THERE’S nothing more boring than talking about the weather, but in the case of Drag Challenge 2017, it’s unavoidable. The shocking conditions that competitors endured throughout the week are a big part of the narrative.
Apparently Mother Nature had gotten wind that Scotty Taylor had devised a rigorous course of strip racing and street driving through South Australia and Victoria to determine who has Australia’s quickest street car in 2017, and she just had to get in on the action. Nature was an absolute bitch all week, throwing down scorching heat, plagues of flies, buckets of rain, and we’ll blame her for all the potholes too! Starting and finishing in Adelaide meant most competitors had to drive or trailer their cars over great distances before the real challenge had even started. From every state and territory except NT (again), they converged on the hot and flyblown AIR strip for driver rego and vehicle scrutineering.
Despite a few pull-outs during the weeks and hours leading up to the event, a healthy field of 110 very tough cars fronted to be checked for safety by ANDRA and have their windscreens stickered up with DC decals, numbers and class names.
First-time entrants Shane and Carly Dale line up Shane’s 502ci-powered Sandman pano for scrutineering. Prior to DC the orange behemoth had eighthmile race cred but no proven highway miles or quarter passes
It’s testament to the esteem in which Drag Challenge is held that many former competitors had thrashed to put together new combos (almost everybody had switched to bigger turbos this year), but this also meant that some showed up without much test time.
The two-time Drag Challenge-winning LH Torana of Quentin Feast was back after a one-year sabbatical, freshened up under the bonnet, including a new twin-turbo set-up. Other contenders with new turbo set-ups included reigning champ Brenden ‘Bubba’ Medlyn in his Holden-powered VH Commodore, Harry Haig in his HQ SS and Jarrod Wood in his HQ one-tonner. Mark Drew had upgraded the suspension in his Crusty LH Torana after his big wheelstand on the final day last year, while Adam Rogash was in a completely new car, having left the NOSHOW ClubSport at home to compete in his recently unveiled Blue Meanie VK, ALLSHOW.
Tough cars everywhere, but how many would be back here in five days’ time? Let the Challenge begin!
Day One: Adelaide International Raceway, Virginia, SA
Day one saw dashboard readings of over 40 degrees Celsius. That’s hot enough to melt a driver’s brain inside their helmet, so it was no surprise that cooler heads ultimately prevailed. Two guys in Toranas set the pace for the week by taking a less-is-more approach, dialling down power off the line and getting on down there with minimal bluster.
Mark Drew in the Crusty Torana claimed an early lead in the Haltech Radial Blown class and overall with a quickest pass of 8.262, followed closely by Quentin Feast in the pink LH with an 8.283. This pair seemed to breeze through the first few days, handing in their timeslips early and making relatively light work of the shorter driving legs.
Hot weather on the first two days of Drag Challenge saw plenty of competitors – especially the many towing trailers – trying to find ways to keep big-power and big-dollar engines cool. Removed or popped bonnets was the solution for many, as it was for Paul Hamilton and his tough twin-turbo 601ci Falcon, the victor in this year’s Turbosmart Outlaw Blown class
Third overall for the day and first in the Turbosmart Outlaw Blown class was Jarrod Wood, going 8.292 in his gnarly onetonner. Though only a hundredth of a second behind Quentin, he, like a lot of the big-horsepower guys, was made to work hard in the greasy conditions. While mile-per-hour readings remained stable, ETs were on the wane due to the difficulty in hooking up on the piping-hot surface.
Which is not to say everyone was having a bad day. A couple of first-timers from WA turned heads with their upfront speed – Josh Lopreiato in his VZ ClubSport knocking on the door with an 8.580, and Lorenzo Gullotto in his VL going 9.080.
The hottest six in the parade, Jason Ghiller’s turbocharged Barrapowered XD sleeper, ran a tidy 8.973 and then proceeded to punch well above its weight all week. And speaking of streetability, Luke Foley’s ever-reliable VH Commo drove up from Geelong without missing a beat and promptly knocked out an 8.652. A handful of seven-second cars that had battled to get into the mid-eights hung back until the 4:00pm cut-off hoping for the weather to cool. Unfortunately, it didn’t much.
