Speed demon hangs on for ride of life

Plumber a member of the 200mph club

NEIL RATLEY
Last updated 05:00 24/07/2014
NEIL RATLEY/Southland Times

Invercargill plumber and drag racer Karl Boniface describes what it is like being behind the wheel of a machine travelling at more than 300kmh.

Karl Boniface
ROBYN EDIE / Fairfax NZ
EXCLUSIVE CLUB: Invercargill man Karl Boniface with his red cap for being a New Zealand Hot Rod magazine 200mph club member. Boniface, who reached the milestone in his nitro funny car, is believed to be the only member living south of Christchurch.

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He unblocks drains during the week but at the weekends he drives a fire-breathing dragon.

Invercargill plumber Karl Boniface may well be the fastest man on four wheels south of Christchurch.

"Two hundred miles per hour is about 320kmh and is achieved from a standing start in 400m taking six seconds or less. It's a hot and violent ride," Boniface said.

"You have to be strapped in so tight by other people so that you can't move. You are wearing a triple layer fire suit with breathing apparatus so it's tough to breath. It's stinking hot so the sweat is running down into your eyes and burning," he said.

"The sensation of the car is a bit like being slammed in the back with a baseball bat. Bang - it hits you and the acceleration is like being in a plane taking off but 10 times more powerful."

It needed parachutes to stop because the brakes couldn't cope, he said.

Boniface has been honoured as a member of the revived New Zealand Hot Rod magazine 200mph club.

The elite club recognises every person in New Zealand who has exceeded 200mph at the end of a quarter mile drag strip in New Zealand.

It is a feat that drag racers and drivers strive for and one that is not easy to achieve.

The 44-year-old's interest in drag racing began about 25 years ago as a spectator with friends at Teretonga.

"I used to run the street sprints on Otepuni Ave for several years."

In his early 20s, Boniface decided he wanted to race.

"I went to the USA and bought a race car event though I'd never driven a drag car before, but I had got the bug being around them," he said.

However, his passion for speed had to be put away with the arrival of children, a business to run and a mortgage.

"After I got on top of that, I went back to the USA and bought the car I have now, the nitro funny. It's a nostalgia dragster with a plastic body over the top based on what was racing in the 1970s," he said.

"There is a lot of horsepower but not a lot of control. It's pretty aggressive and you just have to hang on for the ride."

With the full support of his family, his Invercargill team of Glenn MacIntosh and Graeme Eyles and Castrol, which sponsors his racing, the lead-footed plumber aims to keep travelling at more than 200mph for some time yet.

"It's the same crew from when I started that still help out today. They are a great bunch of guys."

On the horizon for Boniface is getting the engine roaring of the first New Zealand-built dragster to crack 200mph.

"I bought the chassis and second body for the Hogan Berry funny car that broke the 200mph barrier in 1978. It's a real slice of history that one day I want to get back to 200mph."

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