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With qualifying for the 2018 Sunset Strip Nationals now complete, the stage has been set for a full day of exciting racing action at Mildura’s Sunset Strip on Sunday, 23 September.

The event marks round three of the 2018/2019 Summit Racing Equipment Sportsman Series and is being hosted by the Sunraysia Drag Racing Association this weekend.

In a record-breaking field for the Victorian venue, 186 entries were received for the event which kicked off today with qualifying ahead of tomorrow’s eliminations racing. When all was said and done, it was Warren Smith (Super Gas), Zara Board (Summit Racing Equipment Junior Dragster), Chris Hosken (Modified Bike), Robyn Phillis (Super Street), Robert Camilleri (Super Sedan), Simon Barlow (Modified), Paul Stephen (Supercharged Outlaws), Amanda Martin (Top Sportsman), Danny Rickard (Competition Bike) and David Roberts (Super Comp) who set the fastest qualifying times for their respective brackets.

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On his way to becoming the Sunoco 260GT Plus Super Comp Top Qualifier, EE/DA racer David Roberts was one of a number of Super Comp racers to run under current national record markers.

“To be honest we weren’t expecting the car to go that fast, it ran a 4.19s pass and we were expecting to go under the record only by a little bit; we weren’t expecting to top qualify - we are a bit speechless about it all,” the 20 year old from Newcastle said of his first top qualifying result in his Spitzer HardTail.

“All of the hard work has finally started to pay off. My dad Brett deserves all of my thanks – he is the one that has to pay the bills and he is the only reason that we are in the Top Qualifier position at the moment. Everyone has been trying to compliment my driving but I wouldn’t be able to drive this thing if it wasn’t for my dad, so all my thanks goes out to him. We want to run the entire ANDRA season and fly over to Perth for the Grand Final, so we are on the lookout for a sponsor to help us make that happen at the moment.

“Ahead of tomorrow we are going to make a few changes, but not too many - we are a lot further under the record than some of the other blokes so we are not going to go trying too many things. We are really here for the fun to be honest.

“We have been running this car since 2015, I hopped straight out of Junior Dragster into this thing and it might have been the wrong decision as it was a big step up, but it is all starting to go well now and we are finally getting on top of things!”

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For Danny Rickard, today’s result in Competition Bike was a big bonus as he debuts what is a brand-new 98 Cube Shovelhead V/CB engine configuration in his Harley Davidson.

“Today went really well – we are using this as a bit of a Test ‘n’ Tune really as we have a new engine configuration and we certainly didn’t expect to top qualify,” Rickard said.

“We ran a 5.57s pass and then a 5.61s and a 5.65s and that was with a really soft tune-up in the bike as we are only bedding the engine in – it is brand spanking new.

“We had no dramas; no problems at all with only two minor clutch adjustments, and our thanks goes to Australia’s best V-Rod engine builder, the god of V-Rods: Dan Lesnock from Sydney.

“Tomorrow we will run the same as today, we aren’t going to make any changes to it and are running it pretty tame but it will run 5.5s again – we are running the Round Robin format tomorrow so we should get four runs in as long as the weather holds up with more beautiful weather like today.

“A big thanks also has to go to the Sunraysia Drag Racing Association for putting on an absolutely amazing, brilliant track; the whole event is perfect and this track is really, really good.”

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Another racing successfully debuting new machinery today was Amanda Martin, who top qualified in her new Chevy Cobalt in Top Sportsman.

“I love driving this car, it is just like driving my BMW, it is so smooth!” Martin said.

“Our first pass went just how we expected it to go, it was great and we PBed on that one. Unfortunately in the second run we had a flat battery – we have had a new truck built and we didn’t realise the battery wasn’t charging, so we did the burnout and then it died on us. In the third run we went out after having ironed out some problems but by that point the conditions had changed past where we thought they would be and it hit the wheelie bar pretty hard and went towards the centre while spinning the tyres pretty hard, so we aborted that run.

“Now we go into eliminations and we will have a right crack at it and just see what happens – we are pretty confident the car can go rounds, we just don’t know what it is going to PB.

“My thanks goes to my crew Trent and Nick for driving the truck over for me while my other mechanic Phil and I flew over!”

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For Super Gas Top Qualifier Warren Smith, today’s result was part of a perfect comeback to the race track.

“The day today was perfect, the car ran well, I raced it well, my reaction times were good, we set the car up to run what we intended it to do and the weather was good – we are really happy with how everything went today,” Smith explained.

“We haven’t raced for 18 months for various reasons, so it was good to come back out and race and have a good day, hopefully it all goes well tomorrow.

“The obvious goal tomorrow is to win, but the first goal will be to get past the first round and we will see what happens after that! In the meantime I have to thank my dad Ian Smith and my crew Michael Bibby – dad is the boss!” he laughed.

The second and final day of the Sunset Strip Nationals at Mildura’s Sunset Strip will kick off from 10.00am on Sunday 23 September. Check out the full results run sheets from qualifying. Images courtesy Automotive Event Images.

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