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Race relations: check out Karen Hay’s six-second weapon

18 September 2015


Built by dad and driven by his daughter, this six-second roadster is the ultimate family bonding project

Some would say that with racer Lindsay Hay as a dad, Karen Hay never had a chance at a normal childhood. But Karen reckons she has the perfect life with a dad who loves her and still gives her pretty much anything she wants, including his race car! There is something special about the bond between father and daughter, and with a dad like Lindsay there was no doubt that Karen was always going to be involved in some form of motorsport. 

As a little girl growing up in Whakatane, all Karen ever wanted to do was hang out with her dad — no playing with dolls or dress-ups. She would often be in the garage, playing with tools and ‘helping’ while Lindsay worked on his projects. Some might say that nothing’s changed. 

Karen and her brother grew up immersed in the hot rodding scene in Whakatane, with one of her earliest memories being Lindsay taking her for wild rides in his T-bucket — rides that she really did not enjoy. Apparently she hated the bucket so much that Lindsay ended up swapping it with Squeak Bell for a ’56 Chev.

Lindsay would also take Karen on his trips over to Paton & Black in Morrinsville, where he was known to talk endlessly about everything to do with motors, while toddler Karen often slept in the car. One day he was clearly in there for way too long talking, and Karen woke up, got bored and emptied what was in her nappy onto his window … Let’s just say Karen has a way of getting her point across, and Lindsay never left her in the car again. 

From that early age Lindsay and Karen were a team. The family would make the pilgrimage over to Hastings to race at Thunderpark in their ’32 roadster. They would pile out of the car then empty out their gear, the tools, spare tyre etc. and go racing for the day. Lindsay would be racing and Karen would watch him leave the line, then be off like a shot to the timing tower, waiting get his time slip with a big smile on her face. This same teamwork would also be repeated at Champion Dragway. 

They had a lot of success with the ’32 roadster, and then in the early 1980s Lindsay started chasing a different dream, jet-boat river racing. We all know there is no show without punch, and Karen was soon involved too. She even begged Lindsay to take her racing on water, so at the Patea River Race Karen had a crack at being the co-pilot. It seemed simple enough, you just race up the river and then back down again, the problem being at the top of the river Karen came out in an almighty itchy rash. Lindsay reckoned it was a nervous rash, which didn’t comfort her at all as they still had the downward leg of the river to go, and that’s why she was co-pilot once and once only. Lindsay then decided to see if he could get all six jet-boating class speed records over the flying kilometre, something he ultimately managed, and to date is the only person to ever achieve. With a background like this, it is easy to see where Karen’s passion for speed and chasing national records comes from!

In 2000 Lindsay decided to go drag racing once again, and purchased the ex Peter Jenkins 1932 Ford roadster. He soon had the roadster — dubbed Flamin’ Evil — well into single-figure ETs with its ever-reliable blown big-block Chev engine combination. Where other competition cars would be towed up to the line, Lindsay would start and drive his up, like any other street roadster, except his just happened to run in the sevens! Likewise on the return road Lindsay would be seen driving the ’32 back, chute stuffed in next to him and no tow vehicle needed. He ran this car for two seasons before he relented and let Karen have a turn. Some would say this was one of the worst (or best) decisions he’s ever made. 

In 2001 Karen got her race licence and the rest, as they say, is history. Progressing from her first pass of 15.96 seconds, she gradually got quicker and quicker over the years, eventually claiming the CC/A record with Flamin’ Evil. About that time Lindsay realised it would be easier and safer to go faster if they had a true race car. 

An opportunity to purchase the late Clive Davis’ 1927 T Brogie Roadster arose in 2010, which was just what Lindsay had been looking for. Built by Warren Brogie Race Cars way back in 1993 for Scotty Cannon, this was a race car with pedigree that Lindsay knew could run sixes, and safely too. 

