CORDOVA, ILL. - After qualifying in the top spot at two consecutive IHRA National Events, Canadian Al Billes now finds himself struggling to not only find the consistency he so badly needs, but also the horsepower. Billes started the season...
CORDOVA, ILL. - After qualifying in the top spot at two consecutive IHRA National Events, Canadian Al Billes now finds himself struggling to not only find the consistency he so badly needs, but also the horsepower. Billes started the season with a bang as he bested the cream of the class at Darlington and Rockingham. He advanced to the quarter and semi-finals in those races, and nestled comfortably into the number two points position.
Two weeks ago the IHRA Tour came to Canada for the first time, and Billes was determined to put on a show for his "home fans" at the Mopar Parts Canadian Nationals presented by Castrol. He qualified fifth, and in spite of another semi-final appearance, Billes admitted that the car just was not performing as it had earlier in the year. But with two weeks available before the Amalie Oil Summer Nationals at Cordova, Billes and crew were confident of pinpointing their problem.
But it wasn't to be. During the first qualifying session on Thursday, the flamed '53 Studebaker could only manage a 6.61, not nearly good enough. In round two, there was only a slight improvement, as Billes posted a 6.59, and was facing his first DNQ of the season. Rolling out for his third and last shot, the Canadian driving standout ran through at 6.40, and jumped into ninth spot on the grid.
The relief and happiness in the Billes pit area was short lived, however, as tech officials gave the car a through look-over, and declared that the engine containment device (diaper) under the bottom end was improperly installed and had interfered with the starting line timing lights. Subsequently Billes' 6.40 pass was not allowed, and his second best effort of 6.59 left him watching the rest of the action from the sidelines.
Obviously this has dealt a serious blow to Billes' championship aspirations for 2000, but don't expect him to give an inch. He knows the horsepower is there, and once he gets the handle back, he'll be going after the leaders once again. Remember, this car held the World ET record for quite a while in 1999, and can easily get to that point once again.