Chuck Haynes has been coming to Western Australia to put on jet dragster shows for over two decades, but it is with mixed emotions he will return for the Night of Fire on March 21.
Haynes (USA) will be racing Volcano up against Rhiannon Allison (Australia) in Felicity Dragwell, Curt White (USA) in Iceman and Pieter De Wit (South Africa) in Iron Horse.
The event will be the first time Haynes has raced without his good friend Gary Miocevich, the former managing director of Perth Motorplex who passed away last month.
“While always looking forward to and very excited to race at the Motorplex and see all my old mates, this trip is certainly going to be filled with a lot of mixed emotions,” Haynes said. “This will be the first time in 21 years that I will not have my best mate Gary meeting me at the airport gate.
“Gary was always such a positive motivating factor, there is certainly going to be a large void in this trip.”
Haynes said that Gary’s vision of the Motorplex was accomplished in grand fashion and he applied similar zeal to jet racing.
“I was fortunate along with many other valuable people to be part of that,” he said. “At the Night of Fire, all four jet dragster teams will come together with one united front to put on a jet car program to top all.
“That night, there will be no winner or loser. All will be winners with the fans being the biggest winners as each of the four drivers – myself, Rhiannon, Pieter and Curt, will all be driving their hearts out in order to be the recipient of the Gary Miocevich Memorial race trophy.
“My thoughts, of course, will be with Gary’s family and as they say, time heals all.”
“As for bringing it home to the US, that goes what out saying. I would hate to be missing a year from my trophy collection. Curt and I will both be giving it everything we have got to achieve that goal, as we both will want US bragging rights – in fond memory of Gary.”
Haynes has the ability to make driving a jet dragster look easy, but he assures that it is most definitely not so.
“Driving one of these 12,500 horse power fire breathing monsters looks pretty easy from the stands, but there is nothing easy about them,” he said. “Current NHRA Top Fuel Champion Tony Schumacher drove the Odyssey jet dragster and he said it was the hardest car he ever had to drive.”
Acceleration is one thing, but deceleration is the most difficult aspect of driving a jet dragster according to Haynes.
“The real challenge to driving one of these beasts is not the acceleration, but taming the dragon in the shut down,” he said.
“The real skill of the driver is being able to get the car stopped without the use of any mechanical braking until both parachutes have deployed, and settled down that “out of control rocket” to where it is planted solidly back on earth.
“All of our current drivers have an unspoken team order that chants from the time you start the motor to the end of the run – ‘no brakes, brakes are thy enemy, no Brakes.’
“Believe it or not, that is a very hard thing for any driver to master when you are running speeds of 280mph and you pull your chutes and have a failure. Waiting for that second chute to hit can seem like a lifetime until you can use your mechanical braking power.
“This was something that I watched Gary accomplish, as to lose a chute was not uncommon, as we pulled Gary out of the sand trap a couple of times but he never used the brakes.”
With eager rookie Rhiannon Allison among those keen to also earn the Gary Miocevich Memorial, Haynes will be drawing on all of his experience.
“After doing this for over 25 years, it is always fun to put the young guns in their place and show what experience brings to the gate,” he said. “While we do have a rookie in the jet class, I know she will be bringing her a game.
“As for Pieter and Curt, that adds up to many combined years of experience and plenty of passes down the drag strip and neither one have a problem putting me in my place when it comes to the Christmas tree and reaction times.”
The Night of Fire sees sportsman qualifying from 10am, with the feature program beginning from 6pm.