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in the world of drag racing

Black Bar

The latest update as of March 19, 2000

Willowbank Finally.... after so many events lost to rain and other weather anomalies, Willowbank Raceway got in a very successful third round of the Castrol New Year Series last night. The South Queensland (Australia) track has literally been plagued with bad weather -- rain, too hot, too cold -- for the last few years but this latest event finally hit the right combination of weather and attracted a large and appreciative audience and had the pits full of racers eager to test the traction at Australia's best drag strip.

The featured categories were Top Fuel and Top Alcohol, with strong backing from the very successful and entertaining Top Comp racers. There was even a sighting of that rarest of species (downunder anyway): a NITRO Funny Car. Yes, after being declared dead and buried (by the promoters and all but forgotten by ANDRA), the Bailey Brothers brought their flopper out for more licensing runs.

With only five races on the Championship calendar for Top Fuel and Top Alcohol this season, and no national sponsors for the series, racer participation has been thin at times. This event was no exception, as only six TF cars and eight Top Alky cars in attendance. In fact, the alky field was only filled by the inclusion of two defectors from the Top Comp ranks. And as usual, the now infamous "Tundra Thunda" (or whatever they're calling it by now) dragster of yours truly was still sitting in the shed at Ken Lowe's. Another opportunity lost and with a "bubble" of 6.73 . . . that's definitely an opportunity.

While the Top Fuel qualifying was nothing to shout about, with only representative pass, that being Rachelle Splatt's 5.18 at 282, the eliminations were even less of a story. The closest thing to a side-by-side race was the first round battle between Jim Read and Darren DiFilippo: a low ET of the meet 5.15, to Read's early shutoff 6.91. With six cars in competition, there were theoretically five side-by-side pairings, but that was reduced to four when Robin Kirby was shutoff behind the line prior to the final. Steve Read in the "Santo's Cranes" car soloed to a 10.56 win, with the car on fire at the 300 foot mark.

Altogether an eminently forgettable show and one that has to be troubling for not only the paying spectators and Willowbank promoters, but the racers as well. While the "smoke and thunder" may draw the spectators, the sweep trucks and jet driers will surely drive them away. The next, and last, Top Fuel race of the season is the Winternationals (also at Willowbank, in June) and it's to be hoped that a much better display of racing will be in evidence at that event.

By comparison though, the Top Alcohol show was first class. Before I start listing some of the numbers, take note: Overdrive limits in Australia are much lower than in North America. Instead of fixed amounts, ie., 104% or 115% for a PSI; they are calculated on an amount per cubic inch. Therefore, a 451 inch engine, which in NHRA would be allowed 115% overdrive, can only run 80% in OZ. For example, Rick Santos, with his (currently) 433 cubes would be allowed only 73% overdrive, instead of the 104% he's running in the USA. Big difference, eh?

Now on to the racing. Qualifying was quite heated, with five cars dipping into the fives and the top two cars, Mark Brew and Gary Phillips, dropping into the 5.70's. The next two on the list, Paul Shackleton and Wayne Newby, weren't far behind, with Newby anchoring the top half of the field at 5.85. Eliminations opened with a pair of one-sided races, with Brew and Phillips easily disposing of the Top Comp cum-Top Alky racers. Then there was a major disappointment, as Steve Reed, one of only two Funny Cars in the field, was unable to stage for his first round match against Shackleton. The round closed with a very close 5.86 to 5.95 between Sydney-siders Wayne Newby and Dean Oakey.

NOTE: In case you didn't know, or had forgotten, Top Alcohol in Australia is open to Dragsters, Altereds and Funny Cars. Just like Pro Comp in the USA in years past, the various classes within the bracket are balanced by weight breaks. And in case you're wondering: NO, A/Fuel cars are not allowed!

The semi-finals in Top Alky saw one of the closest side-by-side races of the year, with Newby eking out a narrow victory over Brew, aided by a .408 light, 5.80 to 5.79. The other pairing saw Phillips take out a tyre-shaking Shackleton. The final promised to be quite a struggle, with Phillips desperately wanting to put some daylight between him and Brew in the points chase. Both cars had their problems on the run, though. Newby redlighted, then, with an automatic victory in hand, Phillips crossed the centreline, handing the honours back to Newby. The result left Phillips only 15 points in front of Brew, heading into the final race of the season, the Winternationals. Should be quite a battle at that one, eh?

The supporting categories of Top Comp, Modified, Super Sedan and Super Street put on a good show also, with thankfully no crashes (for a change) and some great performances. Included in this rank was Simon Holgerson, with his now-infamous VW from hell, running a career best 8.17 at 167 mph. Quite an achievement for a stock wheelbase VW with a GM "crate" engine -- albeit one with a 14-71 poking through the "bonnet". Good on ya' Simon! Any truth to the rumour that there were more pieces inside the "nappy" than in the block after that pass?

For a full "by the numbers" report on the action, check out the Results Menu and for the latest ANDRA points standings, go to the Points page. Until tomorrow, that's all for now. Today we'll be surfing the net, checking out what's happening down in Gainesville and bring you all the important stories from the MAC Tools Gatornationals in tomorrow's installment of
"As The Wheel Turns". Stay tuned!

Black Bar
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