Friday qualifying at the Winternationals saw two Pro Series qualifying sessions for the first time in a big day of action at Willowbank Raceway.
The conditions were very cold to start with but once the sun came out and warmed the track for later sessions it was near perfect. American tuner Glenn Mikres went so far as to describe them as “Star Wars” conditions.
Top Fuel was led by Martin Stamatis. After earlier predicting that the dragsters would struggle in cold conditions, Stamatis and crew chief Rob Cavagnino got the Billview car down the strip twice with a 4.65/310 and a 4.68/298. The championship leader is followed by Phil Read who after first session issues ran a 4.75/315 for top speed of the event so far in the Auto One fueller.
There was plenty of fire and brimstone amongst the other drivers with Mark Mariani and Darren Morgan having big fires. Allan Dobson’s 4.91 for the Santo Rapisarda team got into third spot while with a 4.98 Morgan was the only other runner in the fours.
Interestingly championship contender Phil Lamattina currently sits outside the field after two runs where he instantly buzzed the tyres.
Top Alcohol saw some very quick runs. With a 5.55/260 Gary Phillips wrapped up the championship and top qualified in the Lucas Oils Funny Car. Perhaps a surprise number two was Rick Gauci from NSW who bumped his PB to an astonishing 5.60. A 5.61 from Debbie Reed in the Allstar Batteries dragster came from the first session and she did not emerge for the second.
Aaron Hambridge holds the bump with a 5.77. Championship second place holder John Cannuli has been unable to make a run yet, being shut off on both passes, while Adam Marchant who sits in third in the championship has been unable to make the field.
In Top Doorslammer it was shake city with hardly any racers getting down the track smoothly. John Zappia’s 5.83 even came with a pedal. Robin Judd’s 5.91 and a 5.94 by Ben Bray followed on. With a 6.27 Andrew Sutton holds the bump spot. Maurice Fabietti, Gary Phillips, Sean Mifsud and Victor Bray are all in the field. Another 11 racers sit on the outside. Another huge wheelstand by Mark Belleri’s Camaro was one of the highlights of the two sessions, but he has been unable to convert it to numbers.
Top Bike sees championship winner Chris Matheson dominating again with a sub record 6.10 pass. Alongside Jay Upton’s 6.40 in the first session it made for the quickest side by side bike race in Australia. From there though there was not too many good runs with third place a lacklustre 7.84 by Mick Murray and the bump a 9.14 by Mark Drew.
Pro Stock was the classiest show of the ANDRA Pro Series, again showing why it has been perhaps the bracket of the season. With a 7.082 Peter Ridgeway is the top qualifier in his first event back after a break from the sport. His Monaro also had top speed with 193.43, almost a full 1mph up on the rest of the field. Dave Newcombe also went 7.082 but did it second to sit in second, while a 7.084 from Aaron Tremayne was a close third. A 7.121 by Scott Porter sits in eighth, which would make it the quickest ever eight car field if that was the case, but as a 16 car field the bump sits at a 7.35 from John Barbagallo. Lee Bektash is the one fighting with Tremayne for the championship and currently sits in sixth with a 7.10. It was unfortunate to see Frank Nirta’s car go deep into the braking area with no chutes, lock up the brakes and turn hard right, just missing Ian Brown and ending up on its roof.
Pro Stock Bike is currently a little interesting with championship leader Andrew Badcock still not staging in qualifying, as he needs to do to win the championship. He was shut down on his first run and then did not return for the second. A pair of Kawasakis are leading the sheets in an unusual domination over the Suzukis. Peter Cochrane’s Serco machine is on top with a 7.32/182 while Phil Howard follows with a 7.51. Currently only seven bikes have qualified so no one will be out of the field.
Eliminations have already begun in most of the sportsman categories and we will bring you the later results. There was a dramatic incident in Outlaws qualifying when Neil Murphy’s Mustag shook the tyres hard and turned into Paul Stephen’s lane, hitting his altered right in the back and causing severe damage to both cars. Fortunately both drivers were not hurt in any serious way.
A photo gallery will also be coming shortly.