A massive crowd witnessed the return of New Year's racing at Willowbank Raceway with the running of New Year's Thunder - a 400 Thunder Series round for Top Fuel, Pro Slammer, Top Bike and Pro Bike.
Even though the small fields led to some expected downtime, the racing was tough using the new cut throat three round points format that sees no qualifying, just three full rounds of racing for every competitor. Racers accumulate points during the night based on wins and elapsed times, the final round has the two highest point scorers square off for the event win, while the rest of the field race off for more championship points.
In Top Fuel, Damien Harris would face off with last start finalist Peter Xiberras for the cash. A lazy reaction cost Xiberras the chance for a event win at the East Coast Thunder event, here the PremiAir dragster was too soon with a -.026 red light, and reigning 400 Thunder champion Harris would claim the event win. All was not lost for Xiberras with the team leaving the event with the 400 Thunder Top Fuel series points lead.
Wayne Newby should be feeling hard done by however, with his RAI dragster the only car to run four second passes on every run, yet did not record a single round win. A crank breaking 4.79 in round one fell to Harris' 4.65, the team thrashed to make round two and clocked a 4.82 only to be bested by Xiberras' 4.64, and in the dubbed "B final" Newby suffered a massive engine detonation across the finish line that left his holeshot 4.71 vulnerable to Darren Morgan's 4.61 323mph top end charge.
A seven car Pro Slammer field was just owned by Mark Belleri in the Fabietti AC Delco Monaro. The team picked up from where they left off at the East Coast Thunder event, with Belleri running 5.93 low ET for round one on a solo. They nabbed Ben Bray's 5.89 round two solo pass with a 5.88 against Victor Bray to score maximum points again for the round. In the final - which was against a consistent Andrew Searle Mustang - the Monaro again punished the field with a 5.93 win and again the run stood for low ET of the round, and maximum event points were pocketed.
Carnage ensued in the two wheel categories, in Top Bike, Chris Matheson withdrew after breaking the motor on a test pass earlier in the day, Chris Porter could not get his nitro Harley to the line at all, and Blaze Hansen ventilated his Hayabusa's engine in round two leaving Gavin Spann and Steve Badcock were the sole survivors for the final round. Spann turned on a 7.07 in the final as Badcock battled to keep his nitrous bike off the Willowank wall.
In Pro Bike, a returning Andrew Badcock lost fire in the burnout for round one and would not be seen for the rest of the event. Lemberg cranked out a 7.17 for low ET of the round and clearly would be the rider to beat again. Lemberg turned an identical 7.17 in round two over coming Glenn Wooster with the field now cut to four with Locky Ireland a victim of the round one mechanical mayhem. The final saw Lemberg pushed by a vastly improved Daniel Rabnott 7.22 to a 7.32 respectively, as Wooster overcame a bizarre .4 of a second holeshot to ride around Mark Hancock 7.34 to a 8.11 in the only other pairing of the third round of racing.
The 400 Thunder Series now moves to Sydney Dragway for Top Fuel, Pro Alcohol, Pro Slammer and Top Bike for Santo's Summer Thunder on Jan 21.
You can read our blow by blow live coverage here: http://dragnews.com.au/news-all/local-news/3742-live-updates-new-years-thunder-at-willowbank-raceway.html