The Perth Motorplex lived up to its legendary reputation last night when it hosted qualifying in front of a strong Friday night crowd for the ANDRA Pro Showdown featuring both Top Alcohol, and Top Doorslammers.
With 19 Top Doorslammers and 12 Top Alcohol cars qualifying for Saturday night's eight car fields, trying to get in the show was always going to be tough and it proved just that with a number of major suprises.
In all three sessions, the track conditions and humidity proved tricky as cars wheelstood, shook and smoked their ways down the quarter mile.
In the end, it was the local favourite Falcon Top Doorslammer racer Murray O'Connor who managed to come out on top in doorslammer when he belted out a great 5.908, backed up by 6.072 and 5.989 in his other two runs – six-time champion John Zappia second with a 5.92.
With Pino Priolo's 6.013 on the bump, the eight car field was the tightest in ANDRA Top Doorslammer history.
"It's a great effort by my crew tonight to top qualify, and I thought we may have seen some 5.80's in the last session, but it did dew up a bit," O'Connor said.
"The weather was a bit odd tonight; the humidity came in late and even we went a little slower in that last one than we expected."
"I think a lot of the guys outside of the field had to really push to try and get in and that's when you over step the mark."
O'Connor isn't getting ahead of himself preferring to take it as it comes with a strong field missing some very strong competitors on race day.
"(We'll take it) one lap at a time," he said. "We'll go through the car tonight, service it, rock up tomorrow afternoon, put whatever tune up we think is right and it's in the lap of the gods from there.
"To sit here and say you are confident in a field as fast as what some of these guys do would be foolish. Any one of those guys can come up and bite you and it's very easy to make a mistake yourself."
In a shock start to the season, 2013 series runner-up, Peter Kapiris did not qualify, nor did the two-car father and son team of Victor Bray and Ben Bray.
In Top Alcohol, all eyes were on the Lucas Oil Funny Car of Gary Phillips and his earlier 5.565 that had him on top of the field, but it was local young teenager Shane Weston who stole the show in the last session when he ripped out an 5.562 to edge Phillips by 3/1000ths.
The young gun was feeling pumped with his team's performance especially as they are running the car on the spares.
"It's overwhelming; I still don't believe it at the moment," said Weston.
"All my crew have worked so hard to get where we are.
"For my team, what parts and knowledge we have its awesome, we haven't got a big bank balance. We're running the car on all our spares right now. We haven't got any big sponsors but we hope to get some so we can do the full series, but at the moment it's just the local rounds."
Aaron Deery did not qualify with his 5.79 in 9th showing just how tough the field was, while veteran Steve Reed's 5.84 also came up short.
Eliminations continue Saturday night at the Perth Motorplex – www.motorplex.com.au for details.
1. Murray O'Connor (WA) - 5.908
2. John Zappia (WA) - 5.928
3. Stuart Bishop (QLD) - 5.938
4. Martyn Dack (WA) - 5.943
5. Maurice Fabietti (NSW) - 5.959
6. Mark Belleri (NSW) - 5.964
7. Grant O'Rourke (QLD) - 5.990
8. Pino Priolo (WA) - 6.013
1. Shane Weston (WA) - 5.562
2. Gary Phillips (QLD) - 5.565
3. John Cannuli (QLD) - 5.612
4. Craig Glassby (WA) - 5.615
5. Adam Marchant (WA) - 5.615
6. Steve Ham (QLD) - 5.656
7. Debbie O'Rourke (QLD) - 5.711
8. Rob Pilkington (WA) - 5.754
© Images - Just Drag Racing/Phil Blondel