The Nitro Champs found its mojo in a one day pro format at Sydney Dragway, as sportsman eliminations were unfortunately rained out.
Top Fuel was using a new format and delivered a consistent show with no major hold ups and plenty of strong runs. The team took part in a test session early in the day, with most shutting off early as they secured their incremental data.
Racing then began in earnest with a new points system to decide the winner. Teams were awarded points for wins as well as for ET, with the two cars on the highest amount of points after two rounds going through to a final, though still joined by the rest of the field on track.
Peter Xiberras secured a win and the most ET points with a 4.71 win against Terry Sainty, while Damien Harris got the solo based on his championship position coming into the race and ran out to a 4.781. Mark Mariani’s 4.782 took care of Darren Morgan, while a sub par 5.35 by Wayne Newby still took the stripe from a struggling Martin Stamatis.
Mariani stepped up in the second round with a low ET 4.690 against a close 4.719 from Newby. Stamatis got his groove back somewhat with a 4.79 in the Billview dragster on a bye run, while Harris was lucky his 4.95 stood up against a 5.07 by Morgan who got close to the centre line. Xiberras faced Sainty, who was shut down on the startline, leaving the Premiair car to go it alone and belt out a consistent 4.72 to earn a spot in the final against Mariani, at top speed of the event – 316mph.
The final round saw Morgan reclaim some points at least with a 4.77 victory over Stamatis’ 5.06, as Sainty rolled to an 8.92 early shut off. Harris smoked the tyres against Newby’s 4.77 which left just the final to decide. Xiberras got an early jump, .047 to .106 on the tree, but Mariani was able to claw most of that back by 330 feet. From there both cars had their troubles, with Xiberras throwing a belt and Mariani well loose on a 5.90 to 6.61 win. It wasn’t pretty but it was a great reward for a team who put so much into promoting themselves and the event.
Pro Alcohol was all about Gary Phillips, who top qualified with a 5.40/264. Rob Ambruosi was his nearest rival with a 5.66 as the remainder of the field struggled to lay down representative times in the two sessions.
It would work out to be those two in the final round as well. Phillips was able to lay down another one of those 5.40s and that was enough to take care of Ambruosi’s 5.95.
Pro Slammer saw one of the biggest upsets as Paul Cannuli (pictured top) took down top qualifier John Zappia in the final. Cannuli had a massive thrash after his engine damaged a piston and a valve in the semi final and only just made the start line. After some troubles starting the car, Cannuli rushed through the burnout and even started in top gear, but from there things got more interesting! Zappia launched well but then was way out of shape and that saw Cannuli’s ‘slow but steady’ 6.63 able to come around the outside for a surprising win and some of the biggest celebrations ever seen on the Sydney Dragway start line.
It was a story of the brothers Tremayne in qualifying for Pro Stock, with Aaron’s 6.93 and Tyronne’s 6.98 leading the way. Aaron was an unlucky first round victim though when he moved out of the groove and made the wise decision to click the car early against Rick Chilton.
Lee Bektash had been having a tough weekend but was starting to gather it all up in time for racing. He survived a close encounter of the John Barbagallo kind in the first round and then took out Chilton in the semis to set up a race against Tyronne. On a cooling track Bektash found the right tune up and a 6.98/196 was good for the win against a 7.02/195 out of the Tremaniac.
Top Bike saw just four bikes reach eliminations, coming down to Mark Drew and Chris Porter in the final. Drew left on Porter by almost a full tenth but had to get on and off the throttle, allowing Porter’s solid 6.66, low ET of the event, to take out a 6.98.
Pro Bike was another bracket to feature just four sickles and in this case it was Maurice Allen top qualifying with a 7.30. In eliminations Allen was taken out by Scott White in the first round, with Allen’s Suzuki making some odd noises throughout the run. That set up a final against Corey Buttigieg. White got out on the Buell but Buttigieg clawed back the distance for a 7.34 to 7.60 win for the star of Drag News Magazine Issue 16, available now.
Sportsman got in a couple of qualifying rounds for the most part, though Supercharged Outlaws and Super Comp were victims of the schedule, which was delayed by a few oildowns and crashes.
Early sportsman eliminations took place on Sunday but unfortunately sprinkling rain got the better of the event.
For our full event coverage, make sure to get on to Drag News Magazine Issue 17, available next month and stay tuned to dragnews.com.au for our full image galleries.