2013 ANDRA WINTER NATS NOTEBOOK

Written by Bobby Bennett; Photos by Dave Reid.

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SUNDAY NOTEBOOK - QUALIFYING CONCLUDED AS CHAMPIONSHIP BATTLES TIGHTEN

Winternationals Saturday C 1513AUSSIE, AMERICAN SHOWDOWN ON TAP - Phil Lamattina extracted the most value out of his second qualifying run to head into Monday's eliminations as the top seed at the FUCH's Winternationals at Willowbank Raceway located outside of Brisbane.

Despite losing two of his four qualifying runs to parts attrition, the Aussie star successfully repelled an identical elapsed time from American driver Tommy Johnson Jr., driving the Rapisarda International dragster. Lamattina maintained the top spot thanks to a 331 mile per hour speed which easily outranked Johnson's early shut-off 297.

“We are absolutely wrapped, to have the FUCHS Top Fuel dragster on top at the FUCHS Winternationals heading into race day is a great feeling,” said Lamattina.

“We could have done better in today’s two sessions, we should have been more aggressive and we paid the price, but luckily we were able to hold on with yesterday’s effort to stay at the top – tomorrow we will be leaving no stone unturned, there will be nothing left on the table and we will be looking to take the challenge up to the rest of the field as we chase the event win.”

Top fuelWhile Lamattina had plenty to be proud of, Johnson also had ample reason to smile. His 4.610 second pass is a personal best on the quarter-mile (1320ft) for Johnson, who is more used to running the 1000 foot distance per American rules.

“I have run a lot quicker than that on the 1000 foot distance but not on the quarter-mile as we don’t race on the quarter-mile over there anymore, I have definitely enjoyed it, and it didn’t even enter my mind to shut off at the 1000ft,” said Johnson.

“I did shut off about 100 foot early on my pass today but that wasn’t because of the distance, the car was starting to have issues and I didn’t want to hurt it, so the car definitely has more in it. Tomorrow we will just go out there and just run our own race, we know what our car can run and we have a pretty good set up now so we will just take it one at a time and do everything we can to shoot for winning rounds and the race win.

“I am really enjoying racing here in Australia, I have had a bit more time to enjoy it here at Willowbank Raceway than when I raced in Sydney in May and I have had a great time talking to the people – the fans are just great and I am really enjoying it a lot, and with the car running a lot better that makes it even easier to enjoy!”

zappiaRECORD, SIGNED -- SEALED -- DELIVERED - John Zappia might have a few challengers but clearly has no equal as his record-setting pace leads Top Doorslammer headed into race day at the FUCH's ANDRA Winternationals.

Zappia, a multi-time Aussie Top Doorslammer series champion, established a new speed record with a 5.745-second run backed up by a 5,753. The bump spot for the eight-car field is a 5.970 also delivered another record for the quickest-ever field. The two quickest non-qualifiers in Australian history for the bracket were Russell Pavey (5.974) and Andrew Sutton (5.991).

“In last night’s pass the car went to the right towards the center line so we came back and looked at the data and made some fine adjustments overnight,” said Zappia.

“Today it went pretty straight and pulled very well down the track, I thought it was a good run, but it is always hard to tell times and what not. When my team showed up and said that it was even quicker (than the Saturday run), and I had not only reset the record but run quicker and set a new personal best for time and speed – I was pretty happy!

“When it comes to race day, anything can happen. We have a car that has just done two back-to-back ‘five-seven’ passes, so now it is time to just focus on myself and my reaction times and make sure I am ready for that first round.”

Zappia faces Maurice Fabietti in Monday's first round.

grima sunONE FOR THE RECORD BOOKS - The Australian Pro Stock fans got way more than they paid for at the FUCH's Winternationals outside of Brisbane.

The record-setting Sunday began with a historic 7.102 seconds during their final qualifying session and the second-quickest unofficial Pro Stock run in ANDRA series history.

