REPORT – 2015 Fuchs Winternationals delivers on second day

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The pros got their start and sportsman wrapped up qualifying on an intriguing day two of the Fuchs Winternationals.

A big crowd under sunny skies was on hand to see Top Fuel, Top Alcohol, Top Doorslammer, Top Fuel Motorcycle, Pro Stock and Pro Stock Motorcycle make their first passes in anger for the weekend.

Anthony Begley looked to have Top Fuel’s number one qualifying position with a blower belt throwing 5.10 but the run was disqualified after a crew member touched the car while it was in full stage.

With tyre shake and smoke afflicting the rest of the field that left Phil Lamattina’s 9.539 on top. Probably a safe bet that won’t be the case by the end of Saturday qualifying.

Lamattina’s crew chief Aaron Hambridge reflected afterwards that they had probably underestimated how much grip the track had despite the cooling conditions.

In Top Alcohol, all focus was on championship leader Gary Phillips when he had an oil fitting come loose and spray fluid under the tyres on the launch, sending the car hard left into the wall.

The car climbed the wall briefly before coming back to the track, then climbing it again and throwing the body off. The car took some time to shut down as much of the front end componentry was crushed according to Gary’s son Cheyne.

“The car broke the oil feed line that goes to the data unit right off the start and it squirted oil under the tyres, and that was all she wrote – when she drives on one wheel it is not fun,” said Gary.

“It jammed the fuel shut off and that was why the car wouldn’t turn off, but I am completely fine – we are at the forefront of safety and I am as good as gold. I would have jumped straight in the Top Doorslammer and run that right after, I was ready to go, but with Debbie I needed to see how she was and now we will wait to see how she is before we make a decision on what to do tomorrow, as she is the driving force behind both of these cars and this team.”

Phillips is 68 points ahead of John Cannuli in the championship. With Phillips receiving a minimum of 20 points for attempting to qualify, Cannuli will need to make the final and either get a runner up with some bonus points or win the event outright in order to take the trophy.

Cannuli himself got out of the groove and brushed the right wall in his qualifier but will live to fight another day with two more sessions scheduled for Saturday. For now Steven Reed sits in number one thanks to a 5.541 second pass.

Ben Bray finally made his return to ANDRA Drag Racing with a solid 5.973 effort to hold onto first position for most of Top Doorslammer until John Zappia set a new Willowbank Raceway personal best with a 5.730 at 253.37 mph.

That run headlined a tough session for most teams with Marty Dack the only other driver entering the sub six-second zone with a 5.980 second pass.

“It was pretty good, it could have been a bit quicker off the start,” said Zappia. “It sort of pulled us a little bit off the start and at the top of low gear it started to spin the wheels and shake a little bit and I pedalled it and punched second gear and carried on.

“Probably short shifted a little, but it was a pretty good run. It went pretty well went down the middle – got a bit too close to the wall in the braking area. Just you know having that first pass, especially in the dark it can be pretty hairy for the first one, I usually like to have my first pass during the day, but tomorrow should be good – we got (today) out of the way and the pressure is off.

“Tomorrow we’ll start fine tuning it. Obviously the track should be better tomorrow ‘cause it was a bit slippery for some and we nearly over did it in first gear but it was real close to being a 5.68 run. It’s there we’ve just gotta fine tune it to this track. We’ll be in the left lane tomorrow; we’ll see how that goes.”

Bray impressed in his comeback to competition with a stout 5.973 second pass at 241.02mph.

“That first qualifying run was pretty nerve wracking, especially sitting in the back of staging lane and watching Gary wreck his funny car like he did,” said Bray. “That certainly sparked a couple of memories that I didn’t really want there and I did get pretty anxious and nervous about two or three pairings before I ran.

“But then getting ready Dad just said to me ‘just do a decent burnout and clear your head, just back up and forget everything and do your job. You’ve done it enough, you know you can do it.’ With those experienced words from him I just sat there and cleared my head and when the car started I was ready.

“We are the number two qualifier on the first pass, and were on the fastest until that last pairing – so I am pretty happy, the car performed pretty well, I drove it pretty well I think and got everything right for once. The engine is in good knick, so hopefully tomorrow will be better.

“The environment up here has just been great – after that run when we got back here (to the pits) there was probably 60-70 people standing out front clapping us in even though Top Fuel was on-track. Even Dad said it was a pretty proud moment on the start line to hear the roar that come from the crowd when I went through the trap – the atmosphere here is pretty cool and the weekend’s been good so far.”

The highlight of Pro Stock Q1 was a side-by-side 6.933 and 6.949 from the Tremayne brothers to put Aaron number one and Tyronne number two. Nino Cavallo was close behind with a 6.965 and Emilio Spinozzi running a 6.992.

Bill Perdikaris ran the first Pro Stock pass by a Ford with a 6.98 but the run was disqualified due to the crew interfering with the starting line beams.

Mark Drew leads Top Fuel Motorcycle into day three on a 6.556 second pass that looked far quicker from the sidelines while Gavin Spann, winner of the 2014 Australian Nationals, occupies second with a 6.991 ET.

Chris Porter, racing just one week after a high speed tumble at the Winters Warm Up, started strong on his run but soon diverted toward the centreline getting off the throttle early. Phil Parker was unable to make a representative pass and American Darian Guillory shut down at the startline.

