For the first time in over ten years drag racing returned to Adelaide International Raceway with the Centennial 1/8th Mile Challenge.
The drag racing starved Adelaide public flocked to the venue causing some controlled chaos and the weather added to the drama delaying the start, but the hard working crew with special help from the Willowbank and Hidden Valley track prep guys got the track ready for racing around lunch time.
Qualifying became a one hit deal for everyone, the green track got better as the meeting progressed, but some teams still found a solid setup hard to find for the rapidly changing track. Despite no major incidents once racing commenced the tracks noise curfew stopped the finals of the brackets from being held. Results were determined on how well racers did in the semi finals to decide the winners.
Many local racers from days gone by appeared at the event showing that the passion for the sport has not dropped in its ten year absence. Along with this were scores of new competitors and new faces at the track, many going to a drag racing event for the first time in their life. From the reaction of the crowd and local media it has to be said that the sport has gained many new fans and that the passion in the existing drag racing fans of South Australia has been lifted to an even higher level.
The event was organised through the determination of Rino D’Alfonso, a local Top Doorslammer racer who wanted to see the return of drag racing in Adelaide. D’Alfonso worked tirelessly through his company ONN Promotions for the past twelve months to construct this event and deliver the great success it achieved. Rewardingly D’Alfonso’s has been the talk of the town in South Australia since the announcement of the event and everyone showed their gratitude by giving him a standing ovation during the opening ceremony.
D’Alfonso was equally thrilled with the performance of the event.
“In my eyes the event was an absolute success as the drivers were happy, the spectators were happy and impressed with the whole event,” D’Alfonso said.
“There were 11,220 spectators at the event, with 10,123 paying customers. The line up to get into the place was approximately 3km long with people parking along side and backstreets or where ever they could find a parking spot.
“The police were also in attendance controlling traffic but it was far greater turnout than what they expected as some people were sent away. This issue will be resolved prior to the next event.
“The entrant email folder for the next event has doubled in competitors wanting to race, we could easily have a bigger event then the WinterNationals competitor wise,” he said.
Despite the shaky rain induced start Adelaide International Raceway finally came alive with the noise of blown alcohol engines, the program had Top Doorslammers, Pro Stock, Alcohol Funny Cars, a Pro Stock and Top Bike featured as headliners. The only group one bracket that was not there was Top Fuel and that was only because the new Top Fuel team of Scott Ferguson was still waiting on parts to come from the USA.
John Cannuli and Debbie O’Rourke showed the crowd what they have been missing for the past ten years as the professional classes roared into action, the crowd cheered as they laid down two nice smoky burnouts. Local racers Gary Busch and Frank Intini were next to give the crowd more Top Alcohol action.
Debbie O'Rouke showed the boys how to do it in the Funny Car dominated bracket, a very good 4.020|183.41 MPH held up as overall low ET of the event just edging out Busch to take the win.
Gary Busch who normally runs in Supercharged Outlaws or Competition was not far off and took the runner up trophy with a fractionally slower 4.023|179.03 MPH.
John Cannuli was pulling double duties with his Doorslammer and Funny Car, and finished with a 4.347|170.10MPH
Top Doorslammer took to the stage and Victor Bray was first up in qualifying showing everyone at the event one of his trade mark burnouts alongside Maurice Fabietti. Peter Kapiris and Ben Bray then went head to head followed by John Zappia and John Cannuli.
Ben Bray was on a roll and a very solid last round of racing took the win with a 4.226 at 176.43mph.
Victor Bray was not left out of the family celebrations making earning the runner up title with a 4.246 at 174.28mph.
John Zappia was just shaded out of the final standings by only two thousandths of a second with a 4.248 but clocked 178.42mph the highest speed of the bracket.
Next up was Pro Stock with Lee Bektash and Michael Ali taking to the start line. Pro Stock found it was not who had the power but who could get it to the ground with a tricky green track, clutch settings were a mind bend leaving the cars way off their mid to high 4 seconds times.
Arthur Kolaroff's 5.699 at only 83.64 mph event win time showed how hard that right set up was to find.
