Australian NHRA Top Fuel star Richie Crampton is returning home to contest the New Year’s Thunder event at Willowbank Raceway, near Ipswich, Queensland, on January 5th.
Crampton has signed to drive a second dragster for the Lamattina Top Fuel Racing (LTFR) team alongside reigning Australian Champion Kelly Bettes.
It will be only the second time Adelaide-born Crampton has raced the 530km/h dragsters in Australia, having finished runner-up at Sydney Dragway’s Nitro Thunder event in May 2017.
“I’m very happy to be coming home to race Top Fuel for the Lamattina family on Aussie soil again – what a way to begin the New Year,” Crampton said.
“Phil Lamattina called me recently and offered to put a second race car together for New Year’s Thunder. It just so happened [Crampton’s wife] Stephanie and I had planned on taking our kids to Australia for a Christmas holiday with my family so it’s worked out well.
“I had a great time racing with the Lamattinas in Sydney last year, they’re a great group of people and have a world-class team so it was easy to say ‘yes’.”
Team owner Phil Lamattina said he was thrilled to have Crampton back with LTFR.
“I have developed a great friendship with Richie over the years and it’s great to have him back under the LTFR awning,” he said.
“LTFR took Richie to Sydney Dragway and we really wanted to do it again and bring two cars to Willowbank Raceway – it’s going to be great for the team and the New Year’s Thunder crowd.”
Crampton said he was excited about racing an 11,000 horsepower, nitro-burning Top Fuel dragster at Willowbank Raceway for the first time, but he expected to be confronted by some intense rivalry.
“I raced my old supercharged FC Holden at the Winternationals at Willowbank way back in 2001. It’s an iconic race track and I love it – it’s going to be a big race,” he said.
“There’s a lot of tough competition in Australian Top Fuel now and we’re going to have our hands full trying to race against the Rapisarda team and others.
“[Lamattina crew chief] Aaron Hambridge is amongst the best there is, so I’m feeling pretty good about coming home and racing as the Lamattinas are giving me all the right equipment to duke it out. It’s going to be hard day’s racing so it’ll be great for the fans.”
Crampton left Australia more than a decade ago with a goal of racing professionally in the United States. After nine years working as a crew member for various teams, he realised his dream when he landed a drive with Morgan Lucas Racing in 2014.
Crampton is now an eight-time winner on the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series tour, the world’s biggest and richest professional drag racing series, with his biggest win coming in his rookie year when he took out the 60thAnnual U.S. Nationals, the sport’s premier event.
That year, he was also presented with the NHRA’s Road to the Future Award for up-and-coming drivers and was voted respected auto racing industry publication, RACER Magazine’s Rookie of the Year by its readers.
New Year’s Thunder at Willowbank Raceway on Saturday, 5 January 2019, is the second round of the 400 Thunder Professional Drag Racing Series.
Full event details can be found at willowbankraceway.com.au and 400thunder.com.au.