Darwin becomes Australia’s speed capital

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Top Australian drag racers are arriving in Darwin ahead of Nitro Up North this Friday and Saturday at Hidden Valley Drag Strip.

With over 120 entries for the event, expectations are high for the two days of racing, which feature the opening rounds of the national 400 Thunder Professional Drag Racing Series and the Summit Sportsman Series, attracting teams from around the country.

The loudest and fastest of the show will be the Top Fuel dragsters, capable of reaching speeds over 530kmh in just 4.5 seconds thanks to their 10,000 horsepower, nitro-fuelled engines.
Western Australia’s Mark Sheehan has been in town since Friday, with his Nitro Madman dragster on display around Darwin before the event. Sheehan has not raced the car since last year’s Nitro Up North, but said it’s just like riding a very fast bike.

“Once you do that first burnout you know where you are at,” he said. “Everything feels so comfortable so it is just a routine and all you have to do is get ready for the ride of your life.”

While Sheehan might be lacking some race fitness, his team have one of the quickest dragsters in the country at their disposal and won’t be afraid to cut loose against high class competition. Indeed he is the only one of the four drivers who has raced in Darwin before.

“It has been a while since we have had the car out and we are going to be against some tough contenders who have been doing a lot of racing,” he said. “But we know we have a capable car so we’re going to be putting on a show.”

New South Welshman Peter Xiberras might come in with a lack of Darwin track experience, but his Premiair team has been one of the top improvers of the drag racing year so far. He recently ran a personal best quarter mile (402m) time of 4.55 seconds in Queensland.

“We tried a few things (in Queensland) and we had a really good track there so it was able to hold a lot of power,” he said. “It’s really in the clutch area that you need to do the work and the better the track is the earlier you can start to apply the clutch.”

Xiberras is looking forward to experiencing Darwin for the first time – both in racing and on a personal level.

“I’m heard a lot of good things about Darwin,” he said. “One thing I keep hearing is about how smooth the track is, that provides a great racing surface.

“The conditions might be a little more tropical than we are used to, but for us we would love to go out and make some full runs. We have one run on Friday where we will do a check out pass to make sure everything is right, then we will go for it on Saturday.”

Xiberras and Sheehan will take on Kelly Bettes and Terry Sainty in the Top Fuel division, with Pro Slammer and Top Bike categories also set to rock the track.

Racing starts from 4pm on both days, with the first pro teams hitting the track from 5.30pm on both days.

Tickets for Nitro Up North will be available at the gate starting from just $25 on Friday, with kids under 13 free and every ticket includes free pit entry to allow fans to get up close to the teams.

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