Rocket racers rock Nitro Champs

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Despite the sportsman numbers being significantly down especially with local racers, many attributing the reason to the increase of the entry fees for this event, the quality and on track action was far from lacking as racers headed into the penultimate round of the Rocket Allstars Racing Series.

The brisk cool air coinciding with killer traction resulted in 14 new records along with seven minimums entered into the books and a number of other potential records which missed back ups.

Competition – Jeff Clarke

The Western Australian giant killer snares first gold Christmas tree.

Competition eliminator certainly had its share of variety which makes this bracket always intriguing to watch, whether it’s turbo, blown, nitrous or aspirated, Competition has your poison. Even though there was only a smallish field of 13 entrants, qualifying and racing was eventful and with a Justin Walshe and Phil Otto not in attendance the chance was there for some championship movement.

Qualifying had everything, Chris Soldatos made a return and decimated the B/A index to finish on top in qualifying with a 6.93 (-.651), when Soldatos finally makes the jump into Pro Stock he should be right in the mix. Maurice Brennan was one of three sandgropers in Competition to make the trek across the land, and he followed on from his recent record setting Westernats form to qualify second with a sub record 6.107 (-.643), fellow West Aussie Jeff Clarke put down a best of 6.33 (-.414) for third but engine damage saw him miss the rest of qualifying and in doubt for eliminations.  Shane Baxter finished in fourth with a 7.115 (-.375) with the wheelstanding CC/DA of Greg Leahy close behind laying down a 6.954 (-.366) best. Mathew Lisle was the first of the turbo cars, his wicked Probe was next with an off the pace for him 6.843 (-.357) while Wayne Cartledge debuted a new A/DA which he quickly sorted to a 7.071 (-.339) and Steve Athans rounded out the top half of the field in the Haddad prepped twin turbo Mustang from Victoria 7.677 (-.303).

Jason Maggs had everyone’s eyeballs popping when he rolled out his gorgeous new 2007 Corvette in BB/AP, qualifying in 9th with a 7.006 (-0.303) from the baby 315ci small block, championship contender Graeme Frawley couldn’t improve out of the 10th 7.310 (-.230) spot.  Eric Goudswaard’s C/A  struggled to 11th 7.536 (.046), Mike Nola wheelstood and shook to a great 6.81 (.062) from the nitrous Firebird, but in the brutal AA/AP class it was only good enough for 12th and Marty Dack, the last of the WA contingent, stepped his Mustang up from Outlaws but was fighting gremlins to record a 7.100 (.125) to round out the field.

With the first round of racing occurring in the rapidly dropping temperatures on the Saturday night, upsets were on the cards. Soldatos easily took care of Athans who had been having trouble bring the Mustang up on boost off the line in time but it was Maggs taking out Brennan in the upset of the round after Brennan admitted he had too many launch rev’s and spun the tyres off the line. Next upset saw last qualifier Dack 7.04 (7.10) put away Cartledge’s dragster who rolled to the finish and Nike Nola completed the upset in a nitrous vs turbo battle against a red lighting Lisle. Clarke 6.21 (6.75) had a easy win over Frawley who got very loose, crossing lanes and nudged the wall and Leahy 7.008 (7.32) wrapped up the first round of eliminations putting Goudswaard on the trailer.

Clarke had given his index a solid touch up in round one and he gave it another severe bruising in round two running a great sub record 5.90 (6.48) against Dack who ran his best ET of the weekend 6.97 (7.07), Maggs 7.10 (7.12) overcame a fast charging Nola who also recorded his best lap 6.72 (6.75) and the final pairing of the round saw a sub index battle between Soldatos and Leahy, the result was a index bashing win to the flying altered from Victoria 6.93 (7.51) to the dragsters 6.93 (7.16).

The semi finals were two solo affairs, Maggs unfortunately had a throttle stick in the burnout and drove it around the bottom end safely to a stop against Clarke who still made a full pull in the Hogs Breath Cafe dragster to a 5.98 and Soldatos just put the altered into stage take the win through to the final.

Both racers had given their respective indexes a smashing through eliminations, Clarke had been consistently running under the national record and again in the final Clark lowered the record mark for BB/D a even further to 5.87 on the 6.32 index which was far too good for Soldatos 6.96 (7.26) giving an ecstatic Clarke his first gold christmas tree and a outside chance in the championship.

