DAY 4 CLASS LEADERS
Haltech Radial Blown: Frank Marchese – 26.855 Turbosmart Outlaw Blown: Harry Haig – 26.877 Pacemaker Radial Aspirated: Alon Vella – 32.071 Tuff Mounts Outlaw Aspirated: Daniel Cassar – 36.103 K&N DYO: Darren Parker – -0.007315
AFTER approximately 1500km of torture on side roads and highways through rural Victoria and New South Wales, the remaining Drag Challenge entrants had the luxury of a late start to Day Five.
The entrants didn’t have an easy run back to Melbourne, however, with Scotty throwing a mammoth 400km road leg to take the weary teams from Swan Hill to Calder Park, via Lake Tyrrell. With racing running from 3pm ’til 9pm, it afforded an extra six hours for the survivors to prepare or, in some cases, repair their steeds before throwing down one final time.
In Pacemaker Radial Aspirated, just 0.141sec separated second to fourth positions at the start of Day Five. Al Vella and his trusty 450ci Windsor-powered Capri were never threatened for their fifth consecutive Drag Challenge Radial Aspirated class win, finishing another triumphant week with an [email protected]
Dylan Mcgavigan’s second-place Ford Cortina ran afoul of ANDRA tech inspectors and was barred from competing until its safety measures were upgraded, which allowed DC debutante Peter Haravitisidis’s 440ci XY Falcon to claim second in class with a [email protected]
The final spot on the podium for Pacemaker Radial Aspirated went to Nathan Ghosn, who overcame chronic head gasket issues all week. The DC veteran finished the week with a [email protected]
In Tuff Mounts Outlaw Aspirated, Daniel Cassar managed to hold off Bushy Busscher for the class win, with Daniel’s ’32 hot rod cutting a [email protected] on Friday compared to Bushy’s [email protected]
Drag Challenge newbie Dave Rogers had his 584-cube HK Monaro set to stun and ran [email protected] to come third in class, while Jon Mitchell finished fourth and bagged the award for Quickest Mopar.
Darren Parker took out K&N Dial Your Own in his VF Sportwagon, finishing ahead of Paul Topping’s supercharged VF HSV Clubsport by a measly 0.00369 of a second, with third-placed Steve Nightingale in his XA Falcon only 0.00292sec further back.
Calder once again saw the blown class cars run to 1000ft due to safety concerns, but that didn’t diminish the ferocity of racing. In Haltech Radial Blown, Adam Rogash ran a [email protected] to finish third in class and fourth Outright, having run eight seven-second passes over the week. Just 0.141sec ahead of Adam was Lorenzo’s VL Calais, running [email protected] to place second in class and third Outright.
The Turbosmart Outlaw Blown cars had a good night on a sticky track with cool air. John Ricca’s VL BT1 ran [email protected] in the 1000ft, finishing second in class, fifth Outright, and winning a trophy for Quickest Six. Marcus Howe’s nitrous 434ci XW sedan took home the Quickest Without A Trailer trophy after stopping the clocks at [email protected] on Day Five.
The big battle everyone was watching, however, was Harry Haig against Frank Marchese for top honours. After cutting plenty of laps, Harry’s best time of [email protected] on Calder’s 1000ft wasn’t quite enough to get past Frank, though he still took out Turbosmart Outlaw Blown and Quickest Chev. He never stopped trying, however, running to the dying minutes before a broken control arm stopped him in his tracks.
“I said on Day One that I didn’t care if I ran an 18-second average over the week, I just wanted to get back to Calder on Day Five and break those beams to finish the week,” said Harry. “After not getting there the last two years, and disappointing my son Corty, I felt like the worst dad in the world.”
Although he’s a veteran of Hot Rod Drag Week as well as our own Drag Challenge, Harry’s guts were doing backflips on the drive back to Melbourne on Thursday night.
“I’ve never been so nervous in my life,” he said. “I’m listening to weird noises I’ve never heard before, watching the gauges like my first porn movie. Then I see the beautiful lights of Melbourne, and the greatest sight on earth: a NASCAR stuck on top of an old shipping container. I wake Corty up in back seat and point to the Bob Jane sign and he’s yelling: ‘We’ve made it, Dad, we’ve made it!’ Instead of tears of failure now we have tears of joy. It’s the best bloody day of my life.”
Frank’s FAIRXW Fairmont ended up running a [email protected] to take out the Haltech Radial Blown class, as well as the Outright win. The Dandy Engines guru now owns the record for quickest ET and highest mile-per-hour we’ve ever seen at Drag Challenge, and he took home an extra gong for Quickest Ford.
“The whole event was a marathon,” sighed Frank. “Drag Challenge is really more a test of your mental strength than how fast your car is. We had to overcome issues and find a way to make our car get down a different track each day, then pack up and drive hundreds of kilometres. But it is also the best event – I had an awesome time and have to thank my crew, Harry, and all the other competitors for making it a real family event.”
Congratulations to not just the winners, but everyone who completed Australia’s ultimate test for fast street cars. We look forward torturing s everyone again in 2019!
ABOVE LEFT: If there was an award for biggest wheelstand, Ben Vlekken would have got it! His single-turbo Ls-powered VH wagon dragged the back dumper past the 60ft marker at Calder. Ben finished fifth in Haltech Radial Blown and seventh Outright, running a best of 8.28 down the quarterABOVE: Nick Sideris’s VH is one tough street car. Powered by a turbo 5.3L iron block deal, the car has run high eights at AIR, but Nick was keen to see if it could stand up to a week of DC torture. And it did him proud, running as quick as 9.09sec and finishing 11th in Haltech Radial Blown
ABOVE: The brothers Velkovski fronted with this gorgeous HT Holden ute, just as Kris promised us they would at Motorex earlier in the year. Converter issues plagued the car on Monday and it refused to come on boost off the line, so Kris ordered a replacement converter and swapped it out on Thursday evening, so he could return to Calder and make some exhibition passes. An 8.1 and an 8.0 to the 1000ft mark were indicative of mid-9sec pace, but then the car lunched the transmission that the boys had re-fitted less than 24 hours earlier. D’oh!