The record bump spot saw some star racers left on the outside looking in, including crowd favorites Rob Tucker and Kirsten Tucker-Cannuli, who were part of a world-first at Willowbank Raceway as the only father, daughter and son (Kirsten’s brother and 2012 Winternationals Pro Stock winner Shane Tucker) combo to all compete in the same professional bracket at the same event.

Jason Grima continued his good form from the start of the event and continued by eliminating Emilio Spinozzi in round one. Joining him will be Wayne Daley (Lee Bektash), Tyronne Tremyne (Ian Brown), Aaron Tremayne (Denis Whiting), Shane Tucker (Michael Ali), Rick Chilton (Scott Porter), Chris Soldatos (Bill Kotsias) and American Brandon Huhtala (John Barbagallo).

phillips 2GUT-PUNCH FOR THE COMPETITION - Top Alcohol racing icon Gary Phillips fired himself up the time sheets with a 5.522 second effort at 254.18 miles per hour to be the top qualifier.

Winternationals Sunday C 1149THAT'S FLYING - George Rehayem punched out the world’s quickest and fastest performance for a rotary vehicle today with a 6.475 second pass at 222.84 miles per hour.

scott porter factory extreme BACK IN BLACK - Scott Porter took the win in Factory Xtreme by defeating Archie Kajewski.

porter bikeTOP BIKE - Chris Porter is Top Bike's top qualifier headed into race day.
psmFLYING - Pro Stock Bike top qualifier Rhett Louhgeed officially re-wrote the record books today with the fastest pass for the class with a 189.55 blast.

HE’S INDESRUCTABLE, HE’S PHILLIPS - Despite crashing his new Top Doorslammer Camaro at Sydney Dragway in testing last month, iconic alcohol drag racer Gary Phillips admits he’s having a pretty good season.

Phillips can clinch the Top Alcohol Championship tomorrow. He leads by 85 points, which makes clinching the crown early a likely scenario considering No. 2 in points Steve Read failed to qualify.

Instead of dragging out his Top Doorslammer Studebaker, Phillips opted to run just one car during the FUCH’s Winternationals.

“We’ll probably put the Studebaker back together and run some of the eighth-mile stuff next month,” Phillips said. “I didn’t rob anything out of that car to make the Camaro.  But, the driveline in the Camaro didn’t get hurt; the engine and everything appears to be fine.”

Clinching the championship tomorrow would be No. 17 for Phillips, including one earned in Top Doorslammer competition.

Depending on whom you ask, Phillips is either the Frank Manzo of Australian drag racing, or Manzo is the Gary Phillips of the United States. Phillips opts to steer clear of the comparisons, instead choosing to show the proper respect.

“Frank is one bad man,” said Phillips without hesitation. “I kinda look up to the man and we have only spoke once for maybe five minutes. We each do our own thing and I would certainly hope one day to go over to the States and get my shot. As far as comparing the two, I think the numbers are the same but the competition is different. But hey, we have to do what we have to do.”

Phillips believes it would be fun to mix it up with Manzo someday.

“We probably have the same equipment, and he’s likely got twice the amount of runs I’ve got,” said Phillips. “He does more runs in a year than it would take me to do in three. I certainly look up to the guy. He’s the epitome of what talent and success is all about.”

kotsiasDOH – Bill Kotsias should receive the tough luck award. He lost despite running below the national record with a 6.983 elapsed time. The self-destruction came from a .319 reaction time which was too much to overcome as he lost to Chris Soldatos’ 7.059. In running the momentous elapsed time, however, Kotsias assumed the low elapsed time honors and took the associated five points away from Jason Grimas.

newbySECOND ROUND MARQUEE – Wayne Daley, No. 2 in Pro Stock points and trailing by seven markers, gets his shot at leader Jason Grimas in the second round. Daley qualified No. 9 and knocked off the No. 3 man in points, Lee Bektash, in Saturday’s first round. The winner of the race will likely claim the Pro Stock crown at the finish line.

kapirisBETTER LATE THAN EVER – He took out the timing cones in his first qualifying session. Then, he rolled the staging beams for a no time in the second session prior to running off of the end of the track.

