IT SEEMS everyone with a keyboard has an opinion of what a ‘street car’ is, so, as the internet rages about who has the quickest street car in Australia, more than 200 punters brought their street machines to Calder Park on Melbourne’s north-west outskirts on 11 November. They were there to go through scrutineering for Street Machine Drag Challenge 2018, a torture test of street-registered cars that sees entrants run at five tracks in five days, with no support cars or car carriers.
Drag Challenge stands as attempt to separate street-registered drag cars from genuine street cars by making entrants race hard before driving hundreds of kilometres over rough country roads, and in the rain or hot late-spring temperatures. Basically, grout-filled blocks and token rego plates won’t last.
One notable absentee was Quentin Feast’s Torana, with the three-time DC champ opting to sit out 2018. However, in his place there was a bumper field of contenders lining up. Heavy hitters going for the win included last year’s runner-up Mark Drew in his ‘Crusty’ Torry, Harry Haig in his ‘Shonky’ big-block HQ, Drag Challenge Weekend winner Mark Van Der Togt in his XW Falcon, and Drag Challenge newbie Frank Marchese in his FAIRXW Fairmont that went 7.00@203mph shortly before DC kicked off.
There were plenty of naysayers who reckoned Frank’s XW wouldn’t last more than a couple of days at Drag Challenge, with the strain of towing a trailer over more than 1300km of rough outback roads likely to break the lightning-fast, leaf-sprung Fairmont. But this is all part of the challenge, and one reason DC entrants spend as much time as possible testing their combos in the lead-up.
Twenty-sixteen winner Brenden ‘Bubba’ Medlyn was looking to put his engine woes from last year behind him and his VH Commodore was in rude form a couple of weeks out from the event. But then he grenaded a Powerglide while testing at Swan Hill, fragging the converter and trans cooler, and setting fire to the car. A respray of the passenger side of the car was required, along with plenty of rewiring, but Bubba and the All Race crew mucked in, got it done and fronted at Calder Park on Sunday for scrutineering, though he wasn’t the only one who’d thrashed to be there.
A week out from Drag Challenge and MPW Performance’s Adam Rogash looked to be cruising as he prepared his ALLSHOW VK Commodore. But some decidedly terrible noises from the front of the twinturbo LS after a test ’n’ tune on the Friday night saw the MPW crew ripping the nose of the car apart to repair a stuffed gear drive and timing chain, and they made it to scrutineering on bugger-all sleep.
The tweaking and prep continued well into Sunday night as everyone got ready to put it all on the line for five consecutive days of racing and road-trippin’ madness. While it was the fifth running of the event, even a seasoned veteran could not have predicted how close the racing would be!
Taswegians Marcus Howe and Mark Whitla each have a Bedford tow vehicle and used them to haul their fast Fords to Calder for the start of DC. Both boys ran the entire week without trailers, and after fellow Tasmanian Tim Sullivan (see p169) blew his wild HJ ute up on his final pass at Calder, good guy Marcus drove his Falcon all the way back home so that the stricken ute could be taken back to Tassie on the back of the Bedford. Top stuff!
DRAG Challenge entrants are divided into five classes: Haltech Radial Blown, Turbosmart Outlaw Blown, Pacemaker Radial Aspirated, Tuff Mounts Outlaw Aspirated, and K&N Dial Your Own.
Cars running on a 275-or-smaller tyre run in the Radial classes, while ‘big-tyre’ cars run in the Outlaw brackets. The tyre classes are then divided into aspirated and blown, with the latter encompassing turbocharged, supercharged, and nitrous-boosted engine combos.
The tyre classes see competitors submit their best timeslip every day before leaving the track, with each ET added together into a cumulative score. At the end of Day Five, the car with the lowest cumulative ET is declared the winner.
The fifth class is the huge Dial Your Own bracket, which had over 80 entrants. Cars in DYO don’t run a cumulative time; instead the slip they hand in on Day One is their nominated time they need to try and match over the ensuing four days. This sounds simple in theory, but this class normally comes down to thousandths of a second after five days of ballsto-the-wall racing, as it did this year.
Stephen Willies’ 70 Ranchero started life as a tow car for his race car, but the 650hp, 512ci machine made its way to the strip for DC. Duking it out in Tuff Mounts Outlaw Aspirated, Stephen finished in fifth spot with a best of 11.04@123mph – and did so with the comforts of factory a/c!
Patrick Lawler’ twin-turbo LS1-powered AP6 Valiant debuted at DC after a shell-to-road build that started in February. Patrick dug the body out from under his house and he and his mates went to work, doing all the painting and fabrication themselves. Sharing the driving duties on the road and the track, the boys ran a PB of 10.60@130mph to finish off a trouble-free week
02: Piloting a big-block FE-powered ’67 Mustang fastback, Phil Andrews was one of the few to take on DC with a manual, although the Top Loader four-speed’s shift lever broke on Day Three. But thanks to some help from a Swan Hill workshop, he was able to get it fixed and complete the week with a PB of 11.33@120mph to finish 26th in K&N DYO. Sounded killer, too!
