The penultimate Rocket All Stars Round at the Nitro Champs was the last chance for the nation’s sportsman racers to earn valuable points going into the final round at the Winternationals in June.
Despite the weather doing its utmost to dampen the championship chase for over 250 sportsman competitors, the event was completed with only the loss of one qualifying session. Conditions were very tricky at times as racing went into the cold evening trying to make up for lost time forcing racers to race the track along with their opponents. The challenges were the same for everyone and just to end up with a result from the event was a credit to the track staff, with the winning competitors definitely earning that gold Christmas tree trophy at the end three very long days.
The circumstances made the sportsman racing a lottery at times, from the cold and rain effected Friday and Saturday track to the killer record breaking Sunday conditions which saw 6 national records and 21 track records set. Racing was riveting though not without its drama with a couple of nasty accidents which thankfully left all involved relatively uninjured, so here is the wrap.
Most of categories did lose a few entrants due to the weather with interstate teams pulling the pin on what was a very poor forecast for the event, Competition settled with just 13 entries, disappointingly only 2 from NSW, hopefully Competition can rebuild in the state for the future.
Jason Maggs owned the event in his Corvette, the team have been struggling to get the power to the track and this continued into the Nitro Champs, however 6.75 (-.52) in qualifying had the team top the sheets. After defeating a red lighting Peter Zelow in round one, a tyre shaking Mike Nola, a single in the semi had the Maggs Vette in the final against Craig Geddes .
Both racers had touched up their indexes going through the rounds but in the end Maggs blitzed the run going 6.65 (7.13) to Geddes altered’s 7.71 (7.85).
Craig Geddes has comeback from the wilderness in his little 280 cube E/AAltered, despite only qualifying sixth with a 7.78 (-0.26) he moved through eliminations taking out the West Australian Hogs Breath invasion team. After having a easy round one when Eric Goudswaard blown altered was shut down, Geddes had the race of his life against a track record setting run from Jeff Clarke’s AA/dragster but damaged his index badly with a 7.65 (8.05) pass. In the semi final against the funny car half of the WA group 2 super team in John McSweeny proved to be a easier task when the funny car had major problems. The runner up finish leaves Geddes only 10 points in a rears of the championship lead.
John McSweeny has stormed into Group 2 at the wheel of the Jeff Clarke owned funny car this season, a runner up at the Westernationals and a semi finalist here has him on equal points with Geddes. McSweeny qualified second with a 6.00 (-.47) and reset the AA/FC track record in eliminations to a 5.98 @ 240 MPH before a big engine backfire ended his race against Geddes.
Jeff Clarke has been dominant this season, the unassuming AA/D has been rewriting the record books and again at the Nitro Champs he entered Sydney Dragway’s books with a track record 5.90 @ 240. Qualifying right behind his team mate with a 5.90 (-.42) a index damaging first round against Wayne Cartledge’s A/DA hurt him to badly going into his match up with Geddes, Clarke will lead the points going into the Winternationals.
Justin Walshe just couldn’t find the tune up in the tough condition, check out the violent shake as he exited in round one
Peter Zelow debuted one potent new dragster, the A/DA racer 7.39 (-.01) in its first competitive outing but pulled a hard -.005 light in round one.
Maurice Brennan and Wayne Keys made up the rest of the WA Competition invasion but neither car could reproduce their Westernationals performances.
Eric Goudswaard was having one of those weekends, he couldn’t get the car to run past a burnout and even those weren’t going right.
A much healthier 18 car field fronted in Super Stock.
It was South Australian Jim Ioannidis who pushed his high stepping 308 power C/MSA Commodore to victory. Qualifying with a sub record 9.98 (-0.50) for only fifth!, Ioannidis went past, Nicastri, Kuiper and Clark before running a unbeatable 9.95 (10.27) in the final against the Camaro of Tim Sizmur resetting the track mark of 136 MPH.
