Tauranga's Tony Christiansen and his T-bucket drag racer. Photo: John BorrenBlasting down a quarter-mile strip would seem pretty straight forward for a driver who has raced around in circles on the nation's speedway tracks for more than 20 years _ and made forays into offroading, pre-65 circuit racing and club rallying.
But Tony Christiansen knows he will, as ever, literally have his hands full when he makes his drag racing debut at Meremere's Champion Dragway on Sunday.
The double leg amputee from Tauranga will pilot his methanol burning 5.8-litre Chev powered C/Altered T-bucket using a hand control system. So far his quarter-mile experience amounts to completing the necessary licensing runs back in October.
"A lot of people think drag racing is easy _ you just hop in, hit throttle and it's all over in about nine seconds," Christiansen says.
"Well you can throw that theory right out the window. The challenge of drag racing is getting every tiny little detail right inside a very short space of time while racing against someone in the other lane who is trying to do it better than you.
"The burnout to clean the tyres off and staging the car at the lights are all crucial to completing a good run.
'When you launch off the line it can be really squirrely. A half a pound tyre pressure difference can make the difference between the car running straight and launching across into the wall.
"I think it's going to be a different challenge to speedway. If you make a mistake in a speedway car you usually have time to make it up again. There are other drivers around you and they're making mistakes as well."
Going drag racing is another part of Christiansen's "give it a go" approach to motorsport _ or more accurately life in general.
"I've done karting, offroading, speedway in midgets, sprint cars and saloons, rallying and circuit racing. But for me it's not all about winning and losing. It's about getting out there and giving things ago and then being able to share my experiences," he says.
And like speedway where's he been competitive _ as recently as last month winning a saloon car feature at Baypark _ he's hopeful drag racing will offer a chance compete on a level playing field.
"When I get into my saloon car I'm just the same as every other driver. Not having any legs isn't a disadvantage.
"In circuit racing or rallying it's a disadvantage. When you race in those situations using things like an automatic transmission it's always going to be a bit of a compromise."
Christiansen has adapted the hand control system he's used in other types of competition car to operate the throttle and brakes on the drag racer. There is a solenoid switch to shift up a gear at half track.
"For the other drivers drag racing is all about hand-feet-eye co-ordination. For me it's just hand-eye co-ordination," he says.
Long-time Tauranga drag racer Gary Schischka has been offering guidance.
"Gary has helped me a lot with car setup and explaining how drag racing works. I know how a speedway meeting works _ when to be there, when to get ready and that sort of stuff but drag racing will be a whole new environment for me."
Christiansen will race in a Dial Your Own Competition bracket where racers nominate a target time and then attempt to achieve that number.
"It's all about consistent driving and knowing your car, but it's a big challenge because you're talking about hundredths of a second deciding whether you get to the next round or you are eliminated."