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It didn't take long for two of Australia's foremost drag racers on methanol to return to the top of their respective categories this 400 Thunder season.

Paul Mouhayet took out the New Years Thunder event from Steven Ham at Willowbank Raceway on the weekend. Mouhayet was back in the form that won him last season's 400 Thunder Pro Slammer championship and said the team's consistency came through finding the sweet spot for the Proline Racing Hemi-powered Ford Mustang.

"We changed engine combo after last season and just worked out what it likes," he said. "It's always good to know you're back on your game. The car ran smooth all day and we didn't have any issues at all."

With championship leader Kelvin Lyle enduring a less than successful event that finished with a devastating top end crash, Mouhayet ascended to the top of the points. There is now a valuable 39 point gap to second placed John Zappia, who is arguably Mouhayet's chief rival for the championship. 

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Joining Mouhayet in returning to a championship lead was Gary Phillips. The Pro Alcohol veteran was in a class of his own at Willowbank and defeated reigning champion Steve Reed in the final with a stunning 5.43 run.

"Everything went perfect. We were trying some stuff this weekend that worked well. Didn’t have to do anything other than standard maintenance," Phillips explained.

"It’s always good race against Steve. After racing each other for around 40 years, neither of us usually leave anything on the table. That’s the fun part!"

Phillips has been running an intermittent schedule since the loss of major sponsor Lucas Oil, but said he intends on competing at all of the remaining Pro Alcohol rounds for the season, and some Pro Slammer rounds.

"With the support of our associate sponsor Alpine Fresh Refrigerated Transport we will be there for Pro Alcohol, and we’ll take Pro Slammer one race at a time."