LEICESTER, NY. - Canadian Pro Mod competitor Al Billes is one supercharger aficionado that isn't going to roll over and play dead as a result of recent rule changes implemented by the IHRA. The new, and controversial, rules are designed to...
LEICESTER, NY. - Canadian Pro Mod competitor Al Billes is one supercharger aficionado that isn't going to roll over and play dead as a result of recent rule changes implemented by the IHRA. The new, and controversial, rules are designed to slow down the blown cars in order to close the perceived performance gap between them and the nitrous-injected cars in the class. Naturally, as has happened so often in Pro Mod, when one faction receives a perceived break, the other side screams foul. It's nothing new in this popular and competitive class.
Billes, who builds his own supercharged powerplants in his shop in Barrie, Ontario, is not real happy with the added weight, the elimination of the four-speed Lenco and the 4.57 gear requirement. But he knows what screws to turn, and like most top supercharger tuners, he's pretty confident that he'll soon get some extra horsepower back under the hood of his '53 Studebaker. His main beef with the rule changes is the rearend gearing, which he claims is a real ET killer, as well as being very tough on rear tires.
Billes has his own opinions on the rules changes and while he doesn't want to be viewed as a whiner on the issue, he just doesn't understand the reasoning on some issues.
"The rule changes aren't what really bothers me," explains Billes. "It's the lack of consideration for the expense that it costs us to convert. That's the tough thing about the supercharged combination. You can do your homework and make it work, but then you'll pay the price on down the line. I spent money on a new engine combination for this season and it's basically no good now."
In Leicester this weekend, Billes showed some real determination during the qualifying portion of the race. Unable to make his first pass due to an ignition problem, Al laid down a very respectable pass (for a supercharged car under the new rules) of 6.477/218.49 in what turned out to be his one and only shot at a berth in eliminations. Rain later cancelled the third qualifying session, and Billes was in the nitrous-dominated field in the 15th spot.
In the first round, Billes, who was third in points coming into the season's fifth event, was paired up against Ohio's Pat Moore, driving Ed Steffey's new '57 Chevy. Both cars were off the line together, with Moore just 0.009 ahead. In a close race, the margin of victory for Moore was 0.065, with his 6.460/218.49 besting Billes' 6.516/216.29.
Al Billes started off the 2000 season by topping the qualifying at the first two events. If you think he's going to be content with second-half-of-the-ladder spots and early-round exits for the rest of the year, you'd better think again.