There is a new challenger for the 400 Thunder Top Fuel Championship on the scene and Willowbank Raceway’s New Years Thunder event on January 6, 2018 could be the place where he makes his move for the points lead.

Sydney’s Peter Xiberras and his PremiAir Hire team made it to the semi finals of the season-opening East Coast Thunder event at Sydney Dragway and recorded top speed of the weekend along the way with a 513kmh (319mph) blast. There was only one frustrating thing that stopped Xiberras’ charge to the final.

“I red lit in the semi final, which was disappointing because we had the car to win – that was my stuff up,” he said. “I was up against Damien Harris and he was running so quick, I thought there was only one way to beat him and that was to cut a good light.

“I went too hard and overdid it, I paid the ultimate price. I think I need to stick to my normal game plan from now on and see how that goes.”

The new 1000 feet racing format recently mandated for Top Fuel in Australia means more pressure on drivers at the startline. Xiberras said his team’s tune up has typically relied on a big top end charge, so they have had to adapt to performing earlier in the run.

“The pressure is on, we were one of those teams that weren’t the quickest out of the hole and we would make it up at the other end,” he said. “Now you don’t have that luxury, now you have to get the most out of the car straight off the bat. I don’t think we had the best launches of the meet at East Coast Thunder a few weeks ago but we were up there.”

The performances of the PremiAir team were all the more impressive considering they were using a new dragster, imported from Morgan Lucas Racing in the USA. Xiberras explained how crew chief Tim Adams was making small adjustments to learn more about the car and they were happy to see it responding.

“We were stoked that it ran good numbers straight off the bat,” he said. “Every run the car was getting quicker. Honestly, we haven’t started leaning on this thing yet so there is more to come.

“We are making baby steps. We are basically running the same combination as we had in the old car with some different components such as blowers and inlet manifolds, and as we get on top of it we will introduce more and more new technology.”

How much more performance is to come from the 10,000 horsepower, nitro fuelled dragster when it takes on Willowbank Raceway in the new year is up for debate, but Xiberras is confident that many of the teams in the field can run deep into the 3.8 second zone.

“Willowbank is a killer track. Everyone struggles on a hot track, but we are hoping it cools down enough at night to run quick,” he said. “We all should run quicker than Sydney given the right conditions, that will all depend on how hot it is.”

Xiberras will be taking on a high class field as part of the second round of the 400 Thunder championship, including the USA’s Ashley Sanford, Queensland local Kelly Bettes, reigning champion Wayne Newby and Australia’s quickest Top Fuel driver Damien Harris.

New Years Thunder at Willowbank Raceway on January 6, 2018, will feature a smorgasbord of drag racing action including the earth-shaking, 500kmh Top Fuel dragsters, Pro Slammer, Pro Stock and Pro Stock Bike in the 400 Thunder Professional Drag Racing Series as well as Supercharged Outlaws, Pro Radial, Extreme Bike, Top Sportsman, Super Sedan, Super Street and Super Gas in the 400 Thunder Sportsman Drag Racing Series.

Entries for the event are now open for racers at willowbankraceway.com.au and spectator tickets are available online here.