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ET DRAG RACING
NEWS & ANALYSIS
The recent IHRA Nitro Thunder event at Sydney Dragway would go close to being one of its best ever events held there. Since the IHRA took over the sanction of the track the two have enjoyed solid support of their major meetings from the paying public and Saturday saw a good number of punters in attendance. The Pro class race format saw the final being decided by the two competitors that had the most wins over two rounds of racing and the lowest ETs and it worked well. While the forecast was for two sunny 72 degree days, late Saturday rain arrived and while the race was completed, it wasn’t for the fainthearted.
Richie Crampton (near lane) and Darren Morgan.
Though only seven cars entered for the Top Fuel bracket, what it lacked in quantity it made up for in quality. This saw more 4.5-second times for the quarter mile recorded in Australia than ever before. The entries included two NHRA Top Fuel stars that came out for the race - Richie Crampton and Dom Lagana and this saw them in the 4.5s as well as Darren Morgan, Wayne Newby and Damien Harris, with Crampton running a 4.538 for low ET of the race in the second round.
Crampton’s former Lucas Oils fuel car arrived into Sydney on the Thursday night prior to the event as team owner, Phil Lamattina explains. “We had the car for just two days before competition and the guys managed to put together a race car that was equal to anything else in the country. The LTFR crew is the best in the business and so is Richie Crampton! He’s such a humble guy, who is so capable, it was great to see the way he goes about racing.
“To have the car on the track was an achievement but to have the new car run a 4.538 in the second round of racing – only two hundredths of a second from the Sydney Dragway Track Record and three hundredths away from the quickest pass ever recorded in the country, it was just amazing,” he went on to say. On the success of that run and a first-round win, Crampton faced Wayne Newby for all the marbles.
After a pretty even leave both drivers struggled to get the power down in a peddle fest that saw Crampton’s chutes come out then Newby started having his own problems and this was reflected in the 6.74 to 11.92 time slips.
Crampton was interviewed about his return home to Australia.
Crampton was still happy with his weekend though. “I can’t thank Phil Lamattina and the LTFR crew enough for giving me such a competitive car in such a short time after it came to the track”, he said. “The car is going to a good home and I wish Kelly Bettes [the new driver – Ed.] all the best,” he concluded.
In the other lane Newby recorded the win and told the assembled throng after the race that he hadn’t shed a tear when he saw Crampton’s chutes fall on to the track. He did, however, cement his place at the top of the points table to retain his IHRA Australian Top Fuel Championship.
VOLUME XIX, NUMBER 5 - May 2017
In the first round of competition Mark Mariani was competing against Damien Harris when his engine let go in the traps. While he did bring the pretty blue dragster to a safe stop, the fire was afoot for quite a while after shut down.
As was the case with the Nitro fueled cars the quality of the field in Pro Alcohol was right up there too with plenty of times in the 5.4s and 5.5s. Qualifying didn’t go to plan with Wayne Price being the only racer to get down the track with a 5.779 in an all funny car field.
The next morning things improved however, Craig Glassby suffered a blower explosion about three hundred feet out with the body coming up off the chassis but the burst panel relieved most of the pressure.
Yes, Terry Sainty ran in both Pro classes.
Gary Phillips set low ET of the meet in the first frame with a 5.429 win over Glassby, however the Westralian turned the tables on him in their second-round meeting putting the 19-time champ out of contention for the final. Wayne Price had taken out Terry Sainty with a 5.638 in the first frame and then Robert Ambruosi in the second with a 5.534 putting him in the final.
On the other side of the ladder, Queenslander Steve Reed was cheering after running a personal best of 5.454 in a first-round demolition of Ambruosi. A solo 7.978 fortunately put him where he needed to be in facing the Victorian baker.
In the final Reed nailed the Dodge off the line by nearly a tenth however the Mopar driver caught and passed him at third track but at about the 1,000-foot mark Price suffered a massive explosion and Reed just nipped past his opponent on the line – a 5.756 to a 5.767.
After the event an animated Reed thanked his dad and team and praised the track staff that helped him run his first 5.4-second time. In the Australian championship points race Price pipped Steve Ham by one point to rise to second – 314 to 313, however Gary Phillips still holds a 29-point lead and one hand on his 20th National title going into the final race, the Winternationals at Willowbank Raceway next month.
Perth driver John Zappia has been conspicuous in his absence of the IHRA Pro Slammer championship this season. While he did manage to annex yet his tenth ANDRA Top Doorslammer championship, he waited until his local season had finished before returning to Sydney. In true “Zap’s Rat” style the softly spoken driver ran the quickest ever Doorslammer time in Australia with a 5.635 in qualifying, backing it up with a final round 5.658 for the new IHRA national record.
Despite his success in the record department Zappia was flat beat in his first round of eliminations by Mark Bellerie’s killer.012 light and 5.824 doing it to his .089 bulb and 5.846. Despite a 5.759 in the second round over Robin Taylor he had to watch Gary Phillips and Victor Bray go for the money in the final.
Phillips had changed one thing prior to the race and it made such a difference. “We fitted the latest shock technology available from JRi to the car, and instantly saw an improvement - it's a dream to drive now," said Phillips.
Off the line Bray took the lead with a .084 to .163 for Phillips, however towards half-track Bray’s mount faded and Phillips made sure of the victory with another seventy – a solid 5.722 to an off pace 6.68.
