NITRO THUNDER REPORT : Read “Bradburied” Top Fuel

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January 2020 was the last time professional drag racing fired a shot in anger in Australia, as the 2021 Gulf Western Oil Nitro Thunder event restarted the longest championship series in history. The event was the penultimate round of the 400 Thunder championship for all brackets ahead of next month’s Winternationals and Mother Nature wasn’t going to let drag racing off easy with its comeback.

Friday was completely lost to rain, and the forced extended schedule on Saturday was delayed due to heavy fog. The weather didn’t stop DJ legend Carl Cox from spinning out a three hour set Friday night for all those that braved the conditions, and Saturday’s crowd was the biggest the venue has seen in over 10 years.

All pro classes were on the ‘All Run Format’ for this event and opening our first event report is Top Fuel. The class was down to only 3 cars with the Rapisarda Autosports International team on a sabbatical from racing, and the format was tweaked for Top Fuel to three full rounds and then a final.

Lamattina Top Fuel Racing’s event started off with a thrash after having to change a cylinder head following the warm up with just 15 minutes before having to tow out for round one. Phil Lamattina is the effective leader of the 400 Thunder championship with the RAI cars side-lined and a 4.02 solo in round one please the team after their pit drama.

Phil Read rattled the tyres in the Hydraulink Jim Read Racing dragster as he watched Peter Xiberras blasted to a 3.844 PB in the PremiAir rocketship.

Xiberras had a bracket car with a 3.846 in round two against a tyre-smoking Lamattina. And Phil Read went too far the other way on the tune up as his dragster blew the tyres off right on the hit that was fortunately on a solo. “It is kinda weird,” said crew chief Bruce Read. “We tested here so well last month, and we haven’t changed anything.”

Read and Lamattina opened round three and the winner would face Xiberras who already had a final spot booked. The Carrot King’s went nowhere as the nitro engine quit on the step and popped the chutes, and Read was not looking pretty pedalling and legging his dragster to the stripe for a 5.17/224MPH.

LTFR crew chief Aaron Hambridge couldn’t explain the bizarre behaviour of his charge “I’ve got no idea, I have never seen the car do anything like that, seems like some sort of electrical malfunction.” he said.

Xiberras made a statement for the final with a blistering 3.797/315MPH smashing his earlier PB and was looking unstoppable.

Finals time and the Lamattina dragster came out for a test pass but the gremlin wasn’t found with virtually identical result on launch.

Xiberras versus Read for the gold showed there are no sure things in drag racing as both cars rattled the tyres out of the gate, a wild pedal fest ensued with Read doing it the best and getting the win light in a unlikely victory.

“I can’t tell you how great it was to be back on the track in a competitive environment after so long,” PremiAir Hire Racing Team Principal and Driver, Peter Xiberras, said.

“The track cooled off a lot between the third round when we set the record and the final. While you can run faster on a cooler track, you have to get the tune-up absolutely spot on and we just missed that.”

“While we might not have been able to secure the big trophy, I am exceptionally happy with three rounds wins, two PBs, a new track record and the runner-up award. The team did a fantastic job all day long and I am very proud of their efforts.” 

Peter and the team weren’t just enjoying themselves on the track either.

“The atmosphere at the Gulf Western Oils Nitro Thunder event was just brilliant,” Xiberras explained.

“There was a fantastic crowd and we loved having everyone visit us in the pits again after so long between competitive events.

Our sponsor, Gulf Western Oils, was also the event sponsor and they set up a corporate hospitality area right next to our pit area, entertaining more than 1200 guests.”

“The atmosphere was just brilliant, and it will take a while for us to stop smiling after this one! We love racing, and putting on a show for the fans!”

In the winning team a smiling Bruce Read described his come from behind win. “Lucky, Lucky, it was obvious we reversed in all weekend, Peter was the guys to beat,” he said.

“Peter made a quip during the week that he thought me and Lamattina were going to set the standard, and he was going to do a Steven Bradbury and slip right round behind us. Well, now we got to go find a green jumpsuit so we can go ice skating because we just Steven Bradbury right around everybody.”

“Thank you so much for the Sydney crowd for coming out, it is probably the best crowd in ten years here, so thank so much for coming to see us race.”

Short of having the official points results provided yet, we believe Xiberras will move in behind Wayne Newby in the points, and if RAI don’t contest the Winternationals will be the one to beat for the championship.

Stay tuned for Pro Alcohol report next.

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