A More Competitive Al Billes Knocked Out of Contention in First Round at Norwalk- Handling Problems to Blame. Norwalk, OH - For past couple of months, Canadian Pro Mod competitor Al Billes has been struggling, along with the rest of his fellow...
A More Competitive Al Billes Knocked Out of Contention in First Round at Norwalk- Handling Problems to Blame.
Norwalk, OH - For past couple of months, Canadian Pro Mod competitor Al Billes has been struggling, along with the rest of his fellow racers who run supercharged engines, to work out the puzzle presented to them in mid-season by the IHRA. The major changes in weight, gearing and transmissions came as quite a shock, and for a while there was talk of wholesale mutiny within the ranks.
Billes, of Barrie, Ontario, Canada, was as upset as the rest of the blower contingent, but he went to work trying to make his sleek '53 Studebaker competitive within the restrictions of the new rules. His main complaint was the fact that all these rule changes, read equipment changes, cost the racers a ton of money. "We're supposed to be out here having some fun, not draining our life savings away," Billes commented at the time.
And, as predicted, after a few races the concerns of the supercharger crowd proved to be legitimate, as they were being badly beaten to the punch by the gas-guys. As promised, the powers that be realized that the nitrous-aided cars now had an advantage, and revised the rules once again, this time allowing the blower cars to run a 4:71 gear, beginning with this weekend's race in Norwalk.
Billes is a real competitor, and even before the relaxation of the gear rule, he was determined to fight through the situation. At the previous race in Stanton, MI, Billes went to the semi-finals before being eliminated, the only blower car left in the field at that point.
Surprisingly, the blower cars, new gears and all, didn't fare as well this weekend. Some big names were absent from the field as the elimination rounds began, among them Fred Hahn and Troy Critchley.
But Billes was there, his 6.424/221.27 good enough for the 11th spot in the field, the best of the three blower cars that made it in. Amazingly, however, the nitrous guys have really picked it up of late, with the top six qualifiers all running juice, and all in the 6.30's
The first round of eliminations saw all three supercharged cars sent to the sidelines. But, and I'm not sure this is any consolation to the drivers, none of the three were overwhelmed by much quicker nitrous cars. All three simply fell victim to old fashioned racing bad luck. In Billes' case, he was matched up against #5 qualifier Roy Wasko's 2000 'Vette. Billes cut the better light, but tire shake set in, and after a couple of attempts to pedal the car into smooth flight, Al gave it up as a lost cause.
So it appears that the gear change rule has had some effect. Of course, more needs to be done, like maybe taking some of the weight out, but that remains in the hands of the rules makers.
Whatever the rules, Billes is determined to put the best car that he can on the track at all times. Last year he won the race at Epping, NH, which is next on the IHRA schedule, and he would love nothing better to win it again, and reestablish some credibility for the supercharger community.