London-based Noakes Racing will enter the 2016 racing season poised for some big things…..
Following a very formidable 2nd half to their 2015 season – which included the team recording the quickest elapsed time by a Canadian TAFC in history (5.515 secs @ Reading) – driver Paul Noakes and his crew (lead by chief/tuner Les Mellows) will soon roll into the season staging lanes.
Armed with some very valued primary and associate sponsors and also some serious tech upgrades, this racing team does have the potential to go a very long way within NHRA’s Lucas Oil Drag Racing Series and they are strategizing to do exactly that.
While last year’s late season surge has the team loaded up with optimism, Noakes and Mellows both know they must continue to advance their program in order to remain competitive in this very tough and constantly progressing TAFC class category.
The team plans to continue to race and refine their Ford Mustang-bodied car which they first debuted back in 2014. While that car will look similar from the outside, under that shell this year, the team has added some important new tech to their racing equation.
“Our tune-up and fuel system is about the same but we’ve made a change for our motor program,” Paul revealed. “Most team’s out there in our class run the Brad Anderson motor but we’re going to move forward with a new Noonan block and cylinder heads. That is a smaller cubic inch engine (490 CID) but the advantage is that we can run higher RPM – which is something we think we can exploit.”
“Our first year (2014) with this car was a transition year for us,” he continued. “Then for the first part of 2015 even though we started well and scored well at some events, we had some gremlins from time to time which made it difficult to run to our potential. We really didn’t figure out what was wrong (an electrical problem) until at Indy last season – but once we found that issue the car really started to fly.”
For 2016, the team has set more of an overall season strategy then maybe they have before in previous years. Evidence of exactly that is the fact that they did not enter for this weekend’s NHRA Gatornationals in Florida, an event which traditionally they have attended.
“Our season objectives are clear – win the NHRA Lucas Oil Drag Racing Series regional title and finish high in NHRA world points,” Paul stated. “If we want to win titles, the real key is to attend more races (strategic and frequency) in the end. We decided to sit out Gainesville – not because we really wanted to — but instead because our focus is on that bigger picture and whole season.”
Paul’s team has set it’s schedule to attend a total of seven NHRA Lucas Oil Regional races from which they can claim points from their best five finishes. They will also race at the NHRA national events in Norwalk and Joliet this summer. Currently Paul sits tied for the lead for participation for the highly prestigious Jegs All Stars event at Joliet and looks forward to that potential major event experience.
Paul’s bigger season dream is to also contend for the overall NHRA Lucas Oil World Championship title for the TAFC class. The harsh reality for that is however directly correlated to sponsorship funding. While Noakes Racing is currently effectively supported by sponsors Fleet Brake, Meritor, Euclid, NGK Canada and Karl’s Truck Service for a potentially successful NHRA regional title run, in order to travel an enter more races for an overall World Championship title bid, additional sponsorship is needed.
“We’re so grateful for the sponsors we currently have and without them we would have never got to this point,” Paul added. “We’ve put together a brilliant team of crew guys and we are running the absolute best products in our car. Our want and goal is to go even higher with our program. But the truth is that now in TAFC class racing – to get to the top — it’s all about how much $ you can bring to the table. That’s really the only thing that’s maybe holding us back.”
Post and photos by: Bruce Biegler