Super Stock – Ralph Perri

Perri’s Pontiac takes the Andrew Rowe Memorial title

The Super Stock tin tops have been making a resurgence of late and with 19 cars entered, all the championship contenders in the pits and the highly prized Andrew Rowe Memorial trophy on offer, it would ensure a take no prisoners qualifying battle.

And qualifying did not disappoint, five cars were under the national record at its conclusion. Steve Norman’s A/GA Firebird bettered the record the furthest by a massive .647 of a second with a 7.38, closely followed by the F/G Camaro of Alex Panagiotidis 8.99 (-.632), Kevin Manger’s A/MP  Pontiac 8.59 (-.613), the B/MSA VS Commodore of Jim Ioannidis 9.58 (-.588) and Adamo Spinozzi was the last of the sub record cars in qualifying with the Chevy S-10 ute 7.66 (.-.544). Paul Beauchamp’s B/GA Firebird was poised in 6th 7.73 (-.478) with Nino Cavallo lurking in 7th with a 8.14 (-.473) and Robert Dekert perfectly qualified his striking Cavalier in 8th 8.21 (-.466). The bottom half of the field was packed full of front runners which would guarantee a cracking first round of racing, Ralph Perri 7.16 (-.464), Omar Sedmak 7.17 (-.451), Nick Karantonis 8.42 (-.448), Vince Panetta 8.92 (-.408), Les Heintz 8.98 (-.378), Carlo Luisi 8.99 (-.307), John Kuiper 8.41 (-.128) and Tim Dimitropolous 9.72 (.032) wrapped up the Super Stock qualifying field, Joe Kabboura, Roy Thomas and Michael Frossos failed to qualify.

Upsets continued in Super Stock eliminations, top qualifier Norman pulled a cherry against Perri, likewise Dekert red lit against 16th qualifier Dimitropolous and Les Heintz possibly playing possum in qualifying 8.76 (9.36) surprised Spinozzi’s 7.70 (8.21). National champion Cavallo 8.26 (8.62) made easy work of Kuiper 8.48 (8.54), Karantonis’ Avenger 8.49 (8.87) overcame a lazy 0.318 reaction time to drive around Magner 9.56 (9.21) and Ioannidis 9.69 (10.17) held off Vince Panetta’s Torana 8.98 (9.33). Carlo Luisi’s impressive wheels up launches came to a end when he left too early giving Beauchamp easy passage to round two but the match up of the round was Panagiotidis and Sedmak, with 2 seconds difference in handicaps Panagiotidis’ Camaro left first with a stunning .003 light, Sedmak was up to the challenge throwing down his own .004 light to commence the chase, but the national champs 7.18 (7.63) was unable to run down the south aussie’s 9.02 (9.63).

In round two Perri 7.31 (7.63) had to damage the index to sneak by Heintz 8.77 (9.06), likewise Beauchamp 7.74 (8.21) over Panagiotidis 8.96 (9.33), Karantonis 8.44 (8.68) hit back from his sleepy first round reaction to holeshot Cavallo 8.15 (8.44) and Ioannidis had a solo when Dimitropolous failed to front.

Karantonis was now too early on the tree handing the first semi to Perri while Ioannidis had a few problem on his pass against Beauchamp. So the final was a pair of Pontiac Firebirds, Beauchamp left with a tardy .101 light while Perri cut the tree down again with a .006 and had enough to drive past Beauchamp’s 7.74 (7.97) with his best of the race meet 7.25 (7.47) to win the Nitro Champs and the prestigious Andrew Rowe Memorial trophy.

Competition Bike & Super Compact

Neither Competition Bike or Super Compact eliminators were contested at the Nitro Champs, despite a last ditch effort to recruit the required six entries it was all in vain. While Super Compact were decimated when the PAC Performance team withdrew to pursue a too good to turn down rally opportunity with Mazda Australia, controversy did reign due to the fact there was a number of Pro FX exhibition cars that could have slotted into the Super Compact field to make the required numbers. Super Compact competitors had assurances the Pro FX exhibition would not affect their championship so several competitors vying for the Super Compact championship had a bad taste in their mouth when Pro FX went ahead and Super Compact and championship hopes were canned.

