FOLLOWING a mammoth road leg of over 500km from Mildura to South Coast Raceway in Portland, weary competitors were faced with difficult weather conditions from the get-go on Day Four thanks to passing showers and strong wind gusts. Haltech Radial Blown competitor Luke Foley ran a 5.279 early on to lead the timesheets for most of the day, as the blown classes struggled against the weather and a few oil-down delays.
Jason Ruby’s all-wheel-drive Turbosmart Outlaw Blown Nissan Silvia was on a mission in the greasy conditions, with the twin-cam six pushing out a 5.65.
Brendan Cherry had the spectators roaring when he flat-spotted a couple of tyres over the line while driving out of an epic lane-change slide. He would finish the day in second both Overall and in Turbosmart Outlaw Blown, leapfrogging Haltech Radial Blown’s Dan Szabolics, who struggled to get a clean pass in his HQ.
Twice in a row Dan nearly had his epic 632ci Monaro staged, only for showers to pass over, holding up racing while the crew prepped the track again. In the end, Dan managed to lay down a 5.58 to finish the day third Overall, though he retained the lead in Haltech Radial Blown.
Kai McPhee’s VC Commodore revelled with the eighth-mile action, putting down a blistering 5.274 to top the Haltech Radial Blown list for the day, before Turbosmart Outlaw Blown competitor Harry Haig smashed out a 5.23.
The big-block Chevy aficionado then came back around to have the ‘Pops’ HQ set the timing boards on fire with a 5.05 to cement his place at the top of the Overall list and Turbosmart Outlaw Blown. A long drive to Calder Park for Day Five stood in Harry’s way though, with the tempestuous Pops all too eager to throw mechanical torture at the Big Dawg Motorsport crew.
Unfortunately Haltech Radial Blown entrant David Best’s twin-turbo VY didn’t survive Day Four, knocking the head off a valve at Portland.
The XR6 Turbo Developments Six-Cylinder class is a new Drag Challenge addition for 2019, showcasing a bunch of new talent and delivering on both drama and speed.
It should come as no surprise that the top end of the Six-Cylinder field is occupied by Barra-powered metal. Leading the charge is George Lyras and his slick Barra-powered Cortina. It’s George’s first crack at DC, and so far he’s the only six-pot contender to break into the eights over the quarter, with an 8.81@148mph on Day One.
“We’ve been going okay so far,” George said. “We’ve had a few dramas, but we’re still here and the pace is okay.”
Second spot in the class also belongs to a Barra-snotted Ford, Chris Palfreyman’s XD Falcon. Chris has come all the way up from Hobart for his first crack at DC, and after Day Four he sits just 0.823sec behind George. Chris’s best times so far have been a 9.14@160mph on Day One and a 5.9@120mph over the eighth at Portland on Day Four.
“We’ve had some issues,” Chris admitted. “We hit a kangaroo coming up to Mildura after stopping to help a competitor; the auto has been getting hot on the road; and we’ve had some coolant and fuel leaks to tidy up as well.”
With 1250hp on tap, Chris has been struggling to get it all to the ground, but if he can sort it out he should be able to chase George right through until Friday night.
Putting a stop to the Barra domination in the Six-Cylinder class is Danny Bresciani’s R33 Nissan Skyline. The RB-powered beast has been keeping the Barra boys honest all week, with a 9.46@146mph on Day One and a scintillating 5.91@122mph eighth-mile pass on Day Four at Portland to sit in third spot going into the final day.
Unfortunately Danny’s auto let go on Day Three, but in what is probably a top nomination for the Spirit Of Drag Challenge award, fellow competitor Wayne Cartledge came to his aid.
Wayne had also been a front-runner in the class with his Barra-powered Cortina, sitting in third spot until he broke a piston on Day Three. With his car out and Danny’s R33 in need of a gearbox, Wayne set about pulling the ’box out of the Cortina in the pits at Mildura to throw in the Skyline so Danny could get through the week.
Other casualties in the class have been quite low, with just Shane Neumann’s Falcon being the only other withdrawal so far.
There’s not too much that wipes the smile from Matt Hohenhaus’s face, but being the first withdrawal from the Tuff Mounts 235 classes at Drag Challenge 2019 might just have done it.
“I left it in Swan Hill,” he said after his turbo Toyota six-powered XM Falcon didn’t appear as planned in Mildura on Tuesday, following the first day’s racing at Calder. “There was an issue with the tune, plus the diff gears were getting noisy,” the 235 Blown competitor explained. “It’s no use beating on it just to break it.”
Good philosophy. So with the car safe in a mate’s garage, Matt jumped in another car and carried on as a Drag Challenge spectator!
Matt wasn’t the only one with mechanical issues, as would be expected after Drag Challenge’s early couple of days of hard racing and road driving. After Day Three at Mildura, fellow 235 Blown combatant Mark Arblaster found an unhappy spinny thing on his turbo LS-powered Valiant.
“I had an exhaust leak, but found a loose turbine shaft when I took the exhaust off to fix it,” he explained. “But I’m still here! It’ll fly or fly apart!” He’s back at Calder today for Drag Challenge’s last day of racing, currently in third place in Tuff Mounts 235 Blown.
Just behind Arby is Daniel Barbary. A newcomer to Drag Challenge – but not to fast cars – Daniel’s turbo LS-powered Chrysler Centura has clawed its way from sixth spot on Monday to arrive at Calder today fourth in class.
Like every other participant, Day One’s 235 Blown class leader Dominic Pelle had to cope with the wind and dust at Mildura’s Sunset Strip Raceway on Tuesday and Wednesday and the frustrating rain breaks at Portland’s South Coast Raceway on Thursday. However, a pretty-much flawless performance from his turbo LS V8-powered GE Sigma (which he drove, towing its trailer, from Sydney!) has seen him arrive at Calder for the last day of racing second in class – where he’s been since Tuesday.
Which leads us to the star of the Tuff Mounts 235 Blown class, Todd Foley. His VH Commodore was second behind Dom’s Sigma coming into Day Two, and with nothing more worrying than a bumpy run at the top end of his first run at Portland, he now arrives at Calder as class leader.
It’s not too often that Tuff Mounts 235 Aspirated participant Nathan Ghosn looks worried. But after what he called a “dream run” to, at and from Mildura’s Sunset Strip, one weak run at Portland in his Capri wiped the smile from his face – the car ran almost a second slower than it should have.
Suspecting auto problems, Nathan checked the filter and changed the fluid. Finding nothing, he headed out again. “I was light off the line, but the car just hooked up and went for it!” he grinned after running a 6.19@112mph pass.
Whatever it was, the problem seems to have vanished, and Nathan goes into the final day of racing at Calder as the Tuff Mounts 235 Aspirated class leader, edging out two newcomers: the Chev-powered Capri of Donnie Zurcas and the 500-cube big-block Valiant of Aaron James.
Who will win the class battles at Drag Challenge 2019? It all comes come down to the wire today at Calder Park from 3pm, so keep an eye on Street Machine’s social media, or come out to the event and watch the battle in person.
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