PORTLAND’S eighth-mile South Coast Raceway is one of our favourite country tracks. It’s run by a tight-knit group of genuine racing enthusiasts who get the track prepped to perfection every time we’re there.
That’s why we had it down as one of our tracks for Street Machine Drag Challenge 2016, but big rain turned the pits into mud and we were forced elsewhere. The MPW LS Nationals was South Coast Raceway’s first event back since the place had dried out, so we were keen to check it out.
Adam Rogash and Luke Foley from MPW were inspired by the old LS1 Nationals at Heathcote around 10 years ago, and decided to bring the event back. “I used to race a VT SS up at the LS1 Nats back in the day, and Luke had an ex-taxi VN Commodore turbo LS called TUFCAB,” Adam said. “LS cars are a really big part of the scene and it’s mainly what we work on at MPW; we wanted to promote that so we had the idea of bringing it back.”
Portland is a Victorian coastal town about halfway between Warrnambool and Mount Gambier in South Oz. It’s renowned for its unpredictable weather, but since it was December, deep into the Aussie summer, we were hopeful of some sunshine.
Naturally, when we rocked up to the track on Saturday morning it was raining and 14 degrees. Spewin’.
But by 11am the rain had cleared and the sun was attempting to poke its head out from behind the grey clouds, so it was time to cut some laps. As well as the MPW LS Nationals competition, South Coast Raceway also had its own comp series for anyone without an LS-powered car – which turned out to be quite a lot of people. There would be three qualifying rounds and then a three-round heads-up Chicago Shootout, finishing with a final.
The first boat out of the harbour was the ’63 Impala coupe of the Winnen boys. This monster of a car was built by Shane Winnen and his sons Damien and Jason as a bit of fun for the family. It’s packing a 502-cube big-block Chev with a Jerico manual dogbox. “We wanted an old-school Pro Stock-style car – something a bit different – that’s why we went with the manual gearbox and made it look the way it does,” Damien explained. It’s certainly a rig and a half to be taking racing, and it danced down the track swinging from left to right every time Shane shifted gears. The car’s best down the eighth is a 7.2@100mph, though it wouldn’t go quicker than 7.4 on this occasion.
MPW’s Adam Rogash had his NOSHOW HSV ClubSport out to play – only he wasn’t driving it. Adam had to be back in Melbourne early Saturday night so he put Jesse Boothroyd of Crusty Kingswood fame on driving duties. “It’s a bit different driving this compared to my car,” Jesse said. “Mine drives like a 1970s car, whereas this is like brand new with power steering and everything!”
And on the immaculately prepped track, NOSHOW was on-point, running 5.1@138mph. Adam, obviously keen to have Jesse soil his underwear, wound up the boost after a couple of drama-free fast passes, and bang – the front wheels were four feet in the air and the car was riding on the rear bumper out past the 60-foot marker. “My car normally wheelstands when I launch, but only for a split second – this had so much power it just kept on going!” Jesse laughed.
Luke Foley had a new TCE converter in his twin-turbo 6.0- litre alloy-block VH Commodore, and chose the LS Nationals to see what the combo had to offer. He couldn’t have been it used to be a bit sluggish, but now even shifting into top gear it shifts straight into the sweet spot. It’s even picking up the front wheels a little bit!”
The main competition for the MPW boys in the LS Nationals comp was Glenn Henley’s Datsun 1200 ute. This thing is a monster, rocking an LS-based 445-cube World Industries Warhawk motor built by Craig Carrison. It makes 930hp aspirated, and of course the tiny Datto ute weighs next to nothing. Unfortunately electrical issues have plagued the ute since it was built, causing the engine to misfire. “We’ve replaced every electrical thing in the car and it still misfires up around 7300rpm,” Glenn said. “It never does it on the engine dyno, just when it’s in the car!”
Even with the engine misfiring in the top end, the Datto ute has run 5.18@132mph in the eighth. At the LS Nats, Glenn managed to get a 5.3 out of it – not quite enough to keep up with the 5.1s MPW’s NOSHOW HSV was running. happier. “It’s taking off so much harder now,” he said. “Before
However, after a three-round class-based Chicago Shootout, the heavy rain returned just before the deciding round of racing.
A lot of guys packed their gear and went home, while a few stayed to wait for the track to dry out and have a crack at LS glory. That wouldn’t happen for another hour or so.
In the Aspirated Modified class, Drag Challenge veteran Anthony Burns and his 6.0-litre XE Falcon wagon got around the VX Commodore sedan of Stuart King.
As for the Blown/Turbo/Nitrous class, interestingly it came down to Luke Foley’s twin-turbo VH and Glenn Henley’s aspirated Datto – weighing 1200kg and making 930hp, the ute was deemed too quick for the aspo class, so he was put in with the blown cars. Where was NOSHOW? Well, some miscommunication in the third round between the three MPW boys Jesse Boothroyd, Luke Foley and Matt Lampard meant all three babied their cars down the track for low sixes, thinking they had a bye round! Luke ended up with the quickest time, so he faced off against Glenn’s ute in the final.
When the light went green Glenn’s lightweight Datsun shot out of the hole and stayed ahead to take the win with a 5.45 over Luke’s 5.74. Yep, an aspirated car won the LS Blown/ Turbo/Nitrous class!
“No doubt we would’ve liked to have had more entrants,” Adam Rogash reflected after the event. “I think the distance from Melbourne might’ve put some people off, and the rain wasn’t ideal, but we picked Portland because it has a great atmosphere and the track is awesome – we had virtually no traction issues with any of our cars.
“If we do it again – and we would like to – we might be at Heathcote or Calder.” s