Among the stragglers was Adam Rogash in the ALLSHOW VK, who was disgusted with his email@example.com, which turned out to be the fastest mile-per-hour pass of any finisher all week. Bubba Medlyn was quickly discovering that it’s hard to win it when you’re winging it. He couldn’t get his trick new twin-88 turbo set-up to come on boost at the startline and was disappointed to be off the pace with a best effort of 8.84. Harry Haig’s 8.437 was enough to nab fifth spot, but that was of little consolation as he spent the night working on the transmission, which had started smoking soon after leaving Adelaide.
Cooling systems were tested on the drive east to Mildura, and those without air con had every window unwound as they made their way roughly 370 kays through the balmy night.
1. Quentin Feast was back after sitting out last year's event, but still had an epic eight-week thrash to get his DC-winning Torry race-ready, including rebuilding his twin-turbo 404ci iron block LS twice!
2. Having dipped into the sevens in his Crusty Torana in the lead-up to Drag Challenge, perennial Outright contender Mark Drew was always a safe bet to finish high up the leader board – barring unforeseen issues, of course!
3. Gavin Edmonds of Adelaide Motorsport Fabrication campaigned the biggest headturner of Drag Challenge – a blown 354ci Hemi-powered Mainline dubbed Krankenstein. The old girl sees plenty of street miles – it’s Gav’s one and only car!
4. The first pass of the first day should be something of a test ’n’ tune exercise for most participants: Get yourself comfortable under the harness, make sure there’s no horrible issues with the engine, gearbox or diff during the run and see how the car behaves up top. Yeah, well, for poor Cory Read, oil surge in his GM LS-transplanted XF Falcon killed the engine the first time it left the line. Bummer
5. Clive Polidano popped his Drag Challenge cherry with his sweet blown HZ. Running mid-11s all week, he and his mates had a trouble-free event, although they made friends at every petrol station due to the small-block’s thirst
6. Harry Haig’s Shonky SS HQ fronted up with a new twin-turbo 540ci big-block set-up and a 7.73 PB. Hot weather held him back to an 8.4 on Day One, but things turned sour just 30km from AIR as the HQ’s transmission spat the dummy
7. The searing temps didn’t do the Turbo Taxi any favours on Drag Challenge, but it sure looked cool in its new livery. The best Scotty got out of it in Adelaide was a 12.35@112mph. At Swan Hill the times dropped to 12.12@114mph, but that was still 30 degrees Celsius, whereas the Taxi’s previous best of 12.009 was run at just 3 degrees air temp
Day One: Top Five Outright
1 MARK DREW, Holden LH Torana 8.262
2 QUENTIN FEAST, Holden LH Torana 8.283
3 JARROD WOOD, Holden HQ one-tonner 8.292
4 ADAM ROGASH, Holden VK Commodore 8.409
5 HARRY HAIG, Holden HQ 8.437
Day Two: Sunset Strip, Mildura, Victoria
Mildura’s eighth-mile is not called the Sunset Strip for nothin’. It was so damn hot you just wanted to rip all your clothes off!
Scorching conditions in the high 30s and track temps that crept towards 70 during the day made it tough for everyone except Quentin Feast, who took top spot overall and top in Haltech Radial Blown after nipping in for an early 5.385. In response, Mark Drew could only manage a 5.415, which was still second-quickest for the day. Once again, on a day when horsepower was going up in smoke on the startline, the key for both of them was to take a milder approach upon launch before bringing on the boost further down the line, keeping their passes as straight and clean as possible.
There was a surprise early on when a four-cylinder Gemini driven by Scott Forrester momentarily held the quickest ET with a 5.728.
Unfortunately for him, the Isuzu motor gave up the ghost after the finish line and put the Gem out of the event.
Another on the attrition list was Bubba Medlyn, whose Holden V8 donk threw a rod late in the day and ended his campaign – he would later receive the Hard Luck Award for his troubles – while Harry Haig continued to struggle with the Shonky HQ’s transmission right up until stumps.
Meanwhile, Jarrod Wood and Adam Rogash were mounting last-minute assaults on the timing boards. Both were finding it impossible to maintain traction, but that didn’t stop them from circling back through the all-butempty staging lanes and cutting laps until the bitter end.
While it was certainly no advertisement for the sport of drag racing, the way those guys were driving them with bitter determination and no shortage of skill was one of the highlights of the week for a viewer. For the competitors it must’ve seemed like hell.
