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The first eighth-mile event in the history of Top Fuel Championship racing will take place at Mildura’s Sunset Strip on March 12 and 13, with teams preparing for the unique challenge of the shorter distance.

It seems the drivers believe the pressure is on the crew chiefs to not make any mistakes, while the crew chiefs see the driver reaction times as vital. Shane Olive, the rookie driver of the Burson’s Auto Parts dragster, said there is little margin for error in an eighth-mile race.

“The race is more easily won and lost on the start line for sure, but you also don’t have any race track to make up distance if you need to pedal the car,” he said. “The tuners have to make sure everything is right and tune for the conditions. Mildura’s Sunset Strip will probably be in its best state ever, but it remains a new track for all of us.

“I have some eighth-mile racing experience from my time driving Funny Cars, so perhaps that will work in my favour and give me a foot in the door.”

Olive will actually be driving the only car that has been raced at Mildura before, as his chassis was driven there by John Lamattina in 2014. Aaron Hambridge, the crew chief on Phil Lamattina’s Fuchs Top Fuel dragster, said upgrades across the years meant it was now a very different race car.

“The body panels are about the only thing that haven’t changed since we last took the car to Mildura,” Hambridge laughed. “That said, I’ll still take out the laptop and have a quick look. I think all of the teams will be starting from the same baseline — we’ll all be taking educated stabs in the darks to begin with.”

As far as Hambridge is concerned, the record books are about to be reset. The Sunset Strip is one of Australia’s many vibrant regional venues, just outside the farming town of Mildura. The surface is concrete all the way to the finish line, and is as smooth as any in the nation. The current track record is a 3.29, set by Phil Lamattina in 2014. In the current era of Top Fuel, eighth-mile times have dipped into the 3.0s in Australia, giving all of the teams plenty of room with which to attack Lamattina’s mark.

“That 3.29 wasn’t a slow run by any means, considering how few runs we had on the track,” Hambridge said. “I know the track staff are going to be fired up and will want the records to fall just as much as us, so we should have a great surface. What’s nice is that it is dead flat, so there isn’t anything that is going to unsettle the car down track.

“We now regularly run 3.0s and 3.1s, so a low 3.2 pass or even a 3.1 at 270mph isn’t out of the question. Being a shorter race distance means that the racing is going to be so close. The pressure is definitely on the drivers to cut a good reaction time as you have less opportunity to use outright performance to beat the other car.”

Tickets to the Bursons Auto Parts Australian Top Fuel Championship event at Mildura on March 12 and 13 are now available at

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