The plan was simple: a day’s racing at Willowbank, followed by a road trip to Warwick for a second day of racing at the town’s eighth-mile track, then heading back to Willowbank Raceway for the grand finale on Sunday. Around 80 cars turned up to do battle across five classes, with plenty of heavy hitters among them. Game on!
THE class to watch at DCW was definitely Tuff Mounts Radial Blown, packed with fearsome rides that were genuine contenders to win the whole event outright. Terry Seng’s Paramount Performance workshop had multiple options, including Brad Lane’s immaculate twin-turbo Torana and Terry’s own VC Commodore – the latter after a long hiatus. But by midday on Day One, Terry and the seven-second beast were nowhere to be seen. Would he make it before the 4pm cut-off?
Another favourite to take out the class and outright win was Fabian Huff’s recently finished 1200hp XE ESP Falcon (Urban Warfare, SM, May ’18). Unfortunately, the car tagged the wall on only its second pass, knocking Fabian out of contention.
Undeterred, he packed up his XE and took it to Warwick, where he camped with friends, and this refusal to give up saw him win the Spirit Of Drag Challenge award. By day’s end, Tanya Thompson led Boostane Outlaw Blown with her twin-turbo VH Commodore running 8.59@157mph, ahead of Noel Inman’s T-model Ford’s 10.86@118mph and Greg Mason’s El Camino with 11.47@116mph.
The heavyweights battled in Boostane Outlaw Aspirated, with Stephen Micallef’s 632ci HQ One Tonner (9.29@148mph) leading Rahim Tarr’s Falcon (10.18@127mph) and Steve Reimann’s Dodge 440 sedan (11.82@113mph).
Pacemaker Radial Aspirated saw Al Vella’s 450ci Ford Capri lead the charge with a stonking 8.93@152mph, ahead of Pat O’Shea’s XR Fairmont with 9.5@141mph and a 9.85@137mph for Brodie Olsen’s
THE rules for Drag Challenge Weekend are much the same as the normal five-day event. Entrants have to run a four-wheeled vehicle with current registration in their home state. Slicks and race fuel are permitted at the track, but cars have to be put back to road-going configuration before venturing onto public tarmac each afternoon.
Cars are either divided into four ‘tyre’ classes based on tyre and engine specs, or the bracket-racing Dial-Your-Own class. Tyre-class cars race heads-up, and the entrant with the lowest cumulative time over the three days is the winner. If you don’t complete a pass or just coast down the strip you are awarded a 20@50mph timeslip. The DYO winner is the car with the smallest ET spread across the three tracks, and it is run what you brung – so long as it runs quicker than 12.99!
Fuels are open and unrestricted; however, entrants have to carry what they will need, or buy it along the way. Entrants can also tow trailers, so long as it has a single axle and is under 190cm high. It also cannot connect to the car’s fuel, coolant or electrical systems!
Support vehicles, trailers or having friends trail entrants in another car in order to crew on the entrant’s car are all forbidden. Entrants are required to carry all supplies in their car and/or trailer, including wheels, tools, camping equipment and spares.
Entrants have to make a pass at each track each day before the racing cut-off of 4pm. If they break down and don’t have a timeslip to hand in, then it’s all over, and the same applies if they put their car on a trailer.
Once entrants have nabbed a timeslip they’re happy with, they are free to leave to drive to the next track, following the Street Machine-prescribed route. The route includes a mandatory photo stop, and entrants have to show a photo of their car at the stop when they hand in their timeslip the next day.
Vehicles use a radial tyre measuring 275 or narrower, with superchargers, turbochargers or nitrous, or any combination of these.
All-motor (no forced induction or power-adders) vehicles with a 275-or-narrower radial tyre.
Vehicles with a radial tyre wider than 275, or slick of any size, with no forced induction.
Vehicles running a radial tyre wider than 275, or any-sized slick, with superchargers, nitrous or turbocharging, or any combination of these.
Open to all cars quicker than 12.99. Run what you brung, and hope you are consistent enough!
383ci Holden-powered Torana hatch. Nathan Ghosn’s Drag Challenge veteran Capri was nipping at their heels, running 10.18@130mph. Competitors in the Turbosmart DialYour-Own class did so many laps of Willowbank they just about wore out the return road and staging lanes. Mitchell Bean’s Camaro topped the DYO standings leaving Willowbank, ahead of Brad Lynch’s HQ Monaro and Matt Walsh’s Mustang. For DYO competitors, Day One was all about setting the benchmark they’d then have to match on the following two days, so the pressure was on before they even thought about the road legs.
