The ANDRA Pro Series moved to Willowbank Raceway for the first round of the New Year Series with Top Fuel and Top Alcohol but that old nemesis rain wiped out a result.
The event as is typical with this time of year in Queensland was held in heat and extreme humidity, with the afternoon to night schedule designed to combat the conditions. As debate rages over one or 2 day event length or the schedule to deal with the inclement tropical weather, in fairness to racers and travellers these have to be decided on before a single entry is received.
Willowbank Raceway reduced the spectator entry fee to entice a crowd which seemed to work for the best part given the weather.
The heavens opened in a torrential downpour during the first round of Top Fuel. Controversially, according to a number of teams, the meeting was abandoned quickly by management with more showers predicted and due to the time required to dry the track.
Up to that point the hot humid conditions were throwing curve balls to race teams making qualifying a mixed bag of performances.
Qualifying was marred though by a horrific crash involving South Queenslander Debbie Reed in her Top Alcohol dragster. Reed was oiling the tyres during a 5.9 second 224 MPH run before impacting heavily on the left hand wall after the finish line causing front end of the chassis to break, the dragster careered back across the track into the other wall with extreme force narrowly missing opponent Rick Gauci’s funny car. The remains of the dragster slid and tumbled off the end of the track where Reed was treated by medical personal before being transported to hospital. Initial grave concerns for her health were relieved when reports came through she had regained consciousness in transit to the hospital and the latest prognoses is promising that she will recover fully. We all here at Drag New Australia wish Debbie Reed all the best in her recovery.
Top Fuel qualifying was never going to rewrite the record books, most teams struggled as predicted in the conditions. Eliminations were going to be very fascinating with these conditions levelling the playing field somewhat.
1 893 STEVE READ 4.784 302.21
2 63 ANDREW COWIN 4.868 306.12
3 33 PHIL READ 5.448 184.52
4 700 TERRY SAINTY 5.458 204.08
5 1957 DARREN MORGAN 5.58O 173.76
6 282 BOB SHEPHERD 5.823 165.27
7 145 PHILLIP LAMATTINA 10.747 77.36
8 3546 MARK MARIANI 30.00O 0.00
Pommie Steve Read has been running a very limited schedule due to funds and after some up and down previous performances knocked out a 4.78 off the trailer first Top Fuel pass down the track, the time would hold up through three rounds of qualifying as the benchmark. Read did complete his first round match up against Mark Mariani, both cars struck the tyres past half point at the same time, Read’s 5.55 out coasted Mariani’s 5.58
Cowin Family Racing were competing at Willowbank Raceway for the first time in several years and was the scene of driver Andrew’s crash in his comeback test session a few months ago. The Cowin Rocketship’s first session 4.86 would also be their best for the event.
The Jim Read Racing team were hoping to have their new car ready for this event but the Sydney weather prevent testing in time so it was back to the “Black Mamba” ride for Phil Read. Despite some stout 0.85 60’s they were unable to carry it on to the finish stripe.
Terry Sainty’s first round 5.45 came with a monster fireball and a lot of melted aluminium, an engine change saw team come back in the final session for another engine hurting 5.9. Meeting Morgan in round one the Sainty dragster had the engine go away again on a 5.45 for the lose.
Showcasing new major sponsorship from a Mildura Hungry Jacks franchise Darren Morgan was hoping to continue his championship leading form. Clutch gremlins ended his first two qualifying attempts popping the burst panel and deploying chutes when the dragster went up in smoke on the hit, the third session had the car backed down running a lazy 5.58 off the noise early. Meeting Terry Sainty in round one in the last of the races completed before the rain, a 5.28 pass was enough to for the win despite a early chute deployment dislodging a track reflector which is no longer a disqualification.
An engine hurting 5.82 in the first round of qualifying saw Bob Shepherd sit out the rest of qualifying to preserve parts knowing he was safe with only eight entrants. The low budget racer would have been looking for another giant killing round one effort where he would of met a struggling Phil Read.
Phillip Lamattina drew pole in the Shannon’s Shootout
An ignition bug prevented the Fuch’s dragster of Phillip Lamattina making the first two qualifying sessions, before an aborted 300ft run in the final session. This gremlin aslo left the team with minimal data going into their first round match up with Cowin. As Lamattina completed his burnout the sky fell washing away what would have been a intriguing contest.
Controversy surrounded Mark Mariani in the Titan Cranes dragster following his first session 5.09 pass which was subsequently disqualified when a crew person placed a foot in the staging beams, the infraction was a breach of the Willowbank track regulations not an ANDRA rule, a practice legal at the other major tracks. The meeting director decision to disqualify Mariani overruled the Group One stewards decision to keep consistency with Pro Series rules and allow the pass. The ability for meeting directors to be able to overrule ANDRA chief stewards has been a contentious issue for some time, along with the track regulations contradicting ANDRA rules that continue to highlight many major inconsistencies which have to corrected if the ANDRA rulebook and Pro Series are to have professional credibility.
