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Day one of the New Year Nitro event has opened 2023 with a bang at Willowbank Raceway this evening, with the stage now set for what is sure to be an epic day of racing tomorrow at the Ipswich (Queensland) venue.

Today’s program hosted qualifying for more than 110 racers, including competitors in the Burson Auto Parts Australian Top Fuel Championship as well as the Australian Drag Racing Championship (ADRC) for Top Doorslammer and Pro Stock.

At the close of today’s on-track running, it was Wayne Newby (Top Fuel), Kelvin Lyle (Top Doorslammer) and John Barbagallo (Pro Stock) who claimed the Top Qualifying honours for their respective classes and will lead the way into racing tomorrow.

Newby snared the top spot in Top Fuel with a 3.815 second pass at 307.02 miles per hour, seeing him top the time sheets ahead of Damien Harris and Peter Xiberras.

“In the first session we saw the RAI sister car of Damien Harris do so well in that lane, so we made some educated decisions to try and get our car into the same window and it seemed to deliver after what was a very conservative first run, so the dividends paid out well,” said Newby’s crew chief, Santino Rapisarda.

“After a good run you have to focus on not getting too excited, you need to stay humble and do your maintenance second to none as per usual, so you can make sure you can make good decisions based on what the track is doing.

“It will be a bit warmer through the day tomorrow, so we will definitely be a little more reserved than in tonight’s run, but hopefully we will be able to progress ourselves through to the final and hopefully a win!

“We will just try and be smart about it – we will do our best to read the track and extract what we can from the car given the track conditions.”

In ADRC Top Doorslammer, Kelvin Lyle got his New Year Nitro campaign off to the best start possible by securing the #1 spot ahead of John Zappia and Daniel Gregorini with a 5.706 second pass at 255.10mph.

“This is only my second time at Willowbank Raceway and my first time racing here since I crashed my last car here back in 2019,” Lyle said.

“Everyone was a bit nervous and so to get the first qualifier out of the way with a really good number, that was really good.

“We had top qualified at that point, but Zappia wasn’t far behind us and we thought he might step it up. He actually ran ahead of us in Q2, for which I was a bit nervous again as that time I was in the lane that I was in when I crashed.

“So we were watching Zappia and saw him veer left and cross the centre line, and then the only other person that could really get up there ahead of us was Daniel Gregorini as we were the last pairing and lined up against him.

“The 5.70 we ran is actually the quickest that this car has ever been, and it was good to get that run in that lane behind us also. Everyone is smiling and pretty happy with everything so far.

“Really, this whole season has just been a massive turnaround for us and the crew and the car, finally getting this car to go straight – in both runs tonight, it was dead straight and just perfect, so we are really happy.

“I think the nerves are gone now and tomorrow is another day. We don’t want to try and outdo ourselves, but if we can repeat the same sort of numbers we were doing today, I think that might be enough.

“We are just happy to be heading into tomorrow top qualified, it puts a bit more pressure on everyone else which is even better!” he laughed.

In ADRC Pro Stock, John Barbagallo was a happy camper with a 7.312 second effort at 161.05mph putting him into the box seat ahead of racing tomorrow.

“We are actually testing an engine that we have been putting together, so today was the first time that we have run any of it, which is why we turned it off a bit early as we were just trying to get some data on it and see what we need to do tomorrow,” Barbagallo said.

“We are reasonably happy for its first outing. Hopefully tomorrow we can push along a bit harder, get a bit of a better tune up in it, and make a little more headway.”

Also on-track today were almost 100 of Australia’s fastest sportsman racers, with James Lowday (Junior Dragster), Andrew Pinkstone (Modified), Phillip Webster (Modified Bike), Jai Schluter (SuperComp), Michael Adams (Super Sedan), Ray Ross (Super Street), Terri Jones (Supercharged Outlaws) and Tony Whyatt (Top Sportsman) securing the top qualifying honours for their respective classes, while Steve Boyd (Top Fuel Motorcycle), Luke Crowley (Top Fuel Motorcycle) and Tim Clifton (Top Alcohol) performed exhibition passes to the delight of the crowd.

The New Year Nitro action will continue tomorrow (Saturday 7 January). Racing commences from 2.00pm, with racing for Top Fuel, Top Doorslammer and Pro Stock taking place at 4.00pm, 6.15pm and 8.45pm. For more information, visit and

To learn more about the Burson Auto Parts Australian Top Fuel Championship and the Australian Drag Racing Championships, go to

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