It has been a horror season for the sport, perhaps its worst, even ignoring the off track rumblings, Mother Nature truly was unkind. The Winternationals finale was a race in two parts and in the end was mercifully put down after attempted combined seven days of effort.
The first go on the traditional June long weekend was rained out during qualifying with only a few sportsman classes reaching their first round of eliminations, the decision was made to continue the event in a month’s time to achieve a result. Ironically there had been virtually no rain in that period until the second day of take two which ended any chance of furtherPro Series qualifying, so the fields were set, in some cases on only one qualifying session.
Race day was looking promising with the sun finally out, the fields were a mix bag with little qualifying. To add extra strain all the Pro Series racers had to go into round one with a blind tune up with it being four weeks since they turned a wheel in competition.
Racing was edge of the seat in almost ideal conditions, that was until a blue blip appeared on the radar by the time most brackets had reached the finals. Like a final insult from the weather gods, the heavens opened up for several hours despite it being bone dry several kilometers in every direction. With estimated drying time of 4 hours in the cold temperature, racing would not of been able to resume until after midnight so the decision was made to abandon the event.
Debate raged as to whether to return on Monday or run the finals at the Nationals in Sydney, but in the end a decision was made based on a murky ANDRA rule book policy to award the points according to the round each racer reached and declare the championships. Hopefully this will prompt the new ANDRA Board to development a solid policy of event abandonment’s and rain outs for next season.
Now that the results have finally been resolved by ANDRA here is the combined event wrap for the 2011 Castrol Edge Winternationals.
Phil Read had top qualified with a 4.94 the only car to lay down a somewhat representative run in qualifying, but the team decided to pull out of the rerun at the last moment on the predicted forecast.
Likewise Phil Lamattina also withdrew from the event due to previously planned family commitments with a christening.
Morgan by virtue of attempting to qualify wrapped up the national championship, his first championship as a team owner and with the youngest ever Top Fuel crew chief in Ben Patterson making the calls.
Cory McClenathan had violent tyre shake in the qualifier, but the Rapisarda team were keen to have the American return for the rerun.
In a first round ding dong race Darren Morgan’s 4.72, 309MPH ended McClenathan’s tour who trailed with a 4.90, 281MPH.
Mark Mariani was in the “Red Rattler” with a beneficiary of a solo in round one, but a 4.79, 300MPH run showed the old chassis still can run the numbers.
Just like in his only qualifier Steve Read blew the tyres off on the hit as clutch gremlin bit again, while Harris pedalled his way to the end with a 5.82, 222MPH.
Harris soloed into the final with a very sweet 4.76, 305MPH run
Mariani wanted to repeat his round one performance, and had a big .046 to .109 startline advantage over Morgan before the engine grenade’s allowing the new champion to drive around with a 4.79, 300MPH.
The final was to be Morgan vs Harris who would be chasing his first victory before the weather halted proceedings.
14 Top Alcohol contenders originally fronted for the Winternationals, son of a gun Jamie Noonan was very impressive topping the qualifying with 5.56.
Wayne Newby claimed his national championship qualifying with a 5.58 for second.
Adam Marchant 5.91 (10th) and Wayne Price 5.97 (11th) who was sporting new colours were two non qualifiers who lucked out with the weather.
West Aussie Debbie O’Rourke hung around for the rerun after running a PB 5.77 in qualifying, but had the unenvious job of taking on the newly crowned champion in round one. In a smashing race, Newby only just edged over the line ahead of the funny car with a 5.672 to a 5.673.
Jon Sting qualified in his first field and dropped a PB 5.60 on Steven Ham, but a .201 reaction was not going to get it done against Ham’s .104 reacting 5.63.
Rob Pilkington also trekked back from WA and was rewarded with at least a semi final showing with a 5.74 when Gary Phillips Funny Car launched and rattled out of shape.
Ham had found that consistency they have been chasing for so long with their score sheet for the event 5.71, 5.65 and 5.63 showing an increasing performance. This continued in the semi defeating Newby with a 5.58 after the JBS Tools dragster suffered some horrific tyre shake.
Noonan had easily taken care of Rick Gauci in the first round and while Pilko gave it a shot with a 5.75, the funny car was no match for Noonan’s storming 5.518, 257MPH run.
The final had two 5.50 cars head to head, but it was not to be.
With 20 Doorslammers going for a eight car field it was always going to be monumental task to qualify, the rain cut that down to just the single session leaving some surprising qualifiers. Kapiris on the back of some quick testing repeated the form with a off the trailer 5.85 to lead.
John Zappia did turn a 5.82 in the second qualifying session but the run was discounted when the session was scrapped, he had to sit with his first session 5.91.
Mark Belleri was hanging on to a slim championship hope with a 5.95
Perth’s Daniel Gregorini was sitting on the outside with 6.29, which with withdrawals would of seen him make the field at the rerun if he returned.
Russell Pavey was the winner with the rerun rejig, a qualified Scott Maclean did not return and higher non qualifiers Gregorini and Bishop also withdrew slotting the Corvette into eighth. Pavey ran 6.03 during testing several days before the rerun and a 6.07 in round was not slack, but facing Kapiris barnstorming Studebakers 5.92 in the first round it was a win to the Batmobile.
