Among the cotton fields of South Georgia lies the radial tyre drag racing Mecca – an eighth mile of the stickiest traction combined with a loud mouth promoter and copious horsepower.
Each October, South Georgia Motorsports Park plays host to No Mercy. Now in its eighth incarnation, No Mercy is the baddest radial tyre race on the planet. There are enough brackets to cater to almost any radial tyre car, so long as you want to race heads up. Outlaw 632, Small Block No Time, Radial vs The World, X275, Limited Drag Radial – just some of the classes you will find entered into the timing system.
SGMP is not the prettiest venue. Australia is somewhat spoilt when it comes to drag strips. Popular homes of radial racing including Willowbank Raceway and Sydney Dragway are palaces compared to SGMP. But what SGMP does have is a quality surface and a location in the heart of the south east, the stronghold of doorslammer racing in America. That tacky surface is essential to radial racing because the secret to getting a radial down a drag strip quickly is to ‘dead hook’. A traditional drag racing bias-ply slick requires wheel speed, controlled wheel spin during the launch that twists the sidewall and absorbs the horsepower. But where those tyres suffer on the big end, a radial can make up for with less rolling resistance. Radial racing also differs from the big show due to the presence of traction control. A necessity for big horsepower cars, the power is fed in gradually during a run and the sound of the limitation is particularly noticeable on some cars. It has been advances in traction control and tyre technology that have seen radial cars reach ridiculous times over the eighth mile – as quick as 3.7 seconds!
But times aren’t everything. No Mercy also caters to fans of no-time grudge racing where only a win light is displayed. This is popular with the impromptu betting rings that pop up around the venue during the event. Betting on races is a big part of drag racing in the south and there are some decent amounts of money changing hands. Watch the crowd as the burnouts take place and you will see arms waving towards the track or away, indicating a preference for which lane punters want to bet on. Find someone who wants the other lane, decide the amount and then wait for the result. During delays in racing, betting continued on whatever could be found, including a practice tree and flipping quarters against the grandstand – whoever could get closest won.
Knoxville, Tennessee’s Jack Greene runs a pretty Yenko-tribute 1970 Chevy Nova and we will leave it up to him to summarise: “It’s the Superbowl, the biggest race of the year, everybody wants to show how bad they are,” he said. “There is a lot of work, a lot of time, just to make this one race. You’re out here trying to do what everybody thinks can’t be done.”
Experiencing this for myself is another tick off my drag racing bucket list.