Photo courtesy Lucas Gardner.
It's been a long road for Simon Travaglini to the pro ranks of Top Doorslammer racing – but after spending over a decade getting his Ford Falcon, nicknamed "BA Baracus", to the track, he feels now could be his time.
Carrying the hot rodding spirit that attracts many to drag racing, Travaglini's car is mainly self built. When conceived in 2001, he wanted it to be the first Top Doorslammer into the five second zone.
Eleven years down the track, that feat may have been taken elsewhere, but it hasn't stopped him from chasing new goals and racing with a smile.
"I like to go to the track and leave having run better than before," he said. "(Top Fuel team owner) Santo Rapisarda is an inspiration to me in Australian drag racing and I read an interview with him recently where he noted that from when he started racing that was always his goal. I adopted that philosophy and I want to do it for my team.
"If we can't make the car go any faster then I'll try and chop the tree down (get a better start line reaction time)."
Travaglini has competed in a variety of categories but is perhaps best remembered among race fans for his Super Street Datsun 240ZX which was featured on the TV show Fat Pizza.
After running a recent 6.13 second time, enough to start being competitive in Top Doorslammer, Travaglini isn't shy to call this weekend's Westernationals at Perth Motorplex one of the biggest moments in his life. With championship points on the line and the best racers in the nation converging on Perth Motorplex, it is an opportunity to show what he knows.
"To me just qualifying for the field would be like winning the championship," he said. "We have 20 cars turning up to get into the big show, it's a hard gig, if you make the field you have already beaten more than half of the teams that show up, so that's all we want to do, if I get in and go out first round I'll still have a smile from ear to ear.
"I have worked my entire life for this opportunity, I have invested everything that I own, I don't have any big sponsors. Acme Wheel and Rim and National Tyres chip in but the bulk of the burden of running the car comes out my pocket.
"I'm not rich, I'm just passionate, I've quit smoking, have no air conditioning at home, I drive an old work ute, our car isn't painted and my crew don't have uniforms, but I have parts, I have conrods, I have pistons, I have blocks, I have cylinder heads, I have the instruments of quarter mile warfare and we are ready for battle."
The 42nd annual Westernationals features national rounds of Top Doorslammer, Pro Stock and the Aeroflow Sportsman Drag Racing Championship, taking place Saturday and Sunday at Perth Motorplex.