Jarrod laid down a 5.559 at a stonking 143.88mph, which was enough to hold down third spot, while Adam eked out a meagre 5.862 after struggling with fuel pump problems and dropped a place in the overall standings.
The two West Aussie Commodores adapted well to the eighth-mile track and claimed the third- and fourth-quickest passes of the day, Lorenzo Gullotto with a 5.458 and Josh Lopreiato with a 5.460. Josh nabbed fourth spot overall from Adam Rogash. Harry Haig dropped to seventh with a 5.996, but top of his list of worries at the end of the day was replacing his failing gearbox.
The drive to Swan Hall was a relatively short 220km. Small mercies are all you can hope for during Drag Challenge.
1. Andrew McLellan’s Plymouth ’Cuda has been a participant at Hot Rod Drag Week in ’Murica and now Australia’s own Street Machine Drag Challenge three times. Legend! With a stroker 512-cuber on board, it rumbled through the week without too many hiccups to claim this year’s Quickest Mopar award
2. 800hp! That’s how many ponies Scott Forrester’s diminutive Gemini was carrying for Drag Challenge. Elsewhere, the Gem has pulled eights in the quartermile, but an over-rev on Monday at Adelaide caused valvetrain problems for the single-cam 2.0L Isuzu four, so it was on a trailer on Tuesday afternoon
3. Kim Smith had an ‘oh bummer’ moment at Mildura on the second day, snapping the end from her supercharged HSV Maloo’s driveshaft. Working at the track in the stinking heat with assistance from fellow participant Nathan Ghosn, she managed to cobble another rubber donut to the end of her broken one, then fix it all properly at Corsa Specialised Vehicles in Mildura
4. Will Baker’s chassis-twisting ProCharged LS-powered HX wagon ran consistent 10s all week, with only a cooling issue on Day One
5. Two turnin’ and two burnin’ – Andrew Grimes’s just-completed boosted Barrapowered – of course – Territory has around 470kW at the treads. All week Andrew was concerned about the durability of the front differential, but thankfully there was no big bang as the car’s heft and grunt unloaded the front wheels when leaving the line
6. Harry Haig thrashed all night in Adelaide to fix a dead Powerglide pump seal, then drove through the night to make it to Mildura. “Anyone that made it to Mildura was a bad MF in my book,” Harry said. “It was the hottest I’ve ever been and I don’t deal with heat all that well!”
7. After a DNF last year, Mark Clifford’s ’69 Muzzy placed second in Tuff Mounts Outlaw Aspirated this time. Sporting a whopping 610ci Boss Hemi backed by a Reid two-speed and 9in, the apso ’Stang pumps out 1178hp and ran a 9.13@149mph best at DC17
8. Warrnambool local Wayne May drove his 302ci Windsorpowered ’70 Mk I Escort the whole distance – no tow cars. “It was a drag car that I’ve changed into a street car,” Wayne said. “With a fourspeed BTR trans, 2700 stall and 9in with 4.56 gears, it easily sat on 2500rpm at 100km/h”
9. Jarrod Wood’s heavyweight one-tonner maintained its position at third outright on Day Two, though it was still some ways off its PB of 7.60@170mph as the heat made it brutally difficult for the torque monster to get out of the hole
Day Two: Top Five Outright
1 QUENTIN FEAST, Holden LH Torana 13.668
2 MARK DREW, Holden LH Torana 13.677
3 JARROD WOOD, Holden HQ one-tonner 13.851
4 JOSH LOPREIATO, Holden VZ ClubSport 14.040
5 ADAM ROGASH, Holden VK Commodore 14.271
Day Three: Swan Hill Dragway, Swan Hill, Victoria
Hats off to Swan Hill. The track has experienced a few bumps in the road (so to speak) since we christened the virgin surface here last year, but that’s all been smoothed out. All it needs now is some grass to quell the excessive dust, a little bit of shade here and there, a dunny block… It’ll get there. First things first, the freshly resurfaced strip is utterly mint, and with temperatures cooling (though conditions still muggy), it really came to the party on Day Three of Drag Challenge.
