Making his first appearance in the ANDRA Pro Series at the Nitro Champs in Sydney was Victorian rider Rob Cassar – and it didn’t take the long time sportsman rider long to make an impact.
Cassar defeated former champion Jay Upton in round one of racing in a true David and Goliath match up.
“It was good to beat Jay, he is at the top of the class but you can never under estimate the smaller teams,” he said.
The breakthrough came despite a rough few qualifying sessions where the bike had some parts and tune up issues and ended up torching one of the cylinder chambers.
“We had done some changes to the clutch since the last meeting and the new bolt upgrade to the slider clutch did not work,” Cassar said.
“So working hard and me in a panic, we made it to the first qualifier which was a bit of a downer with the bike launching and then stopping. We had too much fuel which caused the motor to bog.
“Next qualifier we had to get in the field so we took some fuel out and we were ready. The launch was better this time but as we got out, the bike had a big backfire which was not good.
“We went back to the pits and had a look. It didn’t look too bad until we took the head off and number three chamber was torched. We didn’t know if we could fix it, but one of Terry Sainty’s crew said he could fix it and have it back in the morning.”
The team returned to the track the next day to put the bike back together in a thrash to make it to the first round were they were to face Upton.
“I’ve raced (Jay) in Top Bike a few years back and they described it as David versus Goliath, this time it was David’s turn,” Cassar said.
“We went into pre-stage and just sat there. I was going to ask Jay if he would like a cup of tea! The starter waved us in and Jay went in and I was sitting there saying should I do the old Modified Bike trick and hold him out just that little bit longer? I did, and so now I had control of the race.
“I came on to the two step and went into full stage. The bike launched and had a nitrous sneeze and then took off again. I didn’t know what had happened to Jay but I just flew past him, I looked over my left shoulder, saw he was not there, so I backed off.”
The semi finals saw Cassar up against nitro Harley rider Chris Porter but making a final would not be on the cards at this event.
“I holeshot him and was in front to 330 feet but the roar of the Harley went flying past and I could not even hear my bike change gears,” he said.
While Cassar is going to spend the Winternationals in Competition Bike, he is looking forward to the exposure that the ANDRA Pro Series will provide next season when he will also have a new engine for the challenge.
“The new combination should put the team into the six second zone,” he said.
“I have wanted to move up to Top Bike which is why we bought the new bike a couple of years ago.
“The new motor will have a MTC cylinder head,1500 cc Pro Mod pistons, MTC block, R&D five speed auto and lots more NOS.”
The Kawasaki will be in the style of the Pro Mod bikes which are now running as quick as 4.0 seconds on the eighth mile in the ADRL in the USA.
“They are certainly big in the States. There are only a few of these bikes here in Australia but I think they are the affordable way to go and I hope more will go to Top Bike,” he said.
“Currently we have quite a few old parts that have copped quite a hammering from my Mod Bike days – the new motor will certainly fix this and with any luck it will be like a bracket bike.”
Cassar first got involved in drag racing by crewing for former Pro Stock Motorcycle rider Igor Krasnowsky. He began racing for himself in 1996 in Modified Bike at Calder and Adelaide until both tracks stopped running ANDRA events.
He has even raced in the US twice, going to the final of an event in 2009 in Ohio.
“It has certainly been very difficult to have a consistent and competitive bike without a home track to test on,” he said.
“Our trips to Sydney and Willowbank are our testing sessions. Not to mention me being consistent without the practice.”
It’s the thrill of the acceleration that keeps him coming back however.
“With the NOS you really know when you are on a run,” he said.
“I have never ridden on the street; I just went drag racing. I love the adrenalin and feeling the front wheel in the air.”