Maurice Allen, IHRA Australia CEO, Part 1

Words by Jon Van Daal

Photos by Jon Van Daal

Drag Racing Online’s Australian correspondent, JON VAN DAAL met up with IHRA Australia’s CEO, Maurice Allen a couple of times over their winter to get the low down on all things IHRA. We start with the first of two parts of the story where he explains that sport in Australia shouldn’t sit on its hands and must actively get out there and be pro-active to ensure that the straightline sport doesn’t stagnate.

I first met Maurice when he was thirteen years old. I arrived for dinner at the Allen household at the invitation of his father, Peter, and when I met him then I was impressed with the type of teenager that he was. Peter, or the “Pom” as he is known, is one of Australia’s greatest Top Fuel Bike racers and also had a stint behind the butterfly of a ‘60s front-engine fuel dragster. When you add Maurice’s grandfather into the equation, Frank Muscat, who was an Isle of Man TT factory Vecolette rider and Australian road racing champion, you see that he has come from an excellent gene pool.


Allen believes that the IHRA has to be at the forefront of technology in the second decade of the new millennium.


“I had a conversation with a Pro Stock racer regarding the changing IHRA Rulebook,” he revealed. ‘Have you got the IHRA App?’ I asked him. ‘I don’t use Apps,’ the racer told him. ‘Well, you better start because in five years there won’t be anything else,’ Allen said. ‘Really?’ was the reply.


“Well, let’s put it this way,” Allen told him. “Next year there won’t be any cars manufactured in Australia any more so we’ll more than likely be using all American body styles,” he told him. “Most of the Pro Stock cars coming into Australia have been constructed by American chassis builders and these cars are built to meet all the IHRA rules so there are actually only two pages relating to the driver -- so do you want me to print them for you?” Allen continued.


As an extension of this Allen gave me a couple of examples about using the app. “We identified a problem at a recent race and we came up with a fix and added it to the app,” he explained. “A racer came up to me not long after this problem came to a head and asked what we were going to do with regard to that.


“I know you have the IHRA app so just refresh it on your phone and you’ll have the answer,” Allen told him. ”We have some old school racers that use the Rulebook as a bible but in this case they would have to wait until next year to have that in print,” he told me with a cheeky grin.


The second example related to the hiring of new IHRA Stewards. “We had ten applicants come to the track and listen to a rundown of what the Steward’s position involves. None of them had any real knowledge of the sport and as a follow up we sent them a 25-answer questionnaire and a link to the IHRA App. Four of those applicants responded after finding and downloading the app and answering the questionnaire. All four attained a 100% score with none of them having any real knowledge of drag racing,” Allen revealed.


“When they later came to the track we gave them further training and they started to learn more about the cars and the situations that they would be asked to give a decision on. At the same time we asked them to become aware of their position on the day, to be courteous and take a real interest in the racers, their cars and the sport itself. It soon became apparent that they were not being looked upon like their former stereotypes.”


An example of this saw the old Us-versus-Them mentality give way following this decision: “I am sorry, but I am afraid that your actions were outside the rules and that stands”. Instead of a long protracted heated debate the racer simply accepted the Steward’s decision saying, “OK, I understand” thanks to the interest that he had earlier taken in his car and team’s efforts along the way. “It isn’t rocket science,” Allen explained.

Like his grandfather and father before him, Maurice raced motorcycles.


Another example is how easy it is to adapt to the changing competitors at the track.


“We had a number of racers who were asking us if we could look at their particular situation and maybe come up with a new bracket to fit in with the changes in the way their cars now fit into competition,” Allen explained. “We all agree that the Wild Bunch bracket was great back in the day but this decade’s new age cars aren’t so much blown any more as turbocharged. Over the course of a meeting we had looked at these racers’ individual needs and by the end of the race had come up with a new bracket that was added to the app and now has been added to competition.


“I went over to Paul Mouyahet’s pit and simply asked him how we could better look after his type of car.” His answer was ‘Geez, I wish you had come by five years ago.’ We sat down and discussed things for about an hour and I had a new-found knowledge about what competitors like  Muyahet need and how we can provide this for them.”


From a marketing stand point if you look at Paul Mouyahet he is a great racer to promote. He is a young, good looking guy, he is muscular, well respected, and was the fastest doorslammer pilot in the entire world at one stage. We should be marketing him to today’s audience because they aren’t the same people that came here to watch the “Wild Bunch” three decades ago.


I interviewed Allen while standing at the IHRA booth at Australia’s largest hot rod show, Motorex. Allen asked “What do these show goers want to see? Certainly the cars and technology of today – you only have to look at the vendors at this show and what they are selling.”


Another aspect of the new generation that drag racing is being sold to was explained to me by Maurice. “I was at Sydney Dragway last week catching up and it was the Wednesday night street meet. I was standing near the tower and a potential entrant came up and needed to figure out if his car would be eligible to run. He had a new GTR with all the fruit – all the go-fast bits, it was a quarter of million dollar car that was quick to say the least.


“The local official started to explain things to him and finally said, ‘Look, I might let Maurice Allen explain the intricacies of what you can and can’t do.’ I said to him that he would need a licence and that he would probably get bounced because his car would be too quick but he could clear that hurdle when he came to it. I said that a licence was $99 per year or $260 for three years. ‘How much for five?’ he answered, to which I made one up on the spot.


“The point is that this guy wanted to race his car that night and in the future so I wanted to grab him while I could and turn his enthusiasm into an enduring passion,” Allen said.


“Long story short – there are a small number of old school racers that have resisted change but need to change so that we can have this new blood enter the sport.” A committed Maurice Allen concluded, “Being a second generation drag racer myself, the history of the sport isn’t lost on me, but we have to keep evolving otherwise we’ll become irrelevant.”


We will continue the second part of the story in the new year so keep an eye out for it. 


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