As the day wore on, Terry Seng’s absence grew more pronounced. But finally, at 2pm his famous white VC Commodore appeared in the staging lanes, though things didn’t go to plan. A harness mix-up cost him time, and then he had issues with a leaking intercooler.
Terry got it fixed to get a 9.34@152mph pass in the books, placing him seventh out of 13 in the class and a long way behind Brad Lane’s twin-turbo Dart LS-powered Torana sedan, which led Tuff Mounts Radial Blown and outright after Day One with an 8.01@164mph.
THE Saturday at Drag Challenge Weekend kicked off at Warwick Dragway, a beaut eighth-mile strip that is home of the SixBanger Nats. Scotty had found a winding 180km backroads route that took entrants past the very scenic Maroon Dam, though the climb through Cunnginhams Gap tested plenty of entrants’ cooling systems.
Everyone seemed bright-eyed and bushytailed on the Saturday morning, even with the skies threatening to literally rain on our parade.
Jon Fulton was one of the first on the track, with his stock-bottom-end turbo 1UZ Datsun Bluebird running a PB of 6.79@102mph. Jon actually parked the car for the day after that run, later watching fellow class competitor Ben Vlekken top the Tuff Mounts Radial Blown timesheets for the day with a 5.66 in his turbo LS VH Commodore wagon.
Al Vella’s Capri was the only aspirated car to run in the fives at Warwick, stopping the boards with a 5.85@118mph to cement his lead in Pacemaker Radial Aspirated over Pat O’Shea’s Falcon and Brodie Olsen’s Holdenpowered LX Torana hatch. While the competitors in the tyre classes had to tame their mega-horsepower setups to find traction on the Warwick strip, the punters in Turbosmart Dial-Your-Own had to get the abacus out, as their eighth-mile times would be multiplied by 1.555 to calculate an equivalent quarter-mile time. This becomes a challenge, because the calculation extrapolates the car’s time as if its performance in the second half of the hypothetical quarter-mile is the same as over the eighth, which certainly wouldn’t be the case for all cars running a real quarter.
It wasn’t like any of the DYO competitors needed more pressure, as the top four were split by 0.004 of a second, with the top two split by just 0.0015!
Stew Walsh and Dan Case got their HK sedan to 0.005 seconds off their nominated dial-in, while Michael Higgs had an even better day in his VH SL/E Commodore, running just 0.0009 seconds off his dial-in!
Day One’s outright and Tuff Mounts Radial Blown leader, Brad Lane, had a horror day at Warwick. His immaculate blue Torry headbutted the wall hard after getting out of shape, putting him out of the running and Mark Van Der Togt’s XW into the lead of both the Radial Blown class and outright standings.
Dave and Tanya Thompson’s twinturbo early-girl Commodore, PRO VH, also dropped out of the event while leading the Boostane Outlaw Blown class by over two seconds.
It left Noel Inman’s centre-door ’22 Ford battling Canberra’s Greg Mason in his Drag Challenge-veteran Chevy El Camino.
In Boostane Outlaw Aspirated, Stephen Micallef’s HQ Tonner built a strong lead, having run 9.29@148mph on the first day and 6.25@112mph at Warwick. Not even an engine bay fire on the road leg to Warwick could stop him!
COMPETITORS had a cool 180km cruise from Warwick to Willowbank at the end of Day Two, via the awesome Scotty’s Garage (no relation to the YouTube channel) out the back of Toowoomba. Although the descent down Silver Ridge punished brakes, everyone made it back to Ipswich, where the tunes were set to kill mode for the last day of competition.
Terry Seng had a tough run at Drag Challenge Weekend, but stopped everyone in their tracks when he cracked off a 7.66@179mph to break the record for the quickest ET ever at a Drag Challenge event in his HDT275 Commodore. However, it wasn’t enough to make up for the slow times run on Friday and Saturday.
