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Words and photos by Jon Van Daal

here is no doubt that the 2005 version of the ACDelco East Coast Nationals held at Western Sydney International Dragway, Sept. 16-18, was a race which was dotted with highs and lows. The first five-second doorslammer pass down under quickly comes to mind as does a whole bunch of excellent times in the Pro Bike, Top Bike and Top Doorslammer classes. However, this was offset by the loss of most of Friday to rain as well as the Saturday night being cut short by another rain shower.

In the week leading up to the ACDelco East Coast Nationals there was a test and tune day at the Western Sydney track which saw many local and interstate racers check out their latest combinations. The Andrew Cowin Rocket racing team certainly pulled out the highlight of the day with a late afternoon 4.61/322.96 mph lap which shot them to early favouritism for the event and unofficially made their fueller the quickest and fastest outside the United States. Still who would have thought that with this head start that they and every other fuel team would find it so hard to get down the track come race day.

One statistic which really hit me was the fact there were so many second-generation racers in the Top Fuel field. Steve and Phil Read, Luke Shepherd and Rachelle Splatt and obviously Andrew Cowin followed in their father's footsteps, and another newsy nugget is that Splatt, Cowin and Steve Read had all raced in America.

Round one opened with Cowin taking on Darren Morgan and this time Morgan had more of a handle on keeping the nose down but at half track the car burst into flames while Cowin lit his bullet up to boot on a winning 4.77/284.93 which totally covered Morgan's 6.57. Terry Sainty then took on Splatt in the next pairing and every time Sainty put the power down over the weekend he went up in smoke and this was the case again. In the other lane Splatt streaked to a 5.05/276.41 for the win but a damaged piston turned the motor into a 500 cubic inch oil pump as it oiled the lane down from start to finish which lead to a clean up that went over an hour.

The Top Fuel dragster of Steve Read had a clutch malfunction which sent a large sheet of flame from under the blower as it struck the tyres and overpowered the track.

Following the flash of flame, the engine's blower came away from the manifold and hung to one side like a dead soldier. Luckily he had a single in the semis and still made it to the final.

Bob Shepherd and Steve Read were paired in the semi, but Shepherd could not make the call and Read made the solo. In the other semi pairing, Cowin cranked out low ET and top speed on the race with a 4.73/308.99 easily sending Splatt's 5.14 back on the trailer.


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