Dragstalgia

Santa Pod’s Dragstalgia (held this year over July 13-15) re-creates some of the heady early days of drag racing in this country, when machines at the cutting edge often tested the mettle of their riders. While the competition now may not be as razor-sharp, the annual draw of quarter-mile racing and former exponents is also attracting a significant entry from the continent. This year, bike section organiser Keith Lee had found an impressive 24 machines, most of which were original stars of the track in the 1960s and 70s. For many bikes and riders, this is now their only event of the year. A major unknown factor in 2018 was the Santa Pod track surface, which had been completely renewed at the start of this season.

‘The Hobbit’, John Hobbs’ 1700cc Weslake, is probably the best known of the six double engined bikes entered. John’s reputation was further enhanced as an 8.57/160mph blast was the weekend’s quickest bike performance. Dennis Norman was represented by two of his bikes – Norman Conquest, his double Triumph, just as it raced, and Conquest 2, with two Norton engines. At 93 years old, Dennis now wisely leaves riding duties to younger family members. There were also impressive numbers from the single-engined bikes. Large figures for both decibels and speed marked Dutchman Jan Honeé’s nitro-burning Jawa-single machine. With low eight-second times in its day, an unfortunate major blow-up sidelined it at Santa Pod.

Martin Wilmott’s ‘Capella,’ a blown, nitro-burning 500cc Triumph had run 9.37/148mph, but a mechanical issue meant he was unable to challenge John Hobbs in the final. For his constant efforts in persuading riders out of retirement and back into their leathers once more, Keith Lee received the Spirit of ’76 award. Making sure nostalgia would also be available for later generations, there was a class for Pro Stock bikes, encouraging the next historic generation of bikes to return to the track.

Alan Turner.

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