Drag Challenge stalwart Alon Vella continued his success in the Pacemaker Radial Aspirated class, with the 450ci Windsor-powered Capri taking a fourth Drag Challenge Radial Aspirated trophy, and finishing sixth outright. Keeping him honest was Queensland local Pat O’Shea, whose exquisitely prepared XR Fairmont displayed ultra-consistent mid-nine-second mpace all weekend, despite a gearbox rebuild on Day One.
Boostane Outlaw Blown came down to a pair of nitrous small-block entries, with Noel Inman’s wheelstanding ’22 Ford battling for the win with Greg Mason’s El Camino. Inman ended up edging out Mason for the class win by a safe margin of just over two seconds, and picked up the Longest Distance Travelled award in the process.
The Turbosmart Dial-Your-Own category was taken out by Andrew Dunnett’s CL
Valiant ute, powered by a Gen III Hemi, with a 0.00469 split. Stew Walsh and Dan Case finished second in the HK Kingswood they shared, with a 0.00900-second margin.
Mitchell Bean in his ’68 Camaro finished third with a 0.01200 split to round out the podium. Hot on their heels was Alysha Teale in her black HQ and 0.01400 difference, and Bill Martland and his VR SS Commodore in fifth spot with a 0.01553 gap.
Taking top spot in Tuff Mounts Radial Blown was Mark Van Der Togt’s 1600hp XW, though he was incredibly lucky, as the twin-turbo Windsor-powered brute tagged both walls in the braking area on his first run of the day. Thankfully, the 8.07@169mph was enough to cement his win in both the Radial Blown class, and overall for Street Machine’s first Drag Challenge Weekend.
MARK Van Der Togt was incredibly lucky to take out the win in Tuff Mounts Radial Blown – as well as Drag Challenge Weekend outright – after stacking his amazing XW Futura on Day Three at Willowbank. Having run an arrowstraight 8.07@169mph, the deep purple more-door got loose in the braking area and tagged the left, then the right wall. Amazingly, he managed to straighten it back out and drive the car 1.5 hours home on Sunday arvo! “It has always been a bit of a handful when I lift off it, and this time I couldn’t catch it,” he said. “I drove this car to the event and I really wanted to drive it home, so we have patched it up to get it back and I’ll take it to the panel beater later on.”
Powered by a 393ci Windsor-headed Dart motor backed by a two-speed Reid-case Powerglide auto, Mark’s heavyweight 3795lb four-door uses twin Garrett GT35 turbos pushing up to 28psi to make an estimated 1600hp on the Moroso calculator.
“This is what we built the car for, racing and cruising,” Mark said. “Still, coming into this event we thought we might maybe get third – we didn’t think we’d win it!
“We really drive this car on the street and I take it to events 125-150km away from my house regularly,” he continued. “The only time it got a bit warm on the road loops was going up Cunninghams Gap. The event has been great for us and we’ve had an absolutely great time.”
Day Three’s mishap wasn’t the first time Mark had a scare on Drag Challenge Weekend, spinning the car through the traps on Day One. “I ran an 8.23 at over 160mph on Friday, but as I went through the traps I pulled the ‘chute and it went around on me,” he said.
“I think I stood on the brakes too hard as it swapped ends in its lane and ended up facing the wall.” Mark has owned the car 20 years and took it off the road in 2005 to build the current combo. It was finished in 2009, but he only recently stumbled onto key improvements. “We pushed the exhaust from three inches to 3.5, and it instantly cured the issue with it nosing over,” he said.
ALON Vella racked up an amazing fourth Street Machine Drag Challenge class win in his super-tough Capri, taking out Pacemaker Radial Aspirated. With BG Engines’ Damian Baker riding shotgun, Alon’s 450ci Windsor-powered small Ford also placed sixth outright after running high eights and low nines across the three days. “The car ran good; it went 8.9 on the first day, so we’re pretty happy,” said Al on Day Three. “We went 9.0 today, and while we were hoping for eights all week, that’s life.
I really enjoyed it as usual. It was a really good event.” With approximately 1000 all-motor horses to call on, the big-inch, big-rpm Windsor was a stout performer even on the tricky Warwick eighth-mile, where it was the only NA car to dip under the six-second bracket, running 5.85@118mph through a full exhaust system! Though he ran a single 1250cfm Dominator at previous Drag Challenge events, Alon turned up with dual Ray Jay four-barrel carbs perched atop the Pro Billet intake manifold for the first Drag Challenge Weekend.
