Monday, August 29, 2016

Paul's 'Flying B' headed for Santa Pod

When Paul Graham gets to the Santa Pod Raceway in England this coming weekend, he'll be pitting his skills and his car against some of the best of his fellow dragsters, writes Brian Byrne.

The young Kilcullen man, who works as a mechanic in Dunlea Kia, will be hitting supercar acceleration in his modified VW Beetle as he punches it down the quarter-mile strip. When he reaches the end of the course, in around 13 seconds, his 'Flying B' bug will be doing around 100mph, its driver fuelled on adrenalin.

The car is an original 1975 Beetle, which Paul and his father Herbie acquired after visiting a drag race weekend in Bishopscourt in Northern Ireland two years ago. "Before we got home we had sourced the car in Letterkenny," says Paul, who has just finished serving his time at Dunleas, and is the fourth generation of his family to be a mechanic.

It was almost foreordained that his car would be a VW, as Herbie worked for years in a Volkswagen garage in Naas, and is a complete VW fan.

Which was also a big plus when it came to making the required modifications, in particular re-building the 1200cc VW air-cooled motor to 2110cc. In dragster trim, which means the fan-belt removed for the sprints, it outputs some 140hp.

Most of the car is otherwise standard, apart from the rear tyres which plant a lot more rubber on the track than the front ones, to provide the necessary grip on launch. "That's where the driver has to be really good," Paul says. "The race can be lost or won in the first 60 yards."

While the races are in pairs, each car may not be in the same class, so it's the individual car's time that is important, not which is first to the end. "Though if the other car is in a more powerful class, it kind of pushes you to go faster," says Paul, who has already raced the car many times in Bishopscourt, the only proper drag strip on the island of Ireland, and at Abbeyshrule airport.

The weekend at Santa Pod will be his first excursion to England, to a track that is acknowledged to be the best in Europe. It also has a special 'sticky' surface which he'll be interested to see how it affects his performance.

The event is specifically for VW cars, labelled VW Action, and has over the last several years delivered some of the best drag racing action at any VW show, including cars from the Volkswagen Drag Racing Club, the most successful single make drag racing club in Europe.

The ‘Flying B’ name of the car is in memory of Paul’s late Gran, Beatrice. The ‘B’ is actually scanned from a sample of her own handwriting and incorporated into the graphic by a friend.

“The baby blue colour was also her favourite colour,” Paul says. “And as it happened, the original colour of the car was baby blue too.”

Serendipity rules, even on the dragster track.