Queensland rookie Kelly Bettes etched her way into the history books when she became the first Australian woman in 25 years to score a win in Oz Top Fuel after defeating Rapisarda Autosport International ace Damien Harris in the final of the Santo’s Summer Thunder meeting at Sydney Dragway. 
Sydneysider Phil Read, on the comeback trail, outpaced RAI star Wayne Newby for third place and Californian Ashley Sanford wrapped up her 2018 tour down-under for RAI with a superb down to the wire win over last round winner Peter Xiberras to finish fifth.

Bettes dominated the two-day event. Topping the charts on the test day then producing a series of best in class performances on race day.

“I knew we had a good car, I just had to do my job and get it down there,” said Bettes. “I couldn’t be happier for my team, Lamattina Top Fuel Racing, to take this trophy home to them.”

The two-day event, sponsored by team-owner Santo Rapisarda, drew seven entries. Three from the RAI stable Damien Harris, Wayne Newby and Ashley Sanford, along with last round winner Peter Xiberras and Kelly Bettes. Returning to the series were three-time fuel champ Phil Read and Sydney veteran Terry Sainty.

The meeting included three practice sessions, followed by two rounds of racing, with win and bonus points on offer. The top two in the points then raced off in the Main final with the next two racing for third and fourth places. 

Round one - with the track temperature nudging 130-degrees was highlighted by a superb effort from Xiberras who clocked a 4.05, 295 mph to easily down Sainty. Bettes lead all the way posted a 4.26, 256 mph to take the win over Sanford who ran a 4.34, 231 mph. Newby opened his account with an easy win over Read. Harris, on the solo, ran a 4.62, 173 mph. 

Round two pitted Sanford against Xiberras with the American leading all the way to take the honors. Harris downed teammate Newby and Bettes, with the quickest reaction time of the round - .056, cruised to the finish-line against Sainty. Read was handed the solo and ran a 3.96, 295 mph.

When the points were tallied, Bettes and Harris had topped the charts ahead of Newby and Read. 
The eagerly anticipated final was anticlimactic. Bettes led Harris on the green and was untroubled to take the win, stopping the timers with the quickest lap of the weekend a 3.83, 308 mph. The Harris campaign ended after getting loose near half-track.
Read, the surprise packet of the weekend, drove around Newby to take third place. 

For the second time on the day, Sanford raced Xiberras, and the duo produced the best side-by-side pass of the weekend. Honors to Sanford with the second quickest run of the weekend - a 3.88311 mph - the luckless Xiberras, far from disgraced with a 3.91, 312 mph.

“It was disappointing not to see a Rapisarda Autosport International car take the win,” said Sanford. “Kelly is a great racer and has served a long apprenticeship in the sport. I was told that she won an Australian title in junior dragster back in 1998. I have had a wonderful time racing at Willowbank and here in Sydney - some great memories and meet some amazing people. To me, the highlight was being welcomed into the Rapisarda family and to be given a once in a lifetime chance by Santo to race in Australia. I would jump at the chance if I was given the opportunity to return and race for the Rapisarda family in the future.” 

In Pro Slammer, rookie sensation Paul Mouhayet took the win after a bruising encounter with Western Australian John Zappia. “It was third time lucky for us. We have had a couple of runner-ups so to finally take the win is a great feeling,” said Mouhayet. “John and the team are world class competitors, so when you beat them, you know that you’ve done well."

Zappia did claim low et honors of the meeting with a 5.67 sec in the second round.

Unheralded Andrew Searle defeated Steve Ham in the battle for third place.

Texan Frankie Taylor, up against reigning 400 Thunder champ Mark Belleri for fifth and six places, was forced to shut down with an oil leak after his burnout. 

“What a weekend,” said Taylor. “I only got back from the US on Friday, where it is the middle of Winter, so the 135 plus degree temperatures on Saturday were a real contrast for me, that’s for sure.”
“Despite the heat, it was a good weekend and while we might not have won the event, my teammate Ben Bray and I each got two out of three wins and made some good progress. Our congratulations go to Paul Mouhayet who took out the event.”
“For me, now it is time to fly back into the cold back home in the US, but I will be back for the next round with Team Bray Racing in Perth. I can’t wait to see what we can do there,” declared Taylor.