The Gulf Western Oil Nitro Thunder has roared into life at Sydney Dragway as the venue celebrated its re-opening after a 14-month Championship break from professional-level racing.
In front of one of the biggest crowds in the history of the venue, the 400 Thunder Professional Series put down some stellar side by side racing on a sunny Saturday afternoon.
With Friday’s qualifying runs abandoned due to rain, the schedule for the 260 competitors was condensed into a single day on Saturday – posing a challenge for both racers and officials alike.
In Top Fuel, a small but quality field took to the brand new Sydney Dragway all-concrete surface. Peter Xiberras was the hot favourite heading into the final after re-setting the track record to a 3.79-second pass over the 1000 foot distance, however, it was three-time Australian Champion Phil Read in the Hydraulink Top Fuel Dragster that took the event win in a tyre-smoking affair.
Two-and-a-half years after a crash that destroyed a virtually new race car, Sydneysider Sam Fenech was back in the winner’s circle in Pro Slammer – taking the victory over fellow Sydney local Geoff Gradden.
Driving the second of the team cars for ACDelco Racing, Fenech was the quiet achiever as consistency ruled in tricky race conditions.
Points leader, Queenslander Steve Ham, faltered in the early rounds of racing, but a 5.70 in the third round of racing proved that there is still life in the championship-leading Camaro.
Pro Stock was arguably the highlight category of the event, with close racing across the board and 5 championship points separating the top three of Wayne Daley, Tyronne Tremayne and Jason Hedges respectively coming into the event.
The final came down to Victorians Nino Cavallo and Rob Dekert. At the green, Dekert took the lead, but the horsepower of the Dodge came to the fore at the finish line and Cavallo sealed the win 6.92 to a 7.30 victory.
“This is all for my wife”, an emotional Cavallo said as he received the Gold Christmas tree for the win. “We have had a very rough few weeks, and to come out here and run as well as we did – we wouldn’t even be here if my wife didn’t push us to come. This is all for her”.
Pro Alcohol saw a world record tumble in the final round between Steve Reed and Justin Walshe. Runner-up Walsh had earlier been as quick as 5.64, less than one-hundredth of a second off the quickest pass in history for a methanol-fuelled altered. In the final, he made one of the most impressive runs in recent memory with a 5.58 to set the new world record in the loss.
Steve Reed logged a 5.51 to take the win and continued the history of Sydney Dragway being a happy hunting ground for the long time funny car racer from Queensland.
Pro Bike saw National Champion Glenn Wooster claim another Gold Christmas tree to extend his lead in the 400 Thunder Pro Bike Championship. Wooster set the quickest elapsed time of the day with a 7.16 in the final to best Queenslander Andrew Badcock, who took the runner-up trophy with a 7.45.