In early 2016, a few mates got together to revive Taranaki’s once proud quarter-mile street drags. Clearly the drinks were strong because the crew decided to give it a crack and the pathway to the inaugural Envirowaste Naki Dragwars was born.
The team decided from the outset that this would be a great community event and the funds would go to a deserving Charity — in this case Conductive Education Taranaki, whom assist disabled kids achieve their potential. They explored many avenues looking for support and with none of the local hot rod clubs keen to stage it, it was decided that the group would form New Zealand’s NZHRA club — Gunners Inc — in December 2016 and worked with the Taranaki Car Club to dual sanction the day.
New Plymouth District Council took care of the road closure and the stage was set to have Street Drags make its smokey return to Connett Road, Bell Block. However Mother Nature had different plans for Sunday, March 12, providing alternative clouds — rain clouds, and lots of them. The pin was pulled hoping for a better day for Taranaki Anniversary Monday.
On site, at the crack of dawn, things were looking better for a scheduled start on Monday, with drivers briefing out of the way and everyone breathalysed all systems were go … except the weather, again, however being a dual-sanctioned event the Taranaki Car Club guys aren’t afraid of a bit of precipitation and kicked off the day with some smokey, albeit slippery, racing.
Sunshine did manage to burn its way through the clouds so the over 60 drivers and riders in attendance could tear into three rounds of qualifying to seed them into classes. The strong, mixed street car field were sorted into three classes to battle it out — with a blend of high-horsepower four-wheel drive gear, late model weapons, and the traditional hot rods racing was set to be intense and interesting. Bikes were in a class of their own as were the MSNZ racers.
Whilst the Gunners crew — guided by Street Drags legends Cam County Inc — seeded the racers, the 2000 strong crowd delighted in drift demonstrations by Taranaki's own Chad McKenzie and Callum Neeson. Who said the road was skinny and you could only use one lane? Not these two, purple smoke and all!
A few visiting drivers couldn’t do Monday, however one that stayed to please the crowd was Braden Smith in the Methanol snorting ‘HAUNTU’ Holden VF Wagon. How long should a tyre last on the street? Probably longer than that and I’ll bet the MPG is not to good either.
With some good launch rubber laid down, racing intensified after lunch and eliminations were underway to find the day's champions. Plenty of interesting feats kept the crowd pleased — wheelstanding Harleys, burnout worthy Lambrettas scooters, and good old Drag Racing. All said and done the winner of Class One was local and drag strip regular, Ross Whelan, in his bright yellow Ford Model Y.
A touch of real street grudge racing from those eliminated from the proceedings, saw some scores settled and a “slightly too quick” 6.2s from one of the four-wheel drive show stoppers.
Not content with only drag racing, a number of drivers joined the artwork at the end to paint the road black in the Reid Recovery burnout competition. With plenty of revs and smoke to scare off any rain clouds, a winner was a tough thing to judge with the screaming green Valiant Pacer of Wellington's Dave Fishwick taking the crown.
The spoils and trophies were distributed post event at the Plymouth Quality Hotel where a few drinks ensued and overwhelmingly great feedback from participants wanting to know when the next one is.
Gunners Inc are proud this first nudge was a success and acknowledge the great community support, the huge effort from volunteers — especially the crew from Cam County, NZHRA and the sponsors that took the faith to see Envirowaste Naki Dragwars happen. They’re stoked to be car people doing good in the hood supporting Conductive Education Taranaki — bring on next year!