PHOTOS of Street Machine deputy editor Scott Taylor will no doubt be gracing the dartboards of DC entrants for the next 12 months. As Drag Challenge organiser and event director, Scotty comes up with the rules and driving route each year.
“I didn’t want to send them up to Mildura and back by the most direct route, so my vision was originally a figure-eight,” said Scotty. “It didn’t quite work that way, as it would’ve been around 2000km of driving. Even so, this year’s route was 1300km of driving, but most competitors did around 1500km by the time they got fuel and hotels.”
Scotty had a rule change for DC this year, restricting the tyres cars could race on. “There was no street rubber allowed on the strips this year,” he explained. “Because it is a streetcar event, theoretically street tyres should be allowed, but they destroy the traction compound. We wanted people to bring a softcompound race-type tyre, the same as they do in the USA for Drag Week.”
Part of the job of organising a huge five-day motorsport road-trip event is working with sanctioning bodies like ANDRA. In 2018 there were some minor complications regarding the eligibility of some cars.
“ANDRA has always kept an eye on the speeds and capabilities of the DC entrants, but this year they were really proactive in approaching us and ensuring everyone was licensed and logbooked for their car’s capabilities,” Scotty said. “Unfortunately, a couple of guys had to be excluded late in the week. At the end of the day ANDRA is the sanctioning body, so if you want to race you need to work with them.”
02: We were all pumped to see what Brandon Zito could do on Drag Challenge, as he’d previously run sevens in his stunning twin-turbo small block-powered LC Torana. Unfortunately it wasn’t meant to be, with the motor letting go on the first day. Brandon and father Dom then decided to follow along in their VF SS wagon and spectate the rest of the week
DRAG Challenge 2018 roared to life at Calder Park on Monday, 12 November, with cars in the two blown classes restricted to making 1000ft hits for safety reasons.
Mark Drew laid down a killer pass straight off the bat, with a 6.85@158mph. He then hit the road on a one-and-done strategy, leaving him third in the Haltech Radial Blown class by the time the lanes closed.
After a few pedal-fest passes, Adam Rogash belted a 6.59@169mph to put him in both Outright and Radial Blown class contention. However, drama found Adam at the end of the day with a dud crank angle sensor on the long drive to Swan Hill.
Frank Marchese pipped Adam’s time by three-hundredths of a second late on Day One, scoring top spot in Radial Blown and second Outright.
One week from DC, Brenden Bubba’ Medlyn blew his auto to bits, turning his VH Commodore into a fireball. He managed to have the car repainted and repaired in less than a week and made it to Calder for the start of play. As you can see, with 2000rwhp, the car was a bit of a handful. Late in the day, Bubba and crew found the boost controller had a loose connector, which caused the turbos to pump up to 50psi through the motor, making the car pretty much uncontrollable
ABOVE: Things were looking good for DC vet Mark Drew heading into Day Three, with his Torana (left) third in Radial Blown and fourth overall. But things went south at Mildura, when water leaked into a cylinder and torched a head on the first pass. Drewy also had his twin-turbo LS HR Holden (right), driven by Kon Michaloudakis, but the engine started sounding off on Day Two so they pulled the pin early
LEFT: The big cut-out in the bonnet of Scott Hore’s HQ is usually reserved for a blower, but just days out from the start of DC the bottom pulley on the Blueprint 377ci SBC gave Scott an ultimatum: either run without the blower or not at all. The boys from Echuca replaced the entire intake system, and even without the power of boost Scott still ran comfortably in the 12s all week
Haltech Radial Blown: Frank Marchese – 6.560
Turbosmart Outlaw Blown: Harry Haig – 6.496
Pacemaker Radial Aspirated: Alon Vella – 8.960
Tuff Mounts Outlaw Aspirated: Mark Clifford – 8.980
K&N DYO: Greg Richards – 10.09
Bubba Medlyn turned on a show in Turbosmart Outlaw Blown with a huge sideways moment at half-track that saw his VH up on three wheels. John Ricca’s immaculate RB30powered VL Commodore BT1 had everyone on their feet with a 6.76@151mph over the 1000ft to land second in Outlaw Blown class. Harry Haig had a horror run to get to Drag Challenge 2018, only arriving at Calder Park at 4:30am on Monday morning. He quickly put that behind him with a 6.49@170mph to finish the day top of the table in both Outlaw Blown and Outright.
