For those that don’t know me I will do a quick introduction. My name is Darren Parker and I have been involved in Drag Racing for around 17 years. It all started back in the 90’s when I was taken to the Nationals at Calder Park. I still remember sitting on the hill with the crowd packed in shoulder to shoulder in awe of the sport. Immediately it was the high revving Pro Stock and Super Stock sedans that caught my eye.
About 2 years later I started going to street meetings at Calder Park in my VP SS Commodore. Running mid 15 seconds in a street car was fast at the time, but soon I started modifying it to go faster. Starting with a 331ci Holden, ditching the 5spd manual to go to a 3spd auto and then a bigger and more powerful 383ci Holden and some attention from the police meant it was time to make it a serious race car and not a street car anymore. After some chassis modifications I was running in the high 9sec zone in Super Sedan. In 2004 when Western Sydney International Dragway opened I put my foot in the water of interstate travel and Drag Racing became my sport of choice and lifestyle.
Time to step up
After many successful years in the Commodore I started looking for a new car to step up and go a bit faster. I could have built a new driveline for the VP, but it would still be a Commodore, big, heavy and not as aerodynamic as a Pro Stock car. I had a look at buying a couple of used Pro cars, but being 6ft3” tall I struggled to fit in them. I thought about modifying the chassis to fit in there, but after a phone call with Peter Ridgeway I ended up ordering a new Jerry Haas GXP to be built to suit me and our smaller 400ci engines! The car was built for Pro Stock with a clutch pedal and all the fancy gear, but I planned to run it in Super Stock and learn about the chassis and engines before adding a clutch into the mix.
Fast forward to 2010 and the GXP arrived in September and I debuted the car in November with a couple of minor issues that were easily sorted. My plan was to run the remainder of the 2010-2011 season to get the car setup ready for a run at the 2011-2012 championship.
Chasing a championship
The start of the 2011-2012 season was the Australian Nationals in Sydney in September. A red light in the Semi Final wasn’t ideal, but two round wins and more passes on the car helped me further develop the package.
The Western Nationals in Perth is held in the first weekend of March and it was in 2007 that I won in Super Sedan in the Commodore. Could I repeat my 100% win ratio in Perth in 2012? Almost, but not quite! After waking up on race day and during the warm-up I realised that the transbrake in the Proflite wasn’t working. That meant no reverse gear and no transbrake off the line. We spent an hour checking the wiring out in the car looking for a simple fix, however we didn’t have time to pull the sump off the transmission to check it out properly. I faced the first round of eliminations and did a small burnout, and then launched off the foot brake for an easy win. Straight back to the pits and we drained the transmission and removed the sump to find the solenoid had burnt itself out and as we had all forward gears, just no reverse and no transbrake I decided to keep going and give Round 2 a go. With a win in Round 2 and again in Round 3 I found myself in the first final with the GXP. Unfortunately a slow reaction time off the footbrake cost me the race, but I did learn a lot that weekend!
Only a few weeks later we were back in Sydney at the Pro Stock meeting which was also a points round for the Rocket All Stars. With the transmission fixed I was looking forward to a successful meeting. Once again I made it through to the final and this time it was a close race! With almost identical lights I was beaten by Jason Simpson who ran a full 0.1sec under his national record to reset the G/GA record. He was too far out in front and even with the big chase down I couldn’t make up the difference. After this event Jason and I were tied for the lead in the Australian Super Stock championship on the maximum allowed 200 points.
Gremlins and the new car blues
I went to the Nitro Champs in Sydney with the intention of tuning the car a little further and hopefully blocking my other championship competitors from scoring points and getting too close to us at the front. This event had some highs and some lows. The highs for me were running under the national ET record with a 7.444 second pass in qualifying which was also over my own mph record at 182.97mph. The low was my first round loss when I let out a big breath going into full stage and my helmet visor fogged up. As the tree was coming down I took my hands off the wheel to lift my visor and then in the rush to get my hands back on the wheel I launched without the transbrake and went red…. Again.
Being equal leader in the Super Stock championship I was confident coming into the Winter Nationals in Queensland. The weather is usually perfect in Queensland in June with cool air and the warm sun during the day keeping track temperatures up. This year was different with lots of humidity, cool temperatures and rain in the area. The track was its super sticky best, but our aspirated engines were a little down on power. There were no qualifiers 0.6 or more of a second under and the tight field had number one 0.53 sec under his index. I was in 5th position, 0.49 under and the top nine positions were only a few hundredths of a second apart.
On the third qualifying pass it had been raining for around half an hour before we ran. The car launched hard and was on a good run until 7.2 seconds into the run and it felt like the car started to wheelspin and hit the rev limiter. This has happened a few times as I was increasing the performance of the car so I held on and drove through it. The pass was down 3 or 4mph, but the ET was very close. Back in the pits I pulled the data out of the logger and it wasn’t wheelspin and rev limiter through the top end, it was a misfire as the engine started to hurt itself. Unfortunately the engine hurt itself enough to not be able to contest racing on Monday and a chance in the championship.
Congratulations to Jason Simpson who went on to win the championship and I ended up coming third in the championship when the Winter Nationals winner ended up 20 points ahead of me.
Staying in Super Stock with an eye on Pro Stock
So not a bad start to my first full season in Super Stock. I have done over 45 passes in the car and finally got the chassis to where I'm happy. The engine only had to last 3 or 4 more passes at the Winter Nationals before it was due for a freshen. Now it needs to be repaired as well as freshened. Either way it will be back with more power ready to contest the 2013 season.
My plan is to stay in Super Stock for a little while as the step up to Pro Stock is huge in both dollars and commitment. I have actively started looking for sponsors now I have some Super Stock experience, so you never know, Pro Stock might be closer than I think!
I would like to thank the following people for their on going support:
- Peter Ridgeway and Arthur Sagiaris (Custom Engines)
- Neil Hendry at Cryogen Industries
- Nick Xerakias (ERC Fuel)
- Paul Rogers Snr and Matt Ramsay