Headed into Sunday’s third session, Top Doorslammer racer Peter Kapiris was exhibiting behavior unbecoming of a point leader.

“Not in the chase, I am number one and hopefully can stay that way,” said Kapiris.

Kapiris righted all of his earlier wrongs en route to a 5.824, 249.81 to claim the No. 2 qualifying position behind John Zappia during the third session at the FUCH’s Winternationals at Willowbank Raceway. He stepped up with a 5.781 in the evening session to ensure he has a .01 back-up for a national record should the opportunity present itself in Monday’s eliminations.

And for Kapiris, he’s of the firm belief his team has the potential if the conditions remain as favorable.

“It’s killer out there,” Zappia said. “The weather might not be that great, but the track is killer.”

Even Kapiris can’t help but smile when noting his 5.82 was a baseline pass.

“We can hit it harder, that’s what my boys are telling me,” said Kapiris.

Kapiris races Ben Bray in the first round of eliminations. 

huhtala daveTEST DUMMY – By his own admission and the lettering on the Jerry Bickel Chassis Parts – Australia Mustang, Brandon Huhtala is a test dummy for the Jason Grima team. He was no dummy in the first round, however, as he eliminated John Barbagallo and recorded a 6.997 in the process.

bray victorCOMES UP SHORT - Victor Bray was solid in the field for the first two days of Top Doorslammer qualifying, was bumped out on the last day.

packedGREAT SHOW - Despite forecasts of rain, race fans came out in force at Willowbank Raceway.

hottiesSUNSHINE ON A CLOUDY DAY - The hotties were out in force on Sunday at Willowbank.

INTERNATIONAL ARRIVAL - Tommy Johnson Jr. has found his nitro driving niche. Get a ride, experience a new country. For the third time in his storied career, Johnson is driving for a team based outside of the United States.

Johnson has subbed twice this season for Larry Dixon as a driver for Rapisarda Racing based outside of Sydney, Australia. He because adept at learning the ins and outs of international drag racing. The more it changes for him, the more it remains the same.

“You see the immediate differences, but then you see how everything is the same,” said Johnson. “You immediate see the passion for the sport in each country’s followers. The way they live might be different but when it comes to the drag strip, you quickly see that it’s all the same. It’s one common thing we have worldwide. Drag racing is the same no matter where but you always learn something new.

“It’s not the same old routine, The way they do some things are different such as the technical inspections and the way you sign in. Every country does their procedures a little differently just like the tracks. Learning the basics can be a bit tough, but the on-track is the same. The organizational differences take a little getting accustomed to.”

Johnson visited Australia for the first time last month, and he admits, the second time around, he was better prepared for the experience.

“This being my second trip down to Australia, it’s a little easier. The first time was a bit overwhelming. I’ve managed to fit right in, blend in a little bit. I find it easier to travel down here easier, it’s the trip back which is the toughest. You lose a day coming down, and while you are a little tired, you get used to it. By the second day, you are back up to speed. Coming home is the tough part. It was close to 36 hours between the time I left here until I got home before I was able to sleep. That can take a toll on you.”

Subbing for Dixon, Johnson understands he has some huge shoes to fill for the record-holding driver, who after taking a 360-degree spin in a dragster, returned to establish a new Australian fuel record.

Will he at least try?

“Ummmmm … nope,” Johnson said, with a laugh. “That’s the last thing I want to do, is to be more spectacular than Larry. They tell me I have to do a 720 just to top Larry’s performance.

three-seaterTHREE'S COMPANY - Three-seater dragster was a hit between sessions for the Willowbank Raceway crowd.

