Out with the Old – In with the New
After campaigning a very tried and true Top Alcohol Funny Car for 15 seasons, London Ontario-based Noakes Racing has a new toy to play with for NHRA’s Lucas Oil Drag Racing Series….
During NHRA’s recent Amalie Oil Gatornationals event held in Florida, the Noakes Meritor-sponsored race team debuted what was for them a brand new race car — a McKinney-built Ford Mustang.
The team acquired the car very recently – approximately one month before the Gainesville event. Featuring a 2011 model Mustang body, the machine was formally raced on a limited basis in California from where they acquired it.
“This is a low-run state-of-the-art car which everyone dreams of having,” reported Les Mellows, the race team’s skilled crew chief and tuner. “When this opportunity knocked we decided to answer. Our previous Mustang which had an original chassis built in 1998 was meant to run in the 6.0 secs zone. Over the years we keep it fast and reliable but at the end we were a little bit over our heads with it in NHRA’s TAFC. And in this class to remain competitive upgrading your equipment is a necessary evil.”
At Gainesville the team swapped their existing engine and drive train from their old Mustang into their new car. In fact the new car was not started for the first time until the Thursday night prior to Friday’s first qualifying session.
In the end Paul ran the car to a time of 5.684 secs at 259.01 mph to qualify #13 and in round one he recorded an even quicker 5.665 secs. That pass however came up short while racing against Colorado’s Annie Whiteley.
“I think we made some very stable and solid maiden voyage runs,” Paul Noakes added. “The new car is quite a bit different then what we are used to and so it’s a pretty big adjustment for everyone. But with this car, parts and support from our sponsors Meritor and Firestone Air Springs, I think we have a good chance to be real challengers. Our new car is going to be fast and intriguing.”
For the team the new car development is some pretty big news. Late last season they overcame a huge obstacle when they won for the first time at the NHRA National event level – scoring in impressive style during Maple Grove Raceway’s national event in October. There is no doubt that with that experience behind them and with the fact they are now equipped with much more modern day equipment — late round frequency and additional event wins will be much more the norm for this race team.
“With the exit of Frank Manzo from the Lucas Oil TAFC class championship chase this year — there will be someone else new at the top of the heap,” Les added in. “We’d like to put ourselves in position to challenge for that spot.”
And In a Related Matter — Recent news from Paris Ontario is that the rather infamous and colourful Ant Hill Mob Racing team are now in possession of the former Noakes Racing Mustang’s race car chassis.
That team which is run by Smax Smith and his son Aidan Heatley Smith, have plans to adopt their rather outrageous ’35 Chevy body to that chassis for the 2014 season.
According to Aidan, “We sold the chassis but kept the body and will upgrade things by switching to Paul’s recent NHRA winning roller chassis. We plan on running our 540 CID we contested last season. We are hoping to contest within the NDRA and we may also switch bodies to run some of the HURA schedule.”
Both Smax and Aidan will see time behind the wheel of the reconfigured car. Smax, a former European Top Fuel champion racer, will also make some limited appearances again this year driving Bob Leverich’s Top Fuel car.
Photos and Posting by: Bruce Biegler