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harris

Willowbank Raceway witnessed an incredible qualifying day at the 2018 Gulf Western Oil Winternationals, with quick performances across the board as racers prepare for the dramatic climax to the 400 Thunder drag racing season.

After rain brought an early stop to qualifying on Friday, Saturday dawned with nearly perfect weather, enabling teams to throw all the horsepower they could muster at the track.

Top Fuel qualifying saw the Australian record change hands several times as Damien Harris and Kelly Bettes gave a preview of the 400 Thunder championship battle set to unfold today in eliminations.

Bettes struck the first blow with a 3.808 at 513.72kmh (319.22mph) in the first qualifying session from the Lamattina Top Fuel Racing dragster, the quickest and fastest run ever in Australia.

But it was Harris in the Rapisarda Autosport International ride who would have the final say with a scorching 3.784 run at 524.50kmh (325.92mph) in the final qualifying session.

“It was really moving around down at the top end but I wasn't lifting (off the throttle),” Harris said after the pass.

The day also saw the quickest ever side-by-side race in Australian drag racing history with Bettes and Wayne Newby running 3.887 and 3.862 respectively for a 3.874 second average.

Top Fuel Qualifying Order (note all qualifying orders in this article are unofficial and based on 1320go)

1 DAMIEN HARRIS 3.784 325.92
2 KELLY BETTES 3.808 319.22
3 WAYNE NEWBY 3.862 315.78
4 ASHLEY SANFORD 3.966 260.76
5 RACHELLE SPLATT 4.183 297.22
6 ANTHONY BEGLEY 5.505 141.61

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ham2

Pro Slammer saw an unexpected name atop the standings as Queensland's Steven Ham clocked a 5.652 second run to lead the way from a 5.653 by Paul Mouhayet and a 5.655 by John Zappia.

The Pro Slammer field was at record pace, with Mark Belleri's 5.804 anchoring the field in eighth place, the quickest bump spot in the sport's history by seven hundredths of a second.

Zappia's points lead was eroded slightly by Mouhayet's qualifying performances, but Mouhayet will still need to go a round further than Zappia on race day to clinch the 400 Thunder championship. The pair are on the same side of the ladder and could meet in the semi finals.

Pro Slammer Qualifying Order

1 STEVEN HAM 5.652 255.58
2 PAUL MOUHAYET 5.653 257.19
3 JOHN ZAPPIA 5.655 255.82
4 SAM FENECH 5.708 255.48
5 GARY PHILLIPS 5.740 251.06
6 MARTY DACK 5.772 245.23
7 BEN BRAY 5.773 251.86
8 MARK BELLERI 5.804 248.25
---
9 SCOTT MACLEAN 5.831 240.04
10 STUART BISHOP 5.880 248.61
11 FRANKIE TAYLOR 5.894 219.94
12 PAUL CANNULI 5.926 241.45
13 ANDREW SEARLE 5.939 235.06
14 JASON DONNELLY 6.010 242.93
15 EMILIO SPINOZZI 6.127 244.96
16 MICHELLE DAVIES 6.157 234.90
17 TREVOR SMITH 6.232 218.19
18 VICTOR BRAY 6.403 195.22
19 RUSS PAVEY 6.840 125.68

jonsting

Jon Sting recorded the quickest Pro Alcohol dragster pass in 400 Thunder history with a stunning 5.442 to top qualify, followed closely by Gary Phillips' 5.461. Championship leader Steve Reed is well and truly in touch following his best of a 5.506 and will secure the 400 Thunder title if he can win the first round of racing.

Like Pro Slammer, Pro Alcohol was a quick field with Justin Walshe holding the bump spot on a 5.706 run from his altered.

Pro Alcohol Qualifying Order

1 JON STING 5.442 257.53
2 GARY PHILLIPS 5.461 259.71
3 STEVEN REED 5.506 265.17
4 DARREN FRY 5.572 258.22
5 RUSSELL MILLS 5.579 238.76
6 LUKE MARSDEN 5.594 257.73
7 ROBERT AMBRUOSI 5.681 250.55
8 JUSTIN WALSHE 5.706 246.98
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9 GREG CLAYTON 5.738 241.93
10 CHRIS HARGRAVE 5.77 255.77
11 WAYNE PRICE 5.777 237.09
12 JOHN CANNULI 6.028 191.48

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tremaynesaturday

Aaron Tremayne was crowned as 400 Thunder Pro Stock Champion by virtue of qualifying for the race day field. Pro Stock was one of the few 400 Thunder pro divisions to complete a Friday qualifying session, where Wayne Daley's 6.979 time stood as leader. But Saturday would be all about Tremayne and a 6.976 second run snatched the top qualifying position – Tremayne's third six second pass of the event so far. Western Australia's Jodi Racco holds the number eight bump spot with a 7.054 pass.

Pro Stock Qualifying Order

1 AARON TREMAYNE 6.976 197.16
2 WAYNE DALEY 6.979 196.3
3 TYRONNE TREMAYNE 7.005 196.13
4 JASON HEDGES 7.02 195.96
5 CHRIS SOLDATOS 7.032 194.27
6 BRIAN PURSELL 7.051 195.03
7 JODI RACCO 7.054 193.49
8 BILL KOTSIAS 7.113 192.99
9 BRUCE LEAKE 7.114 190.65
10 BILL PERDIKARIS 7.157 191
11 PAUL BEAUCHAMP 7.171 182.95

crowleysaturday

Luke Crowley proved the speed king of Pro Bike, becoming the first rider in Australia to go into the 190mph zone. Crowley finished with a best speed of 308.11kmh (191.46mph) and went as quick as 7.060, just four thousandths of a second away from the Australian record for elapsed time, currently held by Brad Lemberg who is qualified second on a 7.169. A nine bike field meant one rider would have to miss out and that was unfortunately South Australia's Phil Howard, who had thrashed just to make it to the Gulf Western Oil Winternationals after a crash in Sydney last month.

In an exciting race for the fans, 400 Thunder Pro Bike points leader Corey Buttigieg will take on second placed Maurice Allen in round one.

Pro Bike Qualifying Order

1 LUKE CROWLEY 7.06 191.46
2 BRAD LEMBERG 7.169 185.95
3 GLEN WOOSTER 7.234 184.37
4 MAURICE ALLEN 7.316 182.7
5 COREY BUTTIGIEG 7.319 176.6
6 DANIEL RABNOTT 7.441 174.32
7 ANDREW BADCOCK 7.492 170.36
8 MARK HANCOCK 7.899 167.2
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9 PHIL HOWARD 8.17 119.94

matheson

A small Top Bike field saw Australian champion Chris Matheson pump out a quick 6.347 to make his intentions for race day clear. Top Bike will be running on an all-run format for Sunday. 

400 Thunder eliminations will commence from 11.46am on Sunday with the first round of Top Fuel.