Cowin rockets and Newby blazes in Sydney – Event report

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Round 2 of the ANDRA Pro Series for Top Fuel and Top Alcohol coupled with round 3 of the local Track Championship hit Sydney Dragway last weekend.

Some dire weathers forecast again didn’t eventuate as the venue was doused in 30 degree heat testing tuners skills, the cooling evening though produced some optimum racing conditions.

The event ran to clockwork again, with no incidents all weekend and the cleanup crew skills were hardly called upon. Competitor numbers were down again particularly in the upper tier sportsman brackets, numbers which are really needed to bookend this style of event. The racers would of appreciated the extra qualifiers to string out the event, but spectators would appreciate more race teams.

The most disappointing aspect of the event was the crowd, sadly dismal is the best that it can be described as which is a shame as it was a solid show on track and this is for real concern. The advertising budget was limited to commercial radio advertising and the vibe was people did just not know about the event. The venue needs to involve local paper media more for advertising and articles or start to think outside the square, ADRL methodology, flood the schools with free or discount passes. The thought process of free tickets don’t make money is archaic, these people were more than likely not attending anyway, now they are inside the gate and will then spend money on merchandise, food etc and just may come back the next day or future events. These may not be answers but alternate thoughts are required as no event will survive on such poor turnouts.
The other chestnut is should Drag Ltd provide assistance in marketing a Pro Series event, racers and tracks pay a TV levy, many think Drag Ltd should have a responsibility in providing back some form of marketing for its events, instead of the track baring the burden and risk.

Back to the on track action, spectators did witness one of the best Top Fuel shows seen for some time, racing was thrilling and the Top Alcohol brigade did not disappoint either, here is the wrap up.

Top Fuel

Top Fuel can have its knockers at times but when they perform there is no better spectacle in the sport. Round 2 of the Pro Series the long skinny cars put on one of their better performances in some time with them causing no extended delays and plenty of side by side action that only the kings of the sport can do. Conditions were trying during the midday heat and the first qualifying session saw clouds of tyre smoke from most of the 9 qualifiers, the field limited by the loss of team Santo who is competing in the final two rounds of the NHRA. As qualifying conditions improved six teams had carded 4 second run setting up a riveting race day with some intriguing match ups match ups.

1. MARTIN 4.651 316.15
2. ANDREW COWIN 4.740 318.32
3. PHILIP READ 4.799 280.31
4. DAMIEN HARRIS 4.843 300.53
5. DARREN MORGAN HADMAN 4.870 307.65
6. PHILLIP LAMATTINA 4.902 286.98
7. ROBERT SHEPHERD 5.104 228.96
8. TERRY SAINTY 5.120 261.07
9. LUKE SHEPHERD 5.845 190.16

The Cowin rocket ship is back with a vengeance, after a disappointing first Pro Series round the team qualified strongly with a 4.74 for second spot as they start to achieve the consistency which had let them down at time in the past as they start to find a solid footing with the tune up. The first round provided a scare with Bob Shepherd going so close to repeating his previous event slaying of Cowin as the Rocket dragster fought for traction only to pip the quarter mile smile at the lights. The semi was a corker against a flaming Phil Read 4.79 to 4.87 before comfortably defeating a trouble Sainty in the final with a 4.83.

After qualifying on the bump with a 5.12, Sainty repeated his Nationals fortune and eliminated a JRR car in round one, this time being National Champion Stamatis who blazed the tyres.  Sainty snuck past Morgan in the semi  5.19 to 5.27 to set up his first TF final since 2008.

Notwithstanding his semi final lost Morgan still hangs on to the championship points lead.

Phil Read team had some mechanical mayhem this weekend testing a new style of heads, the first round saw a lucky defeat of nemesis Lamattina when the automatic safety system deployed the chutes early in the run.

Martin Stamatis is off to nearly the worst possible defence of his title, albeit still qualifying number one 4.65. Stamatis again fell in round one to dreaded tyre smoke.

The Sydney monkey will not let go of Phil Lamattina, less than impressive 4.90 in qualifying is far below the teams expectations. In the first round a tyre smoking pedalfest run could not crawl past a Read car being held back by the chutes.

The BTP Fueler debuted amid expectations based on their Funny Car performances, qualifying with a 4.84 the team were going to be a threat to anyone. Harris had Morgan in the first round before a belt departed and went down 4.94 to a 4.90.

BBQ Bob should be a name of the past with the team looking like they have fixed the problem of exploding. De ja vu of the last round meeting Cowin in round one and history nearly repeated when Cowin struck the tyres. Unfortunately this time for Shepherd the Rocket dragster was able to recover and sneak past at the line going down 5.35 to a 5.22.

The John Mancini dragster emblazed with “Decade of Speed” tribute to driver Luke Shepherd failed to make the show going up in smoke on every attempt.

Top Alcohol

Even with only 8 entries Top Alcohol still seem to provide a high quality show and hopefully we can see a resurgence soon in the class on the East Coast to increase numbers. The dragsters have dominated the first two rounds of the championship and starting to take a strangle hold on the championship already.

1. AARON HAMBRIDGE 5.571 254.52
2. WAYNE NEWBY 5.712 241.76
3. STEVEN HAM 5.739 247.93
4. STEVEN REED 5.762 248.98
5. DEBBIE REED 5.793 236.38
6. GARY PHILLIPS 511 5.816 252.95
7. PAUL MADILL 5.816 239.61
8. RICK GAUCI 5.926 216.06

The event ended on a high for Wayne Newby, but after destroying there only complete bullet in the final round of qualifying a overnight thrash to prepare a fresh block for racing was needed.  Newby escaped a first round scare when more mechanical troubles ensued on the run, but opponent Paul Madill was sideways off the line almost collecting the wall allowing Newby to roll to a win.
A second round holeshot victory 5.66 to Phillips 5.65 had the JBS now back in the groove for Hambridge in the final. The final was somewhat anticlimactic when Hambridge unloaded the tyres off the line allowing Newby to reverse the Nationals result with a win.

Hambridges 5.57 top qualifying run had gapped the rest of the field and he was seemingly the only Alcohol team in tune with the conditions. Going past Rick Gauci 5.63 and Steve Reed 5.56 in the early rounds he was odds on favourite to take another title. Set for kill in the final in conditions that looked like the best for the weekend the NRE dragster launched hard with wheels in the air before unloading the tyres handing the win to Newby but retaining the championship lead.

New Mustang body adorned Gary Phillips Funny Car, the Lucas Oil mobile really struggled in qualifying unable to hook up. Phillip proved though he is the master turning around the performance in round one running low ET of the event in the heat defeating Ham before going down to a holeshot in the semi.

The Reed team are back competing this season and were running consistent times all weekend that allowed Steve Reed to reach the semi finals.

Debbie Reed did hurt a motor in qualifying then had the unenvious task of taking on hubby in round one, her .032 to 0.117 holeshot was not enough to defend a 5.81 against Steve’s 5.70.

The Mobil One team of Steve Ham have been trying to find the consistency to go rounds, a sensational 5.62 first round lap was the second quickest pass of the round unfortunately the quickest was in the other lane, drag racing can be cruel.

Newest team on block or Paul Madill are still progressing upwards and by all account should of went to the semi finals when Newby presented them with a gift chance.

Rick Gauci also now has upgraded to a Mustang body, struggling through qualifying and out in round one the team never had a footing at this event.

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