War with doors – Nostalgia Nationals report

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War with doors, Wild Bunch State of Origin drag racing returned to the track at the annual Nostalgia Nationals at Willowbank Raceway on August 14-15.

State against state, mate against mate is the familiar battle cry of NSW versus QLD State of Origin warfare, the drag racing version was made popular throughout the 90s with the Wild Bunch cars bearing the names of Gatt, Bray, Payne,  Belleri, Dunn, Searle, Harrington, Devlin and many other icons of blown racing.

There has been call from hardcore fans for the return of format for some time and after a decade their calls were answered by Nitro Mag! who added the format to their program at the Nostalgia Nationals. The format would remain true to tradition, each team would have an even number of racers, racing over 3 rounds, each race would be worth three points to the winner, one for the loser and in the case of a solo if the racer does not run within a tenth of his dial in he would only earn 2 points. Being a nostalgia event, all cars also must fit the body requirements for the event.

A perfect two days of weather graced Willowbank Raceway and over 240 racers for the biggest event on the nostalgia calendar, there was a high number of breakages on the Saturday across all brackets which pushed back racing a few hours. Sunday ran smoothly bar a deep end crash in the Gas class and the event still managed to finish close to time.

The plan for the State of Origin Wild Bunch bracket was to have nine aside, but several NSW racers could not make the event and three cars from north of the border were subbed in to even competition up. Breakages have also been an unfortunate tradition of Origin contests and this also continued with a number of racers having mechanical dramas over the weekend and a late Saturday night of thrashing to be ready for race day.

Three rounds of qualifying kicked off with NSW team captain Ben Gatt who has given his famed XA Coupe a sinister new look laying down an off the trailer 7.10 @ 170MPH pass, the best the car has run in a long time. In the other lane John Babington reeled off a 7.90 in the Dodge. Next pairing for NSW was Chad Taylor in the Land Rover and Aaron Betts with his “EVILTD” Cortina, Betts was sin binned by Willowbank officials for not having a bonnet while Taylor broke a belt early on the pass. The final NSW pairing was country boy Dennis Pinchbeck with his HK Holden Ute and “Mr 10.5” himself, Frank Mamone in the black Nova, Pinchbeck struggled while Mamone ran a soft 7.55.

The QLD team rolled through the water next starting off with Luke Mackenzie’s HQ and Mark Arnold’s Camaro, Mackenzie was off it early to Arnold’s strong 7.75. Robert Coleman struggled on the next pass with his HQ while Louis Galea’s 7.36 was straight and true. Colin Gardiner and John Loy followed, both laying down great passes, 7.68 for Gardiner’s out-there Ford Pinto was edged out by a 7.52 from Loy’s Torana. The Junkyard Dog team cars rounded out the first session, Phil Markham’s ’34 Coupe went 7.32 to be second quickest but Simon Graham broke the Camaro before the run.

The second session was short on numbers with a few teams having dramas after the first run. Arnold solidified with another 7.75 but Gardiner destroyed a uni joint, Graham made his first lap with a 8.13 as did QLD team captain Garthe McIntyre’s HQ but only to have a burst panel go. Michael Davey in the Berry Patch Monaro attempted his first run only to be shut down while both Loy 7.56 and Galea 7.31 put in good laps. For NSW, Taylor missed the session as did Gatt, Pinchbeck again struggled as he comes to terms with quarter mile racing and Babington improved with a 7.38. Frank Mamone rocketed to the top spot with a 6.91 and Aaron Betts got on the board after sourcing a bonnet from the “Owta-Nowhere” Cortina of the late Peter Smith which was generously donated by the team with an 8.76.

The final session had Arnold improve slightly with a 7.71 and Bradley Johnson move out of the Nostalgia Outlaws into Wild Bunch with the Gemini and a 7.77 to even up the numbers. Markham went better with a 7.20 and Davey got a run under his belt with a 7.66 and they were the only other improvers for QLD. Tim Caswell finally made the start line for QLD but a loose barrel valve had the big Ford bunny hopping down the track. Gatt, Pinchbeck, Betts, Mamone and Taylor all made runs for NSW but only Betts improved with a 8.69.

There was some overnight thrashing. Mackenzie was out with broken lifters, the stranded HQ was being raided for parts by a number of teams, Babington had to rebuild a Lenco, Taylor destroyed an idler pulley, McIntyre was having supercharger issues and Gardiner was having made and replacing a uni joint.

Race day dawned, Johnson and the two Junkyard Dog cars of Graham and Markham were subbed into the NSW side, while QLD pulled Peter Stirling’s Camaro from the bench to replace Mackenzie. Arnold  bulbed against Gatt  in the first pairing, Babington’s Lenco gave up against Coleman, Galea ran 7.33 (7.27) to defeat a wheel spinning Mamone 7.87 (6.90) next. Then Loy broke a flex plate leaving Pinchbeck to take an easy NSW win to tie up the early points. Gardiner 7.61 (7.50) took on a breaking out Markham 7.23 (7.28), NSW substitution Johnson 7.83 (7.70) scored a win against QLD team captain McIntyre 7.45 (7.10). Davey 7.25 (7.00) finally made a full pull to win against Graham 8.84 (8.05) and Stirling 8.15 (7.90) made it another QLD win defeating Taylor 8.47 (7.90). Betts 8.95 (8.65) crawled back a win for NSW in the final pairing against Caswell who still was plagued with fuel delivery issues and with that result the points tally stood at 19 to 17 in Queensland’s favour.

