Five 11,000hp Nitro Funny Cars have ensured their debut at Dragway at The Bend will not soon be forgotten, laying down a number of lightning fast, flame-throwing passes to delight the large and super enthusiastic crowd.
The hugely popular bracket took to the track alongside the equally impressive Top Doorlammers and Top Fuel Motorcycles for an action-packed day and night of qualifying ahead of Sunday’s racing, with Brandon Gosbell (NFC), Russell Taylor (TD) and Damian Muscat (TFM) taking out the top qualifying honours for these brackets.
Gosbell and his Rocket Industries Nitro Funny Car had the crowd on their feet when he was the first to run a sub-five second pass in the first qualifier, which was made even more impressive by the fact it was run in the heat of the day.
While Q2 would see other competitors join him in the sub-fives, Gosbell’s Q1 effort was enough to see him clinch the Top Qualifying honours ahead of Sunday’s fight for a prestigious NDRC Christmas Tree and the honour of being the first Nitro Funny Car winner at the new track.
“This is our first time to Dragway at The Bend and the atmosphere has been incredible. It has been amazing to have the crowd interacting with us so much,” said Gosbell, who was the round one winner in Sydney.
“Our first qualifier certainly went well in the heat of the day, seeing us run a 4.87 second pass (at 298.51mph/480.40kph). Then we tried to go out there in Q2 and go a bit quicker in the cooler conditions, but we overpowered the track. Even so, we were happy to keep the number one qualifier spot.
“We are feeling good now ahead of tomorrow – we have made some big changes to the car since the last round in Perth and it looks like we are heading in the right direction in terms of consistency.
“We are definitely looking forward to getting back out there on Sunday, we will just try and repeat what we did today and hopefully we can string three good passes together!” he concluded, while sending a “massive thanks” to the entire Rocket Aeroflow race team, stating “without them, none of this would be possible.”
Second quickest for the night was Justin Walshe, who bettered his Q1 effort of 5.476/228.35mph (367.49kph) to lay down the only other (eligible) sub-five second pass of the evening (4.965/320.31mph/515.488kph) with the team ecstatic with what was a personal best speed for the Harts Paint Nitro Funny Car entry.
Gosbell’s team-mate and championship leader Morice McMillin in the Aeroflow Nitro Funny Car was third fastest when he was unable to improve on his Q1 effort of 5.184 second pass at 275.45mph (443.29kph) after getting a little sideways in his Q2 run.
Adam Murrihy and Anthony Begley were another pairing to have the crowd and the teams celebrating in Q2, however their times (both under the five second mark) would be disallowed due to Murrihy knocking out the finish line timing blocks in his Nitro Freak NFC.
It has been a tough day at the office for Begley, who had his Q1 time in ‘Chemical Warfare’ DQed due to crossing the centre line and therefore ended Saturday’s running with no time recorded. Murrihy was listed as fourth fastest thanks to his Q1 effort of 5.489/220.56mph (354.95kph) in what was his first pass since his Nitro Freak dragster went heavily into the sand at the end of the last round in Perth.
In Top Doorslammer, rookie and last round winner Russell Taylor continued his strong run to top qualify. As a result, he will face the previous round winner and fellow rookie Ronnie Palumbo in the first round of racing on Sunday.
Taylor raced into the top spot in Q2 with a 5.741 second pass at 257.58mph (414.53kph) after an early shut off in the first qualifier, which was topped by bracket legend John Zappia (5.770/247.88mph/398.92kph).
Zappia’s Q2 was disastrous however, shearing bolts off the blower and crossing the centre line into Lisa Gregorini’s lane in the burnout, seeing him disqualified as a result and forced to settle for second on the time sheets thanks to his Q1 effort.
Lisa Gregorini was pushed back and allowed to run her pass later in the evening, recording a 5.895 second pass at 247.82mph (398.82kph) which had the crowd celebrating and landed her fourth quickest on the sheets behind her husband and defending champion Daniel Gregorini (5.784/253.35mph/407.72kph). Paul Lovering, Adam Tassone, Matt Abel and Ronnie Palumbo rounded out the rest of the eight, with Palumbo especially striking trouble in Q1 with an unexpected ignition shut down.
“We are stoked with that,” Taylor said.
“It was a smooth day, I stuffed up the burnout and went too short in Q1 and so it hampered the tune a bit. We probably had a little bit too much power in it and it shook and I got out of it, but in the second one the track was better, it was cooler, everything was better, and I had a good run.
“Tomorrow we will go out there and do what we did last time and hopefully it can go well. We are facing off with Ronnie in the first round, so it is the last two round winners and two rookies going up against each other which is pretty cool.
“The crowd here is great and I appreciate everyone that is here and all of the officials, everyone is doing a great job.
