race reports

East Coast Nationals at Sydney Dragway, Australia


Words and photos by Jon Van Daal

The two Rapisarda International race cars of Damien Harris and Wayne Newby (near lane) had earned their way into the final of Top Fuel. After copious burnouts the two staged quickly and left almost as one. Harris made an early charge from the 60-foot mark and from every mark then on extended his lead while as can be seen here Newby had an oil pump failure that put rods out of the block. Harris took a solid 3.912/306.74 win over his team mate back on a 6.128.


Over 250 entries descended on Sydney Dragway at the start of the month for the IHRA East Coast Nationals. While the first 16-car field of Pro Slammers was on hand, along with nine entries in Top Fuel, they were short in Pro Alcohol, Top Bike and Pro Stock. Add to that constant rain delays on Saturday evening and the event was like pulling teeth. Despite sportsman cars still running after midnight the Pro brackets were completed.


It is hard to believe that in mid-2008 the NHRA moved to a shorter 1,000-foot strip length following the death of Scott Kalitta. ANDRA and IHRA South have until this race remained with the full championship quarter-mile racing length.


Over the Australian off season Santo Rapisarda stated that if the race distance wasn’t reduced to 1,000 feet then he would withdraw his fuel cars from competition as the speeds being recorded over the quarter mile were becoming unsafe. This was duly changed and the East Coast Nationals was thus the first race over the shorter distance.


I must admit when I saw a 4.00 come up on the read-out board at first I was a bit confused but we soon got used to seeing 3.9- and 3.8-second times. The highlight of this event was the late inclusion of Californian Top Fuel driver, Ashley Sandford into the nine-car field. Along with Kelly Bettes and Rachelle Splatt this made three women fuel car drivers in the biggest field seen in quite some time.

The best race of the day came in the semi-finals when Harris faced the Premier Hire car of Peter Xiberras (near lane). As can be seen here, Xiberras moved too soon (by .019) and red lighted but a super close race ensued. Harris’s 3.894/307.79 was enough to turn back a close 3.906/319.14.

In the other Top Fuel semi-final Darren Morgan (near lane) has already struck the tyres just off the line in his race against Wayne Newby. The latter had a half a tenth advantage off the line and with Morgan in all sorts of bother he streaked away to an easy 4.039 to 12.375 win.

The vivacious Ashley Sanford was an instant hit at this event. Her easy going nature made her a big hit with the fans as she waved to the crowd after each pass down the track. Her day came to a sudden end in her first round when she had to pedal her Rapisarda Autosport International entry against teammate and eventual winner, Damien Harris. Her 4.859 was overshadowed by his winning 3.903/314.90 lap.

The unique Sainty engine car didn’t make the first round of competition but a special lap was made by Terry as a tribute to his father, Stan Sainty, who had died in the lead up to the race.

A tyre spinning Phil Read (near lane) watches Wayne Newby streak to a 3.890 victory.

Kelly Bettes (near lane) pedals her car as Darren Morgan speeds to an easy 3.938 win.


What started as a small five-car Pro Alcohol bracket was reduced to four by eliminations with the final being between the blue and silver Chev Monte Carlo of Steve Reed (near lane) and the front engine dragster of Russell Mills. It was a cracker of a race. There was only a hundredth in it off the line and both cars stayed side by side for most of the course but in the end Reed was on a mission when he cranked out low ET of the race with a 5.482 to more than cover Mills’ game 5.560.

The first round (also read semi-final) between Steve Reed’s Monte Carlo and Mark Rowland’s was over on the start line. This saw the latter leave early and red light allowing Reed through for the win. A 5.820 was too good for a 6.098.

While the shape of Russell Mills’ car varies between an altered and a front engine dragster, the Richard Botica-built beast just works with the car make its way to the finals.

Robert Ambrosi

Steve Reed

A predicted eight-car Pro Stock field was reduced to six by the end of qualifying with Aaron Tremayne on top with a 7.001 leading Jason Hedges with a 7.031. As it turned out these two would face each other in the bracket final.  Tremayne, in his Pontiac GXP had his game face on as he took half a tenth on the tree over his rival (.022 to .072) and then ended up running low ET of the race with the only six of the meet – a 6.994/195.39 to a second best slowing 7.89.

Brothers Aaron (near lane) and Tyronne Tremayne faced each other in the semi-final of Pro Stock in their Mega-sponsored Pontiacs. Off the line it was Tyronne in the black car who stole a very slight lead but brother Aaron had caught and passed him with plenty of room to spare as he streaked to a 7.069 to slowing 7.483 win.

Jason Hedges had qualified second in his Decoglaze-sponsored Pontiac GXP with a 7.031. He received a first-round bye when fifth qualifier Bill Perdikaris couldn’t show for the race and then also had a freebie into the final with another solo in the semis (both saw him simply stage, take the green and back out). In the final he faced Aaron Tremayne and after leaving second he never caught his fleeing rival – 6.994 to a slowing 7.890.

Pro Stock-Slides

A small field of five bikes were entered for the Top Bike bracket with three actually qualifying but four out for the first round. As can be seen here Chris Porter in the far lane is already leaning heavily to one side just off the line trailing a bunch of sparks. As both he and opponent Adam Layton on nitro Harleys made their way down the track they both headed for the centreline and started dropping cylinders. While the 9.477 to 9.864 times didn’t reflect it, a good race was had in the end.

The Top Bike first round pairing of Chris Matheson on his McBride special (near lane) and Chris Porter on his Harley saw an upset when Matheson dropped a chain at third track. Porter went on to record his best pass of the weekend with a 6.955 while his opponent rolled to a 9.44-second loss.

The pretty powder blue Harley of Adam Layton qualified second with a 7.128 in the small Top Bike field. In his first-round race against Neville Smith’s similar mount he didn’t receive a time but went through to the final to face Chris Porter. There both bikes stumbled down the track with Porter making the better fist of it – 9.477 to 9.864.

Top Bike Slides


The Vance and Hines powered Suzuki TLR of Brad Lemberg was the most consistent of the six Pro Stock bikes on the property. Despite a woeful .244 light in the first round his 7.280 more than held off the similar mount of George Vella back on a 7.718 while a round two 7.195 solo put him in the final. There he faced the Buell of Corey Buttigieg who on paper had the Suzuki covered that was until he red lighted. A -.082 red light gave the instant win to Lemberg who ran through for a consistent 7.200 for the gold.

The matte black Buell of Corey Buttigeig top qualified with a 7.080 in the six-bike Pro Stock field. When Daniel Rabnott could not return for first round competition Buttigieg received a bye and took a 7.127 solo. Round two saw Maurice Allen on his Vance and Hines Suzuki at a power disadvantage and he took his chances on the tree and lost – a -.250 red light allowed the Buell through with a 7.373. He then faced Brad Lemberg in the final and, despite having him covered on paper, he too red lighted his chances away giving Lemberg the gold.

Maurice Allen’s day job is running the IHRA in Australia but the amiable third generation racer is also a past Pro Stock champion and he went for a skid at the East Coast Nationals. This saw him qualify third with a 7.388 that put him up against Phil Howard in the first frame. Howard was almost thrown from his bike while Allen took off for an easy 8.267 win. He then faced low qualifier, Corey Buttigieg in the semis when he red-lighted by a big margin in an effort to hold off his quicker opponent.


The doorslammer results from this event are at here




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