With the 400 THUNDER Professional Drag Racing Season drawing to a close after the 50th Gulf Western Oil Winternationals, a new breed of champion is ready to carry their respective number ones into what will be a new era of Australian Drag Racing.
Top Fuel saw a first time champ in the form of Wayne Newby – assuming the title from his team mate in the Rapisarda Autosport International stable, Damien Harris. It was a dominant performance from the 3-time Pro Alcohol Champion, with a combination of outright speed and also consistency proving to be a hard formula to beat.
Newby will be back to defend his title for season 3 of 400 THUNDER , in what is a changing landscape in Top Fuel with the arrival of Kelly Bettes, driving for the powerhouse Lamattina Top Fuel team in a welcome addition to the already extremely tough category.
The Pro Slammer category had a changing of the guard, in the form of first time champion Mark Belleri. The AC Delco Monaro driver had a season to remember, with an almost flawless start to the year enough to overcome mid-season struggles to keep him in front of a fast finishing pack of drivers including the veterans Gary Phillips and Ben Bray.
His team owner Maurice Fabietti said today “What an awesome way to start the partnership with AC Delco – event wins to start the season and now a championship. Mark has been doing a fantastic job behind the wheel and it is going to be great to see the big number 1 on the side of the car!”
Belleri will debut the #1 on the side of the blue Monaro at the first round of the 400 Thunder Pro Slammer Championship season for 2017-18, at Nitro Up North at Hidden Valley Dragstrip in Darwin on 21-22 July.
Pro Alcohol saw the only repeat winner from the professional categories with Gary Phillips going back to back, to remain undefeated as a champion in the 400 Thunder Championship standings. The wily veteran will carry the #1 on the side of what will be a new look race car for Phillips after concluding a 20 year association with Lucas Oil Products after the season ending Winternationals. It will be the 20th time that Phillips enters a new season as a defending champion – a feat that is not likely to be equalled for a very long time.
Pro Stock was undoubtedly the Aaron Tremayne show for season 2 of 400 THUNDER. Across 5 rounds of the championship, Tremayne featured in 4 final rounds with 3 wins in what was the most dominant performance seen in any of the professional categories. The only blip on the radar for the Mega Bulk Fuels team driver was a DNQ at the Winternationals when the team’s #1 engine was switched into Tyronne Tremayne’s car in an effort to secure a season 1-2 finish for the team.
Tremayne assumes the title from the retiring champion, Mopar driver Lee Bektash, who finished 3rd in the final Pro Stock standings for 2016-17.
Top Bike was a closely fought affair with a 3 way battle for the title falling the way of multi time National Champion Chris Matheson. Matheson took the title in what was a hot and cold year for the rider of “Nitro Voodoo”, overcoming Chris Porter and Damian Muscat to take his first championship under the 400 THUNDER banner. He will carry the #1 into battle for the first time at Nitro Up North, the first round of the Championship for Top Bike for 2017-18.
Pro Bike saw another first time champion in the form of young gun Brad Lemberg. National Record setting performances set the platform for Lemberg to take the title from defending series champion Glenn Wooster. The highlight for the new #1 plate holder was undoubtedly the quickest-in-Australian-history run of 7.05 at the Gulf Western Oil Nitro Thunder event in Sydney in May – and now the very real prospect of the first 6 second run in the two wheeled category is very much on the table.
The new 400 THUNDER season kicks off in the Northern Territory, with Nitro Up North and the first round of the Pro Slammer and Top Bike Championships in addition to a 4 car Top Fuel Exhibition category, on July 21 & 22.