Gasser Circus report from Nick Brooke-Langham with images from UKDRN and Patsy Brooke-Langham

What a triumphant return to Drag Racing in 2021, the VW Breakout event turned out to be, not just for the Gasser Circus but also the wider racing community. The sun gods agreed, blessing the entire weekend with copious quantities of sun and heat.

Strip action kicked off on Friday with a RWYB, with several of the Gasser Circus cars getting heavily involved. Unfortunately, the session was not without incident, the most damaging of these being when Ray Turner in his Green Onions 55 Chevy, suffered damage to his new engine in the shutdown area. At times like this, it’s always hard to find a silver lining but one later came to light, as it could have been so much worse, as the 7 quarts of oil that exited the engine, thank fully did not get under his slicks. However, there was a film of oil on the inside wall of them!

The Gasser Circus pits were rammed, the gathered Gassers included two new Gasser Circus Members, Billy Jones in his 37 Willys Coupe ‘Grumpy Grizz’ and the duo of Tom Margesson and John Gumble, with their eye catching ‘The Tinseltown Hustler’ Pop. The latter doing double duty like Ted Booth in ‘The Mighty Mouse’ Pop, in Outlaw Anglia. Also in attendance was the aforementioned Ray Turner & Green Onions, Nick Barnett in the ‘B&G Racing’ Falcon, Tony Pearson and H in the ‘Guzzler’ 56 Chevy, Jason Hollamby in his ‘Jumpin Jalapeno’ Falcon, myself and Jungle Pat with the Austin ‘Nogbad the Bad’, Slick Mick Allen and his ‘Quick Buck’ Corvette, Ray Irish in his ‘Gas Junkie’ Willys pickup, Wobbly Graham Barton in his ‘High Anxiety’ Devon, Steve Mathews in ‘Honky Tonkin’ 57 Chevy, Lee Pike making a welcome return with ‘Honky Tonkin’ 2, one half of the Gibson brothers in the form of Brian with his ‘Identity Crisis’ Dodge, Paul Dominey now in sole ownership of the 640 Austin and current reigning champion Sean ‘Chili’ Milsom in his ‘Ain’t Misbehavin’ Morris van.

Saturday arrived and the fire up lanes were soon busy, with qualifying laying ahead. I think it is fair to say that most drivers were a little rusty but that was soon eradicated as everyone once again got to grips with their cars. Within the class, there were new combinations being put through their paces, with varying degrees of success. A new engine was not the exclusive domain for Ray Turner as Jason was keen to get passes on his new 460ci engine, 11.87 was the kick off point. Steve Matthews showed once again his passion for racing in the Circus, with what was his 3rd Big Block Chevy in the past 18 months! Graham Barton was also keen to see what his new transmission and back axle would bring. 10.7 was the answer for Graham and for Steve is was a very pleasing 9.65 @ 136 mph.

Ray Irish did not receive his Dart block in time so had a stand in engine on duty this weekend which was not blown. So it was a new experience for him, especially on his final qualifying run of the day, as during the burnout he became aware of a strange vibration, highlighted by his shifter performing a shimmy. As he brought the Willys to the line the issue appeared cured, but ran a slow 11.74. Once back in the pits, he checked the car over and was rather surprised to see the bell housing on his transmission had a crack in it. On closer inspection the crack had gone from one side to the other. Thereby ending Ray’s racing weekend. He was not the only driver to miss out on Sunday, as Brian Gibson on his 3rd qualifying run rolled into stage, followed by his customary loading up the car (which can be seen via his back axle) and the moment he left the line the prop shaft UJ decide it had had enough of the strain and disintegrated, leaving the prop hanging down and Identity Crisis motionless on the startline.

Billy Jones and Tom Margesson had both announced their arrivals in the class ending their day with Billy posting a 10.72 and Tom an 11.04. Number 1 qualifier was Nick Barnett with a series of 11.44 runs on an 11.44 dial in, with Number 2 qualifier being Graham Barton. The ladder was set for Sunday, now the evening festivities could begin.

Santa Pod often organise a fly past or brief air display and at 22:52 on Saturday night those who looked skyward were treated to without doubt the fastest flypast seen at Santa Pod, as clearly visible in the dark sky was International Space Station as it orbited earth, scurrying above the sky at 17,000 mph! A rare treat to see it.