With the purchase the team had a new focus, for Karen to hold the title of being the quickest woman ever on the quarter mile in New Zealand, and given her drive and Lindsay’s support no one was going to stop her. With his sheer grit and determination, and powered by the supercharged engine he built for the roadster, Karen claimed both ends of the BB/A record and won plenty of races, including the NZ Nationals. Then in 2010 she ran her first six-second pass. 

However, a couple of years ago there was a ‘minor’ setback when a screw went down through the supercharger, ruining the 14/71. This destruction led to another change in direction for the team. Lindsay decided he wanted to move with the times and twin turbo the car, now called Evil II, and boy did that cause a ruckus. After all, what did that old-school hot rodder and concrete worker know about building a twin-turbo engine? As it turns out Lindsay knows quite a lot, having run a twin-turbo Buick V6 in the jet boat in which he claimed two different class jet-boat records. Then there was his record-setting single-turbo Volvo jet boat, and the record he set with a turbocharged Suzuki GTI 1298cc engine, all with owner-made turbo set-ups. As the drag racing world was about to find out, this turbo stuff was really nothing new for the Hay family. 

So 2012 saw the new-look car outfitted with twin 88mm turbochargers looming outside the bodywork, blowing through twin-turbo carbs on a tunnel ram. The 2012–’13 season saw the Hay family spending plenty of time at the track trying to get the set-up to work, but with mixed results. Everything about the car was different, and not just the look. The sound, the power delivery and the whole feel of the car had changed, and they spent pretty much all season testing the new combination. 

For 2013 and the second season with the turbo engine, Lindsay enlisted the help of Robbie Ward of R.I.P.S and Jason Cutelli of Infomotive to build and tune an EFI set-up. The beginning of the 2103–’14 season saw more testing, which was challenging with the new set-up, but Karen always had faith in her dad and the team. Given the almost limitless flexibility of the EFI, the turbo engine was beginning to make some serious power, which lead to the next issue, the chassis set-up didn’t seem to like how the turbos lay the power down, so more tuning and changes ensued.

Two to three weeks before the 2014 NZ Nationals some of the team, including Karen, were literally pulling their hair out trying to figure out what to do next. Around a week before the 2014 Nationals Karen arrived in Rotorua to help work on the car, and was promptly sat down so the crew chief could explain that everything was under control — he knew what he was doing — and remind her exactly what her job was to do on race day. 

Unfortunately for Karen and Lindsay the Nationals were interrupted by precipitation, and although they made the finals, the meeting was then rained off, but thankfully not cancelled. It was announced that the final pairings would be run at the Club Champs / Nostalgia Drags a few weeks later. 

That fateful day came, and fortunately so did the sun, and the hard-working crew at Meremere Dragway made sure the track prep was perfect! The daunting task for Karen was to then line up for a final — which was also the first run of the day — and do it with no tune-up data. To make it worse she was up against the quick rail of the Gubb family. Lindsay and Karen were not confident at all, but wow did Evil II behave. Straight off the trailer they ran a 6.89 at 200mph, claimed the AA/A record and National title, and the celebrations began. 
For most that would be enough, but the Nostalgias the next day would give them a day’s racing that would be etched in the team’s minds forever, and lead to a date being tattooed onto Karen’s wrist, too! 

The Nostalgias gave the team a chance to race against cars they don’t usually get to pair against in normal competition. Still on a high from the run the day before, Karen had the pleasure of meeting Dennis Grant, the husband of the lady whose title she was chasing. First pass out she saw another 6.89 at 200mph, which was a great start to the day. A little tune-up, and the second pass netted a blistering 6.79 at 205mph, things were finally starting to come together. As the day wound down the temperatures began to drop but the track was still sticky, making for near-perfect drag-racing conditions. Then Karen was asked if she would like to run against Karl Boniface for her last run. “Hell yeah,” was her answer, where else would they ever get to run against a Fuel Funny Car? Around 4pm they were called to stage, the track still had plenty of heat and the air temperature was starting to cool off nicely, just what they needed. Lindsay gave Karen the final instructions before heading into the water box, and for a change Karen felt unusually calm, reflecting on the two crew members they had lost along this journey. Just after the burnout Karen paused and told her mates upstairs (Shorty and Clive) that if they could give her any help, this would really be a good time. She said to herself, “If you can help me out in any way boys, can you do it now on this pass, just for Dad?”. The resulting pass was a scorching 6.61 at 206mph, they had done it! She had become the quickest and fastest female in New Zealand’s drag-racing history. [Since this article was written, Karen has gone on to run a 6.41 at 214.45mph]