The Rapisarda team vented their frustration by slowly rectifying a rear mains issue and sitting out the rest of qualifying.
Top Alcohol had a low nine entries, with a few of the entries unable to get through the flood ravaged north of the state. This was further reduced to seven following Debbie Reeds crash. Like the Fuel teams, racers found it difficult coming to terms with the conditions, the rain fell before any elimination rounds were run.
1 1 GARRY PHILLIPS 5.643 253.90
2 1302 AARON HAMBRIDGE 5.735 249.72
3 2155 WAYNE NEWBY 5.78O 245.23
4 113 JOHN CANNULI 5.984 237.05
5 4227 RICK GAUCI 6.026 214.89
6 2643 STEVEN HAM 6.159 236.63
7 3184 DENNIS BYTH 6.185 209.46
8 15 STEVEN REED 17.964 30.79
Steven Reed had the first shot at the track and rattled the tyres severely, Reed withdrew from the event following wife Debbie’s accident to be by her side in recovery.
Current national champion Gary Phillips again showed his worth qualifying on top with a 5.64 in the Lucas Oils funny car
After a strong 5.73 first up lap, points leader Aaron Hambridge had conrods exit the block on his second shot.
Wayne Newby slotted into the third position with a 5.78 best.
John Canulli’s funny car was off all event managing a 5.98 best effort.
Rick Gauci sporting new Rocket Industries sponsorship in the form of their Aeroflow product line is still a relative new comer to Top Alcohol. Gauci has been struggling a little of late to find the right combination to penetrate the top half of the field, he finished with a 6.02 quickest lap in qualifying.
Steven Ham and Dennis Byth made up the rest of the field with troubled 6.15 and 6.18 second laps respectively.
The event was a round for the local Willowbank Track Championship series, entrant numbers were quite low with a more than a few withdrawals, including a number of racers stuck at home with major flooding throughout Queensland. First rounds were completed for Super Street, Junior Dragster and Modified.
Kevin Manger was on national record pace with a 8.79 (-.46 under) in B/MP trim to lead qualifying.
Peter Zelow has is back in A/DA trim with a 7.01 (-0.39)
Also stepping up to A/DA now is Tony Bellert with his awesome looking dragster from the US and ran 7.24 (-.016)
Mark Slater debuted a slick 200SX in A/GA with a 400 cuber on board, best pass was 7.83 (-0.04)
Mackay’s Danny Tuelstrup avoided the North Queensland flood to get his A/DA on track with a off pace 7.94
Michael Davies did not put down a representative pass in the BB/AA Altered.
Only five bikes contested Competition Bike, Peter Everett was on a charge with a 10.03 in D/SB under the 10.07 national record.
Robert McNamara leaves on a very crooked launch in CC/CB
A nine car Supercharged Outlaw field saw some new machinery in the class.
Jason Donnelly debuted what originally was the ex Lynch Doorslammer before it became the B52 car of Travis Connor.
Fiona Keating has dropped a blown alky combination into her former Modified dragster.
Bradley Johnson has done away with the Gemini and stepped into cool old school Camaro Funny car. Reminiscent of Jim Waltons old “Thunda Downunda” car.
Chris Loy qualified first with a 6.65 in his dragster.
National champion Kelly Corbett top qualified in her big block dragster with a 7.50
Aaron Nuecom kicks up the wheels with his Ford power altered for a 8.46
Jordan Radford stepped back from Comp duties with her altered for a skid in Modified
Terry Roney lays down rubber in his big block altered and ran 7.99
Jason Palermo was on top of Super Sedan with a 8.33.
Andrew Lange torques up the Torana off the line.
Rowan Lind led the Modified Bike field into eliminations with a 8.15 on board his turbo Hayabusa.
Denis Ryan’s 9.32 was good enough for third.
Ian Neilsen’s almost perfect 9.903 had him on pole with his Camaro in Super Gas with Simon Isherwood’s 9.907 close behind in his Commodore.
The “Agent Orange” one tonner of Rodney Mcauley topped Super Street qualifying with a 11.09
Andrew Milford’s Camaro hangs the front wheels.
Kiah Curling headed a huge 34 car Junior Dragster field with a 8.02
Dylan Leo’s new dragster looks the part.
There were several vehicles testing including the Top Bikes of Alan Herriman and Neville Smith along with Andrew Sutton who recently purchased the ex Adam Croker Corvette for Top Doorslammer, Sutton made several 6.3 second laps.
Photos by Paul Drady (www.cacklingpipes.com) and Mark Allan