Round two of the Burson Auto Parts Australian Top Fuel Championship headed to the regional city of Mildura with six ground-pounding Top Fuel Dragsters to take on a brand-new challenge – racing their 11,000hp machines over the eighth mile – the first time the shorter distance has been used in championship history.
The Top Fuel Championship partnered with the annual Ken Scroop Memorial event at Mildura’s Sunset Strip and also featured a round of the Top Bike championship and Pro Stock a grudge race.
Taking the series to a regional track that had last seen a Top Fuel Dragster perform an exhibition run in 2014 meant that drivers and crew chiefs alike were effectively starting with a blank sheet. With a lack of historical data to lean on and a very hot track that made for incredibly trying conditions, many drivers and their crew chiefs were left scratching their heads after qualifying on Saturday evening.
Class of the field was Phil Read whose Hydraulink machine powered away to a standout 3.19 second pass – taking both the top qualifying spot and outright track record as well as putting the packed Mildura crowd on their feet in one fell swoop.
Phil Read explained, “We rattled the tyres on the first pass, but we decided it needed more power, not less. While some of the other teams tried to calm their tune-ups down, we went the other way and it stuck well enough to qualify on top.”
There was little more to report on after qualifying, though you can read our wrap up here – https://dragnews.com.au/results-gallery-read-rumbles-to-the-top-in-qualifying-2022-atfc-rd-2/
Moving onto race day, and for team Read, despite a first-round win over a tyre smoking Wayne Newby with a 3.68, the rest of the event didn’t go to plan. Going down to Peter Xiberras in the second round and falling short again to Shane Olive in the third, both times as a result of over-powering the track and failing to get traction.
“It’s a shame we didn’t perform to our usual expectations. We had the speed on Saturday but didn’t tune for the track on Sunday,” said Phil Read. “We got a little greedy in our last run, trying for a 3.0 second pass to get the record back. I was about a car length in front but couldn’t stay there.”
For rookie Olive his win light over Read in the third round – the first of his Top Fuel career – came with a new track record at 3.17/265MPH and sent the ‘Burson Bullet’ team home with a smile. Earlier in the day Olive battled hard with Damien Harris losing 3.61 to a 3.25, then improved on his ET again only to lose to the boss on a holeshot 3.31 to Lamattina’s 3.32.
The event progression for the Burson’s team was a great sign for the future. “It was great seeing Shane and his crew getting results as well, as a team we are really on the right track!” said Team Principal, Phil Lamattina.
The event saw the entry into the championship of Rapisarda Autosport International’s Western Australian driver Damien Harris whose 700-day absence had blunted neither his skills nor, crucially, his reflexes. After defeating Olive in round one, and notwithstanding losing to team mate Newby next, Harris made the B final against former Australian champion, PremiAir Hire Racing’s Xiberras a total nail-biter, with the former snatching the win and 70 championship points on the way with a 3.25.
With both dragsters locked together at the stripe in almost a visual dead heat, a timing malfunction in Xiberras’ lane meant the winner had to be decided by video analysis that went in the RAI team’s favour.
Xiberras was excited about the event despite the loss saying, “We dug deep and gave it everything we could, and it is safe to say we have thoroughly enjoyed our time here in Mildura. The fans came out in droves and were so appreciative of everything we laid down all weekend, and the atmosphere here was just electric all weekend long.”
While the Lamattina Top Fuel Racing team may have struggled in qualifying, come race day team owner and Fuchs Lubricants dragster pilot Phil Lamattina well and truly turned things around. Taking the win in each of his first two over Xiberras and Olive put the Carrot King into the A final against a hard-charging Newby whose round two win against RAI teammate Harris had lowered the track record to 3.18 seconds – the decisive factor in Newby qualifying for the A final. Separated in that final by just thousandths – 3.196 to 3.204 – Lamattina made it three from three at his home track in front of the thousands of loud and proud Mildura locals.
An emotional Lamattina who was clearly feeling the love from those in attendance described the win. “From the outhouse the penthouse! That was an awesome show. I’ve got to talk my hat off to my fellow competitors. It took them a while to dial it in, but there’s the six smartest tuners in the country out there and they’re all making it happen. Man, oh man, this is a dream come true.”
