Enhanced Canadian Power Play!

Two of Canadian drag racing’s top weapons are poised for a potentially very interesting season assault in 2013…..

During the later part of 2012, tuning and engine building guru Les Davenport and driver Jirka Kaplan (who are from DeWinton and Calgary Alberta respectively) grabbed hold of some late season attention when they entered an all new Mustang-bodied TAFC during the calendar ending NHRA AAA Auto Club Finals at Pomona.

Les Davenport & Jirka Kaplan

Les Davenport & Jirka Kaplan

While the national event debut of that new car did sneak into the scene somewhat from under the radar, it is the team’s vast wealth of knowledge and experience that holds much future promise.

The duo have been racing and aligned for a number of years together, with joint racing ventures already including NHRA’s Competition eliminator, the NHRA’s Hot Rod Heritage series and even a Pro Mod car within their resumes.  During 2012, Davenport and Kaplan won two very significant races in the A/FD class – taking top honors within the NHRA Hot Rod Heritage Series’ season book end events — the March Meet and then the California Hot Rod Reunion, both at Bakersfield, California.

There is now however a shifting of the sands for the team as they will embark together into an even higher level and deeper into the Top Alcohol Funny Car category.

“I actually acquired this car (from Cy Chesterman) in late 2011 but then had to sit on it for a time because of various reasons,” Jirka Kaplan reported.  “We starting to work on it in the spring and switched it from a clutch to a torque converter car.  We got the car running last September and made a few runs with it prior to entering it at the Pomona Finals.”

Jirka Kaplan's new TAFC entry was impressive during last  season's ending NHRA Finals out at Pomona.

Jirka Kaplan’s new TAFC entry was impressive during last season’s ending NHRA Finals out at Pomona.

“Les and I are partners in racing,” Jirka continued.  “He owns and drives the A/FD and I own and drive this Funny Car.  I think the TAFC is really sort of a natural progression for us.  We’ve always run supercharged cars and I like heads up racing.  We are going to try to continue to do well in both classes but right now our exact plans for the 2013 season are a little bit unknown — but we are going to try to balance that out.”

Jirka also affirmed that a major reason he is stepping into the TAFC class is directly due to his supporting cast of crew members.

“Over the years I’ve been able to surround myself with a group of people that are really good,” he reiterated.  “Les, Dan and Wade on my crew are all very talented.  In this (TAFC) class it’s really not about the driver – the car runs only as good as the people are around it.  That was in important factor for me in my initial decision to even go there.”

Jirka also feels very lucky to be associated with Les Davenport who has been involved with his racing career throughout.

Les Davenport drove his A/FD to two significant season wins at Bakersfield during 2012

Les Davenport drove his A/FD to two significant season wins at Bakersfield during 2012

“One of the very first cars I ever drove was Les’ old Firebird Funny Car with a big block Chevy back in 1992,” he added.  “At first (age 18) Les was a mentor to me and that has all developed into a close friendship.  I’m a firm believer that he has never got the credit he deserves.  When you look at all he has accomplished and all of the race teams he has helped win – that speaks volumes.   I feel fortunate to have his continued interest in helping me.”

While racing in "Comp" -- Jirka Kaplan won the prestigous Mac Tools U.S. Nationals in 2011.

While racing in “Comp” — Jirka Kaplan won the prestigous Mac Tools U.S. Nationals in 2011.

To date  Jirka’s biggest claims to fame have come arguably in his supercharged AA/A ‘23T and in Competition eliminator.  With that machine during 2011, he and Les recorded a truly impressive barrier breaking first ever 5-second run in the category (at Mission Raceway) and then followed that up by winning the NHRA U.S. Nationals at Indy (drag racings biggest prize!).

If that is not an indicator of the team’s inherent skills – I don’t know what is.  And if I were a betting man — the TAFC contingent is about to welcome aboard yet another very serious class contender.

Photos and Posting by:  Bruce Biegler