 

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SATURDAY NOTEBOOK - A FULL DAY OF DRAG RACING IS IN THE BOOKS

Winternationals Sat Dave 2400SPONSOR DELIVERY – If at first you don’t succeed, try again. This advice worked well for Top Fuel racer Phil Lamattina as he drove his FUCH’s-sponsored dragster to the No. 1 qualifying position during the second day of qualifications at the FUCH’s ANDRA Winternationals at Willowbank Raceway in Brisbane, Australia.

Lamattina recorded a 4.610-second run at 331.04 miles per hour to score the provisional No. 1 position after breaking on his first qualifying attempt.

Lamattina was just happy testing efforts have begun to pay off.

“We’ve been working on this for a while,” said Lamattina. “We’ve had a lot of bad luck in the last two rounds with the clutch area. We know we’ve had a car - we just haven’t been able to prove it. This race meeting is pretty special for us because of our association with FUCH’s. To be able to run a 4.61 and 331 is great.”

The first run served more as an inspiration than a frustration.

“I’ve been around the sport long enough to know you cannot let that stuff bother you,” said Lamattina. “It might have been a better run earlier, but we have room to tune for tomorrow.”

Qualifying continues Sunday with two more sessions scheduled. These are two more sessions for Lamattina to up the ante.

“We really have nothing to lose at the moment,” said Lamattina. “If the conditions are right, we will have a go. We just have to condition ourselves for race day. We’ll have a go of it.”

Darren Morgan, the defending ANDRA Top Fuel champion and current point leader, was second with a 4.738.

Winternationals Sat Dave 2348SCARING THE BEJESUS OUT OF HIM - As seasoned a driver as John Zappia is Saturday’s qualifying run against point leader Peter Kapiris put him on the edge of his driving seat. Never mind Zappia recorded the quickest run in Top Doorslammer drag racing history at 5.753 seconds, it was the up-close-and personal moment with Kapiris and his Saratoga which immediately caught his attention.

“That was a very scary run,” admitted Zappia. “The car took off well, and it got down there pretty fast. There was dust in the car and I couldn’t see too well. I started drifting towards the center line and then he started moving over and we got close. I went in deep and wasn’t sure where the finish line was.”

Kapiris, who entered the event leading Zappia by 100 points, has yet to make a full run in two qualifying attempts. The first run resulted in crossing the centerline and taking out the cones. The second was more of the same.

Zappia, who is challenging for another championship, recalled the run in detail. 

“I was probably 250 or 260 when I got on the chutes at the finish line,” said Zappia. “Pete came over, smoking the tires and on the brakes … missing me by four inches. It scared the bejesus out of me.”

Mark Belleri stepped up to second with a 5.913 while Stuart Bishop and Ben Bray rounded out the top half of the show.

Martyn Dack was on the bubble with a 6.033.

Winternationals Saturday C 1713WHAT A SESSION! - After three sessions, the ANDRA Pro Stock record is within reach following a second day of qualifying at the FUCH’s Winternationals at Willowbank Raceway outside of Brisbane.

Jason Grima, Friday’s provisional low qualifier wasn’t confident his 7.01 would last through qualifying, but was sure the mark would remain within his team.

Grima’s words proved prophetic on Saturday evening as the No. 1 spot was passed around to three other drivers but ended up back in his possession with two more sessions left.

“I sat back as three other drivers beat my time, and I knew when it became my time to run, it was do or die,” said Grima, who is the current record holder at 6.985. “It was just a great run, and good enough to put us back on top.”

Grima’s American teammate Brandon Huhtala was the first to best Friday’s run as he blistered the Willowbank surface with a 7.010. Tyronne Tremayne followed suit with a 7.012.

Shane Tucker followed with Willowbank Raceway’s first six second run, a 6.995, which stood as the No. 1 qualifying mark through two sessions.

THE KID IS GOING OLD SCHOOL - bray ben Ben Bray is going old school again.

The two-time ANDRA Top Doorslammer champion will abandon his Holden Monaro in favor of a unique Murray Anderson-built 1979 Chevrolet Corvette for next season.