Lamattina’s win sits him on 200 points for the championship, 20 clear of round one winner Phil Read who in turn is just 25 ahead of Xiberras in third. Event runner-up Newby has snuck into fourth place with the new kid on the block, Olive taking both points for his first racing win as well as Top Speed and Low ET points in the Burson Auto Parts Top Fuel Dragster.
Burson Auto Parts Australian Top Fuel Championship organiser, Andy Lopez, was elated with the first eighth-mile event saying that the visit to a regional track was a real positive for the series and the sport.
“We knew it was a bold choice to run Top Fuel over the eighth mile for round two of the series, but we had the confidence in the teams, and I think the quality of the racing and the response from the crowd after each pass shows it was the right call. These are true drag racing fans here in Mildura and they showed us nothing but positivity and love from the minute we arrived in town. The Sunset Strip staff, from the track crew to the officials, helpers and everyone else involved in running the event were incredible, and we really had the best time. I can’t thank them all enough.
“The teams proved they were up for the challenge, and once they got their heads around how to make their cars work with a very hot track, they showed why the Burson Auto Parts Australian Top Fuel Championship is the best drag racing show in the country. Rebuilding and preparing a Top Fuel Dragster in between rounds is hot, sweaty, frantic work at the best of times, but each car has a tremendously committed crew attached to it, and their dedication amazes me more each event.
“The drivers, not just Top Fuel but everyone who took part in competition on the weekend showed the type of determination and attitude that is required to make a successful event happen, and we couldn’t be more grateful for the show they helped create.”
The Burson Auto Parts Australian Top Fuel Championship heads west to the Perth Motorplex April 8 and 9 for two huge days of nitro racing action. Entries and spectator passes will be on sale soon at topfuelchampionship.com.au.
The Top Bike championship continued with four bikes in the pits, unfortunately this was reduced by one when Corey Buttigieg who was looking good aboard his potent Harley banged a clutch at the end of qualifying. The field was also missing John Zahra who couldn’t complete repairs from damage at the Sydney event in time.
Chris Matheson on Nitro Voodoo ripped a 4.19 to blitz the field in qualifying and taking the track record in the process, ahead of Mr Consistent Rob Cassar who punched out a pair of 4.52s.
On race day the self-admitted luck fell the way Kawasaki racer Rob Cassar who dropped three wins to take home the winner’s trophy.
Tony Polito driving the second Darryl Stephen Racing Mustang and Rob Dekert in the Unique Racing GXP were at Sunset Strip for a Pro Stock grudge race. Conditions, both atmospherically and track were not conducive to the naturally aspirated machines and they struggled as a result for clean passes. Unfortunately, engine revving issues forced Polito to withdraw the Mustang during race day leaving Dekert to perform some solo passes for the big crowd.
The event doubled as the Ken Scroop Memorial, dedicated to a popular local racer who succumbed to cancer several years ago. The winner of Super Street at the event would be awarded the Ken Scroop Memorial title, and the big field after three rounds of Chicago Shootout competition shook down to Dom Lanciana VS Commodore taking the win over Nikolas Karanovic’s ’69 Barracuda.
A couple of wheelstanding Super Stockers taking advantage of some track time ahead of the following weekend’s ANDRA Sportsman Championship event fought out the Super Comp final. Adrian Vella’s late model Cobalt was too quick for Louis Svingos’ old school D/MP Valiant
Dale Tucker’s HQ proved to good for Bob Sherry Chevy Monza in the Supercharged Outlaws final.
Kenny Stewart won an all-dragster duel against Cory Dyson to win Modified.
In Fast Sedan, Benny Phillips’ very tidy nitrous HK wagon took the win light against Lance Larcombe’s Camaro.
Lucas Naegou Suzuki upset Shane Walker aboard his Australian Championship winning Destroyer in the Modified Bike final
Todd Wagner took the winner’s trophy home over Ayden Lanciana in Junior Dragster.
The Ladies bracket was won by Zoe McIvor who defeated Madi Sparrow in the final.
Adam Ince’s Nissan VG30ET powered RX2 grabbed a win in Street Car over John Obst’s little Cortina.
There is no turnaround time for the venue with the Twilight Nationals coming this weekend which is a round of the ANDRA Summit Racing Equipment Sportsman Series. Huge props must be given to track manager Kingsley Kuchel and the whole Sunraysia Drag Racing Association crew for not only putting the event together on short notice with Top Fuel.