The 47th running of the Winternationals saw clear skies and left the record book feeling a little battered and bruised. The Winternationals takes place over the Queens birthday weekend and runs over 4 days. In total twenty-seven track records, twenty national records and a couple of world records were smashed. Forget about the records for a minute the Winternationals is the biggest single drag racing event outside of the U.S of A and attracts lovers of the sport from all around the world.. The great thing about drag racing is the ability to access the pits and get up close and personal with everything its one of the only motorsports where the general public can get close to the cars and drivers with some teams even letting fans get photos with the cars while the team works frantically to turn around the car for the next run.
As the official photographers for the Winternationals we have media days in the weeks leading up to the event so its refreshing to arrive at the track on the Thursday and know the lead up is over and a full day of racing is ahead of us. Thursday see’s mostly group 3 and group 4 racing with Super sedan being the highlight. The mix of Cars and engine combos in super sedan is insane, Twin turbo’s, supercharged to big block nitrous fed v8’s. This class provides so crazy side by side match ups as well as being the bracket to watch for bumper smashing wheelstands..
Friday saw group 2 hit the track for the first time as well as the first couple of rounds of group one qualifying including top fuel. The highlight for me is always Factory extreme and pro compact. These classes punch above their weight and bring a heap of excitement to this event in my opinion.
Rod Harvey had returned to Aus bringing with him the fresh looking celica that was would soon to become the fastest 6cyl car on the planet laying down a 6.197sec pass at 237.71mph (382.56km/h) not only was it the fastest but the 6.197sec pass also makes it the second fastest time in this category in the world. But factory extreme wasn’t done there, Next up was a weekend of highs and lows for Ben Bray and the whole Bray family. Bens Nissan Altima was on a mission doing the 1/4 mile in 6.687sec at 207.53mph (333.99km/h) scored him the title of quickest four-cylinder sedan in the world running an SR20DET engine, third fastest four-cylinder sedan overall in the world, as well as claiming the record as quickest four-cylinder sedan in Australia. Unfortunately Ben was injured in a massive crash on Saturday. Ben has since been released from hospital and is at home recovering from rib and back injuries.
Saturday is the most exciting day as its almost made up of back to back group 1. The Willowbank complex was filled to capacity to see some of the most exciting racing of the whole event. With 16 car field’s in both Doorslammer and Pro stock it was going to be even tougher to climb the field.
The weather made perfect conditions for pro stock with Australia’s first ever side by side 6 second pass as well as the time and speed records being reset over the weekend.
On to Top fuel, With so much happening record wise it was almost easy to miss Phil Lamattina’s 4.56sec pass making him the quickest Australian resident driver and just short of the fastest pass in Australia set by NHRA star Larry Dixon. Phil Wasn’t done there with his last pass on Saturday he set the fastest ever speed at willowbank at 327.98mph or (527.83km/h).
Rapisarda Autosport international is highly committed to the sport running campaigns in the NHRA as well and here in Australia. Despite the success this team has had here and abroad they have remained quite humble and have become a fan favorite.
Top Bike was another well represented pro bracket. These things are nuts, As a result its one of the most entertaining brackets to watch.
Maurice Fabietti in the staging lanes before the last round of qualifying. In a lot of motorsport commentators talk about red mist when the helmets come on. This is something you can see in full effect just before a pass. Some drivers sit motionless strapped into the cars for over 30mins. Alot people write drag racing off saying its only a straight line but the mind games and trying to get the most out of the car behind the scenes can take its toll.
West Australian John Zappia is know for his half track burnouts. Above is a perfect example of how he never leaves the crowd disappointed. All in all the doorslammers ran a total of twenty-one 5 second passes a new record for a Australian event.
Sunday came and brought with it perfect weather . The three previous Winternationals have been affected by weather so it was a great change to have the weather working with us this year. Sunday rounded out a fantastic four days of racing with thrilling eliminations in all classes leaving the record crowd thoroughly entertained. The win by Damien Harris in Top fuel ment back to back wins for the Rapisarda team at Willowbank with a win at the recent Santos Super 3 event.
Being at the best drag racing venue Australia has to offer, combined with record breaking cars and teams, entertainment and awesome crowd, are just some of the reasons that the Winternationals is the best event on the Australian racing calendar.
Story and pics by Dragphotos.com.au