It seemed like half the township had turned out to watch, including the mayor, and they got to see a great day of racing, with PBs rung up for cars in every class. Also worth mentioning were the delicious pulled pork rolls: “Do you want flies with that? Too bad. You’re getting them regardless.”
With the threat of rain looming and more dire weather forecast for the long drive to Portland, the staging lanes were packed solid from the start. But once everyone realised that this was a track where it was possible to lay a decent number down, they stayed packed until mid-afternoon.
Sadly for Harry Haig, he spent the day replacing the gearbox in his car, but was unable to front before the lanes closed. Overall leader Quentin Feast reached deeper into the eights with each lap before notching up the first and only seven-second pass of this year’s tour when he ran his LH down there in firstname.lastname@example.org. With that pass he scored the coveted Seven-Second Club trucker cap and extended his lead over Mark Drew, Drewy again going second-quickest with an 8.146. Third for the day was Adam Rogash with an 8.183, which moved him back into fourth overall.
Swan Hill local Jarrod Wood, who had previously run a PB of 7.60 at the track, had to resort to powerskidding all the way down for his 8.208. He scored a piston on his final run, so as everyone else was hitching up trailers and heading south for faraway Portland, he and his team were pulling heads off and bunkering down for a long evening on the tools.
We were now more than halfway through the toughest Drag Challenge ever held, and the biggest challenge was yet to come.
1. After running an 8.20 at Swan Hill, Jarrod Wood’s HQ bent a valve. Although he and his mates mucked in and fixed the engine ready for the next day, Jarrod decided to call time on his campaign to avoid risking further damage
2. Adam Rogash in the ALLSHOW VK Blue Meanie replica ran his best time for the week at Swan Hill, with a stonking 8.18@164mph
3. Runner-up in the Dial Your Own class last year, Alysha Teale was back for more in 2017 in her tough HQ Premier. Despite running very consistent mid-11s, Alysha could only manage seventh in the class this time, which shows just how competitive the pointy end of DYO has become
4. Another midnight trans rebuild wasn’t in Harry Haig’s plans. After swagging on the street for two hours, he and his team thrashed to rebuild the ’box, but missed the cut to make a pass at Swan Hill
5. Artistic licence by Pat O’Shea’s crew on the back of his race seat proves that a sense of humour is a must to compete in Drag Challenge
6. “It carries the wheels a little every pass,” Pat O’Shea said of his stunning and ultra-consistent XR Ford. “I ran a new PB of 9.47@140mph on Day Five after running quicker than 9.57 all week.” Pat placed second in Pacemaker Radial Aspirated, on his first crack at DC
7. With its mix of bowlingclub character and mindbending performance, Jason Ghiller’s XD Falcon remained a crowd favourite all week, a year after the car’s debut at DC ’16. Its big boosted Barra’s output exceeds 800kW at the wheels, and a slo-mo replay of this car leaving the line is a case study in getting the grunt to the ground
8. While he’s won Drag Challenge every time he’s entered, a red hat for doing a seven-second pass during the competition had eluded Quentin Feast. But this year he snared his hat at Swan Hill with a 7.99@174mph
9. Lorenzo Gullotto threw down at Drag Challenge in his hard-charging VL, running into the eights and finishing well inside the Outright Top 10, all on a stock-bottom-end L98 engine, force-fed by a pair of Chinese 62/62 turbos
Day Three: Top Five Outright
1 QUENTIN FEAST, Holden LH Torana 21.664
2 MARK DREW, Holden LH Torana 21.823
3 JARROD WOOD, Holden HQ one-tonner 22.059
4 ADAM ROGASH, Holden VK Commodore 22.454
5 JOSH LOPREIATO, Holden VZ ClubSport 22.570
Day Four: South Coast Raceway, Portland, Victoria
The 450km drive from Swan Hill to Portland was the perfect shitstorm. Competitors drove through pouring rain while cursing the barbaric triumvirate of Mother Nature, Scott Taylor and his route map, and any manufacturer of aftermarket door rubbers. Some copped it worse than others, but nobody escaped with their socks completely dry. Thank heavens for South Coast Raceway’s clubhouse. If this monsoon had hit us at any of the other tracks, we would have all risked being drowned. At least here there was enough shelter for everyone to convene, as well as some fine steak sangas, and even a fireplace! Racing? Forget about it. That dream evaporated overnight. As the Portland eighth-mile was being pelted sideways, competitors were snuggled either inside the clubhouse or under the awning exchanging war stories from the previous night – topics included hairdryers as makeshift demisters, squeegees as a substitute for windscreen wipers, and the best way to wring out a sopping towel while still mobile.
