The 42nd annual Westernationals will be contested this weekend at Perth Motorplex in Western Australia.
One of the longest running events on the ANDRA calendar, the Westernationals includes the third ANDRA championship rounds of the Top Doorslammer and Pro Stock categories, plus the fourth round of the Aeroflow Sportsman Drag Racing Championship.
At last year's event, the now retired Robin Judd top qualified with a 5.861, which would hold as low ET for the weekend, closely followed by arch rival John Zappia with a 5.866. The two met in a classic final with another 5.866 time from Zappia defeating a 5.878 by Judd.
Pro Stock delivered just as much excitement, with Denis Whiting top qualified with a 7.067 and going on to reset the national record with a flying 7.022 in the final. Whiting was due to face Tyronne Tremayne but after engine damage in the semi final, Tremayne was unable to front.
This year in Top Doorslammer, Peter Kapiris comes in as championship leader on 160 points, followed by Victor Bray with 122 points and John Zappia on 118 points. None of the front runners have had spectacular starts to the season, with both Bray and Zappia already experiencing DNQs (did not qualify) and Kapiris a first round loss.
At the last round of the championship, the Goldenstates in Perth, Bray broke a six year winning drought and also recorded his first five second pass en route to defeating Zappia in the final.
In Pro Stock Jason Grima is the one in form, leading the series with 138 points, followed by Aaron Tremayne on 106 and Shane Tucker on 104. Grima went to runner up at the Australian Nationals and also took the Australian Pro Stock ET record to a 6.98. Grima has US crew chief Brandon Huhtala on his side not only as a tuner this weekend, but also as a team mate on the track to assist with gathering more data for the PC Group outfit.
Qualifying opens with Pro Stock at 5.30pm WST on Saturday and Top Doorslammer from 6pm. Eliminations begin at 4.30pm on Sunday with Pro Stock's first of four rounds and 6pm for Top Doorslammer.
Quotes from the lead up:
Peter Kapiris - "John (Zappia)'s been there (at the top) for a while now and he is having to pick up his game because he's not that good at the lights and he is getting beaten on holeshots. And there is nothing worse than getting beaten on a holeshot. If you can run an 80 you'll beat him if you're good at the lights. We have still got heaps to go. We have a new clutch sitting there we haven't tried and a lot of R&D to try with the engine. We need to get it more consistent and run low 80s every pass."
Victor Bray - ""The last time I was in Perth it was a fantastic event for us – we won the event and claimed my first and second five second passes. We have been very consistent of late and with the data and set-up from the Goldenstates we are feeling quietly confident we are moving in the right direction for this weekend's event. Having said that though, you never know what is going to happen. In Perth you have a wide range of elements to deal with, not least of all the 17 cars battling it out for just eight spots and the almighty 'Fremantle Doctor' which brings hot breezes across the desert during the day and then cold winds from the ocean in the evening. Drag racing is an unpredictable sport at all times, you certainly have to be on your toes and I can assure you that the entire Team Bray Racing team is going to be working hard to try and put down some good results here in Perth."
John Zappia - "We are on the money with our tune at the moment and making plenty of horsepower – so we look forward to the Westernationals on the 2nd and 3rd of March."
Ben Bray - "What a great birthday present that would be – to get these tyre shake issues sorted out and put down some great passes at the Westernationals. The power is there, we are just unfortunately having some issues getting the set-up right to transfer that power to the race track. In testing this week we have definitely made some advancement on the issue, which builds on improvements we were able to make in the lead-up to and during Portland's Slamfest event two weeks ago. During pre-Westernationals testing here in Perth we were able to run a 6.047 second pass at 243.24 miles per hour which is shows we are definitely making steps in the right direction."
Simon Travaglini - "To me just qualifying for the field would be like winning the championship. We have 17 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."
Jason Grima - "Bringing Brandon Huhtala in, to not only crew chief both cars, but to drive the blue car (pictured below), will be a huge asset to our team. Not only will this help with performance data, but it will also give us some driving insight. Brandon was influential in helping our team set the ANDRA Pro Stock national record in Sydney last year, but he is also an ace driver in the USA and will be able to give great feedback on track conditions from driving our second Mustang."
Shane Tucker (on a drama filled test session) - "Just having a really bad day testing. Never made one decent run then to top it all off in the last pass the parachutes didn't come out and blew both front tyres trying to pull it up before just nudging it in the sand! When it rains, it pours!"
Allen Puglia - "If we're not in the 7.0s we will be wasting our time. We know we've got the power so if everything else is right we should be there. Our Ford Mustang came from the same shop as Dave Newcombe's and we are bringing John Barbagallo across to help tune the car so it is a matter of getting all the little bits and pieces right."