Some would say that with Lindsay as a dad, Karen Hay never had a chance at a normal childhood. But Karen reckons she has the perfect life, with a dad who loves her and still gives her pretty much anything she wants, including his race car! There is something about that father–daughter bond, and, with a dad like Lindsay, there was no doubt Karen was always going to be involved in some form of motorsport.
As a little girl growing up in Whakatane, all she wanted to do was hang out with her dad; there was no playing with dolls or dress-ups. If you went looking for Karen, you would find her in the garage, playing with tools and ‘helping’ while Lindsay worked on his projects. From as young as three years old, Karen was out in the shed giving him a hand, but, to be honest, she was probably just talking his ear off and getting in the way — some may say that nothing’s changed in that respect.
Karen and her brother grew up immersed in the hot rodding scene in Whakatane, with one of her earliest memories being Lindsay taking her for wild rides in his T-bucket, something she really did not enjoy. Apparently, she hated the bucket so much that Lindsay ended up swapping it with Squeak Bell for a ’56 Chev. Lindsay would also take Karen on his trips over to Paton and Black in Morrinsville, where he was known to talk and talk about everything to do with motors while toddler Karen often slept in the car. One day, he’d clearly been in there for way too long talking, and Karen woke up, got bored, and emptied what was in her nappy onto his window … Let’s just say Karen has a way of getting her point across, and Lindsay never left her in the car again.
From that early stage, Lindsay and Karen were a team. The family would make the pilgrimage over to Hastings to race at Thunderpark in their ’32 roadster. They would pile out of the car, then empty out their gear, the tools, spare tyre etc. and go racing for the day. Lindsay would race, and Karen would watch him leave the line, then be off like a shot to the timing tower, waiting to get his time slip with a big smile on her face. This same teamwork would also be repeated at Champion Dragway.
They had a lot of success with the ’32 roadster, but then, in the early 1980s, Lindsay started chasing a different dream: jetboat river racing. We all know there is no show without punch, and Karen was soon involved, too. She even begged Lindsay to take her racing on water, so, at the Patea River Race, Karen had a crack at being the co-pilot. It seemed simple enough — you just had to race up the river and then back down again — but the problem was that, at the top of the river, Karen came out in an almighty itchy rash. Lindsay reckoned it was a nervous rash, which didn’t comfort her at all, as they still had the downward leg of the river to go, and that’s why she was co-pilot once and once only. Lindsay then decided to see if he could get all six jetboating class speed records over the flying kilometre, something he ultimately managed — to date, he is the only person to ever have achieved this. With such a background, it is easy to see where Karen’s passion for speed and chasing national records comes from!
In 2000, Lindsay decided to go drag racing once again and purchased the ex–Peter Jenkins 1932 Ford roadster. He soon had the roadster — dubbed ‘Flamin’ Evil’ — well into single-figure ETs with its ever-reliable, blown, big block Chev engine combination. While other competition cars would be towed up to the line, Lindsay would start and drive his up, like any other street roadster — except his just happened to run in the sevens! Likewise, on the return road, Lindsay would be seen driving the ’32 back, chute stuffed in next to him, no tow vehicle needed. He ran this car for two seasons before he relented and let Karen have a turn — perhaps, some might say, one of the worst (or best) decisions he’s ever made.
In 2001, Karen got her race licence, and the rest, as they say, is history. Progressing from her first pass of 15.96 seconds, she gradually got quicker and quicker over the years, eventually claiming the CC/A record with Flamin’ Evil. At about that time, Lindsay realized it would be easier and safer to go faster if they had a true race car. An opportunity to purchase the late Clive Davis’ Brogie 1927 Model T roadster arose in 2010, which was just what Lindsay had been looking for. Built by Warren Brogie Race Cars way back in 1993 for Scotty Cannon, this was a race car with pedigree that Lindsay knew could run sixes, and safely, too. With this purchase, the team had a new focus: for Karen to hold the title of being the quickest woman ever on the quarter-mile in New Zealand, and, given her drive and Lindsay’s support, no one was going to stop her. With Lindsay’s sheer grit and determination, and powered by the supercharged engine he built for the roadster, Karen claimed both ends of the BB/A record in the roadster, winning plenty of races, including the NZ Nationals. Then, in 2010, she ran her first six-second pass.
A couple of years ago, though, there was a ‘minor’ setback when a screw went through the 14-71 supercharger, ruining it in the process. This destruction led to another change in direction for the team. Lindsay decided he wanted to move with the times and twin-turbo the car, now called ‘Evil II’, and, boy, did that cause a ruckus! After all, what did that old-school hot rodder and concrete worker know about building a twin-turbo engine? As it turned out, quite a lot, because Lindsay had run a twin-turbo Buick V6 in the jet boat in which he had claimed two different class jetboat records. Then there was his record-setting single-turbo Volvo jetboat and the record he set with a turbocharged Suzuki GTI 1298cc engine, all with owner-made turbo set-ups. As the drag racing world was about to find out, this turbo stuff was really nothing new for the Hay family.
So 2012 saw the new-look car outfitted with twin 88mm turbochargers looming outside the bodywork, blowing through twin-turbo carbs on a tunnel ram. The 2012–’13 season then saw the Hay family spending plenty of time at the track trying to get the set-up to work, with mixed results. Everything about the car was different, not just its look; the sound, the power delivery, and the whole feel of the car had changed, and the team spent pretty much all season testing the new combination. For 2013 and the second season with the turbo engine, Lindsay enlisted the help of Robbie Ward of R.I.P.S Racing and Jason Cutelli of Infomotive to build and tune an EFI set-up.