Belleri received a get out of jail card keeping his championship hopes alive in his first round match up against Murray O’Connor. Belleri’s Camaro hiked the front wheels and headed for the centreline forcing him to lift as O’Connor rocketed on to a 6.13, but leaving a big cherry on the tree.
Ben Bray is back in the five’s with the Monaro, a 5.99 took down Phillips troubled 6.24
Andrew Sutton nearly changed the face of the championship when opponent Zappia had some violent tyre shake and struggled to get off the line, but Sutton’s Corvette powered into a monster half track wheelstand , leaping completely off the Willowbank race surface allowing a recovering Zappia to just sneak past, 6.33 to a 6.35 and sealing another championship for the Monaro driver.
In the first semi final Kapiris cranked a 5.88 against Bray who left before the tree activated.
Belleri did get some revenge taking down Zappia in the other semi with a 5.91 over a pedaling 6.01.
With rain ending the event at this point, the performances have shown next season will be wide open.
Pro Stock did manage three qualifiers before the rerun with Lee Bektash heading the pack of 19 cars with a 7.03 and the anticipation of the first Pro Stock six high.
Dave Newcombe though achieved the feat unofficially with a 6.99 in testing between the two WinterNationals event segments, however he would have to rely on his qualified 7.04 for the event.
Allen Puglia debuted his new Mustang but sat in 17th and did not return for the rerun, his qualifying was not without drama giving the wall a scrape in the braking area.
Arthur Kolaroff had even more problems in his GXP, losing control in the braking area crossing lanes giving the wall a decent nudge, damage though seemed minimal.
Shane tucker was the biggest beneficiary of the rerun when the team qualified 19th after destroying a motor on the dyno days before the event, he was slotted into the field at 12th. Bad news though he would face top qualifier Bektash in round one, a 7.15 would not normally take the victory, but Bektash left a cherry on the tree.
Tyronne Tremayne wasted a 7.08 when he also went cherry picking against Bill Perdikaris.
A 7.04 personal best from Hedges easily defeated Bill Kotsias
Race of the round was a holeshot winning 7.094 from John Barbagallo that held off a 7.091 from Peter Ridgeway.
Aaron Tremayne kept his championship alive downing Denis Whiting 7.06 to 7.17
Jason Grima and Dave Newcombe had run 6.99 and 7.00 respectively in testing only 2 days earlier, and the first official six second pass was again on the mind of everyone. But it wasn’t to be, a 7.06 from Newcombe kept him in the championship easily accounting for Grima’s 7.15.
A .003 light allowed for a 7.20 to 7.15 holeshot win in round two for Perdikaris over Tucker.
Another holeshot win ended Newcombe’s championship hopes as his 7.08 could not peg back Hedges 7.09.
Aaron Tremayne now a four time Australian champion showed the form that has won him the titles dropping a .004 and a 7.13 to 7.12 holeshot win over Barbagallo.
Jason Hedges though was in the form of career, defeating Tremayne in the semi 7.10 to 7.12 and where he would of faced Perdikaris who had a solo.
Chris Matheson had already wrapped up the championship and has not been challenged all season,with a new look he top qualified here with a off pace (for the team) 6.57.
Mark Drew had qualified second with a 6.60 but did not return for the rerun.
Terry Burnett had broken into the sixes with a 6.92, but at the rerun the team suffered a serious pit accident when their bike grenaded an engine during a warmup, injuring a number of the team. Latest reports are that all team members are recovering well, and Drag News wishes them their best in recovery.
Neville Smith had a ugly run giving Matheson a easy first round win.
Gavin Spann is still trying to find a tune for “Dirty Gertie”, a 7.90 would not get it done against Mick Murray’s 7.49
Graeme Morrell at his first event had a major problem firing the bike giving Troy McLean a 7.46 solo win.
Dennis Grant was back in the sixes with a 6.97 and going straight beating Alan Herriman’s 8.84.
A 6.35 low event ET had Matheson into the final over Murray.
McLean went 7.07 in the second semi taking down Grant’s 7.18 as the event ended.
Pro Stock Motorcycle
The Pro Stock Motorcycle championship was still alive between Maurice Allen and Andrew Badcock, but it was Michael Gilbertson who top qualified with a 7.43.
Scott White was a non qualifier but word is the NT rider will be replacing Badcock on the Birrell machine next season.
“Bluey” Howard lost on a holeshot to Gilbo in round one 7.65 to a 7.70.
Glenn Wooster’s 7.94 beat Daniel Rabnott’s 8.36.
Locky Ireland could not get a gear and was shut down allowing Bob Shaw to solo for the win.
The final pairing was a championship deciding match up with Badcock and Allen, a close 7.47 from Badcock was just too quick for Allen’s 7.54. The win kept the championship alive, but it meant Badcock would have to win the final to claim the championship by just one point. Badcock was virtually assured of a final berth when engine damage ruled Bob Shaw out of contending the semi.
In an all Hogs Breath team match up, Gilbo pulled through the lights giving Wooster the instant win.
Rain then ruined Badcock’s chance to run the final and chance at the championship, awarding Maurice Allen the title.
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