“It’s gonna be another great Murray Anderson car and he estimates it will be finished in about four months,” said Bray. “With a bit of luck, it will be as good as the other cars he’s built for me.”

Bray believes the new car will present a better aerodynamic package similar to another classic Chevrolet icon.

“I’m really a 1963 Corvette kind of guy,” admitted Bray. “I wanted to be a bit different and Murray provided the opportunity. I wanted a new car and dad, along with Murray, made a deal.”

Why an outside-of-the-normal 1979 Corvette?

“Have you ever met Murray Anderson?” Bray asked. “He’s not normal. Everyone has a square this big? Murray doesn’t have a square. It’s an Anderson bubble, as it is called. If Murray can think it, he will build it. When he builds it, it is fantastic.”

Once the Corvette is complete, this won’t be the first time he’s raced a classic hot rod. He drove a 1957 Chevrolet to two championships.

“When the Monaro deal came along, I jumped right into it, and now it is time to go back old school,” said Bray.

A FAMILY AFFAIR - Whether they are qualified at the end of Sunday's final qualifying session at the FUCH's ANDRA Winternationals, the Tucker Family has already made drag racing history.

Rob Tucker, who is celebrating his 25th season of Australian Pro Stock drag racing, has returned to driving after a six-year hiatus. He joins son Shane Tucker, and daughter Kirstin Tucker-Canulli in attempting to become the first father-son-daughter combination to qualify for a professional drag racing.

Shane recorded the first six-second pass at Willowbank Racing during Saturday evening's qualifying session. He's the lone member qualified at this time.

The video below from our friends at CompetitionPlus.tv shows the Tucker Family's emotions as they attempt to take their historic feat to the next level.

 

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FRIDAY NOTEBOOK - DAY ONE IN THE BOOKS AS SEASON WINDS DOWN

grima top qual 2.jpgGRIMA LEADS - Jason Grima made a significant step forward to help his ANDRA Pro Stock championship cause. The current point leader, who entered the event with a seven point lead over Wayne Daley [third], jumped to the front of provisional qualifying with a 7.016- second elapsed time at 195.03 miles per hour during first day qualifying at the FUCH’s Winternationals at Willowbank Raceway.

“My day has been great and it just finished off excellent,” Grima said.

The consensus from many of the Pro Stock racers was that the conditions for the opening session had the potential to yield a six- second pass. Grima holds the current Australian Pro Stock record at 6.982 seconds with rules limiting engine to 400-inches of displacement in cars that weigh in at 2,300 pounds.

“If it was a second pass, maybe …” said Grima. “Sometimes it’s best to leave a little in the bank. You don’t want to show all of your cards right off the bat. You really want to get one run down to get started with. We really don’t know if the weather is going to come around or what. We’ll just tune from here. The sixes may come this weekend, but I am sure it will take a few more runs to get them.”

Grima confirmed weather forecasts predict humid weather conditions for Saturday. Friday’s first session was run in an adjusted altitude of 1,300 feet.

top qualifer grima

“That might affect us a little bit,” said Grima.

Grima believes a 7.01 in conservative trim is a testament to the horsepower his U.S. engine builder Rick Waters provides.

“It’s a fresh engine right off the dyno,” Grima said. “And, we are dialing in brand-new carburetors. For a first hit, this is really good. We are happy and I haven’t even seen the run data yet. We’ll look at it later and see where I went wrong as a driver.”

The engine in Grima’s car is the one he hurt in Sydney. It was sent back to the United States and returned in time for this weekend.

“I’m very impressed with his work,” Grima said. “Rick and Terry did a great job.”

American Comp racer Brandon Huhtala tunes for Grima and also drives a second car on the team which is sponsored by the Australian division of Jerry Bickel Chassis Parts. He was twelfth quickest with a 7.082.

Grima edged Aaron Tremayne, who ran a 7.035. Shane Tucker had top speed of the first session at 195.22

“The conditions weren’t perfect and actually we had better conditions in Sydney,” said Grima. “We did have a wounded engine which limited our elapsed times. Brandon ran a 6.982 to match my national record. These conditions are trying, but they are what they are and we run to them. Everyone else had the same.

