THE 2017 Summernats Burnout Masters promised to be the toughest skid fest Australia had ever seen – and rightly so. It’s supposed to be the best of the best, where anything less than perfection won’t cut it.
But it would be a long, hard road to even make it to Sunday’s finals, especially if you were one of the 24 combatants battling it out on the Thursday afternoon in the Last Chance Wildcard Shootout for one of only four remaining spots in the Masters comp.
Current heavy-hitters were joined by several past masters of the sport – including Chris Christou (HO775), Mark Dall’Acqua (DMT351), Mark Yardy (YUMMY), Tony De Oliveira (TOY302) and Leroy Rees (B1GV8) – as well as a contingent of tyre-shredders from New Zealand. And with Summernats hitting the big 30-year milestone, all were desperate to make their mark. Mega tip-ins, huge rpm, engine fires, transmission fires – all were hallmarks of what was a fiercely contested shootout.
But only four could progress to Saturday’s eliminations, and when the smoke cleared, it was Nathan Sutherland in his blown LS-powered Commodore, Craig Whiddett’s new blown MUTINY Caprice, Jono Kelly’s VK Commodore, and Summernats debutant Sam Surace’s blown and injected Capri that snared the prized Masters golden tickets.
Craig Whiddett – MUTINY Commodore
Nathan Sutherland – KILLASET Commodore
Jono Kelly – 3FIVE5 Commodore
Sam Surace – MADSAM Capri
Nathan Sutherland opened the last-ditch rubberfest in his blown LS-powered Commodore. The sun-drenched crowd were craving carnage, and Nathan’s methanol-fuelled small-block rose to the occasion, setting the bar high for his fellow competitors.
It didn’t take long for Brett Niddrie to find the sweet spot with his mega-tough 377ci small-block Chev-powered Holden. With the tacho heading for 9000rpm, the IMMORTAL HZ ute blanketed the heaving crowd in smoke.
The monster VC Commodore of Victorian Paul Cook was on-song. The blown and injected dry-sumped big-block Chev sang a killer tune from go to whoa, and the big man steered his rig like a champ.
Kiwi burnout stalwart Liz Gracie hadn’t made the trip over from NZ to not put on a show, and proved she could shoot the breeze with the best of them. Great car control, big smoke and a finale of huge, clean revs had the crowd climbing the fences for more.
It had been five years since big Leroy Rees was last at Summernats with his formidable 1975 Holden Statesman, and the lads at Powerhouse Engines had given the blown and injected 538ci BBC a birthday. With 8000rpm and over 1100hp on tap, Leroy held nothing back, but he got caught against the Armco and had to stop and back out, costing him valuable points.
Sadly it was the last year of competition for Dave Cufone’s mega-tough 1FATRAT, and he was out to put on a big show. But just seconds into his skid the black Chevelle was engulfed in a methanol-fuelled fireball that brought his chances to an end.
While Jono Kelly didn’t have a blower on his VK Commodore, he did come armed with a big set of balls and lots of rpm, and that made up for a truckload. He opened his burnout account with a huge tip-in and steered the screaming LS-powered beast over every inch of the pad.
Justine Mott gave the boys a real good run for their money in her blown small block-powered GEMSKID Gemini. Justine put on a strong drive with great use of the pad, but she got caught against the wall and had to back out.
The standout spectacle of the day was Perth’s Matt James in his stunning VF ute. A funnel of smoke pouring from the car’s rear end quickly turned into an inferno of searing flames that left the rear bumper dripping like melted mozzarella. The blaze put him out of contention, but he was certainly the hit of the day with the crowd.
Peter Grmusa sacrificed an automatic inclusion into the Masters in his Falcon to debut his new F100 burnout rig. It was a bold move, and he produced one of the biggest tip-ins of the day in the howling F-truck. Despite that impressive performance, he didn’t make the Masters cut, but still qualified for an immediate spot in the Burnout Championship.
Summernats burnout rookie Sam Surace had only been skidding for seven months, but his 408ci Ford-powered Capri put on a killer show from the outset at ’Nats 30, securing him a spot in the Masters eliminations on Saturday