Scotty nearly lost his umbrella in the wind when trying to deliver the drivers’ briefing – that was good for a laugh. All competitors were keen to check in, get their route maps, and get on the road north to Adelaide.
Despite the fact that there was no racing, there was still movement at the top of the leader board. The terrible driving conditions meant Jarrod Wood and his team decided against a risky blat to Portland in the tonner, which put him out of the contest and gifted third spot overall to Adam Rogash, while Josh Lopreiato moved into fourth and Luke Foley also shuffled up to make it an all-radial Top Five. Jarrod’s exit paved the way for Rodney Browitt and his HQ ute to assume the lead in the Turbosmart Outlaw Blown class, just ahead of a surging Paul Hamilton in the XA sedan.
And still there were more twists to come. Adam Rogash, who had been on tenterhooks with the imminent birth of his third child, got the all-important call from his wife Kelly, and his crew dropped him off at Mount Gambier Airport where he flew home to Melbourne for the birth. Into the driver’s seat slid Johnny Pilla, who had pre-registered as a co-driver of ALLSHOW in case the baby couldn’t wait.
1. Clive Polidano’s HZ rocked an oldschool mechanical package, though he wants to keep improving on its 11sec timeslips, hopefully getting down into the eights eventually
2. Keen to race, Quentin Feast and Shane Dale pull up on the entry to Portland’s eighth-mile. It’s as close as anyone got, with a rain day called, giving everyone a head-start to Day Five back in Adelaide
3. With racing called off due to rain, the entrants engulfed Portland’s main boulevard for brekkie, with Rohan Hutson’s 383ci SBC-powered black ’55 Chev scoring a prime park. “I did a 10.9sec last year and I’m hoping for the same,” he said on Day One. “It’s more about finishing and catching up with everyone; the entrants are all great people”
4. DC ’17 race-day fashion was all about buckets on air cleaners for the no-scoop crew. Tim Ackland’s ZC Fairlane wore it well, making it to Day Five to finish sixth in Pacemaker Radial Aspirated and 35th overall
5. Mark Barber endured a stack of mechanical issues with his LJ, but it’ll be awesome once he gets it dialled in. The owner-built Torry runs a 186ci red motor with EFI, backed by an electronic overdrive
6. Third-time Pacemaker Radial Aspirated winner Alon Vella stumps up with his Swan Hill-to-Portland checkpoint pic, gaining him a route map to Radelaide
7. There’s a great deal of merit in doing Drag Challenge in a late-model muscle car like Peter Karayannis’s CV8 Monaro, especially when the weather turns sour. With such niceties as air conditioning, a demister, and functioning wipers, Peter was all smiles
8. Mark Mills’s LH Torana is not only super-cool, but it’s a 9sec rocket thanks to its turbo Toyota 2JZ in-line six-pot. Running on E85 and maintaining a sub-100km/h cruising speed helped keep it cool on the highway
9. Tim Rhone did an alternator change in Mildura, then had the re-engineered pulley break apart as he headed back to Adelaide. The XP produced a tidy 9.72@142mph on Day Five, and Tim then drove it a further 700km to Castlemaine!
10. When the rain set in, plenty of entrants were scrambling to keep the water out of their combustion chambers, with all sorts of innovative solutions engineered on the fly!
Day Four: Top Five Outright
1 QUENTIN FEAST, Holden LH Torana 21.664
2 MARK DREW, Holden LH Torana 21.823
3 ADAM ROGASH, Holden VK Commodore 22.454
4 JOSH LOPREIATO, Holden VZ ClubSport 22.570
5 LUKE FOLEY, Holden VH Commodore 22.786
Day Five: Adelaide International Raceway, Virginia, SA
With such a massive drive from Portland back up to Adelaide, racing was mercifully scheduled for the afternoon and evening, starting at 2pm.
It rained on and off throughout the roughly 580km drive, which didn’t bode well for a fine day of racing.
