WEEKEND WARRIOR

STREET MACHINE DRAG CHALLENGE WEEKEND IS BRINGING PLENTY OF QUEENSLAND-BASED ENTRANTS OUT THE WOODWORK, INCLUDING BEN VLEKKEN IN HIS EIGHT-SECOND VH WAGON

STORY ANDREW BROADLEY PHOTO SMITCH HEMMING

WITH the inaugural Street Machine Drag Challenge Weekend just around the corner, a bunch of Queensland locals are throwing their hat in the ring for the first time, including Brisbane-based Ben Vlekken in his mega-tough VH wagon.

Having gone as quick as 8.74@158mph at Willowbank, Ben has the form to run towards the pointy end of the field, and will be competing in the Radial Blown class.

Ben bought the car as a roller back in November 2016, and got stuck into repowering it with his good mate Ricky Fenwick. The engine is a 6.0-litre L98 with a factory crank and aftermarket rods and pistons, topped with CNC-ported GM 821 heads.

The turbo is a Garrett GT4788, and the manifolds and turbo system were fabbed and tacked together by Ben and Ricky, then fully welded by Spot On Performance. A mechanical fuel pump delivers E85 to the engine, and fuelling and ignition are controlled by a Holley HP ECU.

Ben is the proprietor of Elite Automatics, so the car doubles as a transmission test bed and rolling business card. It’s currently fitted with a full-house Powerglide, which funnels grunt back to a spooled 35-spline nine-inch.

Being an automatic transmission guru could prove to be a handy asset to Ben’s Drag Challenge Weekend campaign; we’ve seen transmission failures stop competitors in their tracks on plenty of occasions.

“Although I bought the car as a roller, it’s really only the paint and interior that we haven’t changed,” Ben says. “We re-did everything right down to the fuel system and wiring, and Ricky does the tuning, so we’re very familiar with the car and I’m hoping that will help us diagnose any issues we might have on the road.

“Because it’s a wagon, I usually just throw all my gear in the back and drive to and from the track, but we’ll need to carry fuel for Drag Challenge Weekend, so I think we’ll tow a trailer. This event is pretty much in my backyard, but I hope to treat it as a trial run for the five-day Drag Challenge at the end of the year.”

Ben has been steadily chipping away at reducing the wagon’s ETs, and is doing plenty of street miles to shake the car down ahead of the event. “I like the challenge of possibly being in a situation where you have to work something out for yourself; it makes you think,” he says. “If I can run consistent low nines at every track, I’ll be stoked. And I want to finish the event, of course!”

Street Machine Drag Challenge Weekend kicks off at Willowbank Raceway on 13 April, before heading to Warwick Dragway the following day and returning to Willowbank on 15 April. Spectators are welcome! For more info head to streetmachine.com.au/ events/dragchallenge.

> DRAG CHATTER

HATEFUL EIGHT

DRAG Challenge veteran Phil Edmondson drove his 4000lb behemoth of a Falcon coupe into the eights at a recent Fast Friday at AIR, reeling off an 8.97@154mph. “At first I didn’t think the car would be fast enough to run an eight, but we just kept upgrading things over time, and as we did, the potential to go faster just grew,” Phil said. The current engine is based on an SVO Windsor block with alloy Cleveland heads, force-fed by an 88mm BorgWarner snail. It was built by Rino at RC Performance and made an impressive 1423hp on the engine dyno on 25psi in the lead-up to Drag Challenge 2017. With Frank and Nathaniel from Dandy Engines remote-tuning the FuelTech FT600, incremental adjustments eventually yielded the eight-second timecard. “The car has a triangulated four-link that’s never really been set up properly,” Phil explained. “If we play with the suspension we can probably add more boost off the line and it’ll go faster as-is. But I’ve ordered a billet 88mm turbo from the States that’s rated for a whole lot more horsepower, and that will go on – along with a new converter and exhaust – before this year’s Drag Challenge.”

THE ENGINE IS A 6.0L L98 WITH CNC-PORTED GM 821 HEADS, FED BY A GARRETT GT4788 TURBO

OH, WHAT A FEELING!

WE HAVE seen a handful of Toyota six-powered cars at previous Drag Challenge events, and the numbers are growing for Drag Challenge Weekend. Amongst a rash of Toyota-powered rides entered for the April event is the 1985 Cressida of Newcastle’s Joseph Freire. Dubbed 321CYA, the Cressida runs 2JZ power and has a 10.5-second PB to its name. Jon Fulton from Queensland has a 1UZ V8 in his Datsun Bluebird, assisted by a S366 BW turbo for a best of 10.71 seconds with more to come. And – for the first time – we have a JZA80 Supra! Owned by Tara Johnston, the Next Level Motorsport-built machine runs a big singleturbo 2JZ combo, backed by a built A340 auto, for a best of 10.10 seconds down the Willowbank quarter-mile. Keep ’em coming!

FLOURISHING ON RACE DAY

AND while we’ve seen plenty of GM products amongst the early entrants for Drag Challenge Weekend, we reckon there are currently more Fords on the entry list that anything else. Pat O’Shea’s TOCA-powered XR is backing up again after last year’s successful Drag Challenge debut, and Mark Clifford of 600ci Boss-powered Mustang fame is no doubt pleased to have an event a little closer to his FNQ home than previous Drag Challenges. NSW-based racers Alon Vella and Nathan Ghosn are two more DC vets who’ll be attending, both in head-kicking aspo Capris. And there are plenty more besides these – keep your eyes on streetmachine.com.au as we check out heaps of the contenders in the lead-up to the event.