“If the run doesn’t hold, I will just improve.”

AUT 0052INTERNATIONAL MAN OF MOTORSPORT -
Walter Bullard is a drag racing fan and it matters not to him what country or continent the action takes place. If he can make it, he’s going to be there.

This weekend, the Seattle, Washington, native, made his way from Dubai where he’s on a work assignment, to Brisbane, Australia, for the FUCH’s ANDRA Winternationals at Willowbank Raceway.

“I’ve been all over the United States and been to many tracks in the Middle East,” Bullard explained. “Been looking forward to this event.”

Bullard said there are many facets of drag racing which remain universal.

“Drag racing is drag racing on this planet,” said Bullard. “You have the comraderie and the people and it is great. I’ve met a lot of people from down here in Australia who have been the United States to see our drag racing. I just enjoy getting the opportunity to see it on another continent and how they do it down here.”

Bullard will be in Australia until June 12.

“I’m hoping for sunshine all weekend,” said Bullard, referring to the event’s reputation of getting rained on.

Winternationals Friday Dave 2571 HANGING IN THERE - Wayne Daley, who trails Jason Grima by less than ten points, settled into the third spot with a 7.042.

Winternationals Friday Dave 2595COMES UP SHORT - Emilio Spinozzi’s sleek Camaro was looking good but fell short of the first day cut of 7.124. He ran a 7.139.

AUT 0059HISTORY IS MADE – For the first time in Australian National Drag Racing Association history, a father, son and daughter all attempted to qualify for the same field in a Group 1 category.

Rob Tucker ended a six-year driving hiatus to join son Shane Tucker and daughter Kirstin Tucker-Cannuli during qualifications at the FUCH’s Winternationals.

“I’m plenty excited,” said the elder Tucker, who missed the cut with a respectable 7.146 elapsed time. “I debuted in this class 25 years ago. To get out here and race against my kids is one thing. I just hope to go fast and hopefully beat them.”

Rob understands just having the opportunity to race with his children makes him a winner regardless if the win light illuminates or not. This is something not lost on his kids.

“I’m super excited for him,” said Shane. “He doesn’t admit it but he’s been chomping at the bit to get back in a car again. He works so hard and puts in so many hours. I’m excited to see him in there and hope he does well.”

Kirsten echoed her brother’s sentiment.

“Words cannot express how excited I am for him,” she said. “To see him get back in the car and race with us is awesome. Up until today, we only really raced go-karts against one another. I want to see him do as well as myself and Shane.”

Shane is the defending event champion and likes the team’s chances of winning over the course of the weekend. However, he’s careful to keep the expectations in check.

‘You have to admit it increases our chances of bringing home a trophy,” said Shane with a laugh. “One step at a time and get all three cars in and we take it one step at a time. 

pete leahy soAUSSIE WINTERNATS SPORTSMAN - In the Aeroflow Sportsman Drag Racing Championship, Greg Leahy was king of the hill in the Competition category with a 6.53 second run from his BB/Funny Car putting him 0.70 seconds underneath the index and also well under the existing national record of 6.73.

Nick Panagiotlaris held on to number one spot in Super Stock with an 8.33 going 0.59 under the index and also under the national record. Not so fortunate was Mark Ashford, who crashed his Nissan 200SX on the top end of Willowbank Raceway. Ashford escaped injury but the Nissan will need plenty of work.

The run of national record passes continued with Corey Buttigieg’s Harley Davidson V-Rod belting out an 8.55 to be number one in Competition Bike, while Robert Rigoli’s Mitsubishi Eclipse hot footed to a 6.95 in Super Compact, 0.72 under the index for CC/SM.

With qualifying wrapping up for many of the sportsman categories today, eliminations will begin tomorrow (Saturday), while the majority of pro qualifying, with the exception of Pro Stock, begins as well.



