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The 55th Gulf Western Oil Winternationals at Willowbank Raceway ended an era, the event being the swan song for the 400 Thunder Aeroflow Drag Racing Series, with the national championship now unified under the National Drag Racing Championship (NDRC) banner.

Willowbank Raceway sent 400 Thunder out on a high, delivering absolute perfect weather, and the fans turned up in great numbers.

Full round by round qualifying and elimination results for each day can be found here:


Headline act, Top Fuel Funny Car, was the most hotly contested championship, only three points separated team mates Morice McMillin and Brandon Gosbell out the Rocket Industries/Aeroflow stable. The Nitro Funny Cars had three qualifiers before heading into the All-Run Format, the only professional class using that system, with all other brackets running traditional eliminations.

Q1 wasn’t pretty, with most teams struggling to find the tune up off the trailer, highlighted by Anthony Begley’s violent half track engine explosion. The Chemical Warfare team had a thrash on their hand to repair the damage for the following day’s qualifying. McMillin though turned the session’s fortunes around with a nice 4.893 at just 279mph in a sign of things to come for the Aeroflow Funny Car.

On the next day for Q2, Funny Car dropped their best ever round of qualifying. McMillin and Gosbell duked it out with side by side fours – 4.94 to 4.95. Justin Walshe clicked the Hart’s funny car early for a 5.14, while Begley made the call and went header to header with Adam Murrihy 5.15 to 5.02 respectively.

McMillin then closed out qualifying in Q3 with a statement 4.742 at 315mph, the quickest Nitro Funny Car pass ever witnessed in Australia. While Gosbell improved slightly with a 4.94, championship advantage went to McMillin going into race day.

If fans thought Q2 was good, round one blew them away. Walshe holeshot Murrihy 4.97 to 4.91 to open racing, the Nitro Freak team weren’t to upset however, it was their first four second timeslip. McMillin ran a solo to a nice 4.77 at 310mph. Then Gosbell unleashed the lap of the event with a 4.693 to surpass McMillin’s record breaking run against Begley’s valiant 5.06.

Walshe took a shot at the tree in round two against McMillin but saw all red as the Aeroflow car delivered again with a 4.71 PB. Begley had the bye run fortunately as he smoked the tyres, and Gosbell stayed in the championship hunt dispatching Murrihy with a 4.77 over a 4.87.

The final would decide the first 400 Thunder Championship for the Nitro Funny Car breed in decades. Gosbell left with a slight advantage at the tree but could not keep the Rocket Industries funny car hooked up on the rapidly cooling track. There were no such problems for McMillin, the Kiwi romping away to a 4.702 PB at 322mph, a new National ET record, event and championship win.

The 400 Thunder Pro Alcohol championship was decided going into the event, Steven Reed adding another championship to the collection. But what to say about Pro Alchohol at the Winternationals? – expect the unexpected. In qualifying we saw the rise of the dragsters, Cheyne Phillips shocked everyone running a 5.397 in a chassis that is decades old, the talent of the Phillips family has no bounds with what they can do in an alcohol car. The run overshadowed Tim Clifton’s fantastic performance, living in the 5.40s with a best of 5.41 to qualify second ahead of Reed’s 5.44, and Caan Childs in another dragster with a 5.46.

Race day was brutal, Reed overpowered the track in the first race of round one sending Andrew Searle in his first Pro Alcohol event to the semi final, Phillips had a battle against John Cannuli’s new funny car but drove around him on a phenomenal .030 reacting holeshot, 5.83 to 5.80. Clifton ended Chris Hargrave’s event with a 5.42, The Middy’s Electrical Funny Car Team battled through hard times in qualifying with mechanical and electrical mayhem. Greg Clayton driving the Rowland and Holdworth funny car qualified with a 5.57 PB, and ran nearly on that number again – 5.58 – in round one putting the Childs dragster on the trailer.

Clayton continued the consistency in the semi finals upsetting Phillips 5.56 to 5.68, and Searle would make it an all funny car final after Clifton fell fowl of some start line confusion. Leaving with a .573 reaction, even a record setting 5.397 could not haul back Searle’s 5.59.

The final round would guarantee a first time Pro Alcohol winner. At the flash of the green, Searle was a day late, and that sealed his fate, Clayton clocking at 5.65 to 5.53 holeshot win and his first Pro Alcohol win.

The seven car Pro Slammer field was rocked with withdrawals, Rob Harrington spectacularly torched a head on his 5.96 qualifier in the Monaro and Sam Afchal damaged the engine in the Duster. Paul Cannuli and Ben Bray gapped the field in qualifying, the Cannuli Mustang dropping a 5.69 to finish on top against a 5.73 from the Bray Corvette.

