Australian drag racing history will be made when Top Fuel and Funny Car appear at the same meeting for the first time at the Gulf Western Oil Nitro Champs at Sydney Dragway, May 16-19.

The Nitro Champs has been the premier event on the Sydney Dragway calendar since the venue opened in 2004 and has always been headlined by Top Fuel. An extra day has been added to the 2024 event to accommodate both Nitro categories and extra Sportsman races.

Top Fuel and Funny Car will run under very different race formats.

Top Fuel will have no qualifying and instead will have two stand-alone races. 

Funny Car will have two rounds of qualifying and one round of racing. The category will also compete with its usual quarter-mile race distance in favor of 1000 feet, bringing it into line with Top Fuel.

“The decision to run 1000 feet was simple and came about after our last race at the Bend in January,” according to reigning Funny Car champ Morice McMillin. “People came up to us and said why are you guys a second slower than the dragsters but are running the same speeds?  We said, “The reason is we are running a quarter mile while the dragsters are going to 1000 feet. What we realized is that the majority of the general public is near the start line and didn’t understand that we were running the longer distance. We love quarter mile, but we realize we had to make changes in order to be relevant to the general spectators.”  
When the 2023 -2024 calendar was announced, Top Fuel had a seven-round series and Funny Car five rounds, with both categories only appearing together at the season’s final round, the Winternationals at Willowbank Raceway in June. Inclement weather and ongoing delays in refurbishing Willowbank Raceway have forced organizers to restructure the calendar for both series several times. 

However, the decision to have both categories race at the Nitro Champs has come as a surprise. 

Both categories will be under enormous pressure at the Nitro Champs “to put on the best possible show” to capture the hearts and minds of fans, spectators, and the increasingly crucial live-streaming audience—not to mention the sponsor dollars.




Veteran Phil Lamattina, chasing his first title since 2014, has been the surprise packet over the latter part of the season, surging into championship contention with a holeshot win over reigning champ Damien Harris in the A-Final of the Riverbend Nationals last month. After running a two-car operation over the last two seasons, team owner Lamattina has cut back to a single entry this year. “The difference this season is down to running only one car,” said Lamattina. “In the past, we had stretched every resource, including parts and personnel, too far. Not having the stress of running two cars has also added clarity in my mind and that has really added to my enjoyment of the driving side of running a team.” 

Lamattina trails RAI star Wayne Newby, by 34 points, with Harris a further 11 points away in third.

Fourth placed Phil Read, is making a late-season surge with a win and a third and a PB at his last two outings, but with a 131-point gap to Newby, is a remote chance of taking out his third Aussie title.

Two-time champ Peter Xiberras, celebrating the tenth anniversary since making his debut in Top Fuel, will be looking to score his first win of the season. 

“We have been having some trouble in our 60-foot times of late, which has definitely been holding us back, so goal number one will be to try and get that sorted,” Xiberras explained. “We are, of course, also very motivated to reclaim the ET record that we held since 2021 and lost to Damien Harris at the last event. If we can get our 60-foot time sorted out, I think we can make a real shake of that across the two days. We want a win; two would be amazing!”

Rapisarda Autosport International will field three cars following the inclusion of Shane Olive. The ex-Lamattina racer made his debut with RAI in January at the Australia Day Nationals, where he won the C-Final against Phil Read. 
“It’s good to have Shane back driving one of our cars,” said team owner Santo Rapisarda. “He’s a good fit for the team and has a lot of experience. He’s not just out there to make up the numbers. He has the talent to win.”


Going into the penultimate round of the Nitro Funny Car championship, Morice McMillin and Justin Walshe are locked together with 321 points.  Walshe drew even after defeating McMillin on a holeshot in the A-Final of the Festival State Nationals at their last encounter. 

McMillin’s teammate, Brandon Gosbell, has emerged as the king of qualifying after claiming his third consecutive top qualifier spot at the Festival State Nationals, trails the leaders by 87 points, and holds a 26-point lead over veteran privateer Anthony Begley. 

Adam Murrihy will be hoping for a better result than his last outing, when during qualifying, he hit a centreline cone, severely damaged the front left side of the car, and was sidelined for the weekend.
Third-generation racer Josh Leahey is making his debut in the series. Leahy, a McMillin Funny Car crew member, is stepping up from the Aeroflow Outlaw Funny Car series. 




DOORSLAMMER  - John Zappia holds a 35-point lead over rookie standout Russell Taylor. ‘Zap’ will go into the meeting with a massive advantage, having raced at the venue for over 20 years. Taylor’s only appearance at the track was at the Australia Day meeting in January, which was washed out. 

Third-placed Ronnie Palumbo, despite a win in the B-Final at the previous round, has drifted out of championship contention but holds a tidy 71-point lead over Lisa Gregorini, who is chasing her first-ever win in the category. Her spouse, Daniel, is fifth and searching for his first win this season after a horror run of bad luck and mechanical gremlins. 
PRO MOD - Pro Mod returns for the third time this season. The category has been dominated by noted Sydney-based engine builder Craig Burns, who will start favorite after winning the opening round and finishing second to Zoran Gajic at the Australia Day Nationals. Burns holds a comfortable 89-point lead over local racer Joe Gauci, with Rob Campisi, runner-up to Burns at the season opener, in third spot and 10 points ahead of Gajic. 
PRO STOCK - Round Three of Pro Stock has attracted 12 entries.

Rob Dekert is on the cusp of winning the Aussie title, going into the event with a comfortable 112-point advantage over veteran Rick Chilton. Dekert has dominated the series with three wins from four starts. The only blemish was a red light in the A-Final against Tyrone Tremayne at the last round.