A new 400 Thunder Top Fuel season is right around the corner and there are some changes and shuffling afoot among Australia's fastest drag racing teams.
Top Fuel drag racing is unlike any other motorsport on Earth, with 10,000 horsepower dragsters competing side by side at speeds well over 500kph. The ground literally shakes as the brave drivers kick the throttle pedal. As much of a spectacle as it is, there's serious competition happening.
Welcomed back to the fight for the opening round of the season, East Coast Thunder at Sydney Dragway on November 1 and 2, will be Sydney's own Peter Xiberras. The owner of Premiair Hire will be racing at Sydney for the first time since a big accident there last year. After a problem-plagued Winternationals (above), he will be driving a brand new car and there is also some new experience on the team, with former Darren Morgan Racing crew chief Ben Patterson joining Xiberras' own talented crew chief Tim Adams. With this much knowledge behind the scenes, Xiberras should be straight back to form.
Also coming back after an accident, albeit with a much longer break between, will be Phil Lamattina. After two seasons with Kelly Bettes in the seat, including a championship, Lamattina is returning to driving for the first time since 2015. Last season Bettes took the championship battle to the very last race of the series, so you know Lamattina is going to be ready to win races himself from his very first green light.
2018/19 400 Thunder championship winner Wayne Newby will be back for Rapisarda Autosport International, as will team mates Damien Harris and Ashley Sanford. Newby enjoyed career best performances on his way to a tight title win. Expect to see Newby pushing some more boundaries this season as the team searches for regular 3.7 second passes.
Harris endured a difficult season in comparison, finishing an uncharacteristic fifth in the series. Despite having the quickest car in the field, putting down that power consistently proved tough for Harris and crew chief Santo Rapisarda Jnr. Nitro revenge may be on their minds this season!
In contrast, Ashley Sanford enjoyed one of her best seasons yet, finishing third overall. The smiling Californian had a very consistent race car, especially in hot conditions, and that allowed her to pick up plenty of win lights. With three runner ups, Sanford is desperately chasing her first event win and it could come at East Coast Thunder.
Legendary team Jim Read Racing are set for another season, with Phil Read again handling the driving while brother Bruce looks after the tuning. The Reads began to find something in the car towards the end of last season and can easily match it with the others in performance. They have upgraded their fuel pumps and a few other bits and pieces in the off season. A little luck will go a long way to seeing the Reads back in the winner's circle.
Finally, crowd favourite Terry Sainty will be doing it for Australia in the Sainty billet three-valve dragster. Sainty scored a very popular round win at the Winternationals after one of the most spectacular wheelstands we have seen in a long time. The car has been making all the right noises lately and it feels like the team are on the edge of some significant performance breakthroughs.
Top Fuel will be part of East Coast Thunder at Sydney Dragway on November 1 and 2, be sure to come to the track and experience the thrill live.