Pavey has found consistency in his Corvette and took a holeshot win in round one over Neil Murphy’s Camaro, 5.92 to 5.89 – Murphy stepping up to Pro Slammer for the weekend from Pro Mod. Peter Lovering also has found his groove in the 55 Chev Shoebox, recording his first five second run at the Winternationals Warm Ups, Lovering qualified with a 5.91 and went 5.99 on a solo in round one. Bray and Cannuli also had solo runs such was the carnage, with runs of 5.85 and 5.68 respectively.

Despite being responsible for much of Pavey’s improvement, Bray put Pavey through the cleaners in the semi finals with a 5.75 to 5.92 win. While Lovering’s 5.95 couldn’t match the pace of Cannuli’s 5.75.

In the final Bray through it all at the track and came up snake eyes, Cannuli rocketed to a 5.74 and back to back Winternationals wins. 400 Thunder championship wise, Steve Ham would be crowned champion, with out needing to contest the event.

In Pro Stock Aaron Tremayne only had to qualify to take home another 400 Thunder Championship for the Tremaniac team. The Tremayne brothers conquered qualifying as well, Aaron’s 6.927 sneaking ahead of Tyronne’s 6.929 after the four qualifying sessions. Scott Porter kept them honest with a great 6.93 from the Ford powered Mustang, with championship contender Brian Pursell owning a 6.95 next.

Omar Sedmak ran his first six in qualifying and then grabbed a round one 6.97 win light over Pursell who bombed the tyres in the GXP on the hit. Porter was shut down with a leak leaving John Barbagallo an easy path to the semi final as he drove it out the back door still for a 6.96. Aaron Tremayne ran low ET of the event with a 6.924 on a bye, and brother Tyronne would run through to the semi finals with a 6.97 win over Mario Polito’s 7.09.

A red light ended Barbagallo’s chances against a 6.94 from Tyronne in the first semi final match up. Aaron would make it an all Tremaniac final defeating Sedmak 6.93 to 7.00.

In a battle of family bragging rights, Tyronne dropped a .032 light in the final and held off his hard-charging brother with a 6.94 to 6.92 holeshot Winternationals win.

The five bike Pro Stock Motorcycle field was reduced to four when Tony Frost has a motor cease in qualifying. Luke Crowley had a commanding lead in the championship and despite some unclean runs, rode a 7.08 at 188mph to top qualify over nearest rival Scott White’s 7.25.

Andrew Badcock ended White’s even in the round one semi final with a 7.57 to 7.45 holeshot. The 400 Thunder championship secured now for Crowley, he raced into the final anyway on the tail of a 7.11 against Daniel Rabnott’s 7.48.

For the final round, and Crowley completed a perfect undefeated season, punctuated with a dominating 7.08 win against Badcock’s 7.50.

Finally into Pro Mod, and the 5.85 index class saw the championship all-but claimed by Zoran Gajic in the Gas Racing twin turbo Mustang. Gajic rammed home his control over the season over the whole event, top qualifying with a 5.883, with nearest combatant being Rod Harvey in the 2JZ Camry with a 5.96.

In a wild round one, Harvey defeated the Mazfix rotary of Archie Kajewski 6.17 to 8.25. Willshire took out Peter Gratz on a 6.19 to 5.99 holeshot, but the race got real interesting in the braking area for Willshire when the four-cylinder Eclipse, got out of shape, and tagged the wall before getting tangled in Gratz’s chutes. Fortunately everyone was unharmed in the incident, but Willshire’s racing was done for the day. Stew Walsh had problems with the converter in the twin-turbo Mustang and left before the tree, handing the win to Darren Kehl’s rotary RX7, Walsh ending up spinning out in the braking area with the cabin full of smoke from the cooked transmission. Unlike the rest of the round, Gajic had an uneventful 5.93 bye to move into the semi finals.

As a result of round one chaos, Harvey and Gajic both had byes into the final – but the drama wasn’t done with Pro Mod. In the final Harvey in one of the quickest imports in the world, stepped out of the groove, before the Camry turned hard left flipped on its roof and hit the wall hard. Once the car slid to a stop, Harvey climbed out unharmed, but left with a lot of work to rebuild the Camry with a trip to Orlando planned later in the year. The incident overshadowing Gajic’s 5.89 win.

Sportsman report to follow in coming days, the sport now moves on to the NDRC which kicks off in October at The Bend.

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