Paul Mouhayet has laid down the gauntlet during qualifying for the MacTrack Westernationals, setting new track records for Perth Motorplex and leading Australia's quickest ever 400 Thunder Pro Slammer field into race day.
Mouhayet's final session pass of 5.629 seconds in the Komatsu/Mack/Moits Racing Ford Mustang stole the number one place and the track record from hometown favourite John Zappia, who was unable to improve from an earlier 5.668 run.
Consistency was also on Mouhayet's side, with runs of 5.731, 5.676 and the final 5.629 showing the 400 Thunder points leader will be a massive threat on race day.
“We had three runs that met our goals today,” Mouhayet said. “The first run we wanted to repeat what we did in testing, the second we wanted to improve and then in the final pass we had a freebie so we thought we would throw everything at it.”
With horsepower-friendly air conditions and a tight racing surface, the banzai approach was rewarded not just with the top qualifying position but also with a new 400 Thunder Pro Slammer speed record of 419.97kmh (260.96mph).
“The speed was down to Billy (Stocklin, crew chief) leaning on it. The track was unreal, the air was good, so everything worked in our favour,” Mouhayet said. “We put our spare motor and another supercharger on it before the event. We don't know what we found wrong with the old motor, but we found it nonetheless.”
Mouhayet will face WA's Ryan Moresby in round one of 400 Thunder eliminations on Sunday.
“We will try and repeat the runs we made during qualifying,” he said. “If we get to the finals and if Zap makes it too, I think both teams are going to be throwing the kitchen sink at it.”
While most of the attention was on the 400 Thunder points leaders, the entire Pro Slammer field reached a new level of competitiveness with the quickest field seen in history.
Sam Fenech knocked out a new personal best 5.744 to sit third, followed by the USA's Frankie Taylor on a 5.748. Mark Belleri was out of the field until the final session, where he used a last ditch 5.761 in the ACDelco Holden Monaro to claim fifth. Ben Bray's 5.822 put him in at six in the Gulf Western Oil Corvette, as Darwin's Matt Abel used a strong 5.860 for seventh. Ryan Moresby needed every bit of his personal best 5.877 to secure the eighth and final spot in the record field.
Three drivers in the 'fives' missed out, including Daniel Gregorini (5.965), Geoff Gradden (5.975) and Marty Dack (5.977).
400 Thunder Top Bike was also decided in a thrilling last session where Mark Drew used a 6.638 to pip Chris Matheson's 6.667.
Drew earned a solo run for the first round as a reward for the top qualifying pass and said he expects quicker times on Sunday.
“Hopefully we can get back to the 6.3s we know we can run,” he said. “We will have to service the motor and check out the pistons after some of the runs we made today, but otherwise all is going well.
“The solo is good but I'd rather be up against someone to tell you the truth.”
Jay Upton qualified third with a 7.004 even with an early shut off, while Greg Durack held a narrow margin to fourth on a 7.008. Benny Stevens (7.208), Wayne McGuinness (7.482) and Les Holden (7.633) rounded out the field
400 Thunder eliminations at the MacTrack Westernationals begin from 5.30pm on Sunday.
For more event details check out www.motorplex.com.au and www.400thunder.com.au or Facebook at facebook.com/400Thunder