The Gulf Western Oil Winternationals will have an international flavour in 2018 thanks to the Pro Slammer category where two overseas drivers will compete.
The USA's Frankie Taylor has made himself a fan favourite as part of Team Bray Racing this 400 Thunder season but coming 'across the ditch' to play for the first time on June 7 to 10 at Willowbank Raceway will be New Zealand's Trevor Smith.
Smith is a two times New Zealand Nationals winner with their Top Doorslammer class, running a best of 6.26 seconds with his Chev-powered 1975 Holden Statesman.
“The Gulf Western Oil Winternationals are a great event,” he said. “We have been probably eight or ten times as spectators but to be part of it as racers is a huge bucket list tick for our whole team.”
Team Bray Racing will also play a role in Smith's Winternational campaign, helping him set up a new Hemi motor.
“I originally met the Brays through Rod Harvey (a Factory Xtreme racer who has also driven the Statesman for Smith) some five or so years ago,” Smith explained. “Victor and Ben offered me a deal to bring the car over and set up the Hemi motor into 'Old Yella' – it was a deal I couldn't refuse and they have been great. They are one of the best teams out there and just working alongside them is a privilege and an honour.”
While it looks like a wild caricature of a muscle car now, Smith's Holden Statesman started out life as a regular daily driver he purchased from his parents. The Australian icon was then taken to the drag strip and upgraded to produce 14 second quarter miles, before the addition of nitrous and a few more engine upgrades saw a nine second run eventually extracted.
Obviously Smith got carried away and nowadays not much is left of the original bar the body.
“'Old Yella' has done well with winning two national events. We competed with a big block Chev 496ci block and D-model PSI supercharger and we have had lots of fun but it's time to step up to the Hemi - we were probably the only team running a Chev motor.”
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While Team Bray benefits from a short drive to the Gulf Western Oil Winternationals, Smith has to navigate a logistical nightmare in making sure the Statesman makes it to Australia on time and in good condition.
“It has been one of the biggest things I've done and it is strange seeing your car go out the driveway, hoping like hell you will see it again,” he said. “GT Logistics looked after the whole deal for us they have been great to work with.”
Smith is realistic that with a bump spot for Pro Slammer likely to be in the five second zone he would need a massive personal best to make the field – but being part of an event on the scale of the Gulf Western Oil Winternationals is enough for him.
“Just to run the car at such a big event and to be part of it is great. As I've always said, time wise it will run what it will run.”
Pro Slammer is one of the hottest fields at the Gulf Western Oil Winternationals, featuring a fingernail-biting championship fight between John Zappia and Paul Mouhayet, plus superstars of the class including Ben Bray, Frankie Taylor, Mark Belleri and more.
Also featuring at the event will be the 10,000 horsepower Top Fuel dragsters, Pro Alcohol, Pro Stock, Top Bike, Pro Bike and a dozen other supporting classes in the final round of the 400 Thunder Professional Drag Racing Series season.
The Gulf Western Oil Winternationals runs from June 7 to 10 at Willowbank Raceway. For more information head to www.willowbankraceway.com.au.
The Gulf Western Oil Winternationals runs from June 7 to 10 at Willowbank Raceway. For more information head to www.willowbankraceway.com.au. Image courtesy SE Photography.