Top Fuel rookie Kelly Bettes has taken the lead of the 400 Thunder championship after a win in a historic final at Gulf Western Oil Nitro Thunder at Sydney Dragway.
In the first all-female final in Australian professional drag racing history, Bettes pedalled to a messy 4.801 to defeat Rachelle Splatt’s tyre smoking 5.927.
Bettes had the quickest car of the event following a first round 3.832/317.87mph blast but Splatt was far from off the pace, having run two 3.98 passes in a row during the first two rounds of racing.
The lowlight of the event was Peter Xiberras crashing the Premiair dragster in an incident eerily similar to one just over 12 months ago at the same race track. The car smoked the tyres and turned hard left on to its side, crunching the opposite wall before coming down on to its wheels and rolling through to the finish line.
Bettes now leads the championship with 463 points, ahead of Damien Harris on 430 points.
Pro Slammer saw the usual mix of awesome performances, wild incidents and controversy. John Zappia took out the final round and claimed the championship lead with a 5.751 win over Sam Fenech’s valiant 5.823.
Fenech had to overcome a tough day to make it that far, going deep into the sand pit in the first round after only one chute came out.
Leader going into the event was Paul Mouhayet who earned two wins in the elimination rounds, but the strange fashion of his second win generated plenty of comments. Opponent Andrew Searle rolled the beams before the ambers flashed, then Mouhayet crossed the centreline – IHRA officials deciding to give Mouhayet the win points. We expect to hear more about this pairing to come!
Generating performance headlines was Steve Ham with a big improvement to a 5.691 PB, while Geoff Gradden’s streak of 5.80 second runs was also impressive for the privateer team.
Zappia leads the points with 655 ahead of Mouhayet’s 639.
Pro Alcohol’s championship is now almost wrapped up for Steve Reed as he took the win against Russell Mills with a 5.518, Mills shutting off early to a 6.822.
The victory stretched Reed’s lead over Mills to 48 point and while not insurmountable, it will be tough for Mills to fight back at the Winternationals.
One of our favourite performances of the bracket was that of Justin Walshe, who cut a 5.696 in his altered, just off Mark Sheehan’s all time best for the class of 5.690.
For the first time in a long time there was someone besides a Tremayne in the winner’s circle of Pro Stock as Wayne Daley put in a commanding performance.
The Mopar of Daley was in a very plain paint scheme after its scuffle with the wall in Adelaide, but looks had no impact on performance as Daley smashed out a 6.906/198.09, defeating a 6.957/196.96.
He might have only had a runner up, but Aaron Tremayne has all but wrapped up the championship, sitting 93 points ahead of nearest rival Jason Hedges.
Pro Bike was one of the most unpredictable fields of all but came down to a Maurice Allen vs Corey Buttigieg final. Allen took a big holeshot and it paid off with a 7.617 defeating a much quicker 7.491. It was a good recovery from a tough 24 hours for Allen, who snapped a chain in testing and beat up the beautiful bodywork of his Suzuki. It was only thanks to some carbon fibre work from Buttigieg during the night that Allen was able to return to racing!
Buttigieg was the quickest of the day with a stunning 7.084 run early, but heading out to the centre line in the final round cost him the race. Though Allen came away with the trophy, Buttigieg actually earned more points on the day and extended his lead by four points, heading into the Winternationals 47 up on Allen.
It was bad news for Phil Howard in round one, who laid his bike on its side in the braking area. The front wheel appeared to look up and though Howard was able to wash off most of his speed, there was still some sliding to do. Howard was unhurt.
Unfortunately attrition took its toll on the Top Bike field as Chris Porter and Adam Layton both retired before eliminations. That left just the two bikes of Chris Matheson and Michel Dwinger remaining and points were allocated only for entry. We should put a note about Matheson’s epic performance in testing where he clocked a 3.89 to the 660 feet timers, more than enough to run a five second pass should he hold the throttle to the finish line.
In the 400 Thunder Sportsman Series, Tony Bellert took victory in Competition with a pedalling 6.984 as David Dequen shut down early, bringing an end to what had been a streak of under-the-record runs for the E/AA.
Super Stock was a very strange final as both Fred Nicastri and Wade Moran had problems right off the start line with traction. Nicastri got back on the throttle and wrung the neck of the Pontiac to an 11 second time card, surprisingly good enough to take home the trophy.
Competition Bike went the way of Ken Collin, taking an upset win over Peter Puznik who has won the last two events of the series. Collin’s 8.52 on an 8.00 record was far from his best performance but enough to defeat Puznik’s slowing 9.572.
By the way, Terry Jackson is fine after last night’s off in the braking area, though he may be nursing a few of the proverbial ‘flesh wounds’.
Extreme Bike was won by Leonard Azzopardi over Ace Edwards, but all the talking was around Azzopardis incredible top end speeds, including a final round 210.67mph blast which was the fastest of any bike at the event, bar none!
Supercharged Outlaws saw disappointment for Jim Holley as the colourful Funny Car lost fire after the burnout, Alf Sciacca Jr able to take his Lamborghini for a 7.169 joy ride to win the final.
Michael Voase won in Top Sportsman with Darryl Stephen just staging. Voase was certainly tight on the tree with a .005 and rolled off the throttle early for the victory.
Another single final occurred in Modified, where Shane Wynd was shut down on the line with a leak, allowing Matt Forbes to take the single and the trophy.
Michael Little was too good in Super Sedan, a .044 and 9.35 on a 9.30 good to defeat Paul Doeblien’s 8.61 on an 8.53 with an out of character .123 reaction time.
Alan Annis used an 8.852 on an 8.78 dial in for his win in Modified Bike, defeating Steven Day who was late on the tree with a .189 reaction time and never came back.
There was better news for the Doebliens in Super Street, where Shaun Doeblien (son of Paul) defeated Rod Hanckel.
Finally in Junior Dragster, Ryan Pettiford red lit by four hundredths of a second to hand a win to Joel Burns.
The 400 Thunder Series next heads to Willowbank Raceway for the season ending Winternationals. Keep an eye out for our full photo gallery to come from Gulf Western Oil Nitro Thunder.