• A New Era Begins as Fram Autolite Dragway Joins IHRA Family: 30th September 2011
Story by Brian Wood

Water runs down a drain in a clockwise motion and most people are wearing their warmest clothing in July and August, but the cars run hard and fast down the quarter-mile, and in that respect our newest family members are exactly like all of us in North America.

The IHRA was proud to expand its international scope in a big way recently with the addition of New Zealand's Fram Autolite Dragway and Power Built Dragway. Fram Autolite is located near Auckland on the North Island, and Power Built is just outside of Christchurch on the South Island.

In this issue of DRM we are pleased to present a look at Fram Autolite Dragway as an exciting new day dawns for the International Hot Rod Association. Located in Meremere, Fram Autolite Dragway is 45-minutes south of Auckland, New Zealand's largest city, and 30-minutes south of the town of Pukekohe. It was in this scenic agricultural setting that Fram Autolite had its beginnings.

"The members of the Pukekohe Hot Rod Club built the facility in 1973, and it was the fi rst purpose-built drag strip in New Zealand," said track manager Gary Bogaart. "The club still owns the track today, but does not run it. There is a board of management in place that takes care of all the track's operations."

Bogaart, who has been a club member since 1985 and been on the board for the last 10 years, became the manager out of necessity. "For a long time the track was run by a group of part-time people, but since we now regularly hold over forty events every season it got to be too much, so I eventually became the full-time manager," Bogaart said.

Being in the Southern Hemisphere, the track's competition season normally kicks off at the beginning of November and runs through April. During the winter months of June through August the track hosts races for streetlegal vehicles because it's usually too cold to get enough heat in the racing surface for the quicker and faster cars.

One of the largest events of the year actually takes place in early September, however, with the running of a special Father's Day event that traditionally draws upwards of 5,000 spectators. All entrants must be muscle cars that are registered for use on the street. At the time of this interview, Bogaart said that he expected at least 200 vehicles to take part.

The quickest class at Fram Autolite is Top Alcohol, which features a mix of Top Alcohol Dragster, Top Alcohol Funny Car, and Top Alcohol Altered. The Top Doorslammer class features Pro Mod-type cars running blown, nitrous and turbo combinations. Other categories include Competition, Super Gas, 9.90, Modified, which is a DYO (Dial Your Own or Bracket) category, and Super Sedan, another DYO class for doorslammers.

Fram Autolite also hosts special events known as Dragmasters and Dragwars.

Dragmasters is a once-a-year shootout between Japanese Imports and American/Australian Muscle Cars. Two team of 16-plus cars face off for points, glory, and a year's worth of bragging rights. Dragwars takes place on Friday nights during the season and is a battle between some of New Zealand's hottest street cars. Crowds as large as 4,000 are not uncommon, and the average car count for these races can be as high as 250.

In addition to this complete roster of classes and events, the recent sanctioning body switch will eventually bring about the adoption of some of the most popular and successful IHRA programs as well.

"It probably won't happen in the season that's coming up, but after that I would really like to see us become part of the Summit SuperSeries," said Bogaart. "It would be great if we could send someone to Virginia for the World Finals, but planning the trip will be a real exercise in logistics. We'd love to see New Zealand represented in Virginia, so we'll have to see how it works out. We are all very excited about being a part of the IHRA."

On the physical side, Fram Autolight has seating for 1,500 in grandstands along one side of the track, and a grassy sloped amphitheater on the other side accommodates thousands more. There are showers and restrooms, of course, along with concession and souvenir stands. There is plenty of parking and pit space, and camping is available for the racers as well.

The track utilizes a proven Compulink timing system, and permanent lighting to the 1,000-foot mark is supplemented by portable lighting towers. Sitting on approximately 80 acres of land, Fram Autolite Dragway is joined by a dirt track, a jet sprint course, and a speedway for vintage cars.

Fram Autolite Dragway is obviously a well-organized and well-run facility with plenty to offer racers and race fans alike. With the future addition of IHRA programs, look for this to become a facility that everyone involved with the IHRA can be very proud of.