MOST of those at the pointy end of the Drag Challenge field run comparatively modern LS-based engines with turbochargers and high-tech fuel injection systems, but in the Outlaw Aspirated class, cubes are king. Back-to-back class winner Stephen Micallef’s HQ one-tonner has plenty of them, with its big-block Chev measuring in at an impressive 632ci.

“As hard as this event is, I like it!” said Stephen when we caught up with him on Day Three. “It’s a challenge and that’s the best part about it; you’ve got to make it to the end. If you don’t do that you’ve got nothing. But if I manage to crack an eight that would be unreal – that’s my goal.”

Stephen didn’t quite get his eight by week’s end, but he went close at Swan Hill with a new PB of 9.11@147mph.

Low-nine-second pace all event handed him the Tuff Mounts Outlaw Aspirated win by almost a second over past winner Mark Clifford in his 600ci Mustang.

As the proprietor of a transmission shop (Shift Right in the NSW Hawkesbury region), you’d expect Steve’s tonner to run something pretty special in the gearbox department, and it does. Where others would rely on a Powerglide or Turbo 400, Drag Challenge with aplomb.

“Not many guys have actually done it and made it work,” he said. “It’s fully mechanical with a full billet valvebody to do away with the electrics. I was going to go with a Turbo 400 and a Gear Vendors, but a lot of guys have been chewing them up, so I decided to go this way instead. The 4L80E has some issues in standard form, and it’s taken a lot of research, but it worked faultlessly at Drag Challenge. That said, I’m still keen to pull it apart and take a look inside for R&D purposes.

“I’d like to thank my wife, and my co-driver Shaun from SM Parsons Fabrications for making the lightweight tray and alloy brackets, which made the car 240lb lighter.”

Aside from some overheating issues early in the week, a blown –20 radiator hose, and a trailer that decided to unhitch itself from the back of the Quey in transit, Stephen’s run to the flag was fairly uneventful. And even though we’ve been sworn to secrecy, we can tell you that he’s got some ideas for Drag Challenge 2018 that will definitely make him one to watch!

Stephen has opted for a GM 4L80E four-speed overdrive auto, aimed at helping the tonner eat up the highway kays on


Class: Tuff Mounts Outlaw Aspirated


WINNER – TUFF MOUNTS Engine: 632ci big-block Chev QUICKEST CHEV OUTLAW ASPIRATED Transmission: 4L80E Converter: 5200rpm SDE Diff: 3.7:1 Power: 980hp Previous PB: 9.2@147mph Best Drag Challenge Pass: 9.11@147mph