New Years Thunder spectacle sets off 2018 for Willowbank Raceway
12 January 2018
A rewarding night of racing with a fantastic spectator response has launched Willowbank Raceway's 2018 year.
Queensland's premier drag racing venue played host to New Years Thunder, where the 400 Thunder Professional Drag Racing Series rolled into town for championship rounds of Top Fuel, Pro Slammer, Pro Stock and Pro Bike.
Among the Top Fuel dragsters, fans were rewarded with a unique final where two drivers were fighting for their first victory. New South Wales' Peter Xiberras took on the USA's Ashley Sanford and came out on top with a thrilling 3.94/310mph (499kmh) blast to take the trophy home.
Pro Slammer came down to two fierce rivals, West Australia's John Zappia and Queensland's own Ben Bray. Bray put a valuable margin on Zappia at the green light with a big holeshot, but a broken blower belt ended any chances as he watched Zappia run out to the 5.70 second victory.
Queensland did get to take home one pro trophy however, with Aaron Tremayne defeating Jason Hedges in a close fought Pro Stock final decided by just one hundredth of a second.
Victorian Corey Buttigieg ensured that there was an even spread of wins across the states as he defeated fellow southerner Maurice Allen in the final round of Pro Bike.
Other winners for the event included Matthew McCarthy in Pro Radial, Ace Edwards in Extreme Bike, Bill Fletcher in Supercharged Outlaws, Daniel Morris in Top Sportsman. Mitchell Bauer in Super Street and Kevin Langridge in Super Sedan.
The thousands of spectators who braved the heat of the day were rewarded not just to the high horsepower action on track, but also with fun throughout the pits. The characters of 'Paw Patrol' were in attendance to pose for photos with young fans, while a special Kids Central area featuring jumping castles and face painting produced plenty of smiles.
Willowbank Raceway operations manager Harry Rowsell said the one day format of the event drew a great response and provided maximum drag racing entertainment.
“We want to thank each and every spectator who came out to Willowbank Raceway for New Years Thunder and made this a successful beginning to 2018,” he said.
“Drag racing fans got to see the 400 Thunder Series play out over a single day and feel the whole story of the event. There is little doubt that fans are embracing the changes to the racing format and that the 400 Thunder Championship is taking drag racing in this country to another level. Our events continue to go from strength to strength and it is a testament to the changes in how our product is being marketed and presented to the public.
“The family entertainment including Kids Central and our 'Paw Patrol' characters provided a place to relax with the kids and give them some variety in the day. Happy kids want to come back to the race track and we hope that we created a whole generation of new drag racing fans on Saturday.”
Rowsell also wished to make special mention of the many drag racing teams who opened up their pit areas to the fans and put on one of the most entertaining nights of racing the venue has seen.
“This is Queensland in the summer so we know our racers have a lot of recreational options, but we are so thankful they chose to come to Willowbank Raceway, set up their pit areas for the day and then turn on brilliant racing.
“Everybody involved in the event - spectators, racers, officials - needs to take a bow.”
The 400 Thunder Championship now moves to Sydney Dragway on January 19 and 20 for Santo's Summer Thunder.
The next major event for Willowbank Raceway will be Santo's Super Thunder on Good Friday, March 30. Top Fuel dragsters will again return to Queensland along with Pro Alcohol and Top Bike as part of the 400 Thunder Professional Drag Racing Series.