag Racing. And the crowds as long as I’ve been visiting the Pod and sitting along the spectator banking have always been brilliant, it all adds to the wonderful atmosphere of the place.
My overall memory of that whole day is not great. One of the attractions was stuntman Eddie Kidd jumping through fire on his bike. I can also picture a few of the runs, although I cannot remember many specific cars or bikes that raced. I was certainly impressed by the power and speed, especially when a Jet Car fired itself off the line and set off some alarms in the car park. These are fond memories I will always have of this first visit.
In August 1997 I returned to Santa Pod for the Summer Nationals event and saw many of the faster classes of the sport for the first time – Top Fuel Bikes, Top Alcohol cars and Pro Mods to name a few. But the real reason this event was so notable was that I got my first experience of Nitro!
The Summer Nationals that year had three Nitro Funny Cars on the entry list: John Spuffard driving “Showtime”, Alan Jackson and the legendary Gary Page. I watched two of them burnout and reverse back to the start line. The sound was incredible, I was wearing ear defenders and it was still the loudest thing I had ever heard. Then they exploded away down the track, both getting far enough down the ¼ mile to make a huge impression on me. The acceleration was amazing and the air vibrated; the ground felt like it was shaking. It was one of the greatest things I had ever seen.
In Drag Racing the saying is “Bitten by the bug”. And with the speed of that run and the feel and smell of Nitro, I had been bitten. Drag Racing has become a large part of my life; I have never missed a big event at Santa Pod since. When an event is announced it is like a pilgrimage for me – there’s no question whether or not we can go, we’re going!
I have an appreciation for all forms and classes of Drag Racing. Watching a strong performance from a Top Fuel Dragster brings me as much joy as a great race in a bracket class. I have never been able to pick a favourite class or Championship, my passion is for Drag Racing as an entire sport. I aim to keep this blog going with reports on events I attend in the future, as well as recounting memories I have from past visits to Santa Pod. As always, I cannot wait for the next one!