The crowds weren’t deterred as thunderstorms marked Group 1 qualifying on Day 2 of the Australian Nationals at Sydney Dragway.
In Top Fuel, Rapisarda Racing’s Allan Dobson applied pressure to his own team when the throttle became stuck on the burnout – the technical issue potentially affecting his title aspirations.
However, Dobson recovered in Q2 burning his engine to the ground on a 4.782 at 217.79mph (350.5km/h) to qualify third and keep the dream alive.
Title rival Phil Lamattina snatched bonus points for both low ET and top speed by qualifying first on a 4.643 at 329.34mph (530.02km/h).
Phil’s brother John grabbed third on a career best 4.670 at 326.63mph (525.66km/h).
That effort extended the points’ gap between Lamattina and Dobson, meaning the latter must advance to the final and Lamattina exit in Round 1 to see the Championship swing to Rapisarda Autosport International.
“At the moment we’ve got an extra 10 points,” Lamattina said.
“That brings us up to 43 points plus an extra couple of bonus points to we’re up to about 45 points ahead.
“But that can evaporate pretty quick and he only has to make the final and we go out in the first round. We’re not counting our chickens and we’ve still go to get past a tough first round. We’ve got to win and try and get into the final.
“Fingers crossed everything works out alright, meet John in the final again and hopefully try and wrap this Championship up.
“We knew the track would hold a mid-4.60 pretty easy and our cars always seem to find the mile per hour. They make big power in the top end. John went 326 mph and to watch that gives you confidence.
“We’re wrapped, one and two, same as Adelaide but we just swapped it around a bit.”
Amazingly 16-times Top Alcohol Champion Gary Phillips didn’t qualify for the Top Alcohol field for the first time in two years, putting his campaign for a 17th Championship in jeopardy.
That turn of events opens the door for Steven Ham to make what seemed an improbable run at making up the 61-point deficit to steal the title from under the nose of Phillips.
Should Ham reach the final on race day he will clinch a maiden Australian Top Alcohol Championship.
“We’re feeling a little bit nervous as to what to do because we need to make the final to clinch it so we’ve got to race smart,” Ham said.
“Gary is probably not in a good way right now. He probably thinks I’ve stirred him up a fair bit too.”
“We’ll see what tomorrow brings, we’ll race smart that’s for sure but we just need to repeat Darwin again and it’ll be all good.”
Following Reed and Ham is a trio of Dragsters, Fuchs Winternationals winner Jon Sting, Russell Mills and Brett White in third, fourth and fifth.
In Pro Stock, Lee Bektash took the number one spot with a 6.944 second pass, the time under the National record, at 196.56mph (316.33km/h).
Bektash, who had been on a tear in Pro Stock testing, kept his Dodge Mopar straight and narrow to lead the field by over a tenth of a second.
“It’s overwhelming,” Bektash said.
“We’ve spent a lot of time and money on research and development on this engine and we didn’t think it’d be that good.
“It’s better being first than last, we’re happy. I’m lost for words.
“We’ve got to do the right thing, we’ll go through all the procedures. This engine is really going to set the pace in Pro Stock for the next year.
Tyronne Tremayne raced to second spot on a 7.055 with veteran Nino Cavallo one thousandth of a second behind in third on a 7.056.
However, Aaron Tremayne remains in control of the title – and only has to get past the first round tomorrow to wrap up his fifth Australian Pro Stock Championship since 2008.
In Pro Stock Motorcycle, a single qualifying run was all that was needed for Luke Crowley to secure enough points to wrap up a second successive title.
“I’m over the moon to get back to back championships,” Crowley said.
“We were striving all year for a perfect season and at this point we’ve made every final.
“We were the quickest bike all year apart from Scott White’s pass at the Spring Nationals.
“We pushed the bike all year and compared to last year we’ve had breakage after breakage, which a lot of it we kind of knew was going to happen but some of it has been oddball stuff that has caught us out.”
“In the offseason we’ll go back, pull the bike apart and probably put in a brand new bullet to start next year and get the other two engines back to where they should be and find our consistency.”
Looking ahead to tomorrow, Scott White qualified first on a 7.400 second ET from Luke Crowley’s troubled 7.505, and Maurice Allen with a 7.534.
In Top Doorslammer, Peter Kapiris re-found his form with the number one slot. Kapiris led the field after Q1 in hot conditions with a 6.032 ET, followed it up in Q2 with a 5.790 second pass at 257.09 mph (413.75km/h) as conditions cooled.
Stuart Bishop put his 67 Chevy Camaro into second on a 5.954 ET at 235.31mph (378.69km/h) from Marty Dack in his Ford Falcon with a 6.033 at 240.51mph (387.06km/h).
John Zappia dropped to fourth by the close of qualifying after a snaking run near the wall meant his earlier 6.076 second run stood as his best of the day.
In Top Fuel Motorcycle, American Darren Guillory claimed the number one spot riding the Suzuki Timblin owned by Rod Barchett. Guillory qualified on a 7.057 second pass at 191.40mph (308.03km/h) from Gavin Spann and Phil Parker.
Eliminations commence tomorrow from 9am at Sydney Dragway.
Image supplied © Fred Dwyer