The Gulf Western Oil Winternationals is no stranger to records as an event, and the 2019 edition has seen numbers smashed even before opening day.
The ET Chassis & Race Cars Top Sportsman category, introduced to Australian drag racing several years ago, will feature 58 cars vying for the 400 Thunder gold Christmas tree trophy, a new record for the class in Australia and a field size that rivals even the largest events in the USA. The number of entries makes Top Sportsman the largest field at the Gulf Western Oil Winternationals for the first time.
Queensland’s Simon Isherwood is a former champion in the Super Gas class who recently moved to Top Sportsman. He said the level of competition among the drivers was what attracted him to the expanding group.
“Top Sportsman has been rapidly growing in the last few years,” he said. “It has attracted some of the toughest sportsman racers in the country in some of the fastest sportsman cars in the country. This makes for great competition.”
“Many racers have been stepping up their vehicles or purchasing new vehicles to join the class. I enjoy the toughness of the racing. It doesn’t matter how fast you are, it is all still about consistency.”
A indication of the strength of the field, 12 drivers on the championship points table are in a position to win the 400 Thunder Australian Top Sportsman title. Pioneer of the category, Steve Fowler heads a group of five including Daniel Morris, Paul Doeblein, Denis Ryan and Darryl Stephen who are all level carrying maximum championship points into the event. David Gauldie is only ten points behind them, with Mario Polito just a further 10 adrift setting the scene for an intriguing Championship battle at this final round of the series.
Spectators at the Gulf Western Oil Winternationals will witness a wide range of vehicles contesting ET Chassis & Race Cars Top Sportsman with everything from a turbocharged Datsun coupe to ex-NHRA Pro Stock vehicles hitting the track at the four-day drag racing event.
“Fans should expect to see a great variety of cars and engine combinations,” Isherwood said. “We have motors from small blocks up to mountain motor big blocks, supercharged cars and turbo cars, and all the racing is extremely close and fast.”
The variety carries on into the wider event. ET Chassis & Race Cars Top Sportsman is part of a massive sportsman program, which combined with the final round of the 2018/19 400 Thunder Professional Drag Racing Championship will equal over 500 race teams entering the Gulf Western Oil Winternationals. From 10,000-horsepower, nitro Top Fuel Dragsters to Junior Dragsters driven by kids as young as eight years old, there is no shortage of racing entertainment taking place at the famed Ipswich venue.
“The Winternationals is a drag racing festival like no other in this country,” Isherwood said. “It brings racers and fans from all across the country who want to see close racing and records broken. For us racers it is also a chance to catch up with members of our extended racing family that we may only see at this event every year.”
The 52nd Gulf Western Oil Winternationals runs from June 6 to 9 at Willowbank Raceway. Tickets are available online at a discounted price www.willowbankraceway.com.au or full price at the gate.