The official prelude to the Gulf Western Oil Winternationals took place over the weekend at Willowbank Raceway, as almost 200 teams participated in pre-event testing.
Fans were given a preview of what is to come at Australia's biggest drag racing event with a range of stunning performances.
New Zealand's Tony Marsh generated much excitement, taking his nitro dragster for its first runs in Australia. Unlike the nitro dragsters that compete in Top Fuel, Marsh does not use a supercharger, which means he will be permitted to run in the Pro Alcohol class next season thanks to a 400 Thunder rule change.
There was no shortage of horsepower however and Marsh knocked out a 5.43 second run at 271mph (436kph). Marsh said the team had to make some adjustments to their fuel to suit Australian rules.
“We are running a mix of 92% percent nitro at this stage for parity reasons,” he said. “For the Winternationals this weekend we are aiming for more mid 5.4 second runs.”
Former Supercharged Outlaws and Aeroflow Outlaw Nitro Funny Car driver Jake Donnelly took on a new challenge, shifting to the Pro Alcohol class.
The young gun said the appeal of being able to chase a professional, national category was the reason for the move.
“It’s something that I have always wanted to do,” he said. “I enjoy championship drag racing and I guess the timing was right. We found the car in the USA and everything fell into place.
“Driving the Pro Alcohol car was definitely a steep learning curve, I've never driven a pedal clutch race car so that was new.”
The Pro Bike class has been getting much attention before the event and Victorian Glenn Wooster added to the expectations with a stunning speed of 196.87mph (316.82kph) aboard his Force Wear Group Suzuki, well over the existing national speed record.
Wooster credited a new engine supplied by former championship team owner Trevor Birrell.
“We are just trying to harness the power at the moment,” Wooster said. “We might lose some of that speed in an effort to lower our elapsed times. So far we only have seven passes on this engine but it is looking the goods so far.
“We've done lots of dyno time on the motor and with Trevor's knowledge, anything is possible at the Winternationals.”
Plenty more teams made the highlight reel including Pro Slammer championship leader Paul Mouhayet's 5.64, putting him within range of the 5.60 national record. Collin Willshire ran a 6.30 to go extremely close to his own Australian four cylinder record, while Pro Stock gun Wayne Daley showed he will have plenty of horsepower and consistency on tap this weekend with a pair of 6.92 passes.
The news wasn't so good for Pro Slammer contender Russell Pavey. The Queensland driver had a wheelie bar breakage aboard his Corvette, resulting in a wild wheelstand that left the car too damaged to make the main event this weekend.
The Gulf Western Oil Winternationals runs from June 6 to 9 at Willowbank Raceway. Tickets are available online at www.willowbankraceway.com.au or at the gate.