Round two of the Burson Auto Parts Australian Top Fuel Championship headed to the regional city of Mildura with six ground-pounding Top Fuel Dragsters to take on a brand-new challenge – racing their 11,000hp machines over the eighth mile – the first time the shorter distance has been used in championship history.
Taking the series to a regional track that had last seen a Top Fuel Dragster perform an exhibition run in 2014 meant that drivers and crew chiefs alike were effectively starting with a blank sheet. With a lack of historical data to lean on and a very hot track that made for incredibly trying conditions, many drivers and their crew chiefs were left scratching their heads after qualifying on Saturday evening.
Class of the field was Phil Read whose Hydraulink machine powered away to a standout 3.19sec pass – taking both the top qualifying spot and outright track record as well as putting the packed Mildura crowd on their feet in one fell swoop. Phil Read explained, “We rattled the tyres on the first pass, but we decided it needed more power, not less. While some of the other teams tried to calm their tune-ups down, we went the other way and it stuck well enough to qualify on top.”
The event saw the entry into the championship of Rapisarda Autosport International’s Western Australian driver Damien Harris whose 700-day absence had blunted neither his skills nor, crucially, his reflexes. Harris made the B final against former Australian champion, PremiAir Hire Racing’s Peter Xiberras a total nail-biter, with the former snatching the win and 70 championship points on the way.
Xiberras was excited about the event despite the loss saying, “While the Lamattina Top Fuel Racing team may have struggled in qualifying, come race day team owner and Fuchs Lubricants dragster pilot Phil Lamattina well and truly turned things around. Taking the win in each of his first two pairings put Phil into the A final against a hard-charging Wayne Newby whose round two win against RAI teammate Damien Harris had lowered the track record to 3.18sec. Separated in the final by just thousandths, Lamattina made it three from three at his home track in front of the thousands of loud and proud Mildura locals.
An emotional Lamattina who was clearly feeling the love from those in attendance described the win. “From the outhouse the penthouse! That was an awesome show. I’ve got to talk my hat off to my fellow competitors. It took them a while to dial it in, but there’s the six smartest tuners in the country out there and they’re all making it happen. Man, oh man, this is a dream come true.”
Lamattina’s win sits him on 200 points for the championship, 20 clear of round one winner Phil Read who in turn is just 25 ahead of Xiberras in third. Event runner-up Wayne Newby has snuck into fourth place with the new kid on the block, Shane Olive taking both points for his first racing win as well as Top Speed and Low ET points in the Burson Auto Parts Top Fuel Dragster.
Burson Auto Parts Australian Top Fuel Championship organiser, Andy Lopez, was elated with the first eighth-mile event saying that the visit to a regional track was a real positive for the series and the sport.
“We knew it was a bold choice to run Top Fuel over the eighth mile for round two of the series, but we had the confidence in the teams, and I think the quality of the racing and the response from the crowd after each pass shows it was the right call. These are true drag racing fans here in Mildura and they showed us nothing but positivity and love from the minute we arrived in town. The Sunset Strip staff, from the track crew to the officials, helpers and everyone else involved in running the event were incredible, and we really had the best time. I can’t thank them all enough. "We dug deep and gave it everything we could, and it is safe to say we have thoroughly enjoyed our time here in Mildura. The fans came out in droves and were so appreciative of everything we laid down all weekend, and the atmosphere here was just electric all weekend long.
“The teams proved they were up for the challenge, and once they got their heads around how to make their cars work with a very hot track, they showed why the Burson Auto Parts Australian Top Fuel Championship is the best drag racing show in the country. Rebuilding and preparing a Top Fuel Dragster in between rounds is hot, sweaty, frantic work at the best of times, but each car has a tremendously committed crew attached to it, and their dedication amazes me more each event.
“The drivers, not just Top Fuel but everyone who took part in competition on the weekend showed the type of determination and attitude that is required to make a successful event happen, and we couldn’t be more grateful for the show they helped create.”
The Burson Auto Parts Australian Top Fuel Championship heads west to the Perth Motorplex April 8 and 9 for two huge days of nitro racing action. Entries and spectator passes will be on sale soon at topfuelchampionship.com.au.