While experience was on Al’s side, this was no o simple cakewalk for the e New South Welshman, with a field of hardcore competitors ready to pounce should he have suffered any issues.
At the end of Day Three, Queensland local Pat O’Shea was only 1.35 seconds behind Alon, with his exquisitely prepared XR Fairmont displaying ultra-consistent midnine-second pace all weekend. This was despite having to undertake a ake a gearbox rebuild on Day One! “I thought we One! “I thought we were done on Friday, so to make the end of the event and finish second is pretty cool,” Pat said. There were valvetrain issues for Drag Challenge veteran Nathan Ghosn’s Capri, which held it to fourthplace in h held it to fourth place in class, just behind Brodie Olsen’s immaculate 383ci Holden-powered LX Torana hatch in third. Brodie’s plastic-powered three-door ran in the nines across the weekend, getting it done on a little 235 tyre!
STEPHEN Micallef’s HQ Tonner dominated Boostane Outlaw Aspirated thanks to 632 cubic inches of big-block Chevy grunt, running 9.29@148mph on Day One, a slipsliding 6.25@112mph at Warwick, and then a 9.46@144mph at Willowbank on Day Three.
Along with keeping Rahim Tarr’s Falcon ute behind him, the Shift Right Automatics boss had to deal with an engine bay fire on the road loop and going back to a three-speed TH400 auto compared to his normal four-speed 4L85.
“I thought being a shorter event I’d do that to try and get some better numbers out of the car, but it was the biggest mistake and I wish I had left the four-speed in it,” Stephen admitted.
“On Day Three we had a few ignition issues, but we sorted them out. Then when I went back out the oil light came on, but I found the gauge and the line got hurt in the fire. The motor is still happy.”
THE Boostane Outlaw Blown class saw a pair of nitrous-huffing Drag Challenge veterans fighting for the win, with Noel Inman’s ’22 Ford T-model edging out Canberra’s Greg Mason in his sweet turquoise El Camino. Noel’s Ford actually has a fibreglass body sitting on a modified Model A chassis, with a gassed-up 302ci Ford feeding a built C4 transmission and an E-Type Jag independent rear end that’s been beefed up with custom-built 32-spline driveshafts. Noel was somewhat disappointed with his initial 10.8-second pass – not because it was particularly slow, but because the car didn’t wheelie high enough for the fans. “I went in Boostane Outlaw Blown this time because I thought that with slicks I’d be able to get the wheels up easier!” he laughed. “I’ll have fun until I get kicked off the track and then I’ll go to the next one and do the same. “With nitrous it makes 426rwhp, and 346rwhp naturally aspirated, but it weighs 1250kg because it has stuff like air conditioning, electric windows and a fair bit of strengthening underneath. It’s a street car, but I race it on Sundays. Or Saturdays, or Fridays or any day I can race!”
IT WASN’T just the Queensland weather that was red-hot for the final day of Street Machine’s first Drag Challenge Weekend, as the top four contenders for Turbosmart Dial-Your-Own were separated by thousandths of one single second. This was no mean feat, with tricky calculations required to convert their eighth-mile times at Warwick into quarter-mile times for comparison purposes.
Andrew Dunnett’s beautiful CL Valiant ute had done countless laps of the Willowbank and Warwick strips, trying to get that perfect match to his initial dial-in time. With a Gen III 6.1-litre modern Hemi and 904 Torqueflite trans under the ute’s beautiful gold shell, Andrew was able to get super-consistent times and took out the Turbosmart DYO class with a stunning 0.00469-second split!
Though it has run a PB of 11.89, Andrew’s ute was a little off that on Day One, turning in a 12.198, and then running a 0.003-second split at Warwick, before finishing up with a 12.199-second pass on Day Three. He beat out Stew Walsh and Dan Case in their HK Kingswood sedan, who finished with a margin of just 0.0090 and spent the road loops using their boat trailer and tinny for storage! Powered by a 350 SBC and transbraked Powerglide, the car ran 12.30s across the weekend with both Dan and Stew behind the wheel.
“Just cane it; that was the only plan,” laughed Stew. “It ran an 11.60@117mph back in the good old days, but she’s getting pretty tired now.” Mitchell Bean overcame a troublesome electric water pump on the Day Two road loop to round out the top three, with his recently finished twin-turbo LS ’68 Camaro rocking a split of just 0.012 of a second.