For Phillips, it was a welcome return to form for the Studebaker driver. “We've known that we had the power to run quick, it was just our suspension set up that was letting us down,” he revealed. The win also puts him into second place in the 400 Thunder Championship, just 39 points behind the leader, Mark Belleri, with one event remaining while Bray was equally upbeat.
“The Nitro Thunder event has been a great weekend out for everyone here at Team Bray Racing – any time you can log a few Personal Bests and a shot at the finals, it is a good day,” said the former six-time Doorslammer champion.
Ever since Pro Stock was introduced in Australia in 1975 it has experienced ups and downs and thus the seven-car field was way down on the 20-plus car fields of a few years ago (that said, there are already 11 cars entered for the season ending Winternationals – Ed.).
Aaron Tremayne’s Camaro really was the only entry to go down the track in Q1 with a 7.398 and he returned in Q2 to knock that down to a 6.980 with Jason Hedges GTO doing a 7.090. Round 3 saw Aaron run an improving 6.928 to be slightly ahead of Lee Bektash’s Dodge on a 6.940 while brother Tyronne’s Camaro pumped out a seven flat.
Eliminations saw only three cars with two wins – the Tremayne brothers and Chris Soldatos in his GTO. To figure out who was to run in the final it came down to the lowest ETs and this saw Soldatos with a 7.005 best, Tyronne T with a 6.963 while brother Aaron ran a 6.915 win meaning it was the brothers competing in the final. Both Camaros left within three thousandths of each other but at the other end it was the white Mega Camaro of Aaron that kept the black car from clicking the win light – a stellar 6.903 to a second best 6.962.
With this win Aaron has already tied up the IHRA Pro Stock championship with over 200 points up his sleeve going into the Winternationals but at the awards ceremony brother Tyronne gave his brother some stick.
“I’ll get you back at the Winternationals because I am going to put the ‘good motor’ into my car,” he told the assembled throng. There is no doubt that it will be a race worth waiting for.
Pro Bike saw the return of Maurice Allen to the riding seat doing double duty as the IHRA president and making up the six-bike field. In qualifying reigning Champion Glenn Wooster cranked out a 7.137 on Sunday morning to lead Brad Lemberg back at 7.21. For eliminations only four bikes actually hit the tarmac with Lemberg dipping into the 7.0s.
Lemberg started proceedings with a 7.093 to take out Allen’s 7.738. He then faced the former Australian champion yet again in the second set with a bracket like 7.089 more than covering an improving 7.456. On the other side of the ladder Wooster had lost his first-round race with Daniel Rabnott on a holeshot – a 7.258 being stung by a 7.260. Despite this, he returned the favor for Rabnott when he improved to another 7.137 shutting down a 7.242.
In the final Lemberg and Wooster faced off however in the previous race Allen’s 7.462 tattooed Rabnott’s far superior 7.286 to the tree thanks to a .005 to .197 light.
The final however was more one sided as Lemberg had seven hundredths on the tree and then ran low ET of the meet with a record setting 7.056/185.21 to a second best 7.259 for Wooster.
“I can’t believe how well the bike has been running,” Lemberg admitted, but certainly there was some good rider input as well.
Again, a small field of five bikes faced the starter on the weekend. Despite that there was some great racing with Chris Matherson taking the early lead on Saturday night with an early shut off 6.62 from his McBride Special at 176 mph. Sunday morning saw him back that up with a 6.853.
The Harleys of Chris Porter and Damien Muscat cranked out 6.839 and 6.845 times respectively.
Like Pro Bike, only four bikes returned for eliminations with the Harley of Adam Layton making up the quartet.
Matherson and Muscat ended up both having two wins apiece. Porter was on the receiving end of Muscat’s low ET of the weekend in the first frame – 6.343 to a 6.605 while Matherson used a 6.448 to get by an ailing Layton on a 12.67. The pairs swapped around and this time it was Muscat who won over Layton – a 6.823 to a second best 10.239 while Matherson improved slightly to a 6.403 to put away Porter on a 6.638.
In the final round Matherson was within a tenth of his opponent and obviously dialed some more power in to try and get by his fellow Queensland foe. Off the line the big McBride Special just had too much power and went up in smoke, allowing Muscat’s bracket-like 6.399 through for the win.
“The better rider won on the day,” Matherson conceded. “I just over powered the track and he pounced.”
Muscat didn’t have to say much with his big grin saying it all.
In the lead up to the Nitro Thunder event, the Sydney Dragway crew did an extraordinary job of preparing the track and the result was that the track delivered with scores of PBs and a number of new IHRA national records. Concrete was profile ground all the way and polish cut to remove the bumps and make it very flat. Obviously, all the rubber went as well so the first half of the track had to be rubbered up from bare concrete.
Top Fuel racer Santo Rapisarda actually paid for the tractor seen here to come down to Sydney from Darwin (which took 48 hours to be driven) to lay down rubber on the track after it was cut and polished. The slicks seen here actually spin backwards and despite making an ear piercing sound it did the trick. There was supposed to be a Test & Tune on the weekend before the race, however the track grinding was still going on with entrants informed on the day.
Similarly a second T&T was run on the Wednesday but with the track being so “green” only a handful of runs were completed. Later that night the weekly street meet saw the first rubber go onto the track and so the surface slowly came around. Following an almost 24 hours per day, two-week revitalization of the first 660 feet of concrete racing surface in the lead up to the event, the track delivered with scores of PBs and eight new national records.
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