East Coast Thunder dodged rain and wind during qualifying day at Sydney Dragway for the second event of the 400 Thunder season, with most of the schedule getting down the track.
Top Fuel entered a new era, running over 1000 feet for the first time at Sydney Dragway in the first event of their championship.
While Australia has seen 1000 feet events before at Adelaide and Calder, this was the first time it has been contested over a track designed for quarter mile racing. Unfortunately we only saw two sessions with the third cancelled due to rain.
Wayne Newby led the way following a second session 3.91/312mph run. The pass came despite being shut off due to some rain drops at the start of the session, with the team able to reset the car for the top qualifying effort.
Newby's run shuffled team mate Damien Harris' 3.93/305mph down the order, with the Rapisarda Autosport International team looking like the ones to beat.
Peter Xiberras was just behind Harris, running a 3.94/312.78mph, top speed of the event so far. Xiberras also recorded a 3.98 in the first session of qualifying, to be the first driver to officially clock a three second 1000 foot run in Australia (though others have obviously run into the threes for 1000 feet as an incremental timer on quarter mile passes). The Premiair team was running their ex- Morgan Lucas Racing car for the first time but had some troubles with the dragster popping the blower when Xiberras got out of the throttle on each run.
Darren Morgan's 4.001 at 300.46mph in the first session was officially the first 300mph pass on 1000 feet in Australia, though the AEG Powertools was also a victim of the rain in the second session. Unlike Newby, Morgan did not return.
Kelly Bettes drove the Lamattina Top Fuel Racing entry to a 4.06/299mph, the team perhaps hoping for some better numbers.
It's no secret Rachelle Splatt has been struggling a little with the Gulf Western Oil dragster in recent events but she turned the tide with a strong 4.11/301mph in the first session. The run was Splatt's first 300mph clocking in Australia – a long held personal goal. The second session was not as successful, with Splatt knocking the blower off the top of the motor.
US driver Ashley Sanford was a hit with fans and a skating 4.31 in the first qualifying session stayed her best for the day. Unfortunately she struck the tyres just past the Christmas tree in the second session and could not improve.
Phil Read was a welcome return to the field in the 'Black Mamba'. A planned 300 feet shut off run produced extremely strong numbers early in the first session, with the car hiking the front end and charging to 60 feet in just .82 of a second. The 4.97 on the scoreboards remained his best, as the team's second run saw them smoke the tyres on the hit. That meant he had the last place in the eight car field.
Sadly, Terry Sainty missed the field, with the new Sainty dragster only managing a launch in the second session. With Stan Sainty's funeral held just the day before at Sydney Dragway, almost everyone at the event wanted to see the dragster perform, but sadly it wasn't to be, with rain robbing them of a final attempt to make the eight.
Pro Slammer was a show to be proud of as the field laid down serious numbers and new players entered the fray.
Scott MacLean top qualified in his Holden Monaro, a 5.65/255mph run his quickest in competition (he recorded a 5.63 earlier in the week in testing). It was a thing of beauty to watch the car carry the front wheels out to quarter track.
John Zappia went perilously close to the centre line on a 5.70 for second place, blowing a foam box off the stripe with his exhaust, but close enough was good enough for the Fuchs/Dananni Hotshots Monaro.
A 5.72 from Paul Mouhayet filled third spot in the Komatsu/Mack Mustang, the team finding a level of consistency that will make them a threat on race day.
Reigning 400 Thunder champion Mark Belleri showed he is not out of the game yet in the ACDelco Holden Monaro, a 5.76 personal best keeping them in touch.
Other performances that raised our eyebrows included Tony DeFelice's 5.83 which we think may be a personal best, Steven Ham's 5.87 run in his first event in competition, Geoff Gradden's personal best 5.87 and Michelle Davies' 6.05, which was unfortunately postscripted by a hit with the braking area wall. The team have repaired the damage overnight and will be out for eliminations.
A small Pro Alcohol field was headed by Steve Reed's first session 5.48, while a 5.59 from Russell Mills slotted into second. Just two cars fronted for the final session, with Rob Ambruosi's 'Maserati' hitting its best of the night, a 5.72.
Pro Stock saw Aaron Tremayne just outside the sixes with a 7.001 best to top qualify. While the news was good for the Mega Racing team, things were not so great for their rival Chris Soldatos, when a burnout over-rev saw the engine drop two valves - they will be out for race day.
Top Bike saw four nitro machines contesting qualifying, with Chris Matheson top on a 6.31 run. Adam Layton slotted into second with a 7.12 from the Gulf Western Harley, which has some neat new header pipes throwing flames in a v-formation.
It looks like the Corey and Brad show in Pro Stock Bike so far, with the pair putting a few tenths on the rest of the field. Buttigieg's 7.08/183mph on the Buell went close to the record, while Lemberg stalked with a 7.14/185mph.
Racing begins today, with cold conditions set to provide a challenge for teams.