“Being the last round winner, we try and treat it like any other meeting, I am not out here to break records, we want to go fast and have fun doing it, and it is great to win if we can,” he added, while thanking his crew, Steve Ham, Stu Rowlands, Josh, Al, Adam, Jack, and his wife Leanne, as well as sponsors Royal Precision Lubricants, EAD Industries and Staunch Bull.
In Top Fuel Motorcycle, Damian Muscat and his crew pulled off a huge effort to change an engine between Q1 and Q2 and go on to top qualify with a 6.593/157.07mph (252.78kph) effort. Defending Spring Nationals winner Benny Stevens (6.630/220.05mph/345.13kph) was second quickest after topping Q1.
“This result is great,” smiled Muscat.
“In Q1 we hurt the engine, we broke porcelains off the spark plugs and hurt one of the exhaust valves, so we changed the guys thrashed it out to change the engine and we just got it out there in time to go out and ran our quickest time on this bike to date.
“We have got a little more work to do on our tune up but overall, we are extremely happy with where we are at and hopefully we can improve from here.
“I have to say a huge thanks to my crew, we are all a bit new to this bike, so it was a fairly big effort to change that engine in between rounds and make it back out. The hard work paid off and it has been great,” he said, while thanking Jason’s Towing, De Goey Contractors, MI Scaffold, Zammit Harvester and Hydraulics, Fuchs Lubricants, Whem Equipment Hire, BL and SG Lake Brick Cartage, EzyNet, Geezer’s Imports, as well as crew chief/tuner Brodie and Morice McMillan and the Rocket Aeroflow team.
“This track is world class, and the weather has been great here in Adelaide, and with a bit of luck we can expand on what we have done today and do the same or better tomorrow, that would be great,” he added.
Rounding out the top five in qualifying for Top Fuel Motorcycle were Greg Durack (6.898/200.28mph/322.31kph) and defending champ Rob Cassar (7.537/182.90mph/294.34kph). Danny Rickard came back from a difficult Q1 to improve in Q2 to be sixth quickest (7.700/165.66mph/266.60kph) while Ian Ashelford, Aaron Deery and Corey Buttigieg encountered issues in both of their runs this evening.
Also on track today was a full complement of Aeroflow National Sportsman Championship racers who put on a great show for the crowd across the day and night.
Qualifying was completed this evening for Supercharged Outlaws, Competition Bike, Super Stock and Competition Eliminator, with Milan Dokic, Chris Allen, Steve Norman and Matt Forbes top qualifying in those brackets respectively.
Qualifying will continue tomorrow for the rest of the Aeroflow National Sportsman Championship competitors, with Andrew Ricketts (Super Street), Brian Alvisio (Modified Bike), Kym Driesener (Super Sedan), Simon Barlow (Modified), Lachlan Walker (Junior Dragster) and Vlado Turic (Top Sportsman) leading the way for their respective brackets so far.
While Dokic was ecstatic to top qualify, he will sadly be watching Sunday’s racing from the sidelines.
“When we started the car Friday it felt a little bit off, so we were up early this morning changing spark plugs and a few little bits and pieces and all of a sudden it sounded pretty good. All I wanted to do was run a six second pass and by the time I got to three-quarter track my eyes were a bit ‘vibratey’, so I pulled the chute at 1000ft, and it still ran a six-eighty, so I was wrapped!” Dokic said.
“The track was grouse, and we had a really good day, it was really awesome. The problem now is we have some push rod issues that are putting us out for tomorrow. We haven’t blown anything up, but we have push rods rubbing against push rod stands. That is a real problem, and a real shame, especially since we top qualified, but apart from that we have had a great day.
“Thank you to my crew, there is seven of us who all travelled the nine hours from southeast Melbourne to be here and we have had a ball – this certainly beats playing golf or lawn bowls!
“That pass was actually the first time we have run this particular car down the quarter mile too, so that makes it even better, especially when you consider we pulled the chutes early. We are just wrapped.”
It was also a personal best day for Chris Allen in Competition Bike.
“I am pretty happy with the result and the day overall. This is an amazing track with great facilities, and I have to say great work to all the team that is involved and the series that has been brought together,” Allen said.
“I am very happy with the bike and how it is performing. We ran personal bests of 7.03 and 205mph (approx. 329kph) today, and we ran three 200mph+ passes when we have never run 200mph before, so we are pretty happy with that!
“I want to thank my team that has allowed me to be able to do this, I wouldn’t be able to do it without them! We will be well ready for racing in the morning. I am feeling very confident, the bike is in amazing condition.”
The Festival State Nationals will continue with day two at Dragway at The Bend on Sunday January 14, with the conclusion of qualifying for the Aeroflow National Sportsman Championship from 10.30am and racing for all brackets from 11.40am through to approximately 6.30pm. Nitro Funny Car, Top Doorslammer and Top Fuel Motorcycle are scheduled to hit the track at 1.00pm, 3.15pm and 5.50pm local time. Tickets are available at ndrc.tv and 7plus will carry a free live stream from 12.45pm local time. For more information, visit www.ndrc.tv