Street Machine - - News Front -

AUS­TRALIA was rep­re­sented strongly at the World Sport Com­pact Fi­nals in Or­lando, Florida. Five Aus­tralian rac­ers – Collin Will­shire, Kelly Bettes, Scott Porter, Nikki Hep­burn and Archie Ka­jew­ski – took part, along with New Zealan­der Rod Har­vey.

Sport Com­pact drag rac­ing is big in Florida thanks to the strong in­flu­ence of Puerto Rico, the small US is­land ter­ri­tory. The fans and rac­ers are as pas­sion­ate as they come, with brightly coloured shirts rep­re­sent­ing their favourite race cars and air horns go­ing off in the grand­stands. The Aus­tralian driv­ers en­joyed some­thing ap­proach­ing hero sta­tus with the spec­ta­tors, paus­ing many times a day for self­ies and au­to­graphs.

Two world records were set by the Aussies. The first came from Will­shire, who pi­loted his Jett Rac­ing Mit­subishi 4G63-pow­ered Eclipse to a 6.200-se­cond pass dur­ing test­ing be­fore the event – mak­ing him the owner of the quick­est four-cylin­der sedan in the world. The old record of 6.228 by Te­kno Toyz Rac­ing’s Nis­san 200SX was barely a month old.

Next to set a mark was Scott Porter. His Nis­san 350Z, equipped with a VQ35 V6, be­came the quick­est Nis­san-pow­ered ve­hi­cle in the world with a 6.030, best­ing the for­mer record of 6.065 held by Puerto Rico’s Laz­cano Rac­ing. While Porter had sev­eral runs with in­cre­ments good enough for a fivesec­ond pass, en­gine dra­mas held him back from com­plet­ing any more full runs.

Race day saw a mixed bag for the as­sem­bled teams. Will­shire made it through round one with a strong 6.22 pass, but with­drew with some hurt bear­ings. Porter also took a win light, but like Will­shire suc­cumbed in the pits. After barely mak­ing the field in the Ex­treme class, Rod Har­vey lost in round one, as did Ka­jew­ski. Hep­burn was top qual­i­fier in Street Rod on her ra­dial-tyre Toy­ota 86, but bumped through the beams while stag­ing and copped a sur­prise first-round exit as a re­sult.

Aus­tralian hopes thus largely rested with Bettes, driv­ing the Jett Rac­ing Dat­sun ute, also pow­ered by a 4G63. After set­ting a new per­sonal best for the car of 6.94 in test­ing, the cur­rent Aus­tralian Top Fuel cham­pion used her skills on the tree to great ef­fect once the rac­ing started.

A bye run saw her through the first round be­fore she claimed a holeshot scalp in the se­cond round, with a 0.008 re­ac­tion time get­ting a 7.04 across the stripe be­fore her op­po­nent’s 6.99.

A 6.99 in the semi-fi­nals pushed Bettes into the fi­nal round against Hec­tor Men­dez’s Mazda RX-7. After putting a tenth on her op­po­nent at the green light, Bettes had to get out of the throt­tle when the ute got loose, leav­ing Men­dez to take the win.

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