The first ANDRA Christmas Tree trophies for the 2022/2023 Summit Racing Equipment Sportsman Series season have been hoisted at the Hidden Valley Drag Strip this evening, following the conclusion of the season-opening Top End Nationals event.
Making the most of their opportunity in the finals this evening were event winners Mark Tattingham (Modified Bike), Ned Karanovic (Super Sedan), Tommy Turic (Super Street), Greg Damiani (Top Sportsman) and Butch Morrison (Supercharged Outlaws).
Also celebrated at the end-of-night presentations were event runners-up Brian Alvisio (Modified Bike), Gary Baker (Super Sedan), Theo Karamanidis (Super Street), Kevin McIvor (Top Sportsman) and Alan Mahnkoph (Supercharged Outlaws).
Earlier in the day, Leith Darrach (Modified Bike), Tony Miskelly (Super Sedan), Sarah-Mae Bates (Super Street), Damiani (Top Sportsman) and Mahnkoph (Supercharged Outlaws) were also celebrated as the event’s Decoglaze Glass Splashbacks Top Qualifier Medallion winners.
In Super Sedan, South Australian racer Ned Karanovic took out a very close final and his very first ANDRA Christmas Tree trophy in his Chev against local (Woodroffe, NT) racer Gary Baker, after having earlier emerged victorious from battles against Lance Larcombe (round one), Peter Tzokas (round two) and Robyn Phillis (semis). Baker meanwhile had booked his spot in the final aboard his HR Holden by taking wins over Decoglaze Glass Splashbacks Top Qualifier Tony Miskelly (round one) and Shaun Boyer (semi), with a bye in round two.
“It went allright out there tonight. I had a couple of lucky ones, I had a couple of close calls,” Karanovic said.
“I raced Pete (Tzokas) in round two and with him being a good friend there is a lot of ribbing going on, and I think this is only the second time I have beaten him; something happened with his car but as I said to him, I will take it anyway I can get it,” he laughed.
“I have been doing this a really long time, and only recently have I been trying seriously to get one of these and I have finally got one – it is a monkey off my back, and I am pretty stoked! The first ANDRA Christmas Tree feels pretty good!
“Thank you to Gary Baker for a nice and tight final – normally I drive the car straight back but after the final I waited for his crew to get there so I could find out who won, as I had no idea!
“Thank you also to my wife Karen, my son Nikolas, my daughter Natasha, Carmine, and also George and Ray Haddad for all their help and support over the years; and also to the Hidden Valley Drag Strip and its volunteers and track staff, and to ANDRA.
“Finally, I must say thank you to The Gospel, Australian Rye Whisky, Luke from Complete Caravan Solutions, Marty Redshaw from UD, Fresh Fruit For You, Brett for Gawler Mechanical, Louie from City Demolition and Earthmoving, Smoke and Grillers, and Coffee Barun.”
For Greg Damiani, the Top Sportsman final was an ‘ugly’ way to win an ANDRA Christmas Tree, but one that shows that the show isn’t over, until it is over.
When Damiani ran into trouble on the line with his HG Monaro, he persevered to still travel the race distance which allowed him to take the victory when his opponent and fellow South Australian, Kevin McIvor, broke out with a blistering run down the track in his Pontiac Firebird.
Damiani – also the Decoglaze Glass Splashbacks Top Qualifier for Top Sportsman – had previously defeated Leon Davies (round one) and Glenn Henley (semi) on his way to final, while McIvor had successfully taken on Cory Read (round one) and Pete Kirkpatrick (semi).
“It was a bit of an ugly final. The car just died on the line, and I sort of stuffed up a bit too, but I thought I would run it to the end and see if he broke out and he did, so I got the win that way. It isn’t how you want to win it and it feels a bit shallow. I do feel for Kev, but that is how it is, and you have to take the win,” Damiani said.
“To be the Top Qualifier too was nice, I have never done that before, so I was happy about that.
“It was a good event, although I would say I didn’t go as well as I would have hoped but I did have a bit of luck along the way that helped. I had a really good race with Glenn (Henley) where there was nothing in it, we always seem to have really good races. And then I got lucky in that final.
“After not doing any rounds last season due to travel restrictions and so on, to win the first one this season is handy – we will be going to Alice Springs on the way home, and probably will be at the Mildura and Portland events.
“Thank you to my sponsors Mitilo Family Farms and VP Race Fuels, as well as my crew: Greg, Jamie, Natalie, Steph and Olivia.”
In Supercharged Outlaws, a broken gearbox in qualifying saw local (Marlow Lagoon, NT) racer Butch Morrison exceptionally surprised to take out his first ANDRA Christmas Tree with victory over a red-lighting Alan Mahnkoph – who had travelled from his home in West Australia for the event.
After a flurry of activity to ensure his XP Falcon could take to the track today, Morrison took a round one win from Mark Hunt before successfully facing off against Troy Wittwer in the semi-final; while Mahnkoph – the Decoglaze Glass Splashbacks Top Qualifier Medallion winner for the bracket – ensured his place in the final with a bye run in round one and victory over Peter Coles in the semis in his EH Holden Ute.
“After the gear box blew up last night and we had no reverse, we didn’t think this would happen! We pulled it out this morning and fixed it, and thought we need only bring enough fuel for the first round as we would be out, we had plenty of fuel at home, but we didn’t bring it, so we had to borrow fuel!” Morrison laughed.
“It was a good final, I got down the end and Mahnkoph went past me like I was standing still after he red lit.
“This is the first time we have won in years, and the first ANDRA Christmas Tree for us.
“It was a good meeting, absolutely spot on. Thank you to my crew, Malcolm, Sean, my son Corey and my wife Robbin. It has been a long time coming, I have been doing this stuff since 1982 and this is the first time I have won anything major, it feels good!”
In Modified Bike, Leanyer (NT) racer Mark Tattingham took out the win over the red-lighting Queenslander Brian Alvisio despite pulling a huge wheelstand off the line which saw him well off his dial-in.
Tattingham and his Kawasaki ZX12R had earlier taken on and defeated Decoglaze Glass Splashbacks Top Qualifier Leith Darrach in round one before enjoying a bye in round two ahead of a semi-final win from Dean Gunson. Alvisio raced his way to the finals with wins from Dale Smith (round one), Wayne Patterson (round two) and Ian Read (semis).
In Super Street Tommy Turic blitzed through aboard his Ford Falcon to take the win from Beat the Heat NT racer Theo Karamanidis who threw an uncharacteristic red-light in the final.
Turic is new to the Super Street category after having earlier raced in the Summit Racing Equipment Junior Dragsters, and impressed with not only his finals victory, but also wins over Bruce Kimm (round one), Elliot Wilson (round two) and reigning Summit Racing Equipment Sportsman Series Super Street Champion, Lisa Garbellini (semis). Karamanidis meanwhile had dispatched Claude Petrilli (round one), Michael Bridges (round two) and Grant Radcliffe – who had earlier won against Decoglaze Glass Splashbacks Top Qualifier Sarah-Mae Bates in round two – in the semis.
For full results from the Top End Nationals, please visit https://www.andra.com.au/series/results/
ANDRA thanks the Hidden Valley Drag Racing Association and all of its volunteers and sponsors for an outstanding racetrack and a well-run event.
The 2022/2023 Summit Racing Equipment Sportsman Series season will now head to Alice Springs Inland Dragway for the Desert Nationals, set to be held this coming Saturday and Sunday (July 23/24). For event information, visit www.cadra.com.au
For more from ANDRA, visit www.andra.com.au