Top Fuel - Supercharge versus Injected

Top Fuel: Supercharged versus Injected Dave Hirata to Contest Injected Nitro Dragster at Amalie Oil Texas Nationals March 26-28 NORWALK, Ohio (March 16, 2004) -- When IHRA announced changes to the Top Fuel rules allowing Injected Nitro Dragsters...

Top Fuel: Supercharged versus Injected
Dave Hirata to Contest Injected Nitro Dragster at Amalie Oil Texas Nationals March 26-28

NORWALK, Ohio (March 16, 2004) -- When IHRA announced changes to the Top Fuel rules allowing Injected Nitro Dragsters into the field, the drag racing world began to talk. Stories appeared on Web sites and various publications as to the effect this would have on racing. None were more excited then the A-Fuel drivers themselves.

Dave Hirata, an A-Fuel competitor since 1998, will be one of the drivers at the season opener in San Antonio to contest his Injected Nitro Dragster in the Top Fuel category. In 1999 and 2000 he held the NHRA national record for ET and mph and has four national event wins and three divisionals.

When I talked to Hirata, he was at the family collision repair and service shop, Lowell Body Shop in Lowell, Ind., a business his parents started 47 years ago.

What is the difference between the A-Fuel dragster and the Top Fuel dragster?

Dave Hirata:

Raw horsepower period. The Top Fuel cars out there that have their combination together have so much horsepower that I feel some of it is unusable, and with us coming in and able to use a 500-cubic inch motor and clutch management, we think we can get our car into the 4s.

Whether we can compete with Millican? No, I don't think it's possible. Whether we can be an impact on the class? I think that is very possible. We just can't generate the brute horsepower that a Top Fuel car makes. But as far as what we can do with our cars, it has been such an untapped area, it is going to be a lot of fun. No one knows. We've talked about it for years: what can these cars do. Now it's our chance.

From a fan sitting in the stands, what will he see different from the Top Fuel car?

DH:

I don't know how familiar IHRA fans are with the injected Nitro cars. I think we can put on a heck of a show. These cars look like a Top Fuel car going down the track. You've got the Nitro smell, plus they crack and pop like no one has probably ever heard. It is a totally different sound.

This could turn into the "Pro Mod" issue. I think a good controversy always stirs interest. I've liked the Pro Mod issue in IHRA. You always have that little fued. Maybe the IHRA officials don't like it, but it's good to have. I hope the fans are going to be curious as to what will really happen. It's a whole new deal. The nitrous and blown cars in Pro Mod has been going on for years, but this is a whole new entity in the world of Top Fuel drag racing. I think we can create a lot of interest with the fans.

The first car in the 4s, at 300 mph, that is kind of the big thing all the injected fuel cars will be after. But how fast and quick we can go, no one really knows.

I heard these may actually be louder on the starting line than the Top Fuel cars. Is this true?

DH:

The difference is they are high-compression motors. If you've never heard a high-compression motor on Nitro, it's pretty bitchin'. They pop and bang, it sounds like the rods want to come out of them. It's a totally different sound than the Top Fuel car.

The Top Fuel car to me is a pretty smooth-running, consistent, loud monster. But you put an A-Fuel car on the high-side and let the clutch out -- it's violent. It's because we have to run high-compression to make up for the blower.

You're going to see big air scoops above the roll cage. You'll see them with sheet metal intakes. It's gonna look nearly like a nitrous Pro Mod motor, sheet metal intakes, big fuel injectors on top of an intake manifold, and this scoop hanging up above the roll cage. And if the fan base doesn't know, when these cars pull around the corner, they're going to go "what the hell is that!"

What will make the biggest difference in the performance of these dragsters from what people are used to seeing?

DH:

In addition to the weight reduction, the biggest thing that will change the performance level is that clutch. That is our weak link; it's what holds us back from applying our horsepower. The thing is, the reason we are going to be pioneers, is because we can't go to a Top Fuel team and say "we want to run our clutch like yours." I don't want to say it can't be done, but I don't anticipate it is going to be apples and apples. Other than finding out some little tidbits, we're going to be winging it. I'm very fortunate to know a lot of Top Fuel competitors that I can talk to, but what I've been hearing is "we don't know, we don't know how to run your cars." So other than picking their brains and getting as much information, seeing how it applies to different situations with us, we really have nothing to go with as far as running the clutch. We are going to start a clutch management program.

IHRA is being pretty liberal. They see the difference in the cars, and they're giving us some liberal issues to start that might make us competitive.

Also, the gear ratio is going to be a big issue. The only problem with the gears is the ones we feel we should run are not readily available to call up a manufacturer and say send me a gear.

Is your car ready for San Antonio?

DH:

This is a totally different motor combination. All the sudden, we're trying to slam it together in a month and a half. Whether we come to San Antonio with a perfect program, we'll see. We definitely plan on coming up there and testing the waters.

This has really sparked another interest in my father (Ken Hirata) because it's a whole new ballgame for us. My parents are as hardcore about this as I am and they are in their 70s. Trying to put this together (with him) has become really fun, but it is a huge investment that we're going to make and we're not just going to take some old motor we ran in NHRA and come over there and do the best we can. We've got a whole new deal, a whole new program for this.

I've caught bits and pieces from some of the Top Fuel guys that they aren't happy. I'm not trying to stir the pot, but we are going to come over there and run within the rules and try to make a dent in this program. We're going to run our car as hard as we can and the best team and the best people are going to come to the top. I think it will be really good for the class.

At which race will we first see Dave Hirata qualify?

DH:

Our plan is to qualify at San Antonio. I'm not sure what combination we'll have, but we plan on coming down there with a couple guns loaded. It's the only way we know how to run our car. That's because of my father. (The car) is on kill every run. We're not coming there just to qualify.

And realistically, Clay Millican, he's the guy, and hey, I'm coming to take him out. Evenly matched both cars going down the track, I'm going to say it can happen. We're going to have to have some luck, but we're not coming out there to qualify. We're coming out there to win. That's our mindset.

Well, I think that's what a lot of people want to hear.

DH:

A lot of people running the fuel injected cars say "well if we just qualify, the qualifying money." And that's great because the money issue becomes a factor. But you know what, we're going there to win. I'm not coming to make qualifying money and plan on going home after round one. Qualifying, that's great, but it's not our goal. Our goal is to come over there and win.

But the guys that talk about the qualifying money. That's why you're going? Because that's not why I'm going.

***

The Amalie Oil Texas Nationals presented by Ancira Cars, Trucks and RVs and the San Antonio Express-News, March 26 - 28 at San Antonio Raceway. For tickets, call the track at 210-698-2310 or check out the event preview at www.ihra.com for more details.

-ihra-

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Series Drag
Drivers Clay Millican