The QLD team had some injury troubles coming into round two, with Loy out along with Galea who had spun a bearing, Gardiner 7.73 (7.50) though scored the first points for QLD against Mamone 7.12 but Gatt took three points for NSW with a 7.26 (7.25) solo run. Coleman 7.94 (7.70) defeated Markham 7.31 (7.15) on a holeshot. Caswell scored the points against a red lighting Johnson, Stirling 7.98 (7.80) took another holeshot for QLD win over Betts 8.98 (8.90), Arnold 7.95 (7.73) had an easy run against Graham 8.70 (8.05) making it four straight QLD wins. Taylor 8.21 (7.90) earned back some blues pride defeating Davey who kicked the rods out of the Monaro, McIntyre 7.43 (7.10) though continued the QLD dominance in this round defeating Pinchbeck 9.45 (8.80)in the final pairing, increasing the points lead 36 to 30 with only one round of racing left.

Despite the lead the Queensland team now had serious breakage concerns, NSW racers Graham, Markham and Betts all soloed for points, Johnson 7.83 (7.75) held off Stirling 7.99 (7.80), Gardiner 7.59 (7.60) broke out chasing down Gatt 7.17 (7.05) and Mamone 7.33 (6.90) earned his first win against a breaking Coleman. NSW now had six straight wins to take the lead with only three pairings left, Caswell finally solved his fuel delivery gremlins with the help of benched NSW racer Lindsay Churchill, Caswell’s 7.94 (7.60) win over Pinchbeck gave the team some hope. Taylor had the blower part company in the burnout leaving Arnold to tie up the points with one race to go, but with Babington broken, McIntyre only had to receive the green to take a dramatic Queensland victory, the final total 49 – 47.

With the state winner decided, John Loy was awarded the Man of the Match determined by spectator votes and all that was left was a grudge match for pride featuring the best performer from each state. Gatt, the only racer to take three wins was to take on Caswell who came good when it counted to close out the event. A -.012 red light though for Gatt would see no vengeance for NSW until the two teams meet again at the November event at Sydney Dragway.

Nostalgia Outlaws was the backup for the Wild Bunch show, Darryl Walford top qualified with the Skips Thunderbird Funny Car with a 7.10, but went on to break out 6.67 (6.80) in round one against Wade Wagstaff’s brand new Nova. Other qualifying highlights involved the wheelstanding antics of Paul Gomez’s turbo Mad Mini and Scott Hoffman’s 2JZ Corolla which had the front runners high in the air past half track. Nostalgia Outlaws was running on a three round format and the final came down to Brian Trott in his blown altered 8.18 (7.49) defeating Matt Edwards’s Mazda 1300 Rotary 9.03 (8.85).

Junior Fuel was highlighted by the blown FEDs of Ron Early, John Fleming, Greg Leahy and Peter Leahy, The Leahys led qualifying with Greg 7.10 closely followed by Peter 7.18, finals though had a solo to Kerry Boyde in son Lachlan’s Roadster for victory.

Slingshot was headed by Geoff New’s altered with a 9.05, Jason Owen bookended the small six car field with a 11.20 after some wild wheelstanding passes. The final was a double breakout affair with the ever present Peter Duffy digger 10.19 (10.24) defeating Peter Basmadjian’s blown six altered 9.62 (9.70).

The largest field belongs to Gas with 47 starters, Gary Campbell with his wheelstanding LJ Torana headed the pack of quick sedans, qualifying also saw the original Ford Tudor Junkyard Dog team car driven for the first time by Lucas Holz get loose at half track and give the wall a touch up. Gas also was run on the three round format which is quite a task with the number of competitors, the third round did see a unfortunate two car braking area crash with Rob Brown’s Humpy FX Holden veering into Rick Whitlock’s XB Coupe causing considerable damage, both drivers were unhurt. The final was another double breakout situation, Andrew Wagstaff 9.67 (9.70) with his Nova scoring the win over Brad Wooldridge’s Camaro 10.21 (10.29).

In Hot Rod Charles Cameron’s gorgeous 1947 Dodge was on the better end 11.84 (11.90) of a double breakout final against NSW’s Kim Saunders in the Skip’s Racing Chev pickup 13.76 (13.85).

Andrew Milford soloed to the win in American Muscle in his Camaro.
Aussie Muscle saw Brett McIlveen’s HQ run 12.52 (12.50) to defeat a breaking out Datsun Ute of Peter Madden 11.73 (11.77).

Vintage Gas populated by veteran gassers was taken out by Kevin Brown in the Mellow Yellow EH with a 13.40 (13.30) over a big break out 11.82 (12.50) from Mandy Pukis’s Valiant.

Six Banger is a relatively new class in the nostalgia scene and it’s for six cylinder sedans as the name suggests, in the final was Andrew Dunett with his tidy Valiant ute running 13.06 (12.85) running down the HQ Holden of Jacob Blake 17.53 (17.40).

New South Welshman Jeremy Boskovich’s racing experience paid off cleaning up in HAMBster 15.15 (14.94) over Ted Achilles 17.22 (16.60).

John Kreis took the famed Agent Orange Kawasaki to victory 11.98 (11.75) in Classic Bike over the Suzuki Katana of Tony Grant 11.98 (11.69).

Outlaw Bike field featured all Kawasakis, and was won by Shane Ball with his Z1000A 11.89 (10.90) over Rick Rogers who broke out on his GPZ 9.45 (9.55).

As an extra bonus the organisers permitted the Bailey Nitro Funny Car to make several passes in the attempt to license new driver Anthony Begley. The first pass ended in tyre smoke early, the second took out the half track cones but still recorded a 5.74 @ 173.

The relaxed atmosphere of the 2010 Nitro Mag! Nostalgia Nationals was a winner for racers along with all the friendly interstate niggling, with the next round slated for Sydney Dragway in November when the War with Doors will continue. It is hoped the State Of Origin battle will become a permanent fixture on the east coast calendar.

Photos by Cacklingpipes.com (Grant Stephens & Mark Allan)


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