The 48th running of the Fuchs Winternationals at Queenslands Willowbank raceway saw over 500 competitors take to the track to make the event the largest single drag racing event outside of the U.S. With the Winternationals taking back its place as the final race of the season meaning a lot of drivers would be pushing hard to win their respective brackets. And with a total of 19 national records broken during the event it made for a epic conclusion.
The event starts on Thursday with group 3 & 4 racers taking part in the first rounds of qualifying. With Willowbank being arguably to best racing surface in Australia a lot of drivers through everything at the track making for some massive wheelstands. If a chop top rat rod styled combi wasn’t cool enough it must be close to winning the internet when it leaves on the bumper and carries it over 60ft out from the startline. The highlight of Thursday for me was Super-Compact Qualifying and being scheduled just after sunset the temps would be perfect to see some big numbers.
With alot of the Super Compact racers struggling to get a full pass down it was Kelly Bettes in the Jet racing sponsored 1200 ute that fired the first shot with a new P.b of 7.03@194mph bringing the ute so close to the elusive 6 second time slip.
Friday sees the first round of all group one racing. And with a number of the brackets still wide open the drivers won’t be holding back hoping to set the pace early. One of those brackets was top alcohol with Gary Phillips gunning for his 17th championship. Late on Friday afternoon Gary had a oil fitting break spraying oil all over the track and rear tyres causing the car to spear into the wall around the 60ft timers and continue to run down the wall causing the Fibreglass body to fly into the air and cause what looked like a substantial amount of damage the chassis. As gary was completely unhurt in the crash there was talk of him using a spare car but sadly he was denied and was left to spectate as all his opponent John Cannuli needed to do was make the final. Unfortunately John’s fairytale weekend came to a fiery end in the semi finals when the funny car filled with flames. John did a amazing job of driving the car to a stop completely blind as the fire ragged on under the body.
Friday also gave Queensland its first taste of Top fuel for the year. With the Santos Super 3 event cancelled due to weather. The stands were packed as the teams towed around for the first session. With the championship at this stage being between Damien Harris for Rapisarda Autosport International and and Phil Lamattina in the brand new Fuchs dragster. Friday saw a quite uneventful qualifying session as the teams underestimated the track.
Saturday saw Willowbank and good friend Phil Lamattina make world wide news when Phils dragster appeared to split in two just after half track sending the front flying into the air and the driver compartment tumbling down the track. There was a few tense minutes as the stands waited on news of Phil’s condition. Unbelievably Phil was conscious and alert following the incident, and is now undergoing treatment in hospital for two fractured vertebrae and possible damaged ribs.
Another bracket that was under the spotlight was top doorslammer with the return of Ben Bray and the continuing dominance of John Zappia. Zappia had a fairytale weekend to top off his perfect season with a string of top qualifiers and round wins in the short season leading up to winternationals. Bray drove the wheels off the 57′ to make it all the way yot the finals but it was not to be with Zappia stealing the show with a new national record being set in the final of 5.693.
With the 14/15 season wrapped up the all new Andra pro series starts at Hidden valley raceway on July 17-18. And the Winternationals will be held from the 9th – 12th June 2016.
All images by Dragphotos.com.au