The event formerly known as the Nitro Champs has been renamed to the X Champs just under two months ahead of the event. Uncertainty remains as to whether or not the headlining Top Fuel category will appear.
The former Nitro Champs event page on the Sydney Dragway website now carries the X Champs branding, with a note saying:
“Due to the growth of our sport and to support the ever evolving vehicles that partake, Sydney Dragway has chosen to re brand the event known as the nitro champs to “The X-Champs”, representing the extreme and engaging nature of the event. We hope to reach new audiences with the modernisation of the brand and logo.”
Officially Top Fuel is still on the agenda. But Top Fuel cars are absent from the new event’s marketing imagery and not specifically mentioned as attending, though there remains a Top Fuel option on the entry list and the category is still listed on the prizemoney table.
The use of sliding scale prizemoney is believed to be at the core of the current negotiations between racer representative body Top Fuel Australia and Sydney Dragway. The X Champs and the Australian Nationals are the two events that are planned to use the sliding scale, which increase prizemoney payments based on spectator attendance but pays out less in the event of being affected by weather.
Sydney Dragway CEO Graham Elliot said Top Fuel is still being offered as a category.
“We respect that certain categories have apprehensions with the scaled prize money and we can appreciate their own cost of operation,” he said. “Top Fuel has been invited to the event and we hope to see them amongst all the other headliners. It’s an exciting time for Sydney Dragway and to paraphrase ANDRA, ‘we look forward to putting on the most powerful motorsport show on the planet’.”
Elliot explained that sliding scale prizemoney was not designed to enhance the profitability of Sydney Dragway or disadvantage any participant.
“If an event is impaired, it simply means the Dragway does not have to borrow or spend earnings from other events that go toward maintenance of the facility,” he said. “The Dragway is responding responsibly to its greater community’s concerns. The scale system is also geared to try ensure a degree of prizemoney is paid with the metrics set purposefully low even if the event is affected.”
Top Fuel Australia’s Bruce Read said that negotiations continue with management of the venue.
“We don’t race for sliding scale prizemoney,” he said. “We’re not going to be used to draw the spectators and then race for a discount.
“Any sport needs to invest in its core product be that the AFL and its senior teams or Cricket Australia and the national side.
“It is to the detriment of the sport if we don’t invest in those cars that bring spectators to the sport.”
Read said that while the negotiations with Sydney Dragway continue, Top Fuel Australia has been moving forward with Willowbank Raceway and is very positive ahead of the Santo’s Cranes Super 3 event being held on the Easter weekend.
“Top Fuel Australia is focusing on making the Santo’s Super 3 event at Queensland a success,” he said. “We have seven racers confirmed and with the confirmation of Darren Morgan and Martin Stamatis or both it will be a full field.
“We have a great working relationship with Willowbank through the combined efforts of Top Fuel Australia and Willowbank Raceway.”
Elliot said large events have a high impact on Sydney Dragway’s risk profile and require sizeable investment in promotion and activation.
“As seen at the last major event (the Australian Nationals in November), climatic effect (gail force winds, oppressive heat and smoke) placed the Dragway into a commercially challenging position with no means of compensation.
“In the past, proceeds from (street meets) and special events provided this risk mitigation and compensation, but we cannot control the climate that impacted on these events also, or our obligations to fund the maintenance and development of the Dragway.
“Scaled prizemoney is a responsible system that is set at obtainable metrics and provides for even further upside when these obtainable metrics are exceeded.”
Elliot said it was unfortunate that the track lost five events in October and this March lost a further four street racing events plus Day of the Drags to rain, each having an effect on profitability and the underpinning of operational cost. “The Dragway as a not for profit organisation has a duty of care to a broad spectrum of individuals and organisations that rely on the Dragway remaining well-kept and safe, with all proceeds channelled into these areas for everyone to continue their enjoyment of the facility.”
On the X Champs rebranding, Elliot said the new name was designed to offer a ‘more inclusive representation of an annual event that supports an evolving group of categories that are both extreme and sensational’.
“Consideration was also given to today’s consumer appetite and how they relate to modern brands and become engaged with the brand’s identity,” he said. “The new X Champs brand characterises the future development of our racing and show style features and has everyone excited. The new brand will also open up further prospects for supporting sponsors and partnerships.”