McMillin to race in doorslammer
It might be a throwback to the days when every Kiwi family had a Holden Kingswood or Ford Falcon, big roomy sedans for mum, dad, three kids, the tent and a couple of chillybins.
At 26, Hamilton drag racer Morice McMillin was born after the era when the four-door dinosaurs ruled our roads but he still has an affinity for their shape and style.
That is why, when the chance came to reshape his racing career, he stepped out of his Roadies Avenger funny car into the bulkier, broader Roadies Doorslammer.
A doorslammer is drag racing jargon for a sedan with operating doors, unlike a funny car with its hinged fibreglass body or the open cockpit of a rail.
What lurks under the sedan body is pure race car, but the doorslammer slightly resembles something that the family loaded up on those summer holidays.
"I always wanted to get into one. They are cool cars; people can relate to them," McMillin said.
The Roadies 1956 Ford Customline is one of the drawcards at tomorrow's race meeting at the Rock 94.4FM Dragway in Motueka. It is the third meeting of the Nelson Drag Racing Association's season and, as a round of a national points series, their most important of the summer.
The pre-entry list reflects that. Group One cars will race side by side over an abbreviated eighth-mile dragstrip, while other classes will cover the full quarter.
There is a strong contingent of North Island cars coming, with McMillin's car shaping up against the 1955 Chev of Mike Reid.
Motueka track record-holder John Neilan is also competing in his five-second Digga dragster.
Neilan and McMillin set the Motueka airstrip alight last season with passes of 5.88sec and 6.16sec respectively. Although they are running the shorter distance tomorrow, McMillin is still hoping for some spectacular passes.
"If we can get the car off the line and through the first section without drama, we are hoping for times in the low fours and speeds getting up around 280kmh."
The shift from the nimble funny car to the hunky, chunky doorslammer came about in a chance conversation with Neilan and the owner of the Customline, Mark Thomas. He had been unable to run the car regularly, Neilan was looking to expand his racing operation and McMillin had dreams of driving a doorslammer.
"We race under the John Neilan Racing Team umbrella and it is Mark's car, so I am just the hired shoe, but it's a great situation for each of us," McMillin said.
The Roadies doorslammer has done just six passes so far but has run a best over the quarter-mile of 6.71sec at 330kmh. With about 3200 horsepower on tap, it is a challenging ride.
"The funny [car] is down about 400 horsepower on this car but the Customline is lugging 250kg more and that's a huge amount in drag racing."
McMillin said the driving styles are different, too. In the funny car he had to "drive angrily".
"You're fighting the steering wheel . . . in this one there is more finesse needed. It feels more floaty, if I can describe it that way."
McMillin, a diehard supporter of the New Zealand Drag Racing Association, rated his first visit to Motueka as one of his favourite racing experiences. He is keen to reacquaint himself with the airstrip surface tomorrow.
"It's my favourite track, to be honest, but it's the people that set it apart. The atmosphere makes Nelson a great place to race. We had the best time last year."
McMillin is keen to gather points in the national series tomorrow but results are still secondary to living his doorslammer dream.
"Mark owns the car, John's provided the blower and fuel system and I get to pedal the thing. It is a pretty amazing opportunity."
CATCH THE ACTION
Southern Nationals drag racing, the Rock 94.4FM Dragway, Motueka, tomorrow. Qualifying from 10.30am, racing from 12.30pm. No eftpos, alcohol, drugs, dogs, glass or gang patches. Adults $15, children 5-15 $5, under-5s free.
The Nelson Mail