STORY IAIN KELLY, SIMON MAJOR & BROADS PHOTOS NATHAN JACOBS & CHRIS THOROGOOD
OVER the four years we’ve run the Street Machine Drag Challenge, it has been a five-day event taking place mainly in the southern states. This year, Telfo and Scotty decided to mix up the recipe by adding another Drag Challenge event to the calendar, a shorter three-day affair that finally spread the love up north. That’s how we found ourselves at Queensland’s Willowbank Raceway on Friday 13 April for the start of the inaugural Drag Challenge Weekend.
1> MARK VAN DERTOGT Mark’s heavyweight twin-turbo 393ci Dart/Windsor-powered XW put the hurt on more fancied competition at his first crack at a Drag Challenge event. Running low eights at nearly 170mph, he was a deserving winner.
2> JAMIE FARMER The Dirty Bird XH Falcon ute cracked off plenty of mid-eight-second passes to squeak into second in class by 0.815 of a second. Fed by a twin-turbo 383ci LS, the ute was ultra-reliable.
3> BEN VLEKKEN Only four-hundredths of a second separated Ben’s immaculate VH wagon from second place, with the turbocharged six-litre Gen IV L98 pushing mid-eights all weekend. Ben was the quickest down the Warwick strip at 5.66 seconds.
4> TERRY SENG Terry had a horror start to the weekend, but he still put on a huge show after hydraulicing the twin-turbo LS during a burnout on Friday. His 7.66 on Sunday was a new Drag Challenge record.
5> DAVID WILLIAM S One of the best-presented cars at Drag Challenge Weekend, Dave’s PSI PREM HG pulled the weekend’s biggest wheelstand on Sunday. He missed fourth place by just 0.09 of a second!
6> JASON ROSS Jason’s budget-built stock-bottom-end turbo LS1 UC hatch is still being developed, but after running a string of 9.0s over the weekend, he finally snagged an eight on Sunday arvo with an 8.91.
7> BEN TAYLOR Although Ben Taylor’s Camaro was built as a 396ci big-block/four-speed car, he brought it to Drag Challenge Weekend with an LS2 fed by a giant 88mm Pro Mod turbo. Mid-nines all weekend saw him finish 10th outright.
8> TARA JOHNSTON Tara’s daily-driven Supra is a basic combo and was on a soft tune for Drag Challenge Weekend as it hasn’t been techinspected to run quicker. She nearly broke her PB, going 10.13 on Sunday.
9> MITCH HAMILTON Mitch made his first pass in his super-neat Datsun 1200 wagon on Friday morning, creeping up on the built 1.8-litre CA18DET combo. He eventually got it down to a 9.7 on Sunday arvo.
10> MICHAEL TITMARSH Mick first ran his gas-huffing TD Cortina in Drag Challenge 2017, where the small-block Ford ate a lifter on the last day. He came back for his home event and had some tuning issues, running low 10s across all three days.
1> ALONVELLA One of the most experienced players in the class, Al drove his monster 450ci Windsor-powered Capri to his fourth Radial Aspirated win at Drag Challenge Weekend.
2> PATO’SHEA Pat’s Pro Restos is renowned for building show cars, but Pat’s personal XR sedan has the go to match, clocking consistent 9.5s and finishing runner-up in class.
3>BRODIEOLSEN Brodie’s stunning LX Torana hatch did Holden fans proud, running into the nines and finishing on the Radial Aspirated podium with 383ci of plastic power.
4> NATHANGHOSN Sydney bloke Nathan Ghosn has competed at every Drag Challenge since the event’s inception. His tough little Capri runs on a 235 radial tyre and dipped into the nines at Willowbank on Day Three.
5> MARKSTEWART This 10-second 349ci Holden-powered Torana ran like clockwork throughout Drag Challenge. Mark was living the dream, enjoying the event with a bunch of good mates.
6>ANDREWVALENTINE Fewer things are cooler than a two-door, 10-second HQ GTS Monaro streeter with a stout aspo small-block. The car’s gone as quick as 10.20, and Andrew managed to fetch a best of 10.572@125mph out of it at DCW.
7>SHERIDANEATON Sheridan is a Queenslander, but joined us in Adelaide for Drag Challenge in 2017. Since then his Camaro has become quicker, dipping into the 10s on both quarter-mile days at DCW.