Supercharged Outlaws – Nathan Peirano

Piranha bites back in Outlaws.

An excellent field of 27 wild and wonderful Supercharged Outlaws attempted qualifying, with the majority of the championship contenders staying at home the Nitro Champs was a prime opportunity to become a contender. Andrew Hodgson in the Avenger Funny Car once again assumed the number one slot after qualifying with a 6.56, Shane Olive was back behind the wheel of his ex Monaro Doorslammer driving for the new Tasmanian owner, Olive qualified 2nd with a 6.71 but suffered terminal engine damage. Alex Souris’ Firebird had a new lick of paint and looks even more stunning than it did before, a  6.72 had Souris in 3rd, while Frank Mamone’s sleek Nova shows you don’t need fancy air brushing to get attention, the jet black Nova is turning heads off and on the track, imported as a roller from the US as a 10.5 Outlaw car, Mamone dropped in a Hambridge Top Alcohol motor and the following wild wheels up six second passes has had everyone buzzing, Mamone finished qualifying with a 6.80 which included a wheelstand at half track. Other qualifying highlights included Jeff Gatt running 6.82 for his first 6 second slip in the big block altered, Victorian Craig Gerdes’ 7.11 is the quickest he had pushed the HK down the strip to raptures of George Haddad and the crew. Tasmanian Mike Evans made his first trip to Sydney with his Camaro and under the guidance of one Camp Stanley qualified with a 7.07, Zach Peirano also ran a PB in the Toyota powered FED with a 7.27 but kicked a rod while brother Nathan snuck into the field on the last qualifier with a 7.70. Alf Sciacca in the now black Lamborgini, Troy Papadopoulos and John Babington failed to make the 8.00, raising a issue that needs to be resolved with the inclusion of non qualifiers at other championship events that did not have full fields.

With a wide open field in eliminations there was no clear favourites, Hodgson went two rounds before breaking out by 9/1000ths to Gerdes who was impressive on his way to the semis, crowd favourite Mamone ran a near perfect 6.811 on a 6.80 only to lose on a holeshot to Chris Hargraves’ altered in round one, former national champion John Ward took out current track champion Geoff Gradden also in round one only to fall victim to nemesis Nathan Periano in round two on a holeshot as Periano cut a swathe through to the final, joining him in the final was Victorian Hargraves who ended Gerdes run in the semis. The final ended up being an easy but bitter sweet win for the Periano team when Hargrave lost oil pressure staging he elected to not leave the line, while Nathan Periano won the event and moved into championship contention he amused the audience at the presentations commenting the prize money would end up repairing Zach’s motor.

Modified – Andrew Musgrave

Musgrave gets the monkey off his back finally.

Only 13 cars contested Modified at Sydney Dragway’s flagship event and of those only four were from NSW which should give some food for thought to the track management in terms of developing local fields. What we did see was one quick Modified field with seven of those cars in the seven second zone. Mark Hinchelwood led the pack with a 7.07 from his edge of seat turbo altered, young Michelle Osborn headed over from WA in pursuit of the A/MA record and qualified second with sub record 7.25, the field also contained another young lady racer Ami King who has just stepped up from Juniors into a A/MD, King showed plenty of confidence running 8.73 on her full power pass, though the car was retired to the trailer for a bit of detuning until Ami gains some more experience at a slower pace, the field was rounded out by two high 9 second motorcycle powered C/MDs of Graham Hullah and Peter Bartlett, showcasing the variety in the eliminator.

Eliminations showed anything can happen in drag racing and it can bring joy or heart break, Hinchelwood layed down his first six second run of the weekend on a solo with a 6.95 in round one only to smash the transmission on the line in round 2, but to Hinchelwood’s luck opponent Simon Lekias from Western Australia did not realise what happened behind and proceeded to break out.

The semi final moved around and we had déjà vu, Hinchelwood breaks another box, his fourth of the weekend only to have Scott Bettes break out this time in the other lane sending Hinchelwood to the final. Meanwhile Andrew Musgrave defeated Michelle Osborn who had major problems and could not back up her record qualifying pass in round one, Musgrave has been a perennial bridesmaid yet to take home a win despite many a final with the Brad Penn Oil altered, after a single in round two Musgrave took out the other half of the Bettes family Kelly Corbett in the semi when she red lit by 8/1000ths setting up a Musgrave versus Hinchelwood final, made more interesting by the fact Hinchelwood is Musgrave’s major sponsor. Disappointingly the final became a non event when Hinchelwood could not repair the fourth smashed transmission for the weekend in time for the final, everyone held their collective breaths as Musgrave car started, proceeded to burnout and back without issue before moving into stage to finally claim his first win and move into second place in the national championship.

Modified Bike – Daniel Sekli

Sekli conquers in Modified Bike.

Twenty eight bikes lined up for Modified Bike in a truly national field with bikes from all corners of the country, the only state not represented being South Australia. Andy Roberts and Brian Vernon were names to look out for with both riders topping the national points table with a number of other riders looking to add to their points total to challenge for the title. Queensland’s Wayne Smith top qualified on his ZX14 Kwaka with a 9.03 with current Screamin’ Eagles track champion Darren Folkes rounding out the field at 11.59 showing you don’t have to be quick to be a threat.

By the time the semis were upon us it was local Paul Geerlings at his second ever race meeting on the Harley Destroyer against the experienced Laurie Capogna with his V-Rod, experience counted for nothing however with Geerlings taking the win in a corker of a race, though the reactions weren’t lightning .112 to a .116 for Capogna, a 9.693 (9.69) for Geerlings to Capogna’s 9.728 (9.72) showed both riders were dialed into the conditions. The other semi was a interstate affair, Queensland’s Daniel Sekli up against West Australia’ Ian Read, Sekli had been running consistently all weekend and another 9.14 (9.10) was enough to force a breakout by Ian Read 9.38 (9.43), though it was a PB for the West Aussie to send him home a little happier. A bad light cost Geerlings in the final, a 0.101 was trumped by Sekli’s  0.068 and this proved the difference with Sekli taking the holeshot win, 9.130 (9.10) to Geerlings 9.697 (9.68).

Super Sedan – Blaze Hansen

Blaze cooks them in Super Sedan.

Super Sedan in Sydney stands on its own pedestal when it comes to spectacle and performance, you know you’re going to see the quickest cars and loads of wheels up action worthy of the price of admission alone. This Nitro Champs was no different, it was wheels up galore in qualifying, and what about quick! Rob Campisi came out in his big block twin turbo Mustang and went way under the SS/AA record by more than half a second and nearly 30 mph over the old mark with a 6.41 at a mammoth 228 MPH, further establishing the Mustang as the quickest turbo car in Australia, unfortunately piston damage ended his event and any chance to back up the record officially. Campisi wasn’t the only one raising the bar, Tristan Triccas had the Trick & Mansweto Capri back out with a vengeance now sporting a 690ci mountain motor between the rails, the Capri rocket to a aspirated 7.14 well under the current SS/A national record, in fact there were eight cars under the 8.00 in one of the toughest fields of Super Sedans ever assembled. There was an incident in qualifying with Rob Evans from South Australia, his gorgeous Daytona had a chute failure after a 7.98 second pass in the first qualifying session, in his efforts to pull the car up he lost control and spun the car into the wall, Rob was fine and damage looked to be restricted to cosmetic only.

The quick times continued in eliminations, Craig Hewitt went several rounds with his nitrous VL Commodore besting with a 7.44, Hewitt’s charge was ended by Marco Tolomeo’s wheel standing “BRICKIE” XY Falcon in round three as Tolomeo laid a path to the final. Also performing impressively in eliminations was Victorian Peter Pisalidis and his turbo mid 7 second Camaro despite smoking the tyres for the majority of the track on each run. Paul Partridge who is in the hunt for the championship following a win at the Westernats ended Pisalidis’ event also in round three with his Mustang. Partridge fell victim to Tolomeo in the semi final on a holeshot win while Blaze Hansen soloed into the final after defeating current national champion Greg Fowler in the quarter final. Both drivers pulled out all the stops in the final, a .011 to a .027 reaction time advantage went to Hansen’s Nova off the line and a tight 9.508 (9.50) forced Tolmeo into a 9.58 (9.60) breakout.  The win moved Hansen into championship contention and Partridge accrued enough points to take the maximum 200 and the championship lead into the final round.

