Nitro Funny Cars lived up to their wild reputation with one of the most spectacular races ever seen at Perth Motorplex, though for drivers Anthony Begley and Matt Abel it was for all the wrong reasons.
In the first round of the night, Begley had barely stepped on the throttle before a suspected failure in the valve train of his motor caused a backfire that launched the body off the car. Further down track, his opponent Abel had similar problems of his own, with an explosion also tearing apart his Funny Car’s body as it crossed the finish line.
Begley explained how he felt the nitro motor lag in the 8000 horsepower Funny Car before it blew.
“When I put my foot into the throttle it didn’t seem to go anywhere,” he said. “I couldn’t get my foot off the pedal quick enough and there was a big bang. I remember a big flash of flame and then having no body on the car.
“I felt the heat and the force on me. Afterwards when the adrenaline eased off, I started to feel where the concussion hit me in the chest.”
Team owner Rod Bailey and his crew made some preliminary investigations into why the engine failure happened at the track, but will take the car home to Queensland to look into it further.
“It has dropped a valve for some reason,” Begley said. “It had all new valves, all new rocker gear, new lifters – everything was pretty much brand new in the car for this event.”
Begley said while the moment looked intense, it was a flash flame that disappeared quickly. The veteran drag racer said a braking area fire he had onboard at Sydney Dragway in 2013 was the scarier of the two incidents. “Nothing scares you like these things, it will always draw me back to the driver’s seat,” he said.
The rest of the event’s nitro racing was somewhat more subdued, highlighted by the arrival of two new nitro drivers.
Kyle Putland and Tracey de Jager both begun their licensing, with both adapting quickly to the high horsepower world of nitro. Putland impressed with a quick 5.88sec. on his final run for the night, leaving his team with plenty of confidence.
The Northern Territory’s Adam Murrihy defeated local favourite Andrew Katavatis out of the remaining Funny Cars, with a 5.86sec. run in the final driving Rory Taylor’s Nitro Thunder car.
Trent Morrison scored victory in Top Comp, defeating Sam Treasure in the final round. Morrison was able to overcome an average performance in qualifying.
“This was our second event back for the year after making some changes to the car in the off season,” he said.
“We broke a supercharger belt in the compulsory qualifying round which placed us in the bottom half of the field, costing us lane choice in the first round. But we’ve made the final for two events in a row now and walked away with the win on Saturday night.
“There is still more power left in the engine and with a bit more fine tuning we should see some quicker times.”
Modified saw a first time winner with Cory Treasure defeating Neil Gannaway in the final when Gannaway was unable to fire his motor for the decider.
Treasure is new to racing this season but follows in the footsteps of cousin Sam who races in Top Comp and uncle Ray who manages drag racing at Perth Motorplex.
“I was speechless to take a win,” Cory said. “Over the last two years my Dad and I were building the car we were talking mainly about time and speed goals. “The car has a lot of history, dating back to Ravenswood Raceway. I was going to build a Super Sedan but I was was guided into Modified and I’m stoked with how the car turned out. It’s so fun to drive.”
Kyle Higgins racked his second ever win in Super Sedan, defeating Nick Panagopoulos in the final. Higgins said he battled the strong wind during the day to find consistency. “I guess a bit of luck finally came my way this weekend,” he said.
“We had a bit of a hiccup in the first round of qualifying with the car not performing how it usually does, losing power half way down the track, but apart from that the day was smooth sailing.”
Higgins’ win was made all the sweeter with a perfect .000 reaction time in the final!
In other results, John Zappia claimed the win in the Summer Slam, getting by Daniel Gregorini in the final with a 5.70sec. pass.
Times proved exceptional for the whole Summer Slam field, with Gregorini running a new personal best of 5.78sec. during the event while Stu Moresby broke through for his first ‘five’ with a 5.99sec. clocking in the Dananni Hotshots Studebaker.
Errol Quartermaine defeated Nicholas Puglia in Super Comp, while Phill Paton took out Graeme Goldsworthy in Competition Bike.
Jodie Mellitt and Alan Mahkoph again went toe to toe in the Supercharged Outlaws final, with Mellitt emerging victorious, while Chris Roe went to his fifth straight final round and won in Top Sportsman against Alby Bakranich.
Chris Moore rode to the Modified Bike win against Budgie Jones and Paul Garbellini took advantage of a red light from Graham Smith to take home the Super Street winner’s trophy.
Drag racing returns to Perth Motorplex on February 16 for Round Six of the WA Drag Racing Championships – make sure you are there!