Luke Crowley smashed the six second barrier for Pro Bike at Gulf Western Oil Nitro Thunder on Saturday night in an event that saw impressive performances across the board.
Crowley left his run until the his last pass of the night, with the dramatically cooling conditions playing into the veteran racer's hands. Crowley's pass 6.90 was the reward for years of toiling away on the combination on both sides of the Pacific Ocean.
“We knew the bike had it in it. This run has been coming for the better part of 10 years, and to finally get it is such a relief,” Crowley said after the race.
In a strong Pro Bike field, the event champion after three rounds of racing was West Australian Ryan Learmonth who collected his second win in succession. The event was far from smooth however with Learmonth suffering a low speed entry into the gravel pit earlier in the day. He raced to a 7.07 in the final, after his opponent Glenn Wooster was shut down by track crews with an oil leak.
Top Fuel turned on a strong field with the return of Darren Morgan a welcome addition. Most of the Top Fuel teams made a test pass early on in the day, with Kelly Bettes quickest on a 3.88 run. Come race time, all eight teams turned on a fantastic show with every team making the call for each round.
Round one saw Phil Read use a 0.004 reaction time to take a 3.84 for a win over a hard charging Damien Harris' 3.803/321mph, which was low ET and top speed of the event. Ashley Sanford knocked out a 3.84 also in her win over Rachelle Splatt's 4.15, while Wayne Newby's 3.82 took out Terry Sainty's 4.02. Bettes closed out the round with a 3.87 holeshot win against Morgan's 3.86.
Morgan got his first win light of the comeback with a 3.96 to 4.06 victory over Read in round two, while Sanford's consistent approach continued to pay dividends with a 3.85 to 4.48 win against Sainty. Splatt had a blower belt come off early against Newby's 3.84, as Bettes' 3.94 defeated Harris.
The final round proved a tougher affair with just one car making it down the track. Sainty and Read took slower-than-average wins against Splatt and Harris respectively, while Bettes carded a 3.85/315mph in her win against Morgan. The final took place between Newby and Sanford and it turned into an old school pedalfest on the now cold track, where an unremarkable 5.35 from Newby proved enough to once again deny Sanford her maiden victory.
Pro Slammer was reduced to just seven cars for racing, one of the smallest fields in memory, after Geoff Gradden withdrew following qualifying.
Victor Bray opened up round one with a 5.87 win over Emilio Spinozzi, while Mouhayet took a solo 5.91. Ben Bray got lucky when Mark Hinchelwood red lit, while John Zappia's 5.83 took out Michelle Davies.
Round two action saw Mouhayet step up with a 5.70/256mph defeat of Ben Bray's 5.98 who took a spin in the braking area to miss the sand trap. Davies soloed for a 20 second 'W' as Bray's good night continued when Spinozzi went red. Hinchelwood couldn't shake that red light once again as he faced Zappia, whose 5.74 ensured he would take the final to face Mouhayet.
More red lights in round three saw Spinozzi defeat an early-starting Davies, with Hinchelwood finally getting a win, albeit on a solo, with a 5.84. Ben took out father Bray in a messy race, leaving just the final to take place. This one proved to be one of the most entertaining contests of the evening as Mouhayet got the .048 to .136 holeshot, only to get loose down track. That allowed Zappia to come back by for a 5.65/254mph as Mouhayet pedalled and went into a big time wheel stand at half track and still managed a 5.95.
Pro Alcohol proved a battle of attrition with eight cars at the start of the day reduced to four by the final round. The most spectacular exit came courtesy of Rob Ambruosi, who had an intense fire in his Funny Car. The final came down to Gary Phillips and Steve Reed once again. Reed was in strong form, with a low ET 5.45 in the second round, but in the final Phillips mastered the difficult conditions with a 5.75/260mph for the victory. Pro Stock was looking much healthier with a dozen cars entered and with the conditions there for six second passes many teams took advantage.
The brothers Tremayne were familiar finalists and while the chances were looking good for the first side-by-side six second pass of the day, troubles early for Tyronne Tremayne took him out of contention as Aaron ran out to low ET of the day, a 6.911 for victory.
Top Bike struggled for performance, Jay Upton despite blazing the tyres was happy that he had solved the problem of being under-power on the hit. Upton still managed to reach the final against Chris Matheson, but the Nitro Voodoo machine was nowhere to be seen after constant mechanical problems ruled him out, despite dropping a 6.09 in round two. Upton cracked the throttle in the solo final to a blistering 3.98 half track before clicking it to a 6.58.
Rod Harvey stared in the Pro Extreme exhibition bracket first putting the Sport Compact world on notice running a personal best 5.77 at 255mph in the 2JZ Camry before coming out and blasting a 5.72 at 256mph - a world record speed for an import and the third quickest import pass in history anywhere.
Jake Berias took the win in Competition over Rolina Tremayne. Victorian Berias proved he still has the power in a division we haven't seen him in too much of late with a 7.55 on a 7.73 C/AA index against Tremayne's 6.99 on a 7.10 B/DA index.
It was however a familiar site in Competition Bike with current 400 Thunder champion Ken Collin hoisting up a Gold Christmas tree following his win. Opponent Brad Mannix had the luck of the draw on his side with his Hayabusa not really challenging the B/AB 7.99 index, but to his credit, still still reached the final, however Collin's 8.01 on a 7.89 A/AB index was too quick.
Controversy reigned in Top Sportsman when a large portion of the field were disqualified for not running quicker than the brackets 8.99 upper limit in a single qualifying shot on a tricky early morning track. A pair of Queenslanders, Denis Ryan and Paul Doeblien pushed through to the final to square off on identical 8.57 dial ins. Ryan's slight .019 to .026 reaction got his Torana home on a holeshot 8.557 to 8.552.
Modified delivered a win to Queensland's Kellie Kidd. In an all dragster final, Kidd cut a light on Cory Dyson forcing the Victorian to break out at the stripe with a 7.310 on a 7.32.
The Doeblien family doubled up with a win to Shaun in Super Street. Doeblien's 10.541 on a 10.53 too tight for Carl 'Chevvy' Taylor to match in his big 62' Bubbletop.