When the Pro Stock field rumbles into Willowbank Raceway for New Year’s Thunder on Saturday, January 4, they had better come with the perfect set up according to 400 Thunder points leader Jason Hedges.
The Sydney driver said the all-run format for New Year’s Thunder, where all teams compete three times during the night, meant quick elapsed times were needed if they wanted a hope of making the final round.
“I do prefer the all-run format however you must run quick and fast to get to the final as the two quickest winners on the day,” Hedges said. “You cannot get the win with a bad set up; each pass we must get faster.”
The strategy is obvious, but finding a tune up that can handle Willowbank Raceway in January is not so clear. The tropical summer weather conditions combined with the excellent traction the venue is renowned for means a tricky balancing act for Pro Stock teams.
“You need to tame the motor down, you can’t burn humidity in an aspirated car,” Hedges explained. “We take fuel away to try find the happy spot where it can burn effectively to get down with a good run to match the conditions.
“Tyres also come into this for our team. We have found that worn-in tyres work at Willowbank. If we turned up with new boots we would struggle. But all cars are different and the heat and weather can change what you need real quick. It’s always a well prepped track with a wide groove, and to get a Pro Stock car off the start line fast has its challenges.”
Hedges has fond memories of Willowbank Raceway, as he made his first race day appearance at the venue in 2009.
“I had my first ever round of racing there as I made the eight-car field in sixth position. I had Lee Bektash and he schooled me on the tree and I had nothing for him as my car turned hard right off the launch!”
While he might not have to worry about former champion Bektash anymore, there is still a bunch of Australia’s toughest Pro Stock teams ready to do battle. Hedges has the bragging rights for now as the winner of the opening round of the season at Sydney Dragway, but he has his eyes on the talented locals.
“Any Tremayne powered car will be hot competition,” he said. “They are consistently quick in qualifying and they outran all of us at Sydney in November. This all-run format gives a qualifying feel to racing.”
New Year’s Thunder will also feature 400 Thunder championship rounds for Top Fuel, Pro Alcohol and Pro Bike, alongside a packed sportsman show. Tickets are available at the gate or at willowbankraceway.com.au.