Super Street – Kylie Tanner

Tanner wins one for the girls

A very small field of only 16 cars contested Super Street, but the field did contain the main championship contenders looking to consolidate their point position. Michael Little top qualified the bright yellow LJ Torana with a near perfect 11.003 after 3 sessions but was sent packing by Daryl Willams Holden ute in round one, Williams continued on through the rounds, dispensing the Westernats winner Trevor Davies in quarters en-route to the final. The other finalist Kylie Tanner (formerly Wagener after walking down the aisle recently) claimed victories over two track champions Doug Challinor and Joe Zammit and current national champion Tony Wallace on her march to the final. The final was over with a flash of red in Williams lane as Tanner took her little gold Torana to a popular win and the championship lead.

Junior Dragster – Jake Donnelly

Donnelly led a Queensland Junior Dragster invasion to victory

Junior Dragster were the best supported sportsman bracket at the Nitro Champs with an enormous 43 entries from all over the country, Jesse Phillips topped the qualifying sheets with a 8.603 after a controversial qualifying day which at one point saw 30 Juniors turned away for apparent incorrect arm restraints, the decision was reversed and all ejected racers were to complete qualifying on the Friday night. This did not eventuate due to the racing being cancelled for the night early and a decision was made that the racers would earn their qualifying run back on Saturday morning. All racers would be allowed to make another pass as it would give an unfair advantage to those who didn’t dial their cars in on race day.

With that sorted out it was down to the business of racing, the team Phillips Racing cars of Jesse Phillips and Jeremy Wickes fought off the majority of the Queensland invasion to the semi final with Wickes scoring a solo to the final but top qualifier Phillips red lit against Queensland’s Jake Donnelly. The state of origin final battle had Donnelly dominate, a near perfect 0.008 light and equally good 8.803 (8.80) was just too good of a package for Wickes to overcome as he broke out with a 8.754 (8.77), the win puts Jake Donnelly into championship contention behind Caleb Oberg and Simone Paine.

Super Gas – Neil Maxwell

Maxwell takes old faithful to victory once more.

The Super Gas championship was wide open going into the Nitro Champs, with the point leader not entered a good result by a number of racers would see them in contention for the national crown. Victoria’s Warren Smith was closest to the perfect 9.900 in qualifying with a 9.913 with his Beretta, the chase continued for that perfect 9.900 in eliminations and it proved heart breaking and brutal for some, Graeme Spencer’s  Commodore lost  to the Mustang of Paul Clarke with a agonizing 9.899 breakout in round one while current national champion Darryl Stephen red lighted away a almost perfect 9.901 against Clarke in round two. Clarke’s 9.940 fell victim to former champ Joe Catanzariti 9.911 in the semi while Neil Maxwell dropped a 9.905 on David Gauldie’s 9.954 in the other semi.  The final was then Neil Maxwell in his old Corolla he had to borrow back for the event against former champion Catanzariti, the holeshot went to Catanzarit with a outstanding .007 reaction from to Maxwell’s .035 but at the stripe Catanzariti’s Torana was fractionally to quick, a 9.897 break out to Maxwell’s tight 9.915, the victory and championship lead to Maxwell.

Nitro Champs Records

SS/A – 7.359  -Tristan Triccas – Capri/Ford 694

B/MSA – 9.572  -J.Ioannidis – Commodore/Holden 308
– 141.27 – J.Ioannidis – Commodore/Holden 308

C/MP – 8.766 – Heintz /Vandersluys – Pontiac
– 151.14 – Heintz /Vandersluys – Pontiac

E/GA – 149.00 – V.Panetta – Torana/Chev 289

F/G – 8.965 – A.Panagiotidis – Camaro/Chev 280
– 149.13 A.Panagiotidis – Camaro/Chev 280

B/GA – 7.666 – A.Spinozzi – Chev/Chev 358

A/GA – 7.383 – S.Norman – Firebird/Chev 400

B/A – 6.936 – C.Soldatos – Altered/Chev 500
– 188.70 – C.Soldatos – Altered/Chev 500

BB/D – 5.874 – J.Clarke – Dragster/Chev 482
– 238.01 – J.Clarke – Dragster/Chev 482

Photos – (Grant Stephens, Paul Drady & Hayley Turns)



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