The newbie who’s a veteran

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Wayne Newby is in rookie territory. That might sound strange for someone who has been drag racing for over two decades, but when it comes to nitro there is always a steep learning curve.

Newby will be in one of the six Top Fuel dragsters coming to Perth On February 28-March 1 to compete in Washpod Nitro Max, the opening event of the ANDRA Top Fuel Championship.

These beasts, each producing 10,000 horsepower, will be duking it out in separate championship rounds each night. Both Saturday and Sunday will produce their own winners and are independent contests, meaning each night will have its own story and drama. You won’t want to miss a moment!

Newby, a former Top Alcohol Funny Car and dragster driver, gave what some might consider an obvious answer to the biggest challenge of driving a nitro-fuelled dragster – speed.

“The first launch I did I could see the 330 feet marker but by the time I had thought about it I was already there,” he said, describing the almost physics-bending acceleration of the dragster.

“It’s very fast, don’t me wrong, but you’re not as busy as you are in a Top Alcohol car. You have more time to concentrate on where you are going and keeping it in the groove because you are not looking for shift lights or getting the revs right on the start line.”

Before getting into the car to drive for the first time Newby consulted some Top Fuel drivers current and past to get their advice on what he was in for.

“Everyone has been very helpful,” he said. “They all said to be ready for the speed, you’re going that much faster – and don’t be late on the parachutes.”

The Sydneysider will be driving for Rapisarda Autosport International, who have not only turned in remarkable performances in Australia but have also made their mark on the NHRA Mello Yello Series.

“They have been asking me for years to drive for them, I’ve done a lot of work for them in the past,” he said. “It nearly happening a few years ago but this time the timing was right.

“I’ve known them for a long time and get on good with the team. Hopefully with a bit of my knowledge on machining and engineering stuff I can help them out.”

One of the skills Newby wants to learn as a driver is to be able to provide his crew chief Santino Rapisarda feedback on each pass, how the car feels and drives, in order to compare against data logging software and make sure the team has the best information available to tune the car.

“I want to tell Santino about what is going on, what is happening out on the track and just give a bit of input,” he said. “The more laps you do the better you get at that.”

When it comes to putting the car down the track at Washpod Nitro Max and making the first run for the championship, Newby said his goals are simple.

“I just don’t want to make a fool of myself, but of course to win as well, that’s everyone’s goal,” he said. “The team have the right stuff, there’s a whole heap of new parts and we are doing some testing to try some new things.

“There’s new cylinder heads, a new clutch, we will see how it all reacts.”

Newby will be taking on a very competitive Top Fuel field. Among them will be his own team mate, Western Australia’s Damien Harris, driving a dragster with the same top level equipment to run 4.5 seconds and quicker. Australian Nationals winner John Lamattina and Australian Top Fuel champion Phil Lamattina will be aiming to get their championship chase rolling and with Phil having won three of the four ANDRA championship rounds at Perth Motorplex last season he is certainly the form man.

As far as dark horses go, they don’t come much darker than Mark Sheehan, despite the white paint on his Nitro Madman dragster! He has a state-of-the-art canopy dragster with a fully enclosed rollcage, the first of its kind in Australia, making its debut at Perth Motorplex. Sheehan will be testing before the event to make sure he is ready to roar.

Driving in Top Fuel for the first time in Western Australia will be Anthony Begley in the ‘Chemical Warfare’ dragster owned by Queensland’s Rodney Bailey. After their Funny Car success this duo will be aiming to upset the applecart in Top Fuel as well and with their runner up at the Fuchs Winternationals last year they have certainly shown that is possible.

Again, Washpod Nitro Max is two individual championship rounds over two nights, as one event! Make sure you are there to see the nitro flaming action on both big nights.


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