Northern exposure – pure Australian drag racing

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There is a new great road trip in Australian drag racing. The season opening ‘northern swing’, taking in events at Darwin’s Hidden Valley Drag Strip and Alice Springs Inland Dragway, combines a fantastic adventure with two exciting events – Nitro Up North and the Desert Nationals.

Quite simply, this is the road trip every passionate Australian drag racing fan needs to put on their bucket list. Enjoy the photos.

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The experience begins with the relaxed atmosphere of Darwin, in the tropical top end of the Northern Territory. For fishing, wildlife or WWII history lovers, there is much to see. For everyone else, the escape from winter temperatures on much of the continent is the only reason they need. The atmosphere builds ahead of Nitro Up North early thanks to a series of displays run around Darwin in the lead up. Top Fuel driver Mark Sheehan was the star of many of these displays, including at the infamous Hidden Valley Tavern (where hourly ‘dance shows’ run on Saturday afternoons).

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Two lucky onlookers get a seat in Mark Sheehan’s Top Fuel dragster while on display at Mindil Markets. A crowd pleasing fire up occurred twice during the event, with the night time blips even generating header flames to really send spectators home buzzing. 

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Top Bike veteran Kim Stevens returned to the nitro wars, inspired by the efforts of nephew Ben over the last couple of seasons. Though Kim was an early casualty with damage to the Attitude Racing Nitro Harley he borrowed, we hope to see him back as a regular on the tour.

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O’Rourke Motorsport crew members head for the startline before the first session of Pro Slammer qualifying.

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Track staff rush to get the attention of Marty Dack to shut down the 3500 horsepower engine of his Ford Mustang Pro Slammer due to a fluid leak.

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John Zappia and several of his crew members watch Paul Mouhayet making his first official run in Pro Slammer. Mouhayet is destined to be a tremendous rival to ten times champion Zappia.

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Smoke hangs in the air as qualifying progresses at Nitro Up North.

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‘The Stang’, driven by Victoria’s Tim Stewart, returns to the pits following a run in qualifying for Nitro Up North.

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Ben Bray steers the Gulf Western Oil Corvette out of the pit garage towards the staging lanes, looking to break into the field in the final qualifying session.

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Darwin local Scott MacLean mentally prepares to accelerate to over 400kmh in just 5.8 seconds in his Pro Slammer.

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Australia’s quickest motorcycle drag racer Chris Matheson focuses on the strip ahead before firing up for the first round of eliminations at Nitro Up North.

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Lamattina Top Fuel Racing’s team members prepare their dragster ahead of a match up against Peter Xiberras.

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Kelly Bettes inside the cockpit of the Lamattina Family Top Fuel dragster. 

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A much anticipated match up takes place between Paul Mouhayet and John Zappia in the semi finals of Pro Slammer. Mouhayet would be victorious with Zappia struggling on seven cylinders.

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Thousands of Darwin motorsport fans fill the grounds of Hidden Valley Drag Strip. The record crowd witnessed some great racing on the atmosphere filled night.

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Peter Xiberras hits the throttle of his Premiair Top Fuel dragster, throwing nitro flames into the air.

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After the racing concluded, many teams partied long into the night before heading out for some fun the next day. Kakadu National Park is a popular attraction for visitors to the Northern Territory.

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One of the famous local residents of Kakadu. The salt water crocodile is an icon of northern Australia.

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The road trip to Alice Springs from Darwin is punctuated by a few highlights, including the Devils Marbles. Here the Lamattina Top Fuel Racing transporter takes a break, with ust a few hours left to make it to Alice.


It’s time to go racing again at the Desert Nationals! Victorian Modified racer Matt Czerny burns out across the startline, watched on by crew member Ray Gould.

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John Zappia lays down one of his classic burnouts, the kind that has made him one of Australian drag racing’s most well known names.

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Cody Hodgins guides his Junior Dragster on to the return road following a pass in qualifying for the Desert Nationals.

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Grant O’Rourke leads Matt Abel in a Top Doorslammer confrontation in the desert.

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Kelly Bettes puts down two long tracks of rubber to help launch the Fuchs Top Fuel dragster. Bettes performed three exhibition runs and set a new track record of 4.90/297mph on Alice Springs Inland Dragway.

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Ned Karanovic takes a $100 bill to his opponent after a loss in the semi finals of Super Sedan.

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Mark Chapman contemplates the run he has just made in his Plymouth Fury Top Doorslammer.

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Shane Kramer is told by his crew he broke out with a 6.95 on a 6.96 dial in, in the final round of Supercharged Outlaws at the Desert Nationals.

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Red dust hangs in the air above the strip as Kelly Bettes slows from her 297mph pass, the Macdonnell Ranges looming in the background.

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Kelly Bettes climbs from the cockpit at the end of the braking area to be told she has set a new track record.

I hope you enjoyed these photos, and further hope you can add this trip to your drag racing future – Luke 

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