This race is one that has gone down in the record books, but it is not just Karen’s record, it represents the efforts and struggles of a close-knit family and crew. A tough team that epitomizes the Kiwi can-do attitude, a team that’s put together the fastest Brogie-built roadster in the world! They had hoped to break the record at Meremere for many reasons, mainly because this is where Karen started drag racing, and support from the track management and crew of volunteers has been unwavering for the past 12 years, which means a lot. But none of the Hay family is the type to rest on their laurels, and Lindsay, Karen and the team are already talking about getting the car to run even faster and quicker next year. We can’t wait! 

‘EVIL II’ was featured in NZV8 Issue No. 114. Karen has since gone on to run a PB of 6.41 at 214.45mph. 

Vehicle: 1927 Ford Model T roadster
Engine: 482ci (7.9-litre) big block Chev, Donovan block, JE pistons, GRP pro rods, Dart Big M heads, titanium intake valves, Inconel exhaust valves, Comp Cams roller cam, Comp Cams springs, Edelbrock tunnel ram, 16x 500lb Moran EFI injectors, twin 100mm throttle bodies, twin 88mm turbos, Waterman 16gph fuel pump, Aeromotive 3000hp fuel pressure regulator, MSD ignition
Driveline: JW Powerglide, Spec Right torque convertor, SFI flexplate, Mark Williams nine-inch diff, full floating hubs, 40-spline axles
Suspension: Torsion bar front, cantilever four-bar rear, coilover shocks
Brakes: Wilwood discs and calipers
Wheels/tyres: 15×4.5- and 16×16-inch Centreline wheels, MT 24×4.5×15 Mickey Thompson Front Runners, 33.5x16x16 Mickey Thompson slicks
Performance: 6.61 at 206mph (331kph)
Owner: Lindsay Hay
Driver: Karen Hay
Car club: IHRA
Age: 65 (Lindsay)
Occupation: Concrete contractor
Previously owned cars: Two Mk1 Zephyrs, 1965 Lotus Cortina, two 1965 XP Falcon coupes, 1956 Chev, 1960 Chev, 1964 Pontiac, 1967 Mustang fastback, two 1932 Ford coupes, 1932 Ford roadster
Dream car: This one (for now)
Why the roadster: I wanted to run sixes safely
Build time: Ongoing
Length of ownership: Four years
Lindsay and Karen thank: The late Clive Davis, Chuck Mann at Rotorua V8 Performance, R.I.P.S Racing, Infomotive EFI, City Fibreglass Tauranga, Rob’s Auto Spray Rotorua, Segedins Dominion Road Auckland, Link ECU, Moran Motorsports USA, Spec-Rite Convertors USA, Performance Imports USA, and of course the hard-working Evil team and those at the track who support us meeting after meeting, we couldn’t do it without you all!

Behind the helmet:

  • Karen credits all her successes to her parents, Lindsay and Shona Hay, for their guidance in life and their family involvement through the years in hot rodding, jet-boat racing and drag racing. Lindsay and Shona have given Karen the kind of opportunities that most people can only dream of.  Lindsay is also the hardest-working person Karen knows, a man who would do anything for anyone who works his guts out on their car and never gives up.
  • Not many would know this, but every day for the past five years Karen has been greeted by a piece of paper taped to her fridge with 6.61 written on it. Her target was Faye Grant’s record from 1990 in her rear-engine dragster, at 6.629 at 205.52mph.

This article was originally published in a previous issue of NZV8. Pick up a copy of the edition here: