The lure of a Gulf Western Oil Winternationals title has attracted Pro Alcohol teams from around the country to contest Australia's biggest drag racing event.
While maintaining a top drag racing team can consume resources like no other sport, Pro Alcohol remains a category where the working man or woman can field a competitive car and seek all the glory of a national win.
Rob Ambruosi knows well the highs and the lows of chasing wins at over 400kmh. The energetic Victorian secured his first 400 Thunder event victory last November at Sydney Dragway's East Coast Thunder, but his ecstasy turned to agony recently at the same venue when his 3000 horsepower Funny Car caught fire during a run.
Amazingly, Ambruosi has been able to get the car repaired and race-ready in under a month so he can return for another shot, this time at the Gulf Western Oil Winternationals.
“To come back from what happened to us at our last meeting in such a short period of time has been very physically and financially draining,” he said. “My daughter (Monique) and I love drag racing with all our hearts, which is why we just can’t give up on it.
“The body of the car remained in Sydney after the last meeting as the damage was so severe we couldn't even put it back on the car. Terry from IM Composite Technologies did some amazing carbon fibre repair work on the body, while Moits Racing allowed us to keep the body at their shop in the meantime.”
A Gulf Western Oil Winternationals victory is the pinnacle of Australian drag racing, a fact not lost on Ambruosi as he draws closer to opening day.
“(A Winternationals win) would mean everything as it is the toughest and biggest meeting of the year,” he said. “Everybody wants to win the Winternationals and it is a real challenge to do so. You can never bet on a drag race, because everybody is capable of achieving the same as anyone else.”
Ambruosi hopes to expand his team in the future to add another race car for his daughter.
“Monique and I are extremely passionate about this sport and are hoping to one day have someone believe enough in us to sponsor our father-daughter team,” he said.
The big names of Pro Alcohol like Gary Phillips and Steve Reed are often to be found near the top of the points, but their domination is frequently challenged by smaller, up and coming teams.
Sydney's Brett White has been steadily improving his Funny Car and believes so long as you can qualify into the eight-car eliminations field you have a good chance at winning the event.
“The Winternationals is our biggest race of the year,” he said. “It’s the meeting you plan for all year and everyone brings their A-game. To win the Winters would mean the world to myself and our team. I came close racing in Modified eliminator, and with my father Alan winning the Winters back to back in the nineties it would be great to join him.”
White is hoping that he can drop his personal best elapsed time of 5.70 seconds and come into race day ready to upset more favoured teams.
“We are aiming to put the car in the 5.60s. If we qualify for race day that would be a great achievement with the amount of quality cars attending this year's event. I think the key to success with our team is to keep chipping away at this car and combination. We have under 20 runs with this car and each time we go out we learn new things.”
One of the newest drivers competing in Pro Alcohol will be Victorian Cameron Ambesi. The dragster driver said it would be a dream come true to experience success at the Gulf Western Oil Winternationals.
“At the Winternational you have an awesome track and you get to compete against the best teams,” he said. “We are a relatively new team to Pro Alcohol and we are still experimenting with combinations for the dragster. So this weekend we would be thrilled to continue to improve on our personal bests.
“I think if we continue on the path that we are taking we will achieve our goals, hopefully in the near future.”
The Gulf Western Oil Winternationals runs from June 6 to 9 at Willowbank Raceway. Tickets are available online at www.willowbankraceway.com.au or at the gate.
- Willowbank Raceway Media Release