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Excitement is at a fever pitch ahead of this weekend’s Summernats Slam, the fifth round of the Burson Auto Parts Australian Top Fuel Championship.

Australia’s leading nitro drag racing teams will be returning to Heathcote Park Raceway for the first time in 30 years, where they will be greeted by a completely renovated venue that has been primed for one of the biggest motorsport festivals Victoria has ever seen.

Hydraulink Top Fuel team crew chief Bruce Read is one of the few members of the Top Fuel community who was there three decades ago, when Heathcote was a very different place.

“I believe the last time we raced there was on a Boxing Day in the early nineties, and we had a brutally hot track,” Read recalled. “We had the likes of America’s Glenn Mikres there, and New Zealand’s Garth Hogan. It was a very different place back then, little more than a bumpy old drag strip in the middle of a paddock.”

When the Top Fuel teams roll into Heathcote this time around, they might be excused for not recognising the place. Heathcote Park Raceway owner Lance Warren has invested greatly into the track, which will have an all new racing surface, concrete safety walls and lighting in place for the Summernats Slam.

Also much changed will be the scene around the drag strip. The Summernats Burnout Masters will be turning on a show of smoke and fire that will rival the dragsters, accompanied by a show and shine, live music and a fireworks spectacular. With 9000 tickets already pre-sold, Heathcote Park Raceway will be at capacity.

Read said this will be the start of a new era for Top Fuel at Heathcote.

“We raced a lot at Heathcote back in the day; the southeast was spoiled for good tracks at the time. It looks like we are returning to those days with Heathcote’s upgrades, the new Tailem Bend facility and a plethora of top-class eighth-mile tracks.

“As far as Top Fuel goes, the last time there was a championship round at Heathcote we were still running single mags and small fuel pumps, and we would have been over the moon to run 250mph on the quarter mile. This time we will be looking to set Heathcote’s track record over 300mph for the first time in history.”

And just like the thousands of spectators, Read is keen to engage in the atmosphere that the Summernats Slam will offer.

“I think we saw a small preview back in January at Sydney Dragway of what our championship promoters Andy Lopez and Nathan Prendergast had in mind. The Summernats Slam will take it to the next level. I’m sure we will have many curious fans who have never seen Top Fuel before, and our goal will be to have a show that makes sure they come back for our next event here in October.”

The Summernats Slam entertainment kicks off from 11am on Saturday, with Top Fuel qualifying at 2.30pm and 5pm. Sunday’s show begins at 10am, with Top Fuel racing at 11am, 2pm and 4.30pm.

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