Can anyone slow down the ‘Trinidad Rocket’?

POSTED: 2010-02-10 13:48:00

Sheldon Bissessar takes Top Dragster by storm

Sheldon Bissessar has always had the drive to be the fastest.

From his early days racing at an airstrip in his home country of Trinidad and Tobago to his current gig as the world’s fastest sportsman in the IHRA Top Dragster ranks, Bissessar has always known drag racing was his future.

“I have always had a passion for speed with encouragement from my mother Stella Bissessar and from my family and friends,” said Bissessar. “I still remember my first car being a Ford Escort powered by a Ford Pinto 4 cylinder engine. It ran the quarter-mile in approximately 17 seconds and at the time that seemed really fast for me.”

Bissessar has since graduated from his days running the quarter-mile in double digits, currently holding the Top Dragster world record at 5.869 seconds at 235.60 miles per hour set earlier this year at Palm Beach International Raceway. Bissessar also made quite a splash at that event winning the inaugural Harland Sharp Elite 8 race in Top Dragster.

Sheldon Bissessar

Now, with a new record in hand and the first of what he hopes is many Elite 8 victories, Bissessar is preparing for an exciting year behind the wheel of his PSTL, IRONMAN Chassis and Total Lubricants dragster traveling the newly redesigned Nitro Jam tour.

“The Elite 8 program is great and the IHRA is on a rebound. We want to ride the comeback waves with them,” said an ecstatic Bissessar. “If the new format sticks, it is going to turn into something really great.”

And Bissessar’s journey to the top all began running the strips of Trinidad and Tobago.

As Bissessar’s passion for speed began to blossom at the old Walleferield airstrip and he started to dig deeper into the world of drag racing, Bissessar began to take notice that some of the fastest drivers in the world weren’t behind the wheel of a car. They were, in fact, in the cockpit of a dragster.

“I went from car to car in an attempt to become faster and move into higher brackets. As I continued racing legends like Joe Amato, Don ’The Snake’ Purdhomme and Eddie Hill became my inspiration. It was then that I decided I wanted to drive a dragster,” Bissessar recalled.

Sheldon Bissessar

Bissessar began his venture into the world of dragsters with a mild steel chassis powered by a 350 small block Chevy running the quarter-mile 11 seconds at a time. Feeling the need to go faster still, Bissessar began experimenting with different combinations over the past decade before finally settling on the dragster he currently uses today – a former Top Alcohol Dragster powered by a blown 526 cubic inch Hemi previously owned by Jeff Veale.

With the power he needed, all that was left was to find a crew chief and Bissessar was ready for his assault on the drag racing world.

“I knew nothing about supercharged engines so it was necessary to take the next step and find a crew chief,” said Bissessar. “It was quite a search until I came in contact with Mr. Aaron Sipple, son of legendary Top Fuel driver ’Doc’ Sipple. After talking with him I knew that he was the man for this job.”

With car and crew chief in place Bissessar began competing in the Top Dragster category at IHRA national events beginning at Maryland International Raceway in 2005. Over the past five years Bissessar has competed at various events on the Nitro Jam tour, but heading into this season he wasn’t exactly sure how far sportsman racing could take him.

That is, of course, until he found out about the changes for the 2010 season.

Along with a brand new professional format, the International Hot Rod Association also decided to take its two quickest and fastest sportsman classes and give them the stage they deserve. Thus the Harland Sharp Elite 8 program was born.


Along with featuring the first round of Top Sportsman and Top Dragster eliminations during the professional rounds, IHRA also decided to bring back its popular Quick 8 program for the drivers in those classes to be run on the second day of competition.

And that, Bissessar admits, is something he simply could not pass up.

“Over the years Quick 8 racing has, for one reason or another, become a dying program leaving a void in racing for a lot of teams like us. It was a perfect fit for Aaron and myself; our specialty type of racing,” said Bissessar. “We were basically in limbo at the end of 2009 trying to decide what kind of program of racing we would pursue in 2010. At first we were considering going TAD racing over at NHRA, but as soon as we saw the release on the Elite 8 we were hooked.

“We knew it would be a hit and a growing aspect of IHRA that we definitely wanted to participate in.”

Already considered one of the fastest sportsman racers in the sport today, Bissessar traveled to the IHRA Nitro Jam season opener at Palm Beach International Raceway in late January with the goal of competing for his first national event win, but more importantly, walking away as the first ever Harland Sharp Elite 8 winner.

With the entire nation of Trinidad and Tobago watching, Bissessar began the weekend with the top qualifying spot, a 5.804 e.t. at 238.76 miles-per-hour, and plenty of confidence that this was his weekend.


He coasted to a first round bye on Friday, but trouble on Saturday threatened to end Bissessar’s weekend much earlier than expected.

While performing his burnout early Saturday Bissessar’s reverser locked up, ending his bid for a national event victory in only the second round. With the Elite 8 still ahead, Bissessar turned his disappointment into motivation as he and his crew began working on his dragster with the goal of coming back and winning the Saturday night feature.

Bissessar and his crew worked throughout the day getting ready for the Elite 8 showdown while on the track Mark Brown cruised to the Top Dragster victory over Charlie Cullotto.

With the stage finally set for the Harland Sharp Elite 8 moments after the first round of professional eliminations Bissessar rolled into the staging lanes in front of the largest crowd of his career and began his assault on the Top Dragster field.


The man known as the “Trinidad Rocket” dispatched of Daniel Seidel and Dean Brazell in the opening rounds before meeting Eddie Careccia in the final. Careccia, also considered one of the best in the business, knew he had a tough matchup in the final which may have played a role in his run as he left before the tree giving Bissessar the win and one of the proudest moments of his career.

“Winning is great, but when you can do it with friends, family and a great crew by your side, and to know that all the decisions you made along the way were right, makes it that much better,” said Bissessar. “I may be known back home as the fastest man in Trinidad, but to win the first Elite 8 IHRA event and set the new Top Dragster world record at the season opener with my tuner Aaron Sipple, it was definitely the highlight thus far in my racing career.”

With the first ever Elite 8 victory added to his resume and a brand new record, Bissessar has new plans to attend as many Nitro Jam events as he can with the hopes of continuing his dominance over the class.

But don’t think for a moment Bissessar doesn’t realize that anything can happen, especially with plenty of new faces waiting for their chance to take his spot at the top.

“We are always concentrating on taking things to a new level, but it will only take a race or two before Fast Eddie, Troy Stone, Jody Stroud and others will be hot on our heels,” said Bissessar. “Aaron and I have been together for about two years and we are really starting to hit our stride together and make waves.

“We were very happy with the steps we took in ‘09 and have a lot to look forward to in 2010.”



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