Australia's quickest current female racer Debbie O'Rourke is hoping her first trip to race at Darwin's Hidden Valley Drag Strip in the ANDRA Drag Racing Series goes off without a 'bang'.
O'Rourke is one of the most experienced racers in the Top Alcohol category and knows the highs of 400kmh passes down the drag strip as well as the lows when things go wrong.
Like most of the other teams attending the historic event, the O'Rourke Motorsport outfit, supported by KTrans WA and 1320 Race Cars, says they will be taking a softer approach to initial runs to get to learn the Hidden Valley track's intricacies.
"From a track point of view obviously it is pretty good with Scott Maclean running those quick times recently," she said. "The heat will have an effect, but we have raced in Perth before where it gets hot and I have my ice vest so I will be ready.
"Getting it down there is the number one priority. We had a bit of an issue at the last event so we've taken a more conservative approach for Darwin, put some new gear ratios in it and looked at the fuel system to make sure it doesn't repeat what it did (backfiring the supercharger).
O'Rourke began in the entry level category of Super Street back in the nineties and ever since then has progressed up through the various categories of drag racing including a stint in what was the world's quickest Holden Torana, capable of reaching 350kmh in under seven seconds.
With hundreds of runs down drag strips around the country, incidents like her 3500 horsepower Funny Car backfiring the supercharger at Willowbank Raceway in June are now part of the game, with more concern about being ready for the next round of racing. Such backfires are basically a small explosion on top of the motor and can have some serious concussive force.
"It's happened too often, more than we'd like, and now it's more about frustration than fear," she said. "The first time I had a fire, which was a few years ago now, it was 'oh my god, when do I pull the fire extinguisher', but now the incidents are more about getting back for the next run. It's not until you are back in the pits and see some of the damage that it hits you.
"In June at the Winternationals we tore the body and the windows to pieces. We've given that some tender loving care since and now it is looking brand new."
Drag racing requires teams to be aggressive with their tune ups to get down the track quickly and O'Rourke explained that their approach was just a little too much on the aggressive side as they search for the balance.
"We have been running some quick launch times but the motor is getting away from the wheels and it is often getting out of control before I can reel it in," she said.
O'Rourke will be facing the cream of Australian drag racing including reigning national champion Gary Phillips, former national champion Steve Reed, Queensland powerhouse Steven Ham, John Cannuli, Gary Busch, Rob Pilkington, Frank Intini, Jay Henning, Mark Probst 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.