No doubt the glory years of the 1960’s and 70’s brought about performers unlike that which this sport will ever see again, but few could grab more attention — or were just plain crazier — than Captain Jack McClure at the wheel of his turbine and rocket-powered go karts.
McClure’s original twin-engine Turbonique-powered kart was truly one-of-a-kind, but it was his hydrogen peroxide-fueled kart that really solidified his legend, with quarter-mile runs in the 5.90’s at well over 200 miles per hour with no seat belts and no roll cage…just a helmet and a firesuit. In November of 1973, after four solid years of campaigning the kart across the country, McClure sold the kart, his van, firesuit and the entire works in order to buy a commercial fishing boat.
However, thirty-four years later (and pushing into his 80’s), McClure got the itch again and successfully tracked down his original kart and had it completely restored by good friend and fellow rocket racer Ky Michaelson, with intentions of making one more go-around with the unbelievably fast kart. The only problem was, the kart still wasn’t allowed to compete at NHRA tracks — McClure having been denied by Wally Parks himself in the early 70’s from being granted a license to run it on their sanctioned tracks for safety reasons.
But after much deliberation, permission was finally granted by the NHRA brass this year, and at the ripe age of 88, Captain Jack McClure climbed back aboard his original rocket-powered kart for the first time at a drag strip in more than four decades at the MoTec Manufacturers Cup Motorcycle Drag Racing Series World Finals at the South Georgia Motorsports Park over the weekend.
As part of the agreement, McClure was given permission to run the kart for an eighth-mile distance only, but first would be required to make successive shakedown runs to work up to a full pass. McClure did not make a full hit on his triumphant return, making an early shutoff runs in the 4.70’s but regardless, this was absolute history in the making, as one of the greatest showmen of the early 70’s saddled back up on his exhibition vehicle unlike any other.