But the diligent AIR track staff only needed half a break in the weather to mop those lanes into shape. And fair play to them – they’d had a shocker on Monday in the oppressive heat, but went above and beyond on Friday in the intermittent wet. They didn’t even bat an eyelid when the VC Commodore of Dusty Benson shat its tailshaft and a mess of shattered driveshaft componentry into the left lane. What troopers.
With light rain falling here and there, the bulk of the racing was done between 3 and 7pm, at which point the smattering of rain we’d had throughout the day started to smatter too hard and too often.
Some classes went right to the wire, including Dial Your Own, where Blake Jefferys in the VK Commodore pipped Daniel Grima’s Chev at the post. Daniel was next in line to make a pass when the final rains came, so he never got a shot at redemption.
Paul Hamilton in the XA sedan ran an 8.967 to sensationally overhaul Rodney Browitt in the HQ ute for a tight win in the Turbosmart Outlaw Blown class, while in the Tuff Mounts Outlaw Aspirated class, Stephen Micallef in his HQ tonner scored another winner’s trophy, but was pushed all the way this time by Mark Clifford in his ’69 Mustang. Alon Vella in his Capri ran several tenths quicker than anybody else in Pacemaker Radial Aspirated at every track to secure his third straight class win. Alon’s Top 10 overall finish is a credit to him, especially after breaking a rocker arm overnight between Portland and Adelaide! John Pilla overcame a lack of experience behind the wheel of the ALLSHOW VK to make it down in 8.51 seconds to help solidify third position overall and third in Haltech Radial Blown.
First-day leader Mark Drew did everything he could to make up the deficit to fellow Torana owner Quentin Feast, but in the end had to settle for second on the day (8.202 seconds), second in Haltech Radial Blown and second overall.
And so Quentin Feast and his GMPWR Torana claimed a third Australia’s Quickest Street Car title with an eight flat at 174.04mph, and did so with no mess or fuss. For the most part it was a spectacularly unspectacular victory, which is further kudos to him and his crew. It’s called Drag Challenge because it’s damn hard. Watching Quentin do it this year, you wouldn’t know it.
1. Will Baker turned up the wick for Day Five, running a PB of 9.89@137mph to finish fifth in Turbosmart Outlaw Blown. Will has twin-turbo 7sec aspirations in play for future DC dominance
2. Mark Drew had a 0.159sec margin to make up on Day Five to claim the overall win, but alas, Quentin Feast pulled another two-tenths ahead to seal the deal
3. Dominic Pelle’s awesome HK Holden Kingswood has a turbocharged GM LS2 all-alloy V8 buried under its big bluff bonnet. Dom had a couple of problems during the week but was cheering when he ran a 9.9 on Friday afternoon before changing his tyres and driving home. He was having beers in Sydney by Saturday night. True street!
4. Josh Lopreiato was having a great Drag Challenge until the constabulary took an interest in his VZ ClubSport coming back into Adelaide. “The defect said it was a race car and didn’t comply to ADRs; they ordered that it be driven straight to the track and nowhere else,” laughs Josh
5. Dusty Benson’s VC Commodore is a crowdpleasing sleeper that blends factory-spec unrestored paint and interior trim with the hardware to go fast. Dusty’s Radial Blown-class turbo LS had no trouble lifting the wheels at DC17, but unfortunately it suffered a catastrophic driveline failure just milliseconds after this photo was snapped on Day 5
7. Hands down one of the best-presented cars on Drag Challenge, Mick Darke’s sinister-looking LX hatch is pictured here at a checkpoint between Portland and Adelaide. Finishing fourth in Pacemaker Radial Aspirated, the car hovered between the high nines and low 10s all week, and looked great doing it
8. Tasmanian Mark Whitla tuned down his 7sec Capri for DC, swapping out the blower for a carb on his 358ci Chev. His DC PB was 9.7@139mph, as one of a handful of entrants who raced and buzzed the highways in the same rubber in minimalist no-trailer style
Day Five: Top Five Outright
1 QUENTIN FEAST, Holden LH Torana 29.668
2 MARK DREW, Holden LH Torana 30.025
3 ADAM ROGASH/JOHN PILLA, Holden VK Commodore 30.966
4 JOSH LOPREIATO, Holden VZ ClubSport 31.095
5 LUKE FOLEY, Holden VH Commodore 31.157
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