8>ROBERTFENWICK The plates on Robert’s VH Commodore say YEP355, but in actual fact that’s a bit of a fib. Robert ditched the Holden for a cam-and-heads LS3 and ran devastatingly close to a 10 at DCW –11.000@122mph!
9>BRIANJENSEN Hot Rod Drag Week veteran Brian Jensen was campaigning his mate Nick Harwin’s ’68 AMC Javelin at DCW, with the 540ci big-block Chev powering it into the 10s on Day One.
10>BILLEWING Bill’s Mustang fastback was one of the biggest head-turners of Drag Challenge Weekend, with a bunch of body mods and beautiful blue paint. Mid 11-second timecards were just as impressive.
1> SPIRATED IM1> STEPHEN MICALLE F Cubes are king in all-motor classes, and Stephen Micallef’s HQ One Tonner has 632 of them. This Outlaw Aspirated win was Stephen’s third in a Drag Challenge event with the mental nine-second Holden – no mean feat.
2> RAHIM TARR Rahim’s Falcon ute is evil by name and by nature. The matte-black beast powered through Drag Challenge in the bottom 10s, with a best pass of 10.18@127mph at Willowbank on Day One.
3> STEVE REIMANN The only car at the event with the illustrious honour of having competed at Drag Week in the US as well as Drag Challenge Weekend here in Oz, Steve’s Dodge ran in the 11s on Day One, then overcame diff dramas at Warwick to round out the Outlaw Aspirated podium.
1> NOEL INMAN Not only was Noel Inman the winner in Boostane Outlaw Blown, but he was also a crowd favourite, his wild nitrous ’22 Ford wheelstanding its way through the event and racking up 10-second timecards.
2> GREG MASON One of the few competitors to have entered every single Drag Challenge event, Greg Mason battled fuelling dramas all weekend in his nitrous-assisted El Camino, but still ran easy 11s.
1> ANDREW DUNNETT Andrew adapted his driving style to counteract fuel pressure issues with his 6.1-litre Gen III Hemi-powered CL ute, and it paid off big time with a winning 0.00469 split on his nominated 12.198.
2> STEW WALSH & DAN CASE ‘Just cane it’ was the only plan for Stew Walsh and Dan Case, who took turns steering Stew’s 350 SBC HK Kinger to a string of 12.3s that wavered only by 0.009sec.
3>MITCHELL BEAN three-month thrash adding a new driveline and twin turbos to his 402-cube LS ’68 Camaro saw Mitchell whip out 9.38s on a 9.399 dial-in to finish with a 0.012 gap.
4> ALYSHA TEALE Alysha swore she’d never miss a Drag Challenge, so drove her 383 Chev-powered HQ up from Sydney. A Day Two flat tyre was her only hiccup amid consistent 11.3s and a 0.014 margin.
5> BILL MARTLAND Bill’s 355 stroker Holden in his daily-driver VR started pumping coolant at Warwick, but he battled on to finish 0.01553 off his designated 12.046. Yep, Bill’s walking now until the donk is freshened!
6>ZAARON TITMARSH A nitrous 347 Windsor pushed Zaaron’s AU family truckster to a 0.01700 finish off his 12.846 dial-in. The 363-cuber from dad Michael’s Street Radial Blown TC Cortina will be fitted for DC in November.
7> JONATHON CODD Fuel pump issues and some wrong turns couldn’t dull the brightness of Jonathon’s corker pink HZ Tonner – he was happy with 11.5s from its 383 LS1 combo and a 0.02053 split.
8>LEE HILL Lee had his dad and spannerman, Terry, riding shotgun all weekend, and the pair pushed Lee’s beautiful 302 Windsorpowered XY Fairmont to trouble-free 12.5s and a 0.02419 margin by Day Three.
9>MICHAEL HIGGS The old-school, B-cast-headed 308 in Michael’s VH can still mix it; a touchy needle and seat and twisted axle were the only casualties, and he finished with 12.80s and a 0.02900 cut.
10>KAREN BAWDEN Fuel pump woes and a snapped accelerator cable were the only troubles for Karen’s VF Val. The 476-cube hardtop strayed a little from its 11.346 dial-in with the Warwick eighth-mile x1.555 conversion, finishing 0.04282 off the pace.