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Features and Stories

Dangerous Bill's Down Under Adventure! 6/99

Hi folks! Australia was FANTASTIC!!! Despite a week of trying desperately to put my computer back together and catch up on the day job, I'm gathering notes on my trip down under to the Aussie Winternationals. I am going to do a HUGE multi-part story on it, but I thought I'd share a few first impressions with you... Thanks to Larry Clayton for getting me started on writing this!

To begin, however, let me say that while I was gone I had my computer in for an upgrade to a 450 MHz Pentium with 16MB on a screaming graphics board and 10 more GB on the hard drive. Great, right? Wrong, nitro breath!

Instead of inserting the new 10GB hard drive and copying all the stuff from my previous 4GB hard drive to it, I found the 4GB drive IN THE BOX (kind of like a used auto part, to let you know they actually changed it...)

I'm like, what am I going to do with a BLANK hard drive? I have months and months of work on the other one! I got them to reinsert it at the store, but I am left with having to copy everything over again. No big deal, except my email is totally screwed. When they installed the new Windows 98 on the machine, it created an entirely new instance of Outlook Express on the new drive. Now I can't seem to be able to get my old messages and folders (containing TONS of valuable emails, many I haven't responded to) to be recognized by the new instance. I have tried copying it over the new folders, I've tried deinstalling Outlook Express and reinstalling it over the old folders -- the works! No joy yet. I think I will actually have to get on the phone to Microsoft on that one. Any hints, gurus?

ANYWAY, the reason I'm telling you all this is because I haven't looked at my email in detail until last night. I also haven't been able to send out THANK YOU emails to all my Australian friends because I can't find their addresses! I finally said SCREW IT and downloaded everything on my server into the new Outlook Express instance, because my server was jammed and couldn't accept any new messages! I will have to figure out later how to integrate the old messages with the new, if it's at all possible. (I had wanted to get the old messages back first, so that the new ones would flow into them...)

Oh well. Anyway, Australia was an absolute blast! The people were super nice everywhere I went. I met dozens of online and snail mail friends and I met about 80 percent of the Pro Racers in Australia (which isn't too hard, considering their numbers). By the time I left, I had the draglist.com decal on the side of about 40 pro cars -- I only missed a few. While I'm at it, let me talk about this a minute...

My Aussie friends are the first wave of our new TEAM Draglist concept, where pro, semipro, and exhibition racers can get a free, one page website on the draglist.com site in exchange for running our decals. Small potatoes for a "sponsorship" now, but we will do more in the future as advertising revenues support it. After creating the websites, I will submit each to over 450 search engines. You and your car WILL be found on the net! TEAM Draglist membership is open to ALL racers currently racing in the standard DragList.com classes. Send me an email immediately and let's get started!

In the email, include a scanned photo of your car, a scanned photo of you and/or your family or team if you have one, some details on your car, and any desired links to your own website or to your sponsors. Also, tell me the address where to send the decals! Of course, you can send the photos to my mailing address, too, but this is important: I expect to do hundreds of these individual web pages. Most of you know my schedule now -- TIGHT. In order for this to work, I need to cut down as much as possible on typing! Put all the info you can into your email. I certainly will welcome stuff that arrives by snail mail, but guess whose pages will be done first? I have about 40 of the top professional racers in Australia to do, then I'm ready for YOU! Let's get rolling! Now back to the story...

I met dozens of new Aussie friends, who welcomed me to their country and into the Aussie Drag scene with open arms. There is NO WAY I will try to list them tonight. I certainly will miss several important people. I am going to tell you about some of the great people down there, but that's coming when I can gather all my notes and don't have to go off the top of my head after midnight on a work night! One thing that impressed me was that the racers all knew each other (in part, I guess, due to their fewer numbers). At Victor Bray's pit, which was one of the top hangout spots, everyone from comp dragster drivers to top fuel guys to pro gas guys to top bike guys came to hang out and bench race. The fuel cars got the biggest crowds as far as the fans went, but the racers all kind of treated each other the same.

