Rod Harvey may drive a Toyota Celica but there is nothing pedestrian about this sports compact drag car: it is, in fact, the fastest import car in the southern hemisphere and the fifth quickest in the world.
The Kiwi driver, who holds more than 20 tracks records, national records and event wins across Australia and New Zealand, splits his time between his homeland and Kallangur, Brisbane to compete in the Australian racing circuit season.
Rod’s best race to date was at last year’s Willowbank Raceway Winternationals where he reached 253.1 miles per hour. In June he will again take to Willowbank for the Winternationals and is stopping in at Battery World Ipswich on Tuesday (June 5) at 10.30am with his car to meet with fans who can get up and close to the car.
In 2017, his car was the first ever Factory Extreme/Sport Compact car to run a five-second pass in Australasia at the Gulf Western Oil Winter Nationals and the third fastest in the world for mile per hour at 253 mph.
It is nothing for this driver to reach speeds as fast, and faster than some competition door slammers: full-bodied racing sedans with V8 supercharged engines fuelled by methanol.
“To qualify for door slammer, at the last Winternationals you needed to reach a 5.90: that’s covering a quarter of a mile in 5.9 seconds, or faster,” Rod says. “What makes me passionate about this machine is we have been able to do that and faster. So, to be able to get this much power out of this engine is something pretty special. They say you’ve got to drive these cars like you just stole it.”
Rod and his small team are hitting the 51st Gulf Western Oil Winternationals this year thanks to a joint sponsorship by Battery World Australia and Century Yuasa.
“Sponsorship is critical in racing,” he said. “The duo of Battery World and Century Yuasa is a great fit for us and it is great to support an Australian-made manufacturer. There is a standard joke on how you make a million dollars in racing – you start with 10 because it quickly whittles down. I was always attracted to racing cars from motorbikes and streetcars: racing V8s until 2000, when I switched to sport compact, but I also have a trade. My dad made sure I would have something to fall back on if racing didn’t pan out.”
While hitting speeds of over 407km per hour is all in a day’s work for the 46-year-old builder his 10-year-old daughter Shavaun, who races alongside him in the junior categories, and is also sponsored by Century Yuasa, is only allowed to reach speeds of 100km or 11.9 over an eighth of a mile.
“Shavaun says she can’t wait until she can race as fast as me,” Rod says. “And her younger brother Carlos, 6, also can’t wait for the day when he can get his junior dragster. It’s definitely a family affair with my wife Natalie down on the track with us. She is the one talking to us through our headsets keeping us calm and she is also our chief ‘strapper-inner’: she won’t let either of us drive unless she has made sure the seatbelts are safe and secure and only she can do it. She is also in the tow vehicle that brings the cars back in.”
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