Final qualifying for the ANDRA Pro Series provided some of the most scintillating action yet in day three of the Castrol Edge Winternationals at Willowbank Raceway.
Martin Stamatis boosted his own lead in Top Fuel with a 4.61/315 in the third session, making three 4.6 second passes out of four qualifying sessions for the West Aussie who leads the championship. Darren Morgan stole away second with a 4.67 blast from the AEG Powertools car, while Phil Read was unable to fight back, pushing out a head gasket on his way to a 4.80 and the Auto One dragster then had issues with a sparking lead, leaving it unable to take part in the final session. Steve Read was the unfortunate driver to miss the field, smoking the tyres all weekend and then banging the supercharger in a big way right on the line in the final session. Phil Lamattina may be challenging for the championship but he is also struggling without a representative pass for the weekend.
Top Alcohol turned on one of the best qualifying shows for the category in recent times. Aaron Hambridge ran a stunning PB 5.51/256, the quickest time ever in competition for Top Alcohol and under and over the national records. A 5.55/260 by Gary Phillips from Friday qualifying remained in second, while Rick Gauci’s 5.60 held on for third. It was in the bottom half of the field where a lot of the action occurred as the bump spot changed hands repeatedly. It eventually settled with WA’s Adam Marchant who ran a 5.662 to keep out a 5.665 from John Cannuli, a 5.73 from John Madill and a 5.75 from Steven Ham.
Top Doorslammer also saw a new quickest ever ET set with a 5.810 from reigning champ John Zappia in the Striker Monaro. The veteran driver had a rare lapse in the last session though when he spun the tyres off the start line. Robin Judd established himself in second with a 5.82 while a 5.89 from Maurice Fabietti ensured all three championship runners would stay in the top spots. Ben Bray’s 5.94 and Gary Phillips’ 5.99 rounded out the five second runners. Like Top Alcohol the bump spot changed feverishly with Stu Bishop’s 6.08 holding out a 6.09 from Sean Mifsud and a 6.13 from Victor Bray. Peter Kapiris and Mark Belleri were the other two racers to make the field, Belleri’s PB 6.08 particularly impressive as it came with a quick pedal. Scott Maclean unfortunately had an incident when he spun the tyres off the line and smacked the wall fairly hard about 100 feet out, lifting the Studebaker off the ground.
In Top Bike the major run was an astonishingly quick 6.07 from Chris Matheson, again setting a new class standard. Most incredible was the fact it went 3.86 and 205mph to half track and he shut it down at 1000 feet. Jay Upton’s 6.40 stayed in the field with Mark Drew making his move into the field with a 6.77, as did Chris Porter with a last ditch 7.10. Geoff Redgrave punted his nitrous Suzuki to a 7.21 to make it in while Ian Ashelford’s 7.21 came despite a head gasket being pushed out resulting in a spectacular pass. Mick Murray and Troy McLean also made the field.
Pro Stock provided the most action of any Pro Series category with a superb final qualifying session followed by the first round of eliminations. Lee Bektash went 7.02 to hold top qualifying position but had to withdraw from the field due to engine damage for the Mopar in a crushing blow for the team. This elevated Dave Newcombe’s 7.033 to the top, followed by a 7.05 from Aaron Tremayne and a 7.06 from his brother Tyronne. With 194.24mph each, John Barbagallo and Peter Ridgeway were the speed kings. The number eight spot ended up at 7.111, held by Denis Whiting. Only 15 cars remained after several racers had to withdraw with damage.
The first round saw Dave Newcombe take the solo with a 7.04 to set low ET for eliminations. Denis Whiting laid a holeshot on Shane Tucker to take a 7.13 to 7.09 victory, American Todd Patterson had an upset win when Peter Ridgeway shut down on his pass, Wayne Daley went 7.07 en route to eliminating Brian Pursell, Aaron Tremayne took a 7.06 to 7.31 win against Enzo Demizio, John Barbagallo surprisingly needed a holeshot in order to win his 7.11 to 7.10 race against Michael Ali, Tyronne Tremayne had the best light of the round with a .024 and a 7.08 to knock out a 7.21 by Bill Perdikaris and a 7.11 from Scott Porter defeated a 7.18 by Bill Kotsias.
In the Rocket Allstar Series Justin Walshe has defended his position on top of qualifying for Comp with a .54 under 5.95 pass. Jason Maggs went 6.81 on his 7.28 BB/AP index to stay in second and a 6.29 pass from AA/AP driver Maurice Brennan slotted into third at .45 under.
Super Stock was no doubt the sportsman category to watch with the field at ridiculously tough levels. At .80 under was SA driver Jim Ioannidis with a 10.02 from his C/MSA Commodore. Michael Hunt’s .74 under 9.70 in his A/MSA Ford Falcon and a -.70 8.50 from Kevin Magner’s A/MP Pontiac took out the other podium qualifying spots. The bump spot was a -.42 under 7.20 from Ralph Perri’s A/APA which is a new record for Super Stock.
Shayne Holmes was the top of the pops in Competition Bike with a .47 under 10.12 form his D/SB Suzuki. Blair Pennington’s 9.09 in B/SB was .46 under and just held out a .46 under 10.13 out of Peter Everett in a tight top three.
Make sure to check out Drag News Australia’s continuing updates from eliminations.
Photos by Cacklingpipes.com (Grant Stephens, Paul Drady & Hayley Turns)