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Exclusive interview with John Spuffard
John Spuffard, Crew Chief Bob Jarrett and the Showtime team have done it all in Fuel Funny Car racing. The team hold the European ET and speed records, have run as fast as 281 mph, and last year won the first British Fuel FC Championship which brought the FCs to the fore after years of match racing. They also won both the inaugural and second annual Pro Fuel Shootout at Santa Pod Raceway and so are on a hat-trick in 2002. We spoke to Spuff the week before the third Pro Fuel Shootout to find out what he intends to do to win that hat-trick and retain the Championship.
Eurodragster: Apart from the handicap, would you say that the differences between a Top Fueller and a Funny Car give either type of car an advantage at this event?
John Spuffard: The bottom line is who can get the tune-up for the conditions we're in. Bob will give us the tune-up we need to win, and if the track's not there then it will be a driving job.
Eurodragster: We understand that qualifying will be same-class. Would you rather run against the other type of car in qualifying to get more used to it?
John Spuffard: It doesn't bother me that much, although I like running against Funny Cars. Anyway, you only have to leave first and you don't see them!
Eurodragster: 0.4 seconds doesn't sound very long, but from racers' comments in previous years we know that it's an eternity for the Top Fuel driver. Say you get to the Final, do you think that knowing you have a head start will affect your approach in any way?
John Spuffard: 0.4 is the basic difference between the classes. Providing that the Funny Car gets a good light then it's harder work for the Top Fuel driver - but that's what the event is all about anyway.
Eurodragster: Again if you get to the final, having left the line do you think that you will be conscious of the fact that the Top Fueller is coming up behind you, or will you just be focused on what you're doing? If you're cocooned in an FC can you hear anything going on outside?
John Spuffard: Well, so far they've never passed me so I don't know! I can't hear anything outside because I have the radio link.
Eurodragster: We ask this every year, but we like to see how the replies change. If if it was up to you, what handicap would you set this year?
John Spuffard: I wouldn't change it. If it stays as it is, then it means that everyone has to make their cars work properly.
Eurodragster: This is the third year of the Shootout and there are two more competitors this time around. What do you think of it as a race and how can you see it developing?
John Spuffard: It's different for us. It certainly seems to be quite a crowd-pleaser. Another two cars this year, hopefully another two cars next year - it gets better and better.
Eurodragster: Aside from yourself, who do you think is most likely to win the Shootout?
John Spuffard: It's anyone's deal. The drivers are all capable. If anything there is more pressure on the Funny Cars. If the weather's like it is now (bright but chilly - Ed), and you tune the car to the conditions, it's a question of who pedals the best. But I am sure that we'll have a winning tune-up anyway!
Eurodragster: You have the British Fuel FC Championship to defend, what changes have you made to the car to defend it?
John Spuffard: Polished it! We've made small changes but mainly just to the tune-up. Bob and I have spoken and we want to see if we can improve on what we've already done. It's difficult on a limited budget. It's good to be at both Santa Pod Raceway and Shakespeare County Raceway because you're not at the same place all the time. We still have all the same crew, everyone works well together, and that is the winning combination.
Eurodragster: Who do you see as the main threat to take your title away?
John Spuffard: Us being too greedy! But seriously it's open to anyone. We saw what Mark Hawkins did to us last year, Gary's an excellent driver and he'll do what needs to be done to get his car there first. Smax has shown that he can pull one out of the bag now and again. Gordon Smith has been on my heels for so long and they've made some big steps over the winter. We may be favourites on paper but anything can happen. Watch and wait!
Eurodragster: We'll be doing both, Spuff! Thanks very much.
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