Former three time NHRA Mello-Yellow world champion, Larry Dixon, will be making the trip ‘Down-Under’ for the 2016 City of Ipswich Winternationals at Willowbank Raceway, June 9 – 12 for Rapisarda Autosport International.
For Dixon, the trip marks his second trip to Australia, the first being back in 2013 where he attended the Santo’s Super Three event, where he made headlines by performing a 360 degree spin during the opening round of qualifying. The team then managed to re-build the car and go on to record the quickest ever quarter mile pass outside of North America with a 4.503 second blast on the Saturday night of the event.
“Thanks to Santo and the boys (Santino and Santo Junior) for extending their invitation to me for the event. I had a great time driving for them back in 2013 and to come back for the Winternationals, the largest Drag Race outside of North America is something special,” said Dixon.
Dixon will be in familiar territory, with Lee Beard making the tune up calls over the weekend. Lee Beard has 55 NHRA victories to his credit as well as three World Championships, which was amassed with 12 different drivers, something no other crew chief has done in NHRA history.
One of the most successful drivers in the sport, Dixon has won three world championships, multiple US Nationals crowns. In 1999, Dixon made history by becoming the first driver in Drag Racing history to complete a sub 4.5 second run (4.486 seconds) at Houston Raceway Park. Breaking into the 4.40s in Australia is something that has been talked about for over a decade now, perhaps next weekend will be the time it happens.
“It would be very special to be able to leave the event having run the only 4.40 outside of North America. It’s one of the last barriers to be eclipsed in Australian drag racing. I know Lee is not coming to make up the numbers, he won this race last year with Cory McClenathan and will be looking to go back-to-back, and I also want to give my own national record a touch up again,” remarked Dixon.
Team owner, Santo Rapisarda, is looking forward to the Winternationals.
“Rapisarda Autosport International has a rich history of racing at Willowbank. It’s a special place for us. This year it’s an absolute honour to bring Larry Dixon back to Australia for our biggest race of the year. Like every trip we make to Willowbank, or any race track for that matter, we do it in the memory of Louie. This year is going to be just that bit extra special.”
While Dixon is looking to win the event and reset both ends of the national record, a championship fight is brewing between the other two RAI entries, Wayne Newby and Damien Harris, as they work towards clinching the first 400 Thunder Top Fuel championship.
Damien Harris currently leads Wayne Newby, a total of 385 points to 356 points, however, both drivers will be racing hard for the #1 on the side of the car.
“The City of Ipswich Winternationals is not only the concluding event of the championship, it’s the event that we all want to win. There is a tight margin between the two cars and we (Santino and I) have shown that we’re both capable of running deep into the 4.50 region. In essence, we won’t be taking a machete to a gun fight,” said Santo Rapisarda Junior, crew chief for Damien Harris.
Santino Rapisarda, crew chief for Wayne Newby is looking to bring the first 400 Thunder Top Fuel Championship to his side of the RAI trophy cabinet.
“I have full confidence that next weekend’s event is going to be a great end to the first season of 400 Thunder Top Fuel competition. Whilst we race as a team and we share information across the three teams, we race hard and fair. We want to win the Championship just as much as the Santo Junior/Damien Harris team. Traditionally, the Winternationals presents us with optimum conditions for racing and I have no doubt this year is going to be the same. Throw Dixon into the mix and the fans are going to be in for a real treat”.