Tim Sizmur qualified in a down the order in 14th with a 9.86 (-0.15) in the B/MS Camaro, but when the track conditions came around on Sunday a 9.78 (10.02) caused a major upset taking out Fred Soleiman’s A/MPA Torana who backed off too early with a 8.91 (9.14). Sizmur was left with a solo in round two when Tony Caroscio no showed, defeated a loose Sedmak in the semi before reaching the final.
Kevin Magner top the qualifying times with a 8.42 (-.57), but a -.070 cherry finished the A/MP Pontiac’s day in round one, Magner did claim both ends of the track record.
Westernationals winner Tony Caroscio grabbed the national C/MSA record and qualified second with a 9.93 (-.55). Problems though had the South Aussie unable to make round two, he will still head the points going into the final event.
Probably one of the surprise performances of Super Stock was Victoria’s Daniel Camilleri qualifying third in the turbo VL Commodore running 7.89 (-.52) and earning the track record for speed and ET in DD/GA, though the cars reaction times still prove detrimental in going rounds.
The event marked Darren Parker’s official debut of his new GXP, the B/APA car is destined for Pro Stock in the future once the team is ready. Qualifying with a 7.61 (-0.33) was good enough for tenth but did not have quite enough for Caroscio in round one.
10 bikes qualified in smallish field for the Nitro Champs.
The Street Bikes are still proving to be the force in Comp Bike results wise, Peter Everett qualified second with a 10.07 (-.42) in D/SB. However as it turned out Everett really didn’t have to do much to win the event except make it to the end of the track. The national champion Shane Homes on his own D/SB red lit against Everett in the first round, before a solo in the next round had a match up with Kevin Gummow who had mechanical issues, like wise in the final against Gordan Crawford problems for Crawford did not see him leave the startline.
Kevin Gummow was another of those Group 2 sandgropers to venture East and promptly top qualified with a 7.87 ( -.47) for CC/CB, before mechanical gremlins set in. After a solo in round one, Gummow broke in round two but still won the round when opponent McNamara was disqualified before moving on to meet Everett.
Gordon Crawford was responsible for a lot of the WA contingent at the track transporting them in his prime mover, Crawford qualified third with a 8.25( -.09) in CC/CB and waded through eliminations before the bike had no go in the final.
Relative newcomer to the class Bob McNamara and his Suzuki CC/CB funny bike qualified solidly with a 8.26 (-.08), and should have had a win in round one but tagged the timing blocks.
Traction was a issue in the cold but on Sunday the conditions were turned on their head and the traction returned as Rowan Lind finds out.
The fledgling Group 2 bracket had eight hi revving rockets doing battle.
This is Po Tung’s second only event in his 2JZ Celica, the car debuted only a month ago and with the knowledge and force of Gas Motorsport behind him the ET’s have been plummeting with every pass.
Qualifying with a nonchalant 7.96 ( -.39) for 4th, Tung went 7.72 (8.36) personal best in round one over Zoran Gajic, then took another massive chunk out of that with a 7.65 in round two taking the win over Rod Harvey and both ends of the AA/OM National Record. The final was dramatic, a 7.72 kept Tung in front of Rocky Rehayem and thankfully so as a horrendous accident occurred behind him.
Rocky Rehayem was the ages under the index in qualifying with a 6.69 (-.63) in BB/SC to be the quickest. With a solo in round one Rehayem met his nemesis in Joe Signorelli’s Celica next, Signorelli had decimated his index in round one and with Rocky’s being untouched this would prove the difference. The 6.51 (6.76) for the Gas Motorsports Celica could not run down Rehayem’s 6.81 (7.05).
The final would be remembered for all the wrong reasons, up against another Gas Motorsport car in Tung’s Celica, Rehayem was making the top end charge as the car drifted out of the groove before breaking hard right crossing just behind Tung and slamming head on into the wall in a horrible looking impact. The car had flipped over and exploded in a ball of flame sliding down the braking area on its roof engulfed in flames. Obviously initial concerns were grave for Rockys health after such a high speed impact until word filtered through he was conscious and moving before he was transported to hospital for scans observation. Despite some lacerations and bruising Rocky was released from hospital after a day and is recovering fine, the car will be rebuilt surprisingly and be back before you know it.
Joe Signorelli’s Celica qualified with a 6.56 ( -.45), but cranked out a 6.47 (7.05) in round one against Rob Novac, claiming the AA/SC National Record but index hit was too much to overcome in the next round.
Rod Harvey went quietly about the event, a 6.53 (-.51) did have the Kiwi in second after qualifying and a 6.77 took down Johnny Criticos in round one , a shaking 7.09 though would not be good enough against Tung in the semi. Harvey is still second in the points 40 behing Rehayem.
Wheelstand of the event went to Zoran Gajic, the six second 2JZ BMW had a wheelie bar failure sending Gajic spectacularly skyward.
22 cars qualified for Outlaws, though there was some carnage with only 14 making the round one. The first round itself was close to farcical in the bitterly cold conditions, high horsepower blown motors on converter cars proved to be somewhat entertaining however as they all struggled to find traction in some old school pedal fest action.
There was some redemption at this event for John Trinder, the Trinder brother’s debuted their Torana a couple of years ago at this corresponding event before a monstrous crash in the final destroyed the car and at a chance at a debut win. A red light in the diabolical round one from opponent Dave McGaw had them on the path, last RARS round winner Fiona Keating broke out in her dragster against the Torana in round two before taking out Darryl Walfords funny car.
Come semifinal time the night had arrived and so had the cold conditions, but the Torana was still consistent running down John Wards dragster setting up a final against Matty Watt’s. A .033 reaction from Trinder had the jump on Watt’s .099 as the altered broke out running down the Torana.
Despite the runner up finish Matty Watts has a commanding lead of 60 points in the championship and will very hard to pin back on form.
Chris Loy earned the top qualifier medallion with a 6.60 but DNS in round one.
Former national champ John Ward was looking for a bucket load of points to have a shot of another Australian title, after beating the current champion Christine Steffans in round two the HPW dragster was on track until the cold track conditions bit back in the semi final.
The first round match up between the roadster of Nathan Peirano and altered of Paul Stephen was definitely one of the most entertaining races of the weekend, though the drivers may not agree. The cold track had both cars pedaling like they were in fuel altered’s 30 years ago, Peirano’s pedals were so violent a piece of the wing flew off hitting Stephen’s altered, before Stephen got close if not brushed the wall, Peirano was DQ’d for the infringement handing the win to Stephen.
Troy Papadopoulos may want to check those wheelie bar heights, spectacular yes, productive no.
Perseverance for Tony Littlewood has paid off, travelling all over the country chasing this years championship the Queensland dragster driver picked up a win in Modified and will take a 60 point lead into the Winternationals. Eliminating Scott Bettes in round one and a single in round two when Michelle Osborn couldn’t start, Littlewood next victim on a holeshot was Graham Blake who was looking very consistent in the FED. A 8.73 on a 8.73 DI in the semi had Neil Dyson on the trailer, before a cherry picking Chris Manks handed the win over in the final.
Chris Manks has found some form of late after his first ever win a couple of months ago, all since he put his altered up for sale. Coming back from a chassis destroying wheelstand last time out , Manks would be very happy with the cars performance picking up where it left off.
Another of the west coast contingent Michelle Osborn despite qualifying number one with a 7.37 in her altered did not have a great event, the car refusing to start on several occasions including round two leading to her loss.
Graham Blake’s gorgeous home built FED deservedly won best engineered for the event, this event was the car first real competition outing as well for the rookie driver. The car was showing great consistency and it was only a holeshot loss to the event winner that ended their day.
The first pairing of Modified out on track for the event ended in disaster for National Champion Kelly Corbett, the car got close to the centreline near the finish before turning hard right impacting the right wall, sliding across the track into the left wall heavily. Corbett was out of the car in a instant and fine physically, but the race car was a right off.
NSW has been the dominant force in Super Sedan for sometime now, but Queenslander Darren Doeblien snuck in and stole the gold at this event. Doeblien’s Falcon was in killer form, a 9.91 (9.92 DI) in the first round did not matter with opponent Gordon Taylor redlighting, against the current National Champion Paul Partridge in round two Doblien dropped a 9.91 (9.91 DI) for the win. Moving to round three another 9.92 (9.92 DI) had Mark Tolomeo on the trailer, in the quarters a 9.93 (9.92 DI) was not needed against a red lighting Brett McNiff.
With solo into the final Doeblien would face his toughest challenge in the form multiple National and Track Champion Neil Constantinou and his Torana. This was always going to be a barnstormer, Constantinou had .004 advantage in reactions and at the top end the Torana’s 9.911 (9.89 DI) just failed to catch Doeblien’s Falcon’s 9.935 (9.93), the Falcon racer a very deserving winner.
Neil Constantinou has won everything there is to win in Super Sedan multiple times, he just fell short of another gold Christmas tree, but will take the equal points lead with Jim Denaro in to the final round in a attempt to have that #1 back on the car.
Steve Fowler qualified at the top of the 44 car field with a 7.74, but the former National Champion fell in the second round to Justin Roylance.
The cold conditions didn’t allow Jason Stares to record a representative qualifying pass in his seven second Corvette, going into eliminations virtually blind and after getting lucky with a first round win from a red light pulling Steve Reissis in the same cold conditions, round two became a guessing game. The awesome Sunday conditions had the Corvette back in the 7’s on its first full pull of the event 7.76 (7.70 DI) which was good enough for the win over Steve Smith, a solo into the semi left Stares facing Constantinou and despite a 7.66 (7.64 DI) effort lost on a holeshot.
West Australian Kevin Hort returned his HG Monaro to it birthplace for the first time since buying the car, original owner and builder Jeff Hislop is now a track photographer and was pleased to see the old girl back, Hort was trailered in the second round by Constantinou.
Justin Roylance had his nitrous assisted Falcon ute running PB’s into the 9.6’s along with going rounds, before becoming another statistic of Constantinou in round four.
Mal Gower was back on track after recently breaking his Outlaw Altered in two, before the new altered is finished he decided to take his son’s Hilux ute out for its debut skid.
Chris Papadopoulos has had better days, the XW is known for its wheelstands, but this one got away from him touching up the concrete.
The Modified Bike final was a all Harley affair, Laurie Capogna took the win on his VROD. Capogna defeated Gary Tansley, Ian Carrett, Daryn Schuster and Leonard Azzopardi before meeting Rod Barchet in the final.
Rod Barchet only started racing his Destroyer this season and has already reached several final rounds. The gold eluded him this time though with a breakout in the final.
Leonard Azzopardi easily lead the field in qualifying on his turbo ‘Busa, but with a off pace 8.31 due to the tricky track. Azzopardi was being cagey in elimination dialing in as slow 8.50 in round two, then a 7.55 in round three, a 8.15 on a 8.00 DI in the semi was good enough to send Quicksilver into the final if only he had been quicker on the lights.
Ian Carrett had a small oops on his first pass, the Destroyer spun the wheels off the line, kicked sideways and high sided Carrett off the line, both bike and rider were fine and would return for the next round of qualifying
Making her first trip East as a racer was Dale Gummow but unfortunately did not get past the first round
Another racer making a return was Tasmanian Shane Walker, the former Top Bike rider was back in Sydney with his Destroyer, Walker made it to the second round.
Darren Sekli who was eliminated by Azzopardi in the second round leads the points with Leonard Azzopardi.
Carl Taylor took his big 409 Bubbletop Chev to victory in Super Street, after winning his first ever event this season at a local Track Championship event, Taylor now has a gold Christmas tree event win to his portfolio. Taylor took some big names down along the way as well, former national champion Tony Wallace in round one followed by West Aussie young gun Ethan Hort in round two, major event specialist in Kylie Tanner was next before a solo in the semi.