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THURSDAY NOTEBOOK - SETTING UP THE BIG STORIES FOR THE WEEKEND


24edf14b9mBLUE BY YOU - ANDRA Top Fuel pilot Phil Lamattina has vowed his team will leave no stone unturned in the effort to win the FUCHS Winternationals event for the long time sponsor of the LTFR Top Fuel car.

“FUCHS are simply the best sponsor that we as a team could have on the side of our race car,” explained Lamattina.

“Their involvement in drag racing has seen them sponsor the best event on the calendar and although any win is sweet, to take home Winternationals Gold is just that bit sweeter.”

Some tune-up changes have given the team a new level of confidence heading into the Queensland round.

“We have sorted the clutch area and we are ready to go racing. I have told Aaron (Hambridge, LTFR Crew Chief), it’s time to get aggressive. We want to be consistent and fast. That’s what it will take,” added the former national champion.

Lamattina is looking forward to returning to the iconic Queensland venue.

“Last year, we drove through the gates and Willowbank Raceway was a sea of FUCHS’ blue and I imagine it will be the same this year.

“The venue looked fantastic and the track was just perfect, all we have to do is add a bit of FUCHS’ blue to the trophy presentations. And it will be perfect.”

The Fuchs Winternationals will be held at Willowbank Raceway, Queensland from June 7-10.

LeeProStockNCSOMETHING BIG -
Team Mopar Australia’s main man, Lee Bektash, is ready to rumble at Australian drag racing’s biggest event, the Fuchs Winternationals – and the Victorian racer is looking to do something big.

Fresh from his maiden round win at the 2013 Nitro Champs, the Pro Stock campaigner is confident that he and his team can continue the form that saw them defeat one of the strongest fields ever assembled in Australian drag racing.

“I want more gold – ANDRA Gold,” chuckled Bektash referring to his ANDRA Gold Christmas Tree haul in Sydney.

“The new car had an amazing debut but we don’t want it to stop there, we want more.”

Team Mopar debuted an ex-Allan Johnson Racing Chrysler imported from the US at the previous round of the ANDRA Pro Stock Championship.

“The tough thing about Pro Stock is it’s going to get harder and harder to get that win.

“The first round of racing in Sydney saw people losing after running 6-second passes! That’s ridiculous!”

Bektash might be all smiles off the track but once on the startline, he takes his racing very seriously.

“I love the sport,” the Victorian grinned.

“But I like nothing more than I like winning and for the team and my crew, we are looking for big things — big speeds and big results against the biggest names in the sport.

“And after all the big things, I hope to be able to achieve a little thing, just one little number — number one.”

Bektash starts the weekend third in the points behind current series leader, Jason Grima.

WHAT'S ON TAP? - 1Phil Lamattina (pictured) is battling for the lead in Top Fuel with reigning champ Darren Morgan (credit - dragphotos.com.au) Just days remain until more than 470 racers including the popular flame-throwing nitro monsters of Top Fuel hit the track at Willowbank Raceway for the largest championship drag race held outside of the US – the FUCHS Winternationals (Friday 7 June to Monday 10 June).

More than 120 racers ‘warmed-up’ at the weekend during the official pre-event Winters Warm-Up test weekend – the next time a wheel is turned in anger on the start line, it will be in the pursuit of the prestigious FUCHS Winternationals gold Christmas tree trophy.

Special multi-day discounted passes are still available for online purchase only, until midday Thursday 6 June 2013. After that point, tickets will be available at the gate. For full ticketing information, please click here

Willowbank Raceway Manager Steve Bettes said the event has attracted attention from across the country and overseas.

“With racers coming from all across the country as well as New Zealand and the United States for this weekend’s event, and the lure of championship glory always in the air, the racing at the FUCHS Winternationals is sure to be fast-paced and exciting for everyone, whether they are in the grandstands or working away in the pits,” said Bettes.