Sunday morning caught many unawares as it was bitterly cold and overcast, surely the weather was not about to turn. The sun soon burnt through and some very pink/sore spectators and racers could be seen nursing and regretting their lack of sun cream the previous day. In the Gasser Circus pits we had already lost 3 Gassers to mechanical gremlins, and it appeared this would soon be 4. Jason Hollamby and his crew were battling an issue with their fuel regulator, and despite their best efforts, they could not control the flow of fuel and it was swamping the carb. Jason was telling me that he would have to withdraw as he only had a few minutes before Round 1 of Eliminations. Just then Dean Maudsley arrived in the pits driving his 37 Chevy gasser, and Jason joked with me that he could use Dean’s regulator. Suddenly, he realised what he had said, and Jason’s Pirate came rushing to the fore, and he and his crew had soon press ganged Dean into handing over his regulator. With swift work by the crew ‘Jumpin Jalapeno’ was back in the game.

The breakages provided a few bye runs on the ladder, but it also provided some great pairings and of particular note were when it delivered two sets of twins, with two Pops and two Devon’s lining up against each other. Ted Booth taking on Tom Margesson who unfortunately red lit while Ted ran 10.59 and Graham Barton taking on yours truly. Graham thought he had also red lit, where in fact he had cut a good light consigning Nogbad to a defeat. Elsewhere, Tony Pearson took the win over Paul Dominey with a stout 10.74, as Paul broke out, Lee Pike red lit against Jason Hollamby, and Billy Jones took the win against Steve Mathews when Steve couldn’t quite catch him. The breakage bye runs saw Sean Milsom, Mick Allen advance with Number 1 Qualifier Nick Barnett. Mick was keen to get as much seat time, as his he could as he was struggling to keep the Corvette running at anything under 3000 revs!

Billy Jones could not quite believe the debut weekend he was having in the Gasser Circus, and it just kept getting better. In the quarterfinals he was up against Ted Booth, and at the end of their race Billy had another win, running 10.57 on a 10.57 dial in. The next pairing had Jason Hollamby ‘Jumpin Jalapeno’ burning out alongside ‘Guzzler’ with Tony Pearson at the wheel. Tony dialling a 10.65, Jason 11.79. At the gantry the win light went on in Jason’s lane as Tony had run a 10.64, such short margins is what drag racing is all about.

‘B&G Racing’ Falcon with Nick Barnett then took on Mick Allen, in his Corvette with the injection stacks shooting out of his engine bay. Mick ran through at 129 mph but Nick took the win running 11.50 on an 11.40 dial in. The final pairing pitted Sean ‘Ain’t Misbehavin’ Milsom against Graham Barton in his ‘High Anxiety’ Austin. Sean had dialled 10.09 and Graham 10.70, Sean knew it would be a close race, perhaps too close? The tree activated and as the cars left the line, a red bulb was lit, this one sitting squarely in Sean’s lane. Sean stayed on it and broke out just for good measure running 10.05!

With Honky Tonkin and Honky Tonkin 2 previously eliminated, Lee and Steve decided to have a grudge race, for bragging rights, both cars performed their burnouts and left the line hard they were side by side but by three quarter track Lee was edging ahead, and stayed there taking the win with a stonking 8.91 @ 151 mph with Steve finishing with a great 9.62 @ 136 mph.

Now it was semi-final time the two pairings being Nick Barnett against Billy Jones, racing a car built originally and raced in the Circus by Nick and Ryan Welch. Graham Barton taking on Jason Hollamby. It turned out that both semi-finals were settled by break outs with first Billy running 10.51 to his 10.56 dial in and Jason running 11.74 to his 11.80. Billy was not down at all, as this was his best ET of the weekend.

The final pairing was arguably a reflection on qualifying as Number 1 and 2 brought their cars round. Stout burnouts took place with Nick choosing to run the left hand lane. Graham was in his unflavoured right lane with the car being left hand drive. When the tree activated Nick was off, but there appeared a momentary hesitation from Graham, and although he gave it all he could, he could not get up with Nick who took the win with an 11.42 on an 11.40 dial in.

Both drivers were well chuffed with their respective weekends work, but more than anything else we were all so pleased to be back racing with a superb group of Gasser racers, not to mention the great team at Santa Pod who keep us safe, fed and watered while at their venue. All that was left to do was to handover the Winners cash and wicked trophy both from Neil Melliard, and the ‘Prest for time awards’. The best bit is we get to do it all again on the 19th June.

The Gasser Circus are delighted to continue their sponsorship with the National Street Rod Association and Neil Melliard’s Modern Pinstriping & Lettering, and introduce new sponsors Simon Prest and Renegade Fuels.

Gasser Circus – Racing the Dream