LIGHT FANTASTIC

> ALREADY A HUGE SUCCESS STATESIDE, THE LIGHTS OUT CONCEPT COULD BE JUST WHAT AUSSIE DRAG RACING NEEDS

MARK ARBLASTER

URBAN WARFARE

SYDNEYSIDERS were given their first taste of Lights Out racing in late February, and if crowd numbers were any indication, it looks like they want more.

Lights Out is a racing concept pioneered by Donald ‘Duck’ Long from Duck X Productions in South Georgia, USA, and it has really taken off. Even with a live feed running from the most recent Lights Out 7 event over there, they had so many spectators that local police forced the track to close its gates because they were over capacity.

Powercruise promoter Michael ‘Gup’ Gilbert has put his own slant on the Lights Out concept, and after successful trials at both Willowbank and Sydney, it definitely seems like the Aussie fans are digging the action. It’s given Australian drag racing a much-needed spark.

The Lights Out concept is pretty straightforward.

The Powercruise guys pick a bunch of quick cars – nothing slower than 8.50 over the quarter-mile is allowed. They generally also take care of the entry fee for the car and crew, though depending on the track you may need to add a few extra bucks to cover the crew. The event is only run over an eighth-mile, for a couple of reasons: the track is often not prepped, and it reduces the chances of blow-ups as well as the turnaround times for the big-hitting cars. It also tends to even out the match-ups between the blown, turbo and nitrous cars.

A big drawcard for Aussie drag racing fans is that, just like the Lights Out racing in the US, spectators are allowed to cram the startline behind the cars as they come in to stage. It looks very impressive, and back in the States, spectators stand there with fists full of cash, betting with each other. Aussies have so far seemed a little more hesitant to wager big sums at the startline.

To really fire things up, for the Willowbank and Sydney events Gup invited 2014 Hot Rod Drag Week winner Jeff Lutz out to Australia with his Evil Twin ’57 Chev, along with Doc from Street Outlaws, and thousands of fans took the opportunity to rub elbows with the world-famous racers.

Lutz’s Chev is a genuine six-second street car that has beaten the best in the world, and plenty of racers put their hands up to take the American

on. Unfortunately we don’t have any six-second streeters here in Australia, so Lutz faced Ben Bray and Scott Porter in Queensland.

When the circus rolled into Sydney though, things went awry, as they sometimes they do – Lutz kicked the rods out just seconds into his burnout before his maiden pass.

It was a shame, but that’s racing. Lutz did admit that they damaged the engine while racing at the Street Outlaws Cash Days event late last year, and that they had rushed the car back to Pennsylvania to repair things before it was put into a container bound for Oz.

Fortunately there were plenty of Aussie stars at the Sydney event, including Mark Hayes and his Torana, Danny Makdessi’s blown Valiant and Gerry Sarafoglou’s Commodore ute. After a brief drivers’ meeting the entrants were required to pair up with another car. “We don’t want you pairing up with your buddy,” Gup declared. “We want you to pick someone you really want to race and beat. If you want to run at this event, you can’t do so unless you bring another car with you that you can grudge race against.”

Head scrutineer Simon Kryger was all in favour of the format. “This is just the best style of racing,” he enthused. “Normally you are worrying about 60-foot times, ET and mph, but in this case all you care about is the win.”

For Tristan Ockers, in the blown and injected MINCER Capri, it had been over three years since he had been racing, and he had a ball at Lights Out.

YOU CAN’T RUN AT THIS EVENT UNLESS YOU BRING ANOTHER CAR WITH YOU THAT YOU CAN GRUDGE RACE AGAINST

The lead-up wasn’t without some dramas, though; at the 11th hour he realised that it was an ANDRAsanctioned event.

“The car was out of tech,” he said. “My fire suit, helmet and fire system was out of date, so it was a mad rush to get it all done.

“We finally made it, but in the first round I had no reverse after the burnout due to another of my screw-ups. As I sat there trying to get the transbrake to activate reverse, I knew immediately what that spare wire in the floor of the car was for,” he laughed.

“Next round I had Po Tung in the GAS Motorsport Toyota Supra. I thought I was going to be dusted by that monster, as it runs a 7.0, but it all came together and the new motor just came up with the goods.

This new deal makes the old 360-cube motor feel like a stocker.

“After the win against Po I was quietly confident about my run against Rigoli’s Datto, and we came away with the win there too. That was such good fun I wish it went all night!”

If you’re interested in racing at a Lights Out event, contact Powercruise and convince them you have a car that has the goods! s