2Tommy Johnson Jr will compete at the FUCHS Winternationals for the Rapisarda International Autosport team (credit - dragphotos.com.au) “With US names like Tommy Johnson Jr (Top Fuel), Brandon Huhtala (Pro Stock) and Rhett Lougheed (Pro Stock Motorcycle) joining home-grown heroes like Phil Lamattina (Top Fuel), John Zappia (Top Doorslammer), Gary Phillips (Top Alcohol), Shane Tucker (Pro Stock), Chris Porter (Top Bike) and Luke Crowley (Pro Stock Bike) the pedigree of the entry list is just phenomenal.

“With just days to go, the final preparations are now falling into place, with team marquees going up, trade stands being erected, and a special Telstra ‘cell on wheels’ installed to help support the massive work load our phone network endures during the four days of this event thanks to the tens of thousands of spectators we play host to.

“Things are certainly getting exciting, and I can’t urge fans enough to get online to access the discounted multi-day event passes – these tickets are available for online pre-event purchase only and will close off at midday on Thursday 6 June – so get in quick!”

The FUCHS Winternationals, held across the Queen’s Birthday long weekend (including the Monday public holiday) on 7-10 June, is the largest championship drag racing event held outside of the United States. Entries for the event closed last week, with 476 racers signing up for the event which is expected to host up to 40,000 spectators over its four days, with competitors travelling from across the country as well as from New Zealand and the United States to take part.

42012 Pro Stock event winner Shane Tucker (right) will be part of a world-first this weekend when he competes in the pro category alongside his father Rob Tucker and sister Kirsten Tucker (credit - dragphotos.com.au)
 

{2ND} MENTAL PREPARATION IS KEY IN THIS AUSSIE DRIVER'S COMEBACK

aussie driverKatherine Shaw is looking forward to getting back into Top Alcohol competition for the first time in three years at this weekend’s Fuchs Winternationals at Willowbank Raceway.

The Brisbane racer takes a methodical and determined approach to her racing and is a keen observer over all technical elements in the S&S Trailers team.

Shaw trained under the renowned Frank Hawley Drag Racing School in the USA and she says that has been vital in helping her stay mentally prepared to race, despite not having taking part in an event for some time in her Top Alcohol dragster.

“Given the routine of driving the car has only changed slightly it’s basically memory recall,” she said. “Given in drag racing all competitors have very limited actual seat time a lot of practice is done sitting in the car and running through the driving process via memory recall and visualisation techniques. It’s something that Frank Hawley taught when I attended his school.

“Our mind does not know that difference between visualisation practise and actual track time.  The result of the practice is the more I can sit in the car and become comfortable the more also your body physically becomes comfortable which in turn controls heart rate and tension levels.”

Shaw credits her opportunities in Top Alcohol to tutelage from Peter Kapiris’ crew chief Mark Brew, who acts as a consultant and mentor for the team.

“I love swinging spanners,” she said. “Under the guidance and teaching of Mark Brew from Pro-force Motorsports I have learned more about the tuning role and continue to learn. But I don't' think we will ever know everything about tuning a race car and reading the track.

“I am a hands on driver and a crew person still by nature as well. I work on my own car and don't expect my crew to do anything I haven't learned to do.”

The team has made some transmissions modifications as well as some changes to how they will be able to tune the car ahead of the Fuchs Winternationals.

Shaw said they were staying realistic but also confident.

“We are the underdogs going into the Fuchs Winternationals with limited track time testing and a fairly new team,” she said. “Having said that, we pride ourselves on organisation, structure, professional image and good systems we have put in place to the best of our ability.

“We are as prepared as we can be going into the event with a very positive attitude and look forward to the challenge ahead.  If drag racing was easy everyone would be doing it.”

Shaw will be racing against a strong Top Alcohol field including national champion Gary Phillips, former national champions Wayne Newby and Steve Reed, national record holder Steven Ham, dark horse Debbie O’Rourke and recent rookie winner Darren Fry.

 

 

 

 

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