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2001 Pro Fuel Shoot-out
Interview with Barry Sheavills, Andy Carter, John Spuffard and Gordon Smith
Santa Pod Raceway's 2001 Easter Thunderball features the second running of the Pro Fuel Shoot-out. The Shoot-out, similar to NHRA's Winston Showdown, pits Top Fuel Dragsters against Fuel Funny Cars with the Fuel FCs given a 0.4-second head start. Together with our good friend drag racing photo-journalist Roger Gorringe, we interviewed Top Fuel pilots Barry Sheavills and Andy Carter, and Fuel FC pilots John Spuffard - who won the 2000 Shoot-out - and Gordon Smith in the week leading up to the 2001 Thunderball.
We are indebted to Santa Pod Raceway's Kjell Petterson and David Lloyd-Jones for organising the interview.
Eurodragster: Spuff, you won the Shoot-out last year. Do you think you'll win this year?
John Spuffard: We're certainly going to try for it. It's what we're there for! It went alright for us last year. It's certainly a different event.
Barry Sheavills: I'm convinced that someone set my handicap to four seconds last year. You only won because of that!
Eurodragster: Barry, what was it like hanging on the extra 0.4 seconds?
Barry Sheavills: It was very difficult. You can't help but react to the other car.
Eurodragster: Andy, how do you view the prospect of waiting for the Funny Car to leave?
Andy Carter: I don't know how I'm going to be able to wait. Like Barry says, you want to go when you hear the other car leave.
Eurodragster: Gordon and Spuff, did you perceive any advantage in leaving first? Can you hear the Fueller coming after you?
Gordon Smith: It's definitely an advantage to go first. I don't hear the other car coming, all I can hear is my own engine. I run my own race and let them worry!
John Spuffard: My car's pretty quiet. But to be honest you don't see the guy in the other lane.
Barry Sheavills: It's after the eighth that we start to reel them in, which is unfortunate because that's where my car overpowers the track! The 0.4 delay slows down your reaction, it's very odd to be sat there waiting. You think "I'm never gonna catch him!"
John Spuffard: And you didn't, did you?
Barry Sheavills: I think the Funny Car guys have a psychological advantage.
Andy Carter: I agree.
John Spuffard: On the track record of the Winston Showdown, a dragster will win this year.
Gordon Smith: And if a dragster wins this year, then the handicap is 0.5 next year!
Roger Gorringe: What did you think about last year's Shoot-out? Do you think it was a success?
Gordon Smith: Definitely, yes. It would be great if the field was bigger...
Andy Carter: Well, the crowd will certainly be bigger this year because I'm there! My name will bring more people out.
Roger Gorringe: Gordon, are there more fives in the car?
Gordon Smith: Oh yes. We've gone direct drive this year so we've got a whole new combination. The Shoot-out starts on Sunday but we'll probably do a squirt on Saturday.
Barry Sheavills: At last year's Thunderball we were all testing, but this year three of us are running familiar combinations.
Andy Carter: I'm testing new parts - I have a new crash helmet.
John Spuffard: Our combination's pretty much the same.
Barry Sheavills: I have a new paintjob and a new sponsor.
John Spuffard: I've got the same paintjob and no sponsor!
Gordon Smith: We've got a new paintjob.
John Spuffard: It doesn't matter anyway. At speed you can't see the colour.
Barry Sheavills: When I come past, I'll tell you what colour your car is!
Roger Gorringe: Barry, do you think you'll be able to get all the power to the track this year?
Barry Sheavills: Yes, we should be able to. We were getting there last year. At the European Finals the track was the best I've ever raced on and we planned to go for three hundred miles per hour if I got into the final round. It would have happened if the driver hadn't messed up. It's been very difficult to live with my red light, even now and it was seven months ago. But this year I've still got an experienced crew, I want to lay one down at Easter and work from there - after all, the car will run fives even if I shut off at the eighth. The tracks around Europe are marginal but Rune's got it worked out.
Eurodragster: Here's a question for each of you in turn. Say the Race Director came to you and said "I'm going to let you set the handicap", what would you make it?
Gordon Smith: 0.5 - because that's how far ahead the Fuellers are.
Barry Sheavills: Leave together...but seriously I'd say 0.2 seconds.
John Spuffard: 0.5 against us, to give Barry a chance! But 0.4 worked out for us last year.
Andy Carter: I'd make it nothing. But that's only personal, I like to run heads-up.
Gordon Smith: Let them leave together and take something off afterwards!
Andy Carter: I like that idea!
Eurodragster and Roger Gorringe: Maybe we'll put it to Kjell! Thanks very much for your time and we look forward to seeing you in action next weekend.
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