Pro Alcohol has turned up a ten car field for the opening event of the 400 Thunder Professional Drag Racing season next weekend, let's take a look at who could lead the charge this season.
After 20 championships in the class, Gary Phillips isn't going anywhere. Despite losing major sponsor Lucas Oil a couple of years ago, Phillips has remained a threat whenever he shows up to an event. He has a performance edge over the rest of the field and is capable of throwing down 5.4s seemingly at will. His classic catchphrase, “I'd rather be lucky than good,” has been his edge – results fall his way often! Gary's son Cheyne recently licensed in the family's old dragster, with plans to compete in Supercharged Outlaws, but we hope the experience could see a new generation of Phillips in the seat of the Funny Car soon!
Cameron Ambesi is a newcomer to Pro Alcohol, but could be moving up the ladder this season with the addition of a PSI supercharger. While the team suffered a setback when crew chief Peter Wileman suffered a heart attack, they were able to get some assistance from Pro Slammer racer Peter Kapiris' go-to-man Jeff Cutajar. Look out for this team to celebrate if they break into the fives.
Robert Ambruosi will be hoping for a far less spectacular return to Sydney Dragway at the opening event. He lit up his Funny Car with a big fire at half track at Nitro Thunder in May and thrashed to return for the season-ending Winternationals. The team has a new Chev Monte Carlo body fitted to their chassis, with the old body having endured its fair share of bangs and crunches. The weight saving and better aerodynamics could be a big help to the passionate Victorian team.
John Cannuli knows what it takes to go fast, and with a very fresh 2018 Camaro that he debuted at the Winternationals, he certainly has the equipment. It has been some time since we have seen Cannuli doing the full tour, but the JTS Racing team have the potential to roll out 5.4s, and dare we say it, even 5.3s if the conditions are right. It may take the team some time to get back into the groove, but their history makes them an opponent to take seriously.
Jake Donnelly is another of the Pro Alcohol rookies and after recently dropping a 5.60/230mph at Willowbank Raceway in testing, the DBS Motorsport boys and girls have a great base to work from. The Camaro is one of the best looking cars in the class, with the Donnelly family always making sure they keep up a professional appearance. If this team could hit a 5.6 on every run at East Coast Thunder we expect they would be pretty happy by the end of the event.
Speaking of professional appearances, Wayne Price is lifting the bar with a refit on his transporter and a new wrap for his Dodge. Where we mentioned Phillips having all the luck earlier, Price seems to need some, with his last trip to Sydney seeing two blower belts break at inconvenient moments.
Veteran Steve Reed went toe-to-toe with Phillips last season, but a costly DNQ at the Winternationals derailed any hopes of a championship. Despite the ignominious finish, Reed still secured second in the 400 Thunder Pro Alcohol series. Reed knows what to do to win titles, and last time he was at Sydney Dragway he ran his personal best pass of 5.452 seconds, despite a blower belt coming off 4.9 seconds into the run. Reed is one of the favourites for the title, he just has to avoid running into Phillips too many times in final rounds.
Alf Sciacca is one of Sydney's most colourful drag racers and he pilots one of Sydney's most colourful race cars, the Sainty-powered Dodge Stratus nicknamed 'Blind Obsession'. That name comes from car owner Norm Sainty, whose loss of vision has been no impediment to chasing drag racing dreams. This is one of those teams for who just a round win would mean everything; they will be sentimental favourites.
Justin Walshe has been racing a whole bunch of quick things through the winter. He drives an Outlaw Nitro Funny Car and a Nitro Hot Rod for the Aeroflow series, but also has his own methanol-fuelled altered. Walshe has been hotly pursuing Australia's quickest altered run, and had all the right incremental numbers at the Winternationals to do so. The number to beat is 5.649 in case you were wondering. Walshe finished third in the series last year.
Finally we have Brett White. During the off season White has updated his engine gear with a new BAE motor in place, letting them have their existing TFX as a spare. While they are a budget team, the White family have no problems with doing whatever it takes to get 'Carlos' to the finish line if there is a win light available.
Pro Alcohol has the potential for a lot of growth right now. The rules were opened up in the off season to allow injected nitro dragsters for the first time. Unfortunately there are not any nitro cars entered for season opener, but we look forward to their arrival.
Pro Alcohol's season begins at East Coast Thunder, November 1 and 2 at Sydney Dragway.