28 June 2016

As Willowbank Raceway staff and officials begin preparations for the historic 50th running of the Winternationals in 2017, a review of performances at the 2016 City of Ipswich-sponsored event shows that it enhanced its long-established reputation as a world-class drag race.

Willowbank’s skilled track preparation team provided a racing surface that produced a world record and two performance marks that were fractions short of world records.

In the first Pro Alcohol qualifying session, John Cannuli’s Monte Carlo-bodied car set the quickest time in the world for a methanol-powered Funny Car at 5.358sec. In Top Fuel, Damien Harris’s 542.33km/h (336.99mph) blast was less than 1km/h short of the 543.28km/h (337.58mph) world speed record for a quarter-mile pass and Kiwi Rod Harvey was a fraction away from the 399.04km/h (247.95mph) world mark for a six-cylinder sedan with his Celica’s 397.19km/h (246.80mph) effort in the Factory Xtreme category.

Other performance standards broken in Top Fuel included the quickest and fastest side-by-side passes outside of North America. During qualifying, American Larry Dixon ran 4.542sec alongside Sydney’s Wayne Newby (4.552sec), and during eliminations, Dixon clocked 535.78km/h (332.92mph) in the opposite lane to Damien Harris’s 542.33km/h (336.99mph). The quality of the six-car Top Fuel show was amply demonstrated by the 11 passes in excess of 500km/h, a record for Australian drag racing events. The quality field also came close to the record for four-second passes at one event, with the 16 sub five-second runs only three short of the record of 19, held by Willowbank from the 2008 Winternationals.

Cannuli’s world-record performance also led Australia’s quickest Pro Alcohol field, anchored by eighth qualifier Robert Ambruosi’s 5.655sec pass. The Monte Carlo of Pro Alcohol Winternationals winner and Australian Champion Gary Phillips became the fastest methanol-powered Funny Car outside of North America with a speed of 435.21km/h (270.43mph) and it was the first to break through the 270mph (434.52km/h) barrier in this category in Australia.

In Pro Slammer, the 16-car field (5.778sec to 6.449sec) was the quickest in Australian history and with 25 sub six-second clockings, the supercharged sedan category also scored the highest number of Pro Slammer five-second passes at any Australian event.

The 49th City of Ipswich Winternationals was the inaugural event held under the auspices of the International Hot Rod Association and Australia’s new drag racing organisation 400 Thunder.

Competitors set 13 national and 23 track records during the four-day race. The new 8.639sec and 151.97mph (244.57km/h) B/Modified Dragster track records set by Townsville’s Savos Pandelakis changed an elapsed time mark that had been held for 14 years and a speed record that was set as a minimum when Willowbank opened in September, 1985. That leaves both ends of the B/Modified Altered record of 9.95sec and 133.53mph (214.88km/h) as the only records remaining from those set as minimums 31 years ago.

Australian 400 Thunder Champions were crowned in 17 categories.

Rapisarda Autosport International’s Damien Harris, from Western Australia, scored his second consecutive Australian Top Fuel Championship.

While Pro Alcohol’s Gary Phillips collected his sixth Winternationals win, the Queenslander also won his 19th Australian championship since 1991.

WA’s John Zappia had the Pro Slammer title wrapped up before the Winternationals, adding to his already impressive record of consecutive titles to score his 10th Australian Championship.

Victorian Lee Bektash collected his second Pro Stock Australian Championship, WA’s Mark Drew scored his third in Top Bike and Victoria’s Glenn Wooster top qualified, won the Winternationals and collected enough points to earn the Championship in Pro Bike.

The Sportsman titles were: Competition, Stuart Moresby (WA); Super Stock, Matt Lisle (NSW); Competition Bike, Matt Walker (Qld); Supercharged Outlaws, Rob Coote (NSW); Top Sportsman, Neil Constantinou (NSW); Modified, Simon Barlow (SA); Super Sedan, John Kapiris (SA), his fifth in the category; Modified Bike, Ace Edwards (Qld); Super Street, Robert Winterburn (Qld); Junior Dragster, Josh Leonello (NSW); Super Gas, Dale O’Dwyer (Qld), taking his fourth Championship since 2000.

View HERE for a list of the Winternationals Champions.

Article by Lex Swayn