Taking a more personal (read: very relaxed) approach to my Summernats 32 coverage meant that I had plenty of time to explore parts of the show I’d usually miss out on while chasing the more serious side of competition or those larger planned events.
Like capturing the 120 cars that secured a new Guinness World Records entry.
It may seem like a strange decision to make, but after being asked what it’s like to attend Summernats half a billion times, I thought that a simple, honest look at what a typical visitor experience might be like made more sense. After all, we can always resume regular programming at next year’s event.
So what does an Aussie trying his best to fit in at Summernats do with a fairly flexible itinerary? He grabs another refreshing beverage and heads to the ‘Pro Burnout’ pad to watch his camping buddies slay another set of tyres, maybe an engine, or possibly even both.
I have to admit, I could get used to this whole chilling-out-at-events scenario – you guys and gals who don’t cart around massive cameras may be on to something. The ability to simply sit and soak up the atmosphere felt like a completely new experience. It felt odd, almost unnatural, trying not to worry about what other elements of the show I was missing. With two cameras firing full-time I’m sure I still looked super-busy to the guys surrounding me, but it honestly felt like a holiday.Traditional Skids
Finally, it was burnout time. I mean true skids, not those silly little attempts that usually end up with a Mustang mounting a curb, or provisional drivers having to explain to their parents how a rear quarter panel on the family car got dinged.
Like most punters on site, Summernats is the only real contact I have with pro-level burnouts, excluding the occasional shed skid or burnout for a photoshoot.
With cars of this caliber, watching a skid session is way more visceral than you’d probably imagine.
Despite being seated at a comfortable distance from the pad, my senses were overwhelmed.
The deep rumble and roar of the force-fed, large-displacement blocks reverberate through your entire body; the power from a sharp kick to the accelerator pedal amplified by an angry V8 is enough to rattle my teeth, and I was at least 50 meters away. It’s a feeling not too dissimilar to that provided by Top Doorslammer drag cars, except that it lasts longer than seven seconds.
Your eyeballs tingle as they react to the unspent fuel mixture of gas and ethanol left floating in the atmosphere.
A thick and heavy smell of burnt rubber fills your lungs if you inhale mid-skid with an uncovered mouth. Those that venture close enough leave the pad covered head to toe with vaporized rubber as a memento of the experience.
It may be a little too intense for some, but it’s an assault on the senses that anybody who appreciates big horsepower should experience at least once. The memory of your first time will stay with you forever.Launch Time
Finally, the first of my camping buddies made their way out onto the pad. I’ll give Michael full points for commitment on his high-speed start, but the extra speed almost cost him an entire front end.
‘Summers’ seemed to bog down as he shifted into third gear; his VN Holden Commodore began to massively understeer and almost pump the concrete barrier. Note that I said pump and not kiss. I have no idea how he missed the wall, but the entire crowd let out a massive sigh of relief. I bet Michael did, too.
He spent the rest of the run redeeming himself, and the car, using the narrower and more difficult entry and exit lanes, as well as throwing the Commodore around aggressively on the main pad.
With both tyres blown in style, it was time to retire. Nice work, man!
The time was now 5:50pm. I only mention this because the pit was scheduled to close at 6:00pm and two of our camp crew were yet to run. After lining up for a couple of hours, it’d be a shame if they were denied access.
Fortunately, those in charge must have had a similar line of thought, and sent the two remaining scallywags on their way to burnout glory.
Al in the ‘PooBird’, the same LS-powered Nissan Bluebird wagon that doubled as our taxi, was next to run, leaving not only skid marks but a tremendous plume of white smoke in his wake.
Finally, and I’m pretty sure he was the final car of the day, was Adam’s turn to unleash his blue Ford Fairlane. After years of listening, and occasionally baiting another tirade about how overdone LSX engine conversions are, it was time to find out if his supercharged Nissan VH45 V8 was the viable alternative to LS-powered solutions that powered probably two-thirds of Summernats.
As it turns out, Japan’s underutilized big block did indeed turn tyres without hesitation, and had no issues whatsoever across the entire weekend. I’d have to confirm this, but I’m pretty sure the VH45 wasn’t just the only non-LSX out of his mates, it was also the single engine within the circle of mates that survived the weekend unscathed.
Maybe there’s more to engine conversions than LS power and Barras after all…