Cockeram aiming for low-key launch
It all began, as many brilliant plans begin, over a few quiet beers.
Richmond builder Damian Cockeram was with mates at Gourdie Autos five or so years ago when he and mechanic Clinton Lochhead decided it would be a great idea to build a drag car each.
Lochhead got there first, his turbocharged Nissan T altered knocking on the door of a 7sec run and being aimed to crack through that barrier at Motueka's Rock 94.4FM Dragway tomorrow.
Cockeram is a couple of seasons behind but gets the chance to fire his first shots in anger at the Turbochargers NZ Forced Induction Drags, the second meeting of the Nelson Drag Racing Association's summer season.
His Mazda 808 saloon has been a long time coming but Cockeram is still in no rush to starting ripping out 10sec quarter-miles.
"To be honest, I have zero history in cars like this so the biggest margin for error will be with the driver," he said.
"Whether it runs a 10 or a 15 [tomorrow] is irrelevant, I am only interested in getting the car on the track and going from one end to the other in one piece."
Cockeram spotted the little four-door saloon while attending a wedding. The owner was selling, Cockeram was buying, a deal was done.
The car was dispatched to Alan Rasmussen at RPM in Richmond for a diff change, rollcage and wheel tubs but came back with a tube chassis and full-on race car underpinnings.
The 13B Mazda rotary engine is basically standard but meeting sponsor Turbochargers NZ and Canterbury tuners NZEFI got hold of it and now, with a Holset turbo installed, it makes in excess of 500 horsepower.
"Ras [Rasmussen] fabricated a lot of parts and Craig Mills and his guys took care of the turbo but I think everyone is surprised we are getting such big horsepower out of a standard motor," Cockeram said.
"The weak link now might be the gearbox . . . it has already locked up twice so that's on the shopping list for next season."
The Forced Induction Drags will feature cars with turbochargers and superchargers cramming extra power into their engines. Nelson already boasts a couple of quick turbocharged cars in Lochhead's Ford T and Avon Compton's Nissan Silvia while the supercharged Chev dragster of Craig Griffith and Paul Johnston's Procharged Chev pickup each make more than 1500 horsepower.
Cockeram isn't ready to play with those bad boys just yet.
"I've helped out at the drags and had a few runs in grudge class street cars but the Mazda is a pure race car," he said.
"I just want to get a feel for it, get dialled in, get any gremlins out of the system and then try to step it up as the season goes on.
"It's been a long time coming, so it would be stupid to try to rush things now."
Cockeram has support from RPM, Gourdie Autos, Turbochargers NZ, NZEFI, Ash Bradley Paint and Panel and the Sign Crew.
Forced Induction Drags, the Rock 94.4FM Dragway, Motueka Airport. Qualifying from 10.30am tomorrow, racing from 12.30pm. No eftpos, no alcohol, no glass, no patches, no dogs.
The Nelson Mail