It seems I met a few hundred people who had heard of us and or the website (or the old Drag Racing List booklet). It was great. People that I didn't expect to know who I was, did. At one point, I pulled TF multi-time champ Jim Read, Top Alcohol 7-time champ Gary Phillips (also former driver of the Captain Crazy FC up here), and of course 4-time Top Doorslammer champ Victor Bray together and got a photo with them. I think I had about 18 years of Australian champions in that one shot with me! I got to do some color announcing during the pro rounds, and Rob Oberg and the Willowbank TV crew (yes, Willowbank has its OWN TV studio!) shot a one-minute TV spot on draglist.com, including shots of the front page and a 30-second interview with me. This and the entire Winternationals will show nationally in Australia throughout the month of July. (Will I order a video copy? OH YEAH!!!) Have I died and gone to heaven? Well, it's not over YET!

Victor Bray was cool as hell. The guy pays my way down there, puts me up in a hotel, gets me a rental car (I didn't crash once, despite driving on the wrong side of the road a few times for Victor's entertainment!), and introduces me to nearly everyone in Australia. THEN, he takes about the last third of his acceptance speech for winning the 1998/1999 Aussie Top Doorslammer crown to THANK ME for coming down to watch him race! Unbelievable! THEN, when we get back to his pits (at which we and a constantly changing 20 or so people drank and bench raced until the sun came up at 6 AM), he tells me, "Marie and I have talked about it, and we want you to take the trophy back to the states." The freaking ANDRA Australian National Championship trophy he just won!!! I told him, NO WAY, that's TOO much. He said, "Naw, I have four of them. I want this one to go with you." Of course, it's still HIS and I have to give it up whenever he says, but DAMN! It's sitting on my fireplace mantel right now. It's a hefty 17 inch tall Christmas tree. Can you imagine the attention I got at every x-ray machine on the way back? "Uh, sir, we have to see that thing in your bag..." It must have looked like a huge pipe bomb. Needless to say, I still in awe of the amazing level of hospitality, generosity, and friendship bestowed upon me by everyone I met, but especially by Victor and Marie Bray.

After our night of partying, Victor and Marie dropped me at the hotel for a few hours (we had given the rental car to his daughter Billi-Jo and her friend Amy the night before to remove any reason not to drink like mad). I grabbed a few hours of sleep (an hour at a time, as they were renovating the damn hotel -- just what WAS the purpose of constantly banging on the pipe?) Anyway, Billi-Jo and Amy picked me up at noon and we were off to the strip. Two kids had won a Castrol-sponsored contest were they got strapped in with Victor in the "display" '57 Chevy (detuned with only about 60 percent blower drive) and got to do some burnouts and a doughnut or two. I got photos and stuff to do a story on it.

Then Victor says, "You going?" "Hell, YES!" I got in and he gave it all it had on the return road of the strip. The Castrol '57 kicked butt, even though it was the "detuned" version. Victor figured it still pushed nearly 2000 horsepower. It was an absolute blast! Several patented Victor Bray burnouts filled the interior with acrid tire smoke. I was chewing gum and grinning like a baboon the whole time! All I kept thinking about was D.A. Santucci, who swallowed some gum and had to be revived while winning Top Gas at the 1969 Indy Nationals. (No doubt D.A. is tired of hearing THAT story by now). I somehow made it through all the hard launches without "eating the Wrigleys," however, and I got to check another lifetime goal off my list.

Shortly after, I hit the road for Brisbane, where I spent the evening with yet another new friend, Aussie photojournalist Lex Swayn, his wife Jenny, and their wonderful family. After a relaxing evening of dinner and conversation (and clowning around with 5 year old Brett), I grabbed 40 winks and started the long journey home the next morning.

I have LOTS more to tell, and this has been just a tiny piece of it. Look for a lot more from my outstanding trip DAN UNDA soon! Let me say it to Victor, Marie, Dennis Syrmis, and John Winterburn one more time. Thank you. THANK you. THANK YOU!!!

Bill Pratt


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