Day three of the Fuchs Winternationals has heralded plenty of amazing runs in front of a near-capacity crowd under beautiful blue skies at Willowbank Raceway. The fourth and final day for the Fuchs Winternationals will take place on Sunday (7 June), with eliminations racing for all brackets, and championships to be decided in many.
Two qualifying rounds for the pro series categories were held today – including for the 10,000-horsepower Top Fuel dragsters. While Steve ‘the Pom’ Read top qualified for the class with an impressive 300+ mile per hour run (4.755 seconds at 306.1mph/492.6kmh – see below for comments from Read), 39-year-old Mildura (VIC) racer Phil Lamattina suffered a chassis failure in his Fuchs Top Fuel Dragster during the first round of Top Fuel qualifying for the day, resulting in a severe crash.
Lamattina was conscious and alert following the incident, and transported by ambulance to hospital for further tests after Lamattina complained of back pain.
Following the incident, the Lamattina family issued the following statement: “"The Lamattina family would like to advise that Phil is currently in hospital after suffering a shattered vertebrae in today's racing incident. Surgeons have advised that a full recovery is expected and the team will keep everyone up to date with his progress over the coming days. The family thanks all for the well wishes and support."
Read impressed the crowd with his run later in the evening. “To say I was under pressure was a bit of an understatement,” said Read. “We didn’t come out last night because it was that cold there was no point, we haven’t got enough parts to waste on a cold track like that. We knew with Lamattina’s accident we’d be out later still tonight but it didn’t get as cold as last night. We started up, I let my foot off the clutch and nothing happened. I revved it up and the car started to move so I thought at least it will move and do something. When I backed up it was tugging on the motor and I thought this won’t be too bad. And it just fell down the track.”
Later in the day, Brisbane racer Ben Bray drew the applause of the crowd and the proud ire of his father Victor Bray when he ran a 5.911-second pass in his father’s Chevy ’57 Top Doorslammer – before today, the quickest that Victor had run in the machine was a 5.95-second pass.
“When I was second quickest on Friday with a 5.973, the old boy was quick to tell me that he still had gone quicker than me – but today I got it done,” said the racer, who is making his comeback to competition this weekend following a severe crash at this event 12 months ago. “The atmosphere and the reception we have been getting here this weekend from the fans has just been phenomenal, I can’t wait for race day.”
Top qualifying was now eight-time champion John Zappia in the Fuchs Monaro, courtesy of his performance yesterday (5.730 seconds at 253.3mph/407.64kmh) which was the quickest Top Doorslammer pass ever set at Willowbank Raceway.
Also top qualifying today were Lee Bektash (Pro Stock), Brad Lemberg (Pro Stock Motorcycle), Mark Drew (Top Fuel Motorcycle) and John Cannuli (Top Alcohol) – who needs to win the event if he is a hope of clinching the Top Alcohol championship out from under Gary Phillips – who has withdrawn from the meeting following the crash of his car on Friday.
“We feel really good going into race day, that’s what we wanted (to top qualify), that’s what we’ve been planning on the last few weeks in testing,” said Cannuli. “The car has been good, it took us three qualifying rounds to get it back to where we were last week. We’ll take it one run at time tomorrow and see what happens.”
Opening rounds of racing were also held for the Prime Signs/Speed Elec Super Street, Wallace Bishop Junior Dragster, Modified Bike, Powercruise Super Sedan, Top Sportsman, Knijff Earthmoving Modified, Super Gas and Donnelly Blasting Services Supercharged Outlaws.
The Fuchs Winternationals will conclude on Sunday 7 June with eliminations racing for all brackets at what is the season finale event for the national championship season. On-track action is scheduled from 8.00am, with the Opening Ceremonies to be held at 10.00am and all finals from 5.00pm (scheduled finish of 6.00pm). For full event information, go to willowbankraceway.com.au