The headline Category at the Gulf Western Oil 50th Winternationals is undoubtedly Top Fuel. With 8 cars in attendance and one of the strongest fields to front at Willowbank Raceway in recent memory, it promises to be a knock out show from the nitro burning kings of the sport.
With a maximum of 118 points on offer for the weekend, Top Fuel championship leader Wayne Newby needs only to qualify and race the first round, and he will be the new 400 Thunder Top Fuel Champion.
The only other racer with a mathematical shot at the title is Darren Morgan, who needs to win the event, take top speed, run low elapsed time and have Newby go missing in action in order to take his Fifth National Crown.
It is an extremely unlikely scenario; however Morgan remains a championship contender.
A tough field of racers including Newby’s teammates at Rapisarda Autosport International, reigning champion, Damien Harris, and 3-time NHRA World Champion Larry Dixon who returning for his first runs on Australian soil since the East Coast Thunder in Sydney, back in November.
Throw in the number 4 points contender Terry Sainty who is having a career best season, Peter Xiberras returning after an accident in Sydney earlier in the year, Rachelle Splatt who is making her return to Willowbank Raceway for the first time in over a decade with the support of event sponsor Gulf Western Oil, and Anthony Begley who is making his season debut at this event and it becomes clear that there will be no easy races at the biggest race of the year.
Pro Alcohol is one of the most hotly contested classes in the 400 Thunder series for this season, with 4 racers still in contention for the Title.
Gary Phillips is in the box seat with a 29 point lead over Wayne Price, who is a slender one point ahead of Steve Ham. The dark horse for the title, however, is almost certainly Steve Reed who is 47 points behind Phillips – but he comes into the event with back to back final rounds and a win at the Nitro Thunder under his belt.
The first challenge for every racer though, will be simply qualifying for race day. With 8 spots available for race day, and 16 cars entered for the event, there are sure to be a few surprises well before final eliminations arrives on Sunday.
With non-championship contenders John Cannulli, Craig Glassby, Scott Maclean, Chris Hargrave, Russell Mills, Rob Ambruosi and Jon Sting all having run in the 5.50’s or quicker, expect a record setting field at the Gulf Western Oil 50th Winternationals.
In addition, the wild Pro Alcohol Altereds of Greg Clayton and Justin Walshe will be trying to make race day, and with Terry Sainty doing double duty in Top Fuel and Luke Marsden looking to perform on his home track, Pro Alcohol will undoubtedly be one of the standout categories at the season ending event.
Top Bike is another of the 400 Thunder Series Championships that will go down to the wire, with Chris Matheson holding a lead over Chris Porter. It is a classic battle between the multi-cylinder, supercharged bike and the thumping, nitro burning V-twin of Porter that has ensued for the better part of a decade.
Porter needs the weekend to go his way, with a 66 point deficit to make up at the event. He will be relying on the consistency of the Harley rather than outright pace however, as Matheson holds the speed advantage having run in the 6.0 second zone in the past.
With Damian Muscat making his final appearance on what has become the quickest and Fastest V-Twin in the series, and with racers such as Steve Badcock, Adam Latyon, Geoff Redgrave, Neville Smith and Gavin Spann all aboard extremely capable machines, the Top Bike field is far from a sure thing for any entrant.
The addition of new names Shayne Parker and John Zahara has ensured that the Gulf Western Oil Winternationals will be the largest gathering of Top Bikes in the past 2 seasons – and will be one of the most explosive categories to watch over the weekend.
The Gulf Western Oil 50th Winternationals begins on Thursday, 8th June with sportsman qualifying. The 400 Thunder Professional Drag Racing Series hits the track on Friday 9th June for their first qualifying run, with all the action to be streamed live via OVO from 3pm AEST.