Willowbank Raceway has issued a statement in response to the withdrawal of several Top Fuel teams from the Santo's Super Thunder event causing the cancellation of the bracket at the event.
The statement reads:
"Willowbank Raceway, in conjunction with IHRA Australia, has been working on planned upgrades to the safety catchment area of the facility that commenced over 12 months ago. Stage 1 of these works, the upgrade to the gravel trap, was completed prior to the 2018 Winternationals. Stage 2, the design and installation of a world’s best practice double net safety system, is currently in progress.
In conjunction with IHRA Australia, Willowbank Raceway has spent a lot of time, money and resources to ensure the highest level of safety for all competitors that attend all of our events. Willowbank Raceway has been working towards the installation of a net system for some time, with the initial goal being to try and have the first net installed for the Easter meeting coming up on April the 19th. Due to a variety of reasons, this is just no longer possible without comprising the quality and safety of the installation.
Willowbank Raceway has always been a leader in safety in this country. Working with IHRA Australia, Willowbank Raceway was a key driver in the implementation of the Electrimotion safety shut down system to enhance safety. Together with Top Fuel Australia, Willowbank Raceway also worked to move Top Fuel competition back from 1320 feet to the current 1000 feet racing distance, to further increase the braking distance for the safety for Top Fuel competitors.
As part of these planned upgrades to the braking area, Willowbank Raceway has kept in contact with all Professional categories in relation to the upgrades and Willowbank Raceway has sought to achieve completion of the net system for the Easter event. At no stage prior to this event has any bracket communicated to the Willowbank Raceway management team their non-attendance if this was not achieved. As such, the Willowbank Raceway Board has been surprised and disappointed by the decision of these Top Fuel teams to withdraw so close to the event.
Maurice Allen, CEO of IHRA Australia, states that “Willowbank Raceway still complies with all current safety standards set by IHRA Australia, and as such is allowed to facilitate any eliminator from Top Fuel to Junior Dragster, in accordance with our current IHRA Australia track sanctioning agreement”.
Willowbank Raceway has always strived to provide the highest level of safety for all of its competitors, however we also recognise the rights of any competitor with concerns to not attend events. However, within the last fortnight one of the Top Fuel teams that have withdrawn from the event was testing at Willowbank Raceway running at over 270mph with no concerns around safety issues.
The decision by Top Fuel Australia to not compete at the Super Thunder event on April 19th, has come as a surprise and has the potential to have a significant negative financial impact on the venue.
Willowbank Raceway Incorporated is a registered Not for Profit organisation that operates with very little outside financial assistance using all the profits made from events to be reinvested back into improving the venue for both Racers and Spectators alike.
It would be easy for the Raceway to cancel the event, however, we believe that we have a duty of care to the nearly 140 other race teams that have entered the event. These teams are all chasing 400 Thunder Championship points and trophies and have already made significant investments in terms of time and finances.
The idea to cancel the event was never considered. Willowbank Raceway is a facility that was built for the racers and fans, by the racers, and the show will go on.
Updated event information and ticket pricing will be immediately forthcoming and due to the withdrawal of Top Fuel we will be adjusting ticket prices immediately, with pre purchased tickets available for upgrades or a full refund. Those effected ticket holders will be contacted directly by the Willowbank Raceway office.
The Super Thunder event still remains an exciting line up featuring 400 KPH Pro Alcohol, Nitro Fuelled Top Bikes and Pro Stock Car categories, and over 100 of the finest sportsman racers in this country. The Super Thunder event on Easter Friday will still be a great event.
The Willowbank Raceway management, staff and volunteers would like to encourage all racers and fans to come for a great evening of drag racing and see why Willowbank Raceway is still drag racing’s finest."