HIDDEN Valley Raceway in Darwin hosted the first round of the 2016- 2017 Pro Slammer championship season, and it was a real cracker.

There were 16 cars entered, which was a fantastic result, and Iím hoping that a lot of the interstate guys that turned up will start travelling to the other tracks this season. Any time you get 16 cars turning up for a meeting for eight places youíre guaranteed some surprises, and thatís the way it played out.

This year is shaping up to be the first multicar championship chase the category has seen in a long time. Letís not take anything away from Zap, but itís looking like the most open title battle in over a decade. Gary Phillips has thrown down the gauntlet by winning the first round. With last yearís champion Mark Belleri and runner-up Ben Bray, as well as the highly fancied Grant OíRourke all missing the cut on race day, it really has reinforced how much the level of competition has increased and just how tough it is going to be just to make the field this season, much less win. Itís great to see new names such as Mark Chapman, Pino Priolo and Kelvin Lyle stepping up and pushing more favoured teams out of the top eight Ė it only makes for a stronger bracket into the future.

The biggest news this season has been the Moits family from Sydney coming into Doorslammer. At Darwin they qualified third, ran in the 5.70s, put Zappia on the trailer in the semis, and went to the final at their first attempt. A great performance Ė well done! They have come into the ranks as diehard turbo boys; they have raced in the States and done very well there. The team is well-funded through their sponsors Mack trucks, Komatsu and their own family transport and demolition business.

They have the best gear, including Jerry Bickel chassis and Pro Line engines, along with some of the smartest Doorslammer racing brains in the world on their side Ė not to mention an excellent driver in Paul Mouyahet.

Pro Line Motorsports out of Georgia, USA makes some of the best drag race engines in the world Ė itís all they do. They are fast and powerful, but come at a price.

As to Moits Racingís connection with Pro Line, their original goal was to get turbo cars into the Doorslammer scene here in Australia. That was never going to happen, and after a vote amongst the current drivers and team owners, it didnít.

Weíve been building the bracket with very stable rules for over 20 years and itís always been based on supercharged engines. You only have to look at the NHRA to see the difficulty regarding parity with nitrous, turbo and blown cars, and we donít need that crap here in Australia. It just causes more trouble than itís worth. The truth of the matter is there are enough teams for the turbo guys to start their own bracket, something Iíve been advocating for some time now. The fact Moits committed to a legal Doorslammer combination shows the determination these guys have to compete in a truly world-class competitive bracket here in Australia.

Pro Line built mainly Chev-based wedgeconfiguration engines, as they were preferred for the turbo program; in fact over the past three or four years the quickest cars and record runs made by turbo cars in America have come out of the Pro Line workshop. But now Pro Line focuses on the Hemi engines for supercharged applications.

So why donít I run Pro Line engines? The answer is simple. Firstly, we carry two engines per car, so having four engines on hand would burn up too much of our budget. Rumours are you wouldnít get much change out of AU$150,000 for a complete top-line Pro Line combo. Secondly, one of the big attractions to me and Ben, as well as many teams, is that we want to run our own engine program.

The reason Pro Line has been so successful is that the company does a lot of R&D and dyno work and has developed a strong, ever-growing customer base that they are able to draw data from. If you had a budget big enough, you would be stupid not to go to have a chat with the boys at Pro Line.

The Moits team are business guys, and they treat racing as a business. They really understand the value of friendships and developing strong relationships in their dealings with people and companies. They donít just go in and say: ďHereís my money.Ē They are into working with their suppliers and team. Theyíre a lot more involved than just buying parts. They are a great addition to the sport and add a whole new dimension to Doorslammer.

Darwin was the second meeting Iíve missed since my operation. At first it didnít really bother me too much during my recovery; Bennyís looking after the team and knows what needs to be done, and besides, Iím only a phone call away. What I do miss is not just not being there with Ben and the family, but hanging around the other racers and the fans. Usually at race meetings you donít want to spend too much time walking around the pits, but being at home sitting in a chair and watching the meeting online makes you realise how much you miss being there. Iíve been to heaps of races over the past 40 years, and I still love the sport.

I touched on it last month, but Iíve gotta say once again that Iíve been overwhelmed by the number of Street Machine readers and fans who have been passing on their best wishes. Thank you all very much.

Thereís been some talk around what our plans are for the rest of the season. Thereís been speculation about running a second car alongside Benny during my absence. Now that Darwin is out of the way, we donít need to make any decision for a while, at least until the next round Ė that looks like being at Sydney in November. All being well, by around October I should know where Iím at, and that will be when we sit down with our sponsors Gulf Western and Century Batteries and decide where we want to be heading.

Some have suggested we could put a wellknown racer in the second car. However, Iíve spent a lot of my time in the sport giving people opportunities to get a foothold, so if there was a young gun out there with the talent who could throw a few dollars into the kitty, that would be my preference. s