The first Top Fuel meeting of 2020 will see each member of RAI, Wayne Newby, Damien Harris and Ashley Sanford, bring a differing agenda to the New Year’s Thunder meeting at Willowbank Raceway, January 4.
Reigning 400 Thunder champ, Newby, returns to the venue for the first time since winning the Winternationals and clinching his second 400 Thunder title in June. His title defence got off to a strong start at the East Coast Thunder meeting at Sydney Dragway, November where he top qualified and finished runner-up to Sydney racer Peter Xiberras in the final.
Willowbank Raceway is also home to where Harris tasted victory at the 2018 Winternationals with a 3.77/525 km/h pass, the quickest time and fastest speed for 1000 feet ever witnessed outside of North America. His 2019 season was derailed by a multitude of frustrating and niggling mechanical issues until bouncing back with a strong performance at the ECT meeting. Harris qualified second defeated veteran Phil Read and narrowly lost to Xiberras in the semi-final.
For Ashley Sanford, Willowbank has been home to some of her best performances since making her debut with RAI in 2017. The 25-year-old Californian speedster finished runner-up to Peter Xiberras at the New Year meeting in January 2018 a feat she repeated in January 2019 – this time against Kelly Bettes. A career-first victory at the ‘Bank would be the ideal way to kick-start her dream of landing a ride in the NHRA Mello Yello series.
With only five entries, team principal Santo Rapisarda is unfazed at the prospect that his family of drivers will inevitably race against each other.
“Under the one-day format, it will happen,” said Rapisarda. “It’s not the first time that we’ve had teammates racing one another. The last time was at the opening round of the season, the East Coast Thunder meeting in November, where Wayne defeated Ashley in the semi-final.”
“All I want is to see the three cars race hard and put on a good show for the crowd.”
“Our plans include testing the day before the meeting. At this time of the year, we expect the weather to be hot and very humid. To spend two days at the track in those conditions and make around six or seven runs is a real challenge both physically and mentally for the drivers and in particular the crews. Whoever wins the event will have