Veteran Pro Mod motorcycle racer David Vantine made his Top Fuel debut aboard the Pollard Nitrosports bike at the NHDRO/Manufacturers Cup Pingel Thundernationals at Lucas Oil Raceway in Indianapolis, and very nearly knocked off his mentor—Larry “Spiderman” McBride—along the way. “For about 10 years now I’ve had the Top Fuel itch, and the opportunity finally presented itself with Greg Pollard and his bike,” said Vantine, a regular PXM contender on the ADRL circuit.
PXM bikes are twitchy, powerful, nitrous/gasoline machines, but there are a lot of people who ride them. By contrast, very few throw a leg over the 1500+ horsepower, supercharged, nitromethane burning, Top Fuel bikes.
A solid four-bike PR Factory Store Top Fuel field put on a fabulous show at Indy, starting with rookie Vantine leading Friday’s qualifying session with a 6.17. “That .17 probably would have been a .10 or a high .0, but I got out of it for 3/10ths of a second and shut it off at 6 seconds flat,” Vantine said about the pass, only his fifth ever on a Fuel bike. “The crew had it tuned better than the .17, but I’m new in the seat and doing the best I can.”
McBride improved to 5.90s on Saturday, and Alabama racer Chris Hand made his first ever 5 second pass with a number one qualifying 5.89 at 230 mph. The Vantine/Pollard time struggled to find a gremlin after swapping engines and didn’t improve.
1. Chris Hand 5.891 at 230.61 mph
3. David Vantine 6.173 at 221.09 mph
4. Sam Wills 6.521 at 199.46 mph
Qualified third, Vantine faced perennial champion McBride in round 1 of eliminations. “That’s the first Top Fuel pass I’ve ever made with someone in the other lane,” said Vantine. “Of course, the first pass I’ve got to race somebody and it has to be Larry—which is a good thing. Larry and I are friends.” More than friends, McBride has been Vantine’s riding instructor, with Pollard and his team even traveling from their Ontario, Canada base to McBride’s home track of Virginia Motorsports Park for Dave’s initial hits on the bike. But more importantly, McBride and his tuner/brother Steve are recognized worldwide as the icons of Top Fuel motorcycles.
“So racing Larry was exciting enough, but what was more exciting was leading,” continued Vantine. “He’d taken some power out of his bike, so it was a lot closer than I’d actually expected. We’re not in the 5 range yet and Larry’s run practically nothing but 5s.”
True enough. Since making the world’s first ever 5 second pass on a motorcycle in 1999, McBride has mostly stayed right there on Planet 5. But when the Brothers McBride sense that competition is light, their desire to save on melted parts offsets their will to rotate the earth—and they nearly underestimated the competition from rookie Vantine and the Pollard team. “I left on Larry (.065 to .079) and—for a minute (or 3 seconds or so)—I didn’t see him,” recalled Vantine. “Of course, he went on by and, probably at about 800 feet, I made the mistake of looking over and thinking ‘Hey, look! It’s Larry McBride! Right there in the other lane!’ And I got out of the groove a little while looking at him and came up on the centerline a bit, which is why my MPH was down to 212. It should have been 221 or so. I had to roll out probably about 1200 feet ‘cause obviously I didn’t want to cross the centerline. So I made a rookie mistake looking over, but it was kinda cool looking over and seeing Larry McBride so close.”
(W) Larry McBride .079 6.128 at 224.70 mph
David Vantine .065 6.205 at 212.66 mph
The race was close enough (a 6/100ths margin of victory) that Vantine didn’t get a chance to read McBride’s famous “I’ll be right back” on the back of his bike’s rear spoiler. “Yeah, the good news is I only saw part of the bike from the side. I wasn’t fully behind him.”
Hand powered past legendary builder/racer Sam Wills in their E1 match-up but lost to McBride in the final.
“Ours is a 5 second bike, but I’m not a 5 second rider yet,” Vantine said. “We went a .34, a .21, a .17, and we’re gonna try and continue to progress like that. No leaps. As comfort sinks in, I’ll do what I can. But the bike’s actually more stable than a Pro Mod. The Pro Mod’s a fast bike, but it’s kind of on the edge. The Fuel bike is obviously much quicker and faster, but it’s also much bigger, longer and heavier. I don’t want to say that it’s easier to ride, but I have to say that it’s more stable.
“I want to thank Greg and Stephanie Pollard for giving me this opportunity. I’d also like to thank the McBrides. They’ve been a huge help. We use their motors, their clutch system, and their fuel system. We had a problem on Saturday and they were here all day. And certainly I want to thank my crew—U.B. Smith, Joe Taranto, Rick Stetson of Harry’s Machined Parts, Dan and Kathie Wagner, Genie Muldoon, Jim Althaus, Paul Vantine, Laurie Valenti, and Vantine Imaging. Thanks everybody, Top Fuel’s great!”
David Vantinereturns to action September 6-8 for the ADRL’s Battle for the Belt and Dragstock X at Rockingham Dragway. Pollard Nitrosports returns to the track November 8-10 for the Haltech Manufacturers Cup at Bradenton Motosports Park in Florida.
View more Top Fuel photos at http://eatmyink.smugmug.com/Motorcycles/NHDRO/Top-Fuel-NHDROMan-Cup-August/31325768_tgJXMj#!i=2711954434&k=XqMp7jG
contact: David Vantine at email@example.com
This report was prepared by Tim Hailey. Photos are for editorial use only. Enjoy everything there is to read, see and watch about motorcycle drag racing and more at http://www.eatmyink.com