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Jan Johnson

Broadcast dates : 9th January 2005
13th January 2005

Drag Racing received a major boost over the past year as Wesbank Raceway played host to a drag race just about every weekend through the 2004 season.

But the major meeting of the year was undoubtedly the finals of the national championships, where the street cars made way for some of the fastest supercharged purpose-built racers in the country.

The driving force behind Wesbank Raceway is Peter Lindenberg and his long-time business partner Jan Johnson. The pair cut their competitive teeth in powerboat racing and water-skiing many years ago. And this year Jan followed Peterís wheel-tracks into the Ėland-bound motorsport arena as a competitor.

The close co-operation between promoters at different drag strips has been a major reason for drag racingís resurgence in the past 18 months.

The car that Jan ran in the final round of the nationals is this fuel-injected, V8-powered monster, known in drag racing jargon as a rail.

The rails run in various classes and Janís machine is designed to run the 400 metre strip in the nine-second bracket.

In fact Jan upset the establishment earlier this year by winning a round of the nationals against vastly more experienced competitors.

Unlike the Supercharged drag cars, some of which run on explosive nitro methane, Janís car runs on cheaper methanol, which nevertheless produces considerably more power than ordinary petrol.

The V8 is a genuine aluminium Ford Motorsport block, very rare in this country, and is good for some 800 horsepower or 600 kiloWatts.

The engine uses titanium con-rods and special pistons giving a compression ratio of 12 to one and displaces just over six-litres in capacity.

The idea of a rail is to keep a high-horsepower car such as this as stable as possible, hence the very long length.

This car is some eight metres in length, but just 1,4 metres wide. And the cockpit area is a tight squeeze.

Power to the rear wheels on Janís car is via a three-speed automatic gearbox culled from an old Fairmont GT. And the rear differential is a drastically shortened Ford Nine-Incher, almost the standard recipe for Rails in the non-supercharged class.

The power meets the earth through special soft-walled drag slicks that provide exceptional grip off the starting line.

Janís youngest daughter Laura is her line-lady, playing a vital role in the starting procedure on race day.

The car is prepared by Janís crew headed up by Edwin Theron (big blonde dude in Powerade gear with Moses Phamodi as chief mechanic.

To prepare for a blast down the 400 metre strip at well over 200 km/h, it helps to be in good physical shape. Here Jan does a weekly Yoga workout accompanied by her eldest daugher Kirby, under the watchful eye of Alex "The Great" Kassel.


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