Alice Springs drag racer Mark Probst will get a chance to compete in the ANDRA Drag Racing Series for the first time in his home state at next weekend's Top Alcohol championship round at Darwin's Hidden Valley Drag Strip.
The historic occasion, the first time championship drag racing has been to the top end, will see Probst not only trying to defeat some of the country's quickest teams but also trying to break his own personal best and see his unique Altered-chassis race car into the five second zone for the first time over the quarter mile race distance.
"The fives are what we are chasing, we are running in Alice Springs this weekend to get some more data," he said. "We are going to have to be on our toes because people like national champion Gary Phillips and track record holder Scott Maclean are going to be in Darwin and we want to be amongst it."
Probst is currently competing with the only active Top Alcohol Altered race car in the country. While most of the field compete in carbon-fibre bodied Funny Cars or long dragsters nicknamed 'rails', Probst is taking advantage of a subset of rules that allow for the body to become minimal, with a trade off in aerodynamics for a reduction in weight.
"I always felt a bit claustrophobic with the body on in a Funny Car so some people said to have a crack at an Altered," he said. "It's created a fair bit of interest. Some people think it's insane but I don't do it because I'm insane, I'm very aware how volatile these things are."
Volatile is the word for a race car that produces some 3000 horsepower, weighs just 771 kilograms and reaches 400kmh in under six seconds. Probst's Super Charge Batteries/ULX110 team will have to be on their game, ensuring the tune up is precisely matched to the track.
"We haven't put all the power we can into the car yet, we don't want to step on it too hard because the car is very light and you end up just spinning the tyres," he said. "The engine is the same as what Gary Phillips and all the other big guns run but they have a lot more experience than us."
When the 11 teams entered for the event are all lined up and take to Hidden Valley Drag Strip pair by pair, Probst says just being able to qualify into top eight who get to compete on eliminations day would be a dream come true.
"I would love to be in the finals, but if we can qualify I would be really happy with that," he said. "There are 11 of the best there, we will just try our hardest. I have sort of got the upper hand a little bit because some of them haven't raced in Darwin before and won't be familiar with the air or track, whereas we've got a bit of data on it."
Maclean will be facing the cream of Australian drag racing including reigning national champion Gary Phillips, former national champion Steve Reed, Australia's quickest active female racer Debbie O'Rourke, Queensland powerhouse Steven Ham, John Cannuli, Gary Busch, Rob Pilkington, Frank Intini, Jay Henning and Scott Maclean.
Joining Top Alcohol will be the nitro-fuelled Top Bikes of Australian championship leader Chris Porter, Terry Burnett, Greg Durack, Dennis Grant and Gordon Crawford.
Qualifying begins at 6pm Friday August 16 with eliminations racing from 5pm Saturday August 17.