Enzo Dimizio showed the crowd the lack of traction by shooting sideways just past the 60ft marker when he pulled second gear, a 9.731 at only 43.61 mph took out the third spot.
Michael Ali was awarded the runner up spot with a 6.076 at 85.09 mph.
Lee Bektash who is normally at the pointy end of the field had large amounts of wheel spin and just could not get the car to go much past the 60ft under full power.
Dennis Grant and Maurice Allen then showed the crowd some two wheeled action with an unusual Pro Bike versus Top Bike battle, though Dennis Grant’s Harley ran in to problems after the first run.
With only three Super Stock cars it was the Trans Am of Tony Caroscio running B/MSA taking the win with a 6.068 at 114.97 mph.
Louis Svingos in his B/MS VF Chrysler took some damage in the gear box, his time 6.637 at 106.66 mph was not enough to take the runner up trophy which went to the Charger of Marino Prodan.
The winner in Outlaws was the 1928 Ford Pickup belonging to Neil Raymond with a 4.68 at 152.25mph
Robert McDonald took the runner up trophy home to add to his growing trophy collection since adding a blower to the Monaro a short time ago with a 5.43
Sean Kennedy was third with a 6.29 but did put a scare into some photographers on one run as the wagon had a close look at the wall.
Steven Walker showed the spectators good old fashioned supercharged FED big burnout action that had them on their feet wanting more.
Kenny Stewart is not unknown in the Modified winners spot and this meeting was no different, his 4.959 at 140.60 MPH was quick enough for the win
Simon Barlow was not that far off and took the runner up trophy with a 4.999 at 137.65
Leanne Braggs in her super neat Altered was in the third spot with a 5.173 at 134.04 MPH.
Robert Sitko heavily rolled his old super street hatch back Torana last season but came back here and took out the runner up trophy with his new Super Sedan. Joe Ridenti took the win in his Torana with a 5.76.
Joe Carbone’s VK Commodore finished in third with a 6.515 at 105.59MPH.
One of the sweetest Super Sedans around was the twin turbo Falcon of George Bastiras who has just recently just started racing this show car. If you ever see this at the track take a look at the detail all around this car.
Roc Puccini has finally traded in old white Monaro for a younger model (the ex Shaun Kerkman Monaro), but with the GTO body work in place. Puccini was just one of a few that used to terrorize the AIR Raceway and part of the "we’re back" brigade that raced this meeting.
Ned Karanovic and his blue shoebox ‘57 Chev was one that had the older spectators talking as this car has not changed in the 10 year break in racing, still missing its very heavy front bumper.
Peter Planca took on the wall after the car turned right in the burnout.
The winner of Super Street was Joe Jurkovic in his small block Dodge Dart with a 7.093 at 96.16 MPH.
Anton Geradis claimed the runner up in his VH Commodore.
Rounding out third was the VF Valiant of Chris Kotadis with a 7.374 at 92.77 MPH
Chris Minderds had the Turtle FJ out for them that like the old nostalgia race cars.
Matt Visentin had the HQ Monaro torque twisting the front runners high off the line
Winner in Street was the Holden One Tonner of Christopher Zauch.
Runner up was the XR6 Turbo of Allen Carli.
Bailey Datson won the Junior Dragster bracket with a 8.331 taking the win over Jess Turner.
Emma Williams took out the third spot with a 8.376.
Matt Weldan took a victory in Modified Bike with a 6.507 at 108.26 MPH.
Phillip Gale was the runner.
Toni Keating clocked a few more runs to his bike, Keating would surely have the most number of runs on the same bike than anyone in the country.
Finally we leave this report with the crew of Adelaide stalwart Bob Sherry and his "Lil Gangster Nova" dressing for the part celebrating the return of drag racing too Adelaide.
This event was not about the racing, times or winners, it was a celebration for the return of racing to the city of Adelaide and lay a solid foundation to commence more serious events coming in 2012.
Photos by Dave Murray (TAD Photography) & Richard Smith (Team Bray Racing)