Super Modified and Heads Up Racing in the UK
‘Heads Up Doorslammer ‘ racing in the U.K. has come in many shapes and sizes over the last 40 years. As the economic climate changed and influences from the USA were absorbed into our sport, class structures moved to meet racers demands for what seemed to be ‘the best thing to do’.
It’s probably fair to say that during this time, the most successful formula has been Pro Modified. The variety of body styles and powerplants were a hit from its first showing in the latter part of the 1980’s and after more than two decades of Pro Mod racing the class is a European phenomenon.
As healthy competition and technology drove Pro Modified performances into the stratosphere, a number of domestic teams found the prospect of moving to such a class ‘daunting’ to say the least. Apart from the obvious financial implications, there was no ‘Sportsman’ class available where they could start to understand the technology and methods employed in race car development as it exists in a ‘Professional’ eliminator.
After a number of conversations between enthusiastic racers, in 1999 the first draft containing the technical regulations for a proposed Super Modified class was complete. The racers involved in this new venture wanted a class structure that would eventually bring continuity and stability to the technical elements and hardware required to be ‘competitive’.
The financial implications of this approach were also considered. An engine combination which would remain competitive for several seasons with just refinement rather than reconstruction was obviously going to be more than just a side benefit, for many teams it would mean the difference between success and failure.
Evolution and change
With the initial format and race dates set, Super Modified made its first public appearance at Santa Pod Raceway during 2001. Technical regulations were structured to keep elapsed times in the low 8 second range with the occasional dip into the 7’s, the main reasons for this were twofold. Firstly, It was felt that this E.T. range was achievable with fairly basic equipment and secondly, it kept everyone above the 7.50 second range. Cars which run quicker than 7.50 are subject to a Chrome Moly chassis specification
mandated by the MSA.
No ‘cut off’ has ever been present in Super Mod. racing, technical regulations were adjusted annually to keep E.T.’s in check and prolong the service life of Mild Steel cars. Also during this period, the performance difference between naturally aspirated and nitrous oxide equipped engines was balanced as were the benefits of automatic and manual ( clutch ) transmissions.
It’s in a racers nature to overcome technical restrictions by being creative and this has been the case throughout the years in which Super Mod. has existed. Every time weight breaks and engine restrictions were adjusted to slow cars down, within a few meetings the race teams had clawed the performance back and the records continued to tumble. This lead Super Mod. into what has proved its most difficult period.
Having refined the engine parameters to a point where further restrictions would have been absurd, the class as a group made the decision to allow the E.T.’s to move below 7.50. The impact of this decision was painful but ultimately necessary for the long term benefit of the class. Teams using Mild Steel cars were faced with the choice of rebuilding with Chrome Moly or ultimately, being uncompetitive, numbers inevitably dwindled.
At the time of writing ( Jan. 2011 ), Super Mod. has turned the corner. The Annual General Meeting held during December 2010 saw 13 teams debate various points for the coming years and the most difficult time for the class seems to have past.
The vision that the pioneering members of the class had over a decade ago of a stable rule book and restricted hardware has paid obvious dividends. The class winning car in 2010 used a 5 year old engine from which truly remarkable performance levels were achieved.
At this point in time, 460 to 480 cubic inch nitrous engines using production type cylinder heads and .600” lift camshafts produce in the region of 750 hp in normally aspirated trim and close to 1,200 hp with a small single stage nitrous system. Bespoke, normally aspirated 530 to 565 cubic inch raised port engines have passed the 1,100 hp mark, all with wet sump lubrication and limited bore diameter. The current E.T. mark is in the 7.40’s and the speed record is well over 180 mph.
Without wishing to labour a point, it’s worth remembering that these performance levels were achieved by small enthusiastic teams with little or no financial backing and blessed with a seemingly endless ability to look beyond conventional performance limits.
Current thoughts on the future of the class revolve around electronics and engine options.
Considering the latter first.
It‘s become apparent over the last five or six years that the two preferred engine options are either normally aspirated raised port, or a production head nitrous version. With this in mind, for the 2012 season, the Super Modified Racers Association will be asking the MSA to limit competitors to one of those two options. In taking this approach, engine research is focused on only two types of engine and options for competitors entering the class for the first time will hopefully be a little clearer. Special provision will be made for people currently competing in the class whose engines do not fit into either of those categories.
As for the former
Electronics in Drag Racing is something of a hot topic at this point in time. Traction Control, Wheelie Control, Tyre Shake Control and so on are all available to racers who take a fancy to it. No firm decision has been made yet but current thinking is for a list of electrical components, ignition systems, rev counters and so on, that will be legal to use. These will be listed for the Tech. Inspectors and their brief will be “ if it isn’t on the list it shouldn’t be on the car”.
There are endless arguments for and against Traction Control in particular and it is not our intention to explore any of them here.
The thing worth remembering is that there are limited resources available to police this kind of equipment and Super Modified will serve itself well by not draining them.
Ultimate performance ?
As previously mentioned, racers will always find ways of refining and developing when left alone to get on with their job. To try and predict performance in an eliminator such as this is pure folly. It’s probably worth remembering however, at the first ‘meeting’ held for Super Mod. racers, some pretty smart people doubted the cars would run quicker than 7.80 yet here we are, 10 years later, going nearly half a second quicker with 20% less engine capacity and a lot more weight.
About the term “drag racing”
The first “dragsters” were little more than street cars with lightly warmed-over engines and bodies chopped down to reduce weight. Eventually, professional chassis builders constructed purpose-built cars, bending and welding together tubing and planting the engine in the traditional spot, just in front of the driver; the engines, and the fuels they burned, became more exotic, more powerful, and, naturally, more temperamental.
Like almost all racing cars, they have undergone tremendous evolution as racers upgraded, experimented, theorized, and tested their equipment. To this point many racers in the UK choose to run in a bracket class, which is a dial your own time with the difference in time dialled entered into the start line procedure as a handicap.These classes also work around fixed time classes such as super comp (8.90) , super gas (9.90) and super street (10.90), where the driver have to compete and cross the line first without going under the index. Super Modified is the only non professional class within the UK where the drivers race heads up (first to the line wins) with tight guidelines on vehicle weight governed by the use of a clutch, nitrous oxide and engine size.