DRIVING a five-second, 250mph blown alcohol Pro Slammer is no easy task, let alone when you only have the use of one leg! At Summernats Slam at Sydney Dragway on Friday, Mark Hinchelwood not only drove the 3500hp ACDelco Monaro in just this fashion, but he wound up winning the Extreme class and the overall, too!
“In the first round we had a really good run, beginning with a great holeshot, and everything was fantastic, but through the finish line we broke a fuel line and that resulted in banging the blower,” said Mark. “That all happened at the same time as me depressing the clutch and we think – but are not 100 per cent sure – that I got a bit of kick-back through the pedal which, in a nutshell, snapped my Achilles tendon.”
Photos: Tim McCormack
While lesser humans would pack their tents and retire, Mr Hinchelwood was determined to put on a show for the Summernats Slam crowd.
“It sent me into screaming pain, agony, and a lot of discomfort so I called the paramedics, who are amazing, and they met me at the finish line,” he said. “I didn’t want to hold the meeting up too long. As soon as I could get out of the ambulance, I got back to the pits and said to the guys: ‘We need to figure out how I can push the clutch pedal in as my tendon has definitely snapped, but let’s see if I can drive this car.’”
The ACDelco-Fabietti Racing team continued thrashing on the car, including whipping the sump off to repair a hurt cylinder and fitting all new blower studs to the intake manifold, so they could make the next round against Geoff Gradden in the ’59 Chrysler.
The ACDelco Monaro Pro Slammer is essentially a brand-new Murray Anderson-build car, which debuted at a 400 Thunder event a year ago and then sat idle due to lockdowns and postponements. “We’d been 52 weeks out of the car so we’d been itching to get back into it and going racing again,” Mark said. “We booked a fairly easy 5.77, which is great considering it had been stuck in the shed for a year!”
“The whole team was amazing,” said Mark. “We figured out a plan of attack, which included a half-inch tyre iron bar, a socket extension rod on that, and some 200mph tape – which is now rated to 250mph, by the way – and we got me set up in the car so the IHRA officials could come by and make sure everything was going to be safe and I’d be able to actually drive the car.
“We had a discussion with team owner Maurice Fabietti to make sure he was comfortable with me driving the car, knowing I was in a great deal of pain. He just wanted me to be safe and make sure I’d only drive the car as far as I was comfortable to because he didn’t feel like we needed to win or wanted me feeling any pressure to keep racing. But once I strapped back into the car, the adrenaline took over!”
Mark holeshot in the second round to take the win, with a 5.81@241mph and only one usable leg. “I didn’t run it through the back door because I was concerned with clutching the car at 250mph, but we got the win and that put us in the final against Mauler and the twin-turbo Pro Mod.”
The weather conditions on Day One of Summernats Slam were difficult for all the teams, but Mark had high praise for the recently upgraded dragstrip. “Frank and the crew behind the rebuild of Sydney Dragway did an amazing job with all the upgrades,” he said. “This place is a world-class facility and in the future this location will bring a lot of teams here, both from interstate and overseas!”
In front of a healthy crowd and on a cooling night, Mauler’s transbrake malfunctioned, causing him to red-light, while Mark ran the ACDelco Monaro through for a safe 5.89@210mph to nab the win. “There’s a saying in drag racing that sometimes the stars align and it all goes your way, so even when you’re having a bad day, it turns out all right,” he said with a laugh.
Proving he cannot get away from the strip, Mark was back signing posters and hanging out in the pits on Saturday! “I got back to the pits last night, said goodbye to the team, and then drove myself to the hospital,” he said. “I’m booked in for surgery on Monday, so I’m wearing two armbands today; one for Summernats Slam and one from the hospital!”