The storm is coming for ACDelco East Coast Thunder, not of Sydney weather but of one of the most anticipated doorslammer rounds ever held in Australia. The unprecedented arms race that has occurred in the last 12 months or so in the category culminates in this event – this is a must attend if you are a fan of doorslammer racing in Australia.
First off, we are hoping that Sydney Dragway can work some magic with the track once again and produce a surface like we saw at Nitro Thunder earlier in the year. Despite a tricky first day, the second day surface allowed some incredible times to be produced with John Zappia's 5.63 the leader, but also seeing a 5.70 from Ben Bray and a 5.72 from Gary Phillips.
If we get the track right and Mother Nature plays the game, the potential for a new national record is through the roof.
Let's start with Paul Mouhayet. The Moits Racing Ford Mustang recently ran Australia's quickest unofficial Pro Slammer pass with a 5.58 in testing at Sydney Dragway. So Mouhayet clearly has some good data on this track and if conditions are anything like he saw in testing he will have a tune up right away. The US input on this team including Billy Stocklin and Todd and Ty Tutterow has received a lot of attention, but there is no doubt Mouhayet and his team are extremely capable independently too. They have been the first team to get on top of the five speed Liberty gearbox, which threatens to be a game changer in the bracket.
On to reigning ANDRA champ John Zappia. He will be literally be getting off a plane from the USA and into his transporter to tow across to Sydney. He has just reset the world blown doorslammer record to 5.42 in the PDRA Pro Extreme Noonan Racing Camaro. His Fuchs/Dananni Hotshots Monaro is heavier and doesn't have the advantage of a high overdrive PSI C blower, but we're sure the experience has not done his chances of success any harm. Zappia still owns the quickest pass in race conditions and the 5.58 from Mouhayet will be a big carrot in front of the team. So long as the team pays attention to win lights as well as numbers, they are still the favourites.
Scott MacLean will have the next car into the 5.6s, we would be prepared to bet. This professional operation had consistent 5.7s on the boards at the Winternationals and some of the quickest 60 foot times in the game. American crew chief Darren Mayer needs to sort out the car at the top of first gear where it tends to get loose, but if he can then the Monaro should easily find the extra hundredths it needs.
Ben Bray's Gulf Western Oil Corvette is a championship contender in the making, if not already there. But it is not his considerable resume that has us interested, rather the import of US doorslammer star Frankie Taylor to drive a twin Corvette at the event. Taylor was, until Zappia's recent pass, the quickest blown doorslammer driver in the world. With no love lost between the Brays and Zappia, a grudge match between the teams would be one for the ages. Team Bray has begun to close the gap in recent events and we see no reason why Taylor's inclusion will not accelerate that process.
And we haven't even got to the reigning 400 Thunder champion Mark Belleri yet! The fact is, Belleri is one of the most regular finalists out (of course he is, that's why he led the points). That means consistency, and in a field where there are a lot of people focused on big numbers, consistency could be the key. Naturally, the ACDelco Monaro is going to be going for gold at their title sponsor's event.
New kid on the block is Emilio Spinozzi – but we're not sure that he will be at this event with not many laps on a brand new car. The Spinozzi family have made the switch from Pro Stock to Pro Slammer with the Speedmaster Chevelle, utilising a Noonan powerplant with an engine program managed by Mark Brew, while Michael Marriott serves as crew chief. This brains trust will make them a threat as soon as they make their competition debut, be it at this or a future event.
We don't mean to rule anyone out of the running in a quality field that so far sits at 16 cars. Tony DeFelice is going to be quick and former Top Alcohol champion Steven Ham has made the switch to a sedan and brings much knowledge with him. It is almost crazy we haven't even mentioned regular runners like Stuart Bishop or Sam Fenech. The amount of potential winners who will be in Sydney is off the charts.
It's time to get excited, because drag racing should be about the RACING. And this is going to be an all timer!
- Luke Nieuwhof