The beginning of the 2103–’14 season saw more testing, which was challenging with the new set-up, but Karen always had faith in her dad and the team. Given the almost limitless flexibility of the EFI, the turbo engine was beginning to make some serious power, which lead to the next issue: the chassis set-up didn’t seem to like how the turbos lay the power down, so more tuning and changes ensued. Two to three weeks before the 2014 NZ Nationals, some of the team members, including Karen, were pulling their hair out trying to figure out what to do next. Around a week before the 2014 nationals, Karen arrived in Rotorua to help work on the car and was promptly sat down so the crew chief could explain that everything was under control — he knew what he was doing — and remind her exactly what her job was to do on race day.
Unfortunately for Karen and Lindsay, the nationals were interrupted by rain, and, although they made the finals, the meeting was called off, but, thankfully, not cancelled. It was announced that the final pairings would be run at the Club Champs / Nostalgia Drags a few weeks later.
That fateful day came, and, fortunately, so did the sun, and the hard-working crew at Meremere Dragway made sure the track prep was perfect! The daunting task for Karen was then to line up for a final — which was also the first run of the day — without any tune-up data. To make matters worse, she was up against the quick rail of the Gubb family. Lindsay and Karen were not confident at all, but, wow, did Evil II behave! Straight off the trailer, they ran a 6.89 at 200mph, claimed the AA/A record and national title, and the celebrations began.
For most that would have been enough, but the nostalgias the next day would give them a day’s racing that would be etched in the team’s minds forever and lead to a date being tattooed onto Karen’s wrist, too!
The nostalgias gave the team a chance to race against cars they don’t usually get to pair with in normal competition. Still on a high from the run the day before, Karen had the pleasure of meeting Dennis Grant, the husband of the lady whose title she was chasing. First pass out, she saw another 6.89 at 200mph, which was a great start to the day. A little tune-up and the second pass netted a blistering 6.79 at 205mph — things were finally starting to come together. As the day wound down, the temperatures began to drop, but the track was still sticky, making for near-perfect drag racing conditions. Then Karen was asked if she would like to run against Karl Boniface for her last run. “Hell yeah,” was her answer — where else would they ever get to run against a top fuel funny car? At around 4pm, they were called to stage. The track still had plenty of heat, and the air temperature was starting to cool off nicely — just what they needed. Lindsay gave Karen the final instructions before heading into the water box, and, for a change, Karen felt unusually calm, reflecting on the two crew members they had lost along this journey. Just after the burnout, Karen paused and told her mates upstairs (Shorty and Clive) that if they could give her any help, this would really be a good time. She asked them, “If you can help me out in any way, boys, can you do it now on this pass, just for Dad?” The resulting pass was a scorching 6.61 at 206mph — they had done it! She had become the quickest and fastest female in New Zealand drag racing history.
This race is one that has gone down in the record books, but it is not just Karen’s record; it represents the efforts and struggles of a close-knit family and crew. A tough team that epitomizes the Kiwi can-do attitude, a team that’s put together the fastest Brogie-built roadster in the world! They had hoped to break the record at Meremere for many reasons, mainly because this was where Karen had started drag racing, and support from the track management and crew of volunteers has been unwavering for the past 12 years, which means a lot. But none of the Hay family is the type to rest on their laurels, and Lindsay, Karen, and the team are already talking about getting the car to run even faster and quicker next season. We can’t wait!
1927 Ford Model T roadster
- Engine: 482ci big block Chev, Donovan block, JE pistons, GRP pro rods, Dart Big M heads, titanium intake valves, Inconel exhaust valves, Comp Cams roller cam, Comp Cams springs, Edelbrock tunnel ram, 16x 500-pound Moran EFI injectors, twin 100mm throttle bodies, twin 88mm turbos, Waterman 16-gallons-per-hour fuel pump, Aeromotive 3000hp fuel-pressure regulator, MSD ignition, twin Tial wastegates
- Driveline: JW Powerglide, Spec Right torque converter, SFI flexplate, Mark Williams nine-inch diff, full floating hubs, 40-spline axles
- Suspension: Torsion bar front, cantilever four-bar rear, Koni shocks, Eibach springs
- Brakes: Wilwood discs and calipers
- Wheels/tyres: 15x4.5- and 16x16-inch Centreline wheels; 24x4.5x15 Mickey Thompson front-runners, 33.5x16x16 Mickey Thompson slicks
- Exterior: Full kevlar body by City Fibreglass
- Chassis: Brogie chromolly chassis, 116-inch wheelbase
- Interior: B&M shifter, Auto Meter gauges: B&M shifter, Auto Meter gauges
- Performance: 2100hp, 6.61 at 206mph
- Owner: Lindsay Hay / Driver: Karen Hay
- Car club: IHRA
- Age: 65 (Lindsay)
- Occupation: Concrete contractor
- Previously owned cars: Two Mk 1 Zephyrs, 1965 Lotus Cortina, two 1965 XP Falcon coupes, 1956 Chev, 1960 Chev, 1964 Pontiac, 1967 Mustang fastback, two 1932 Ford coupes, 1932 Ford roadster
- Dream car: This one (for now)
- Why the roadster: I wanted to run sixes safely
- Build time: Ongoing
- Length of ownership: Four years
- Lindsay and Karen thank: The late Clive Davis; Chuck Mann at Rotorua V8 Performance; R.I.P.S Racing, Infomotive; City Fibreglass, Tauranga; Robs Auto Spray, Rotorua; Segedins Auto Spares; Link Engine Management Systems; Moran Motorsports, USA, Spec Rite Converters, USA; Performance Imports, USA; and, of course, the hard-working Evil team and those at the track who support us meeting after meeting — we couldn’t do it without you all!
This article originally appeared in NZV8 Issue No. 114. You can pick up a print copy or a digital copy of the magazine below: