Nationals excitement grows

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This weekend’s Fuchs Australian Nationals at Sydney Dragway is expected to produce the most intense and exciting round of the ANDRA Pro series in recent memory. With heavily oversubscribed fields across all Group One categories qualifying will be intense, brutal and dramatic if last weekend’s test session at the Eastern Creek venue is any indication.

In Top Fuel eleven Nitro missiles will make up the largest field ever assembled for a Pro Series round with all teams focussed on grabbing a berth in the in the eight-car field.

All eyes will be on the Rocketship



The long awaited return of Andrew Cowin to the driver’s seat in the Rocket Industries fueler has been one of the most talked about happenings in the pre-season. The Sydney squad posted a breathtaking pass of 4.59 sec in testing at Willowbank followed by a close encounter with the concrete wall that severely damaged the team’s primary car.

The Jim Read Racing’s squad of Phil Read and reigning champ Marin Stamatis will again be the benchmark in the elite category. The Stamatis car returns to the track with a fresh livery while his team mate will be aiming for a return to 4.5 second form of previous seasons and another Oz title.

The Lamattina’s will be looking to reverse a disappointing 2009-10 season that included    clutch gremlins and a controversial disqualification at last years Nationals courtesy of an exploding tyre. Expect the “Carrot team”, under the guidance of crew chief Theo Pavlomanolakos, to be on the pace come first round of qualifying at 3 pm on Friday.

Darren Morgan will also be one to watch. The Mildura star and the AEG and Kennards backed fueler chasing not just round wins but focussed on the task of winning their first ANDRA Pro series championship as a team.

“All the teams are stepping up this year and so are we,” Morgan told DNA. “We are looking to achieve more consistency, faster times and are gunning for the championship. As a driver I have won it before but I really want to win with my own team and sponsors.” he added

Rapisarda racing will again field two entries for the opening round with Alan Dobson and Mark Mariani looking for a strong start to the season. For Mariani, the categories biggest improver last season, the event will be his last chance to score a gold Christmas tree before the team departs for an NHRA tour next month. Veteran “Dobbo” will be looking to set the standard as the team’s senior driver and is easily capable of qualifying in the top half of the draw.

The return of Darren DiFilippo provides an element of the unknown. The DiFilippo team certainly have all the “good bits” to run at the pointy end of the field, however, with no track time in the lead up to the event could struggle to make the cut.

Budget racer’s Terry Sainty, Luke Shepherd and Bob Shepherd have all proven to be giant killers when it comes to elimination day but all will be faced with a task to qualify for the tough eight-car field. Missing the season opener is reigning Nationals’ champ “Pommie” Steve Read.

Top Bike

The other Nitro class in the Pro Series will see 11 teams trying to qualify. With crowd favourite Jay Upton a no show at this year’s Nationals, Chris Matheson will be favourite to head the field and take out the opening round after dominating last season. The low six second performer on a mission.

5 seconds on two wheels anyone?
“We’ve still got a number of goals to achieve around the country,” Matheson said.

No doubt the achievement of a 5 second pass is one of them.

Strong competition for the title will come from the Harley army lead by Troy McLean and Chris Porter, both capable of snatching a victory with the slightest mistake made by their opponents while Gavin Spann, who returns to the class looms as the dark horse.



 Top Alcohol

All the usual suspects return to wage war in the Alky category. After the 5.6 second bump spot at the Winternationals no one will be guaranteed of a qualifying spot in the field, leaving this bracket wide open for championship contenders.

16th championship offering
Gary Phillips will be looking for a solid start to the season in his bid for a 16th championship title.  Debbie and Steven Reads’ return to the tour is likely to show that they have the numbers up their sleeve to pull off a win, while Steven Ham has the quickest Alcohol Funny Car in the land if traction issues can be overcome.

Aaron Hambridge will be the one to watch. After a series of strong 5.5 second performances last season Hambridges was a serious title contender until crashing in the Alky round at the Perth Motorplex.



Top Doorslammer

This bracket is set to provide some staunch numbers with 18 slammers looking to make an eight-car field. Reigning champion John Zappia is chasing 5.7 second performances in his attempt to hold off Robin Judd in what is shaping up to the epic battle between the Sand groper duo.

But it won’t be just Zappia and Judd having it all their own way, with at least eight other proven five second performers ready to prevent another season of West Australian dominance. Leading the pack will be Maurice Fabietti who was last season’s “standout” with 5.8 second performances across all events and the only other driver to win a round off Zappia and Judd Aussies.

Can Fabietti break the West Aussie stranglehold?
The new Dodge Saratoga of Victorian Peter Kapiris will raise a few eyebrows. Not just from the unique styling of the car but with a strong 6.2 second pass in testing it should give crew chief Mark Brew the data and confidence to push this car into the five second zone.

And don’t discount the likes of the Ben Bray, Mark Belleri, the newest member to the elite five second club, Stuart Bishop, ever present Gary Phillips, Matthew Abel in a brand new ride and Sean Mifsud with US veteran Camp Stanley in his corner, to keep the field on edge.

The Nationals could very well see the first ever all five second field.



 Pro Stock.

24 cars in Pro Stock make it the largest Group One field in history and expect tears with space for 16 cars on race day. Expect the tightest racing of all the Pro categories and a record bump spot for a 16-car field.

Bektash is looking to create history
With more than half the field capable of running solid 7.0 second times, the outcome of the hot rod category will be determined by driver skill, reaction time and perhaps good old fashioned luck.

After a disappointing Winternationals, Lee Bektash is looking to up the ante and win his first ever Australian championship in the Pro ranks. But to do so will need to take on the Tremayne family of Aaron the reigning champ and his brother Tyrone, perennial front runners in the category over the past three seasons. Con Sideris, ex-crew chief for Bektash, will be fielding his own Dodge driven by Andrew Stavroulakis. Not to be discounted are John Barbagallo, Dave Newcombe, Dennis Whiting and Victorian Peter Ridgeway along with West Aussie Allen Puglia, all capable of scoring an upset win.


Pro Stock Motorcycle

Ten riders have entered, providing a resurgence in the class, with Queenslander Peter Cochrane looking to continue his winning form after finishing the season on a high at the Winternationals. National champion Andrew Badcock will be the pace setter against Michael Gilbertson who is expected to step up a notch along with Ireland, Lemberg, Howard and Allen with new sponsorship.

Badcock will be looking to exert some authority

To win, expect to see performances in the 7.2 second zone or quicker. will be bringing you all the event highlights and pit gossip throughout the weekend. Our event coverage starts Friday with the first qualifying round of the Pro Series.

A full event report will follow covering all categories including Sportsman brackets.









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