The Australian Nationals went off with a bang on the weekend, with ANDRA’s Group 1 racers again proving the stars of the show – despite some unexpected twists and turns along the way.
The Nationals, held at Sydney Dragway, kept the fans on their toes all the way with a number of title campaigns on the line at the final round.
In Top Fuel, Phil Lamattina secured the ANDRA Championship Gold Christmas Tree when main rival Allan Dobson was eliminated by his Rapisarda teammate Damien Harris in Round 1.
And while Peter Xiberras defeated Lamattina, who smoked the tyres at around half-track, it wasn’t enough to stop him from securing a second title.
“I was quite relieved when Dobbo (Dobson) went down,” Lamattina said.
“It was hard to get too excited because I still had a job to do and that didn’t work out too well for me.”
“The Championship win has been (a result of) a lot of hard work from a lot of people and especially Aaron (Hambridge), the crew, and Fuchs sticking by us for 10 years.”
Phil’s brother John lifted the Gold Tree for a Lamattina Top Fuel Racing double defeating Terry Sainty, Damien Harris and finally Peter Xiberras with a flaming 4.831 Elapsed Time (ET) at 306.67mph (493.54km/h) from a 4.893 at 279.38 mph (449.62km/h)
“We’re very happy after a good year,” John Lamattina said.
“We’ve been strong all year and just haven’t quite got the win but to get our first win I’m really happy and proud. But really happy for Phil to win the Championship.”
“I’m happy with our ETs and really happy with the reaction times so it was a pretty good weekend all up. Thanks to the crew, Aaron (Hambridge) and everybody.”
In Top Alcohol, no one could have predicted that the title favourite Gary Phillips would fail to qualify for the first time in over two years.
Phillips watched on from the traps as Steven Ham did everything he needed to reach the Australian Nationals final securing a first-ever Australian Top Alcohol Championship.
Ham defeated Wayne Price in round one and posted a perfect .000 reaction time in his semi final victory over Russell Mills to lift the ANDRA Championship Gold Christmas Tree and break Phillips’ dominance.
The final was in fact a rematch of the X-Champs in Sydney back in May between Ham and Steven Reed, but this time both drivers got out of the groove with Reed scraping the wall whilst in the lead and Ham crossing the centre line.
Reed touching the wall meant Ham claimed a golden double with the Australian Nationals title added to his new Top Alcohol crown.
“The Championship is huge,” Ham said.
“This is the only year we’ve actually tried to run every round of the Championship.
“We had a lot of bad luck early, had a few wins toward the end of the season and then it was a struggle toward the end.”
In Pro Stock, all Aaron Tremayne had to do to wrap up his fifth Pro Stock crown was advance past the first round. He did just that, but it came on a holeshot win against Bill Perdikaris with a 7.029 defeating a quicker but losing 7.027.
Tremayne then advanced past his brother Tyronne but joined his brother on the sidelines final at the hands of Nino Cavallo.
“It feels unreal (to win five Championships), Tremayne said.
“It’s a major team effort, from a family team.
“We’ve been doing a lot of homework trying to nut it out and obviously now we’ve got another benchmark to catch. It’s a matter of time.
“We’re wrapped, and couldn’t be happier.”
Lee Bektash took the round win, and not only defeated Nino Cavallo on a 6.920 from a 6.985 in the final, but also set a new record 200.14 mph (322.09km/h) to break one of the last barriers still standing in the sport of ANDRA Drag Racing.
“I feel pretty overwhelmed,” Bektash said.
“It’s a lot of hard work for over twelve months. To be rewarded with all the records, top qualifier, and the win – it’s a good way to finish off the season. It’s healthy for the sponsors, there’s no better way to give them exposure than to perform like that.”
Top Doorslammer was an exhilarating as Geoff Gradden took out the number 1 qualifier, ahead of Peter Kapiris, before advancing to the final on a solo effort.
John Zappia would have been his semi final opponent but he got sideways and tagged the wall heavily on a solo pass ending his Nationals assault. Zappia was unhurt but philosophical about the damage.
Marty Dack defeated Grant O’Rourke before popping the supercharger in Round 2 while Stuart Bishop got way out of shape and hit both the left and right walls. Bishop emerged okay but the same cannot be said for his Camaro.
Gradden, competing in his first ever final in his first ever Top Doorslammer field, won his first ever ANDRA Gold Christmas Tree on a 6.031 ET from Dack who lifted the blower once again at half track.
“I can tell you the only part we broke on the weekend was the towing hook on the Ute, and that just happened when we came back,” Gradden said.
“We’re amazed. I knew we had a race car but it had to come together. It’s come together for us this weekend and hopefully another time it will come together for us again.”
“We’re a low budget part time team. We beat a couple of professionals this weekend. It’s just great to be apart of the show. We’ve been on the sidelines for many years watching and this weekend we were part of the show and that’s great.”
In Top Fuel Motorcycle, Gavin Spann picked up his first Australian Nationals title win since 1985 on a solo 7.540 ET.
His would be opponent, American Darren Guillory, was a no show due to a torched head in his earlier run against three time Australian Champion Chris Matheson.
Spann had earlier defeated Phil Parker to reach the final on the low ET of the day with a 6.915.
“It feels awesome. It’s probably the easiest Nationals I’ve ever won,” Spann said.
“I’ve been racing since 1976 and although I had a break from 1999 to 2010.
“Last time I won the Nationals was 1985, a long time ago. The competition is always hard but this weekend there were a lot of breakages but stuff happens and I was virtually the last man standing.”
In Pro Stock Motorcycle, Allen and White managed to show what Pro Stock Motorcycle is all about in a close encounter settled by a holeshot.
Allen’s 7.297 ET from White’s quicker but losing 7.264 was enough to get the job done and give Allen his first ANDRA Drag Racing Series round win in 2014.
“Many people were involved in this event and it’s a shame due to the rate of attrition of breakages that the bracket was diminished, so it was important for all of us to put on a great show,” Allen said.
“We had some technical difficulties in the earlier rounds and if it wasn’t for Nathan Stone stepping up and helping us out today with a new ignition and shift light we would have been nowhere.
“For me the goal this weekend was to win the Gold Tree and we’ve done that for Milwaukee, it’s a great feeling. To win the Nationals is always the holy grail of Drag Racing.”
The ANDRA Drag Racing Series now comes to an end for 2014 and will resume once again in January 2015.
Image supplied © dragphotos.com.au