Brad Lemberg set the standard on the first run in Pro Stock Motorcycle with a 7.285 elapsed time at 172.02 mph while Luke Crowley hopped, skipped and jumped on debut of his new Suzuki.

Locky Ireland, Scott White and Ryan Learmonth all hit the 7.50-second zone with Lemberg’s ET holding until the final pass when championship leader Maurice Allen recorded a 7.279 at 182.35 mph to lead PSM into day three.

Group Three and Four qualifying came to a close while Group Two made significant strides toward setting the race day field in the Summit Racing Equipment Sportsman Series.

Adam Murrihy lived up to that tag when he jumped straight to the top of Supercharged Outlaws qualifying in Q2 with the ‘perfect’ Outlaws pass of 6.500, the limit for the category.

The feat was even more impressive after he experienced dramas in Q1 when the front end lifted, sending the Altered across the centreline.

“We put some more weight in the car to keep the nose down and the car is jumping out of the hole really good now,” said Murrihy.

“We’re feeling a lot better than yesterday. Last year we were in this position where we had two bad qualifiers and had to dump a heap of fuel in to get it down the track on the third pass. It’s good to get the monkey off our back.

“The boys have got the car running sweet so we’ll just roll up to the startline, hit the noise and pedal.”

Top Sportsman’s Mark Harris promised he had more in his 1941 Willys Coupe and he lived up to the billing, securing the number one qualifier with a 6.490 elapsed time. Stew Walsh and Steven Fowler maintained second and third and championship contender Paul Russo qualified in position eight while championship leader Stuart McBain will get up and at them from 15th.

“We’ve still got a long way to go in the car, it’s still got a lot more in it yet,” said Harris. “We want to make changes to make it go faster but we know what it’s doing at the moment so we might just have to leave it.

“You’ve always got to watch out for (Steve) Fowler, he’s always on his game but everyone can cut a light and run a number. This is sort of an expensive test and tune for us. We’re having fun, it’s good.”

In Modified Rob Harrington improved on his first qualifier to confirm the top qualifying position with a 7.060 ET from Matt Forbes who put his Super Gas troubles behind him to claim second with a 7.256. Dallas Everett dropped to third as a result of Forbes’ improvement followed by a trio of women – Jess Turner, Leanne Braggs and championship leader Michelle Osborn. Closest title challenger Chris Farrell starts out of 12th position as he seeks to win the championship in his first season in the bracket.

Brian Hammond improved his ET in Super Sedan from 8.680 to 8.614 to confirm his place as number one qualifier from Andrew Lange who dislodged Andrew Saliba from second to third. Championship hopefuls David Yanko and Stephen Griffin qualified in 22nd and 39th with defending two time champ John Kapiris in 38th.

The 7.429-second pass by Kerry Ellis on Thursday was more than enough to maintain the number one qualifier in Modified Bike as the top 15 remained unchanged. Joint championship leaders Joe Khoury, Edgell Mallis and Ian Read qualified 14th, 19th and 34th respectively. Nathan Stone, just 20 points behind the leading trio, qualified third.

Lucas Holz’ 11.008 ET held up to top qualify in Super Street with the top 10 maintaining the status quo through the final two qualifiers. The trio of South Aussies in the frame for the championship, Harry Harris, Enzo Clemente and John Kapiris qualified 22nd, 24th and 49th ensuring a fierce battle when eliminations begin tomorrow.

Joel Burns leap frogged sixteen places to qualify number one in Junior Dragster ahead of Dylan Everett, Monique Ambruosi, John Fenech and joint championship leaders Toby Austin and Eden Ward.

Simon Isherwood maintained his top qualifying position in Super Gas by one thousandth of a second from Michael DeRose who jumped into second with a 9.905 followed by Colin Griffin a further one thousandth of a second behind in third. The top four were split by just four-thousandths with championship leader Graeme Spencer in fourth. Surprisingly two-time defending champ Matt Forbes’ woes continued as he qualified 16th.

In other action Super Stock, Competition Bike and Super Compact picked up where they left off on Thursday completing Q2 while Competition saw action for the first time this weekend with a single qualifier of their own.

Super Stock was full of stand out performances with leading title contender Steve Norman, Fred Soleiman, Kym Fardella, Rob Nunn and Brett Glover each going under their respective C/APA, D/GA, D/G, B/AP and RR/API national records.

By the end of Q2 Steve Norman’s effort of 7.885 seconds, one second under the national C/APA record, was too good handing provisional number one to the Croweater with a qualifier to spare.

Defending Competition Bike champion Ross Smith didn’t do his title bid any harm by going under the B/AB minimum for a potential new national record by .09 seconds to take the provisional number one with Q3 to run on Saturday. Blair Pennington is second after he went under the C/AB national record by .04 seconds.

Chris Tait, world record holder for 3RZ powered vehicles, heads Super Compact with a 6.863 to go .48 seconds under his national CC/SC index. Mark Jacobsen and Scott Porter both went .43 seconds under their AA/SC index to take second and third from Mat Lisle and now two-time Super Compact champion Domenic Rigoli who cannot be surpassed in the title race.

Competition Eliminator were able to complete one of their two scheduled qualifiers and will run Q2 and Q3 tomorrow. After one session Tony Bellert leads the field going .47 seconds under his A/DA index followed by a pair of championship chasers in Craig Geddes and Al McClure.


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