Tales from the Drag Challenge – Rod Browitt’s Ute

Rod Browitt’s HQ Belmont has been a favourite of ours for some time. In fact, we even featured it after Street Machine Drag Challenge in 2016. 

We caught up with Rod a year later him at Drag Challenge in Adelaide to see what’s changed, and how he was finding the event.

The Frankston Engines built 370ci LS LQ9 remains largely unchanged, with Trickflow heads, LJMS Camshaft, and Manley Rods. However, the intake side of thing has copped a bit of a work-over with a larger 85mm turbo providing boost via a Shaun’s Custom Alloy manifold and Turbosmart wastegates and BOVs. These changes mean the engine package now sits under the standard Belmont bonnet, rather than the rusty reverse cowl-shod item that was previously the ute’s visual feature. 

Shifting gears is done by a PRPT-prepped T400, and all engine management and boost control comes under the dominion of the Haltech Elite 2500T, which also provides torque management strategies for getting the green beast down the track at a most swift pace. 

The exhaust side of things has also been tweaked, and now features a full system. What this gives Rod is a much more streetable ute that can be cruised on the weekends, and raced in events like Drag Challenge without the stress of having to change too many parts between the street and the track.

Street Machine Drag Challenge 2018 was Rod’s third year competing in the event, and the Australian outback put on some extreme weather conditions from heatwaves to torrential rain, which made the event a “challenge” indeed! 

After the first day of racing at Adelaide, Rod said: “I’ve personally never raced in 38-degree heat and it was pretty hard work but was bearable at the track although it got tough when we had to embark on the four hour trip to the next track, we weren’t lucky enough to have aircon or even a fan in the ute.” 

The second day at Mildura was hot again, so Rod made the most of the day and got in there as soon as gates opened, the ute was down on MPH with the heat – an issue faced by all competitors.  Rod reckons the ute was on song all week with the old girl doing everything that was asked of it. Rod was most impressed with the way the elite 2500t controlled all the cooling, including the fans on the radiator, engine oil and trans oil.

“Even in the peak heat of the day, coolant temps didn’t get over 86 degrees Celsius”

It wasn’t all smooth sailing though! Rod says the ute is in desperate need for some upgrades to the front suspension and it also copped a dead alternator at Swan Hill.  Fellow racers were quick to offer up their spares and Rod managed to get the ute back on the road again…  that’s when the rains came.

“I had a suspect wiper motor which I got working just before the trip, but an hour into the rain it decided to give up! Driving for three hours in the torrential rain with no wipers and the windscreen fogging up wasn’t that fun, but slowly and steadily we made the journey and were lucky enough to find a replacement wiper motor in Portland.”

“Racing was cancelled that day because of the wet, so I used the spare time to swap over the wiper motor and gave the car a service.”

Heading into the final day back at Adelaide International Raceway Rod and the ute were sitting first place in the Outlaw Blown class with a lead of less than a tenth of a second over the big-power XA Falcon. It took two passes before Rod worked out the rain had caused another gremlin to get into the system.

The ute was hooking up well and was showing PB numbers to half track, which sounds great, except that it was due failed boost solenoid that, situated where it was under one of the front guards, had literally been drowned to death in all the rain – meaning Rod was getting all the boost straight up, and then hitting boost cut.  

Towards the end of the last day, the XA put down a killer pass so Rod needed to equal it to keep first place, which was well within the ability of the HQ. Rod upped the boost cut PSI and was psyching himself up to manually moderate boost control with the old tried and true right foot.

However, in the staging lanes with only three cars between him in and the start line, the rain started up again forcing the end of the event and leaving Rod in a hard-earned second place in class, and 14th outright.

With some suspension mods and dialing in the torque management, Rod reckons he should see the car find some more consistency and get down into the mid 8’s like it was built for.

Expect to see him back at Drag Challenge for 2018  alongside a packed calendar of racing at events like Powercruise, and just about everywhere else he can drive it to.

“It’s great to get it out and about as often as I can even if it’s just down the local chrome bumper meets.”