The final would pit Taylor against multiple Track Champion and regular finalist Joe Zammit and his VL Commodore. Taylor went for it off the line and a hit a perfect .000 reaction and at the stripe it was a double break out, Zammit going 10.98 (11.00 DI) to Taylor’s better 11.44 (11.45).
Joe Zammit has been the most dominant force in Sydney Dragway Super Street for years now, three Track Championships and a runner up one to his credit to go with many event wins. However a gold Christmas tree still has eluded the Commodore steerer.
Ethan Hort made the trek over east with father and fellow racer Kevin in the bid for gold, fresh out of Junior Dragster Ethan has had a strong season over west finishing as runner up in the Perth Track Championship. Hort qualified on top at the Nitro Champs but lost to event champion in round two when he pulled a cherry.
After winning the last round of the RARS at Willowbank, Queensland Rob Harrington came to Sydney chasing points and earned a bag full reaching the semi finals and will take the lead of 40 points into his home track finale
The South Australian duo of Darren Kellaway and Kylie Tanner who came off disappointing Westernationals results met in the first round here, Tanner who has been making a habit of final round appearances at big events took the victory but also became another victim of Taylor in round three.
Henry Spicak’s tough launching aspirated beetle certainly shames a lot of V8’s!
There was some controversy in Super Gas, the left lane provide a unusual amount of red lights in the first round (all but one pair) prompting a lot of protests but to no avail. The problems continued in round 2 when the left lane threw up sub 1.00 sixties causing massive breakouts leading to reruns .
Victorians have traditionally been the Super Gas specialist’s in recent times the title has moved north of the border, but Colin Griffin show the Mexican’s still have it taking the win.
Facing him in the final was Simon Isherwood from Queensland, but a 9.895 breakout handed the win back to Griffin’s 9.96.
NSW’s Roy Romeo won the last RARS round and earned a semi final birth here leaving him with 40 point lead over Griffin in the championship.
Ben Scott was the Super Gas top qualifier with a 9.911
Ricky Dudek was one of the unfortunate victims of the round two rerun, after initaily being awarded the win, lost to Isherwood in the rerun
Holly Mills is in her last season of Junior racing and what better way to go out but win in her last home RARS event. Opponent Matthew Lot won the race but was disqualified for crossing the start line twice.
Despite being 100 points behind going into the final round, Mills was in a similar position last season before nearly stealing the championship, falling short by just one round win when the points leaders all went out early, so there is still a chance of a fairytale ending to her Junior carreer.
Queenslander Matthew Loy was an unfortunate runner up when he accidentally crossed the start line prior to the start of the race automatically disqualifying him, the points earned though will send Loy to second in the championship just 20 points behind Jake Donnelly.
Jesse Skinner was the top qualifier with a 8.02
Jake Donnelly reached the semi finals and will take the points lead into the WinterNationals
Sibling rivalry in round one when West Aussies Alicia and Braydon Naylor met in round one, Braydon was the victor.
Sam Butler was one of five West Australian Juniors to venture over.
Represnting the Apple Isle, Brooke Farrelly debuted her Junior, but was a little too eager and redlit in round one.
The prize for those that are good enough.
Super Gas racer Graeme Spencer helping out the photographers position errant winners.
The Hogster was back.
Trick and Mansweto are back offering their passenger “Ride of a Lifetime” experience.
Oil down entertainment.
OneHD had the lend of a Super Slo Mo camera and it captured some amazing moments you just have to see.
A lone but well prepared spectator as the storms move in again.
Despite the falling precipitation, these kids were having the time of their life.
The heavens threatened all weekend to destroy the event, but through persistence and grit from Sydney Dragway staff, all the odds were overcome to deliver a event to remember.
Officals cover up during one of ten rain delays.
A game of noughts and crosses evolved from the many markings left by Pro Stock crew chiefs.
Don’t forget the ANDRA Pro Series wrap and event photo gallery can be found here
Photos by Cackling Pipes Photography/Grant Stephens, Paul Drady & Hayley Turns