Unlike the blown classes, all aspirated and DYO entrants ran the full quarter-mile at Calder. Pacemaker Radial Aspirated was once again dominated by Alon Vella and his Windsorpowered Ford Capri, who ran an 8.96@152mph on Day One, leading Dylan McGavigan’s all-motor LS Cortina, which went 10.02@135mph, with Jarrod Wood in his Falcon rounding out the top three with a best of 10.06@134mph.
The Tuff Mounts Outlaw Aspirated class was anyone’s game as two-time class winner Stephen Micallef pulled out of this year’s DC.
Mark Clifford led the class for Day One with an 8.98@153mph but his ’69 ’Stang hurt its engine and he was forced to retire before Day Two.
Behind Mark was Daniel Cassar with a 9.93@133mph from his ’32 Ford coupe, while third in class was Mark ‘Bushy’ Busscher in his 461ci-powered HQ One Tonner with a 10.22@131mph.
The K&N Dial Your Own class was a monster at DC18, with over 80 cars lined up to prove who was the most consistent. At the end of Day One, Greg Richards’s Ford Fairlane was quickest of the class with a 10.09@135mph, with Steve Grima’s VK and Danny Moore’s ClubSport just behind. But the real challenge for the K&N DYO guys and girls began on Day Two, when they attempted to match their Day One timeslips. It would quickly become a dogfight of epic proportions.
AFTER a 400km trek through the night (including smashing millions of bugs), the weather conditions at Swan Hill for Day Two were beaut. Warm daytime temperatures with overcast skies kept the track surface from heating up too quickly, although it seemed like every fly in Australia had descended on Swan Hill Dragway!
The Haltech Radial Blown class was on it from the outset. Mark Drew nailed a 7.85@177mph, Lorenzo Gullotto ran a 7.72@180mph for a new PB in his completely rebuilt VL Calais, Adam Rogash laid down a 7.88@168mph, and Frank Marchese pushed a 7.79@152mph despite having the ’chutes out at 330m!
It took John Ricca a few runs to get his BT1 VL dialled, but he wound up laying down an 8.08@171mph to sit second in Turbosmart Outlaw Blown, and sixth Outright.
Bubba Medlyn’s Swan Hill curse continued as he trashed another gearbox and had to withdraw from competition, while Brendan Cherry’s turbo big-block VL buckled a head gasket after running 8.30@160mph.
Harry Haig had the Shonky HQ set on kill, going 7.69@182mph to retain the lead in Turbosmart Outlaw Blown and Outright.
Tuff Mounts Outlaw Aspirated was down to 10 competitors on Day Two, with Bushy Busscher’s Tonner the quickest with a 9.93@133mph. That wasn’t enough to overhaul Daniel Cassar’s ’32 coupe in the class standings thanks to a 10.01@130mph. Paul Wood and his 355ci stroker LJ Torana locked down third with a 10.13@132mph.
Frank Marchese made three passes on Day Two, none of which returned the numbers he was hoping for, but a 7.79 pulling the chutes early as he headed for the centre line was enough to keep front-runner Harry Haig honest. Harry kept his lead until we returned to Swan Hill on Day Four.
Al Vella extended his Pacemaker Radial Aspirated class lead in the Capri, clocking an 8.84@153mph for a two-second gap to Dylan McGavigan’s Ford Cortina, which ran a best of 9.95@133mph. Peter Haravitisidis’s XT Falcon jumped from fifth to third, recording a staunch 9.9@132mph to stay within a couple of tenths of second place.
K&N DYO had joint leaders at the end of Day Two, with Zaaron Titmarsh and his AU Fairmont wagon and Paul Topping in his Magnusoncharged VF HSV ClubSport each running within 0.001 of their respective nominated times. Behind them was a four-way tie for third with Darren Parker, Alysha Teale, Steve Nightingale and Rick Verbeek all sitting on -0.002!
Nathan Jehu’s twin-turbo LS WK Caprice chewed a timing chain but the WA boys stayed in Swan Hill all night to fix it. DC regular Kim Smith’s HSV Maloo didn’t make Mildura after spraying its engine’s internals through the burnout box at Swan Hill, but Kim subsequently car hopped with various mates to see out the week.
As the lanes closed at 3pm, the wind blew up at Swan Hill, kicking up monster dust storms that sent competitors scrambling. As the entrants trekked 300km north, they had to contend with the dust, animal life, and heavy rain that saw dangerous aquaplaning conditions. Unfortunately, the Mustang of Vincent Stigliano left the road in a crash, though everyone was okay and the car was able to be limped to Mildura.
03: Bubba Medlyn’s VH Commodore drove from Calder to Swan Hill without any dramas, but at the track on Day Two it was up to its old tricks. On his first pass, the auto went bang, so he got out of it and rolled through for an 8.87. Then it caught fire again. The team rushed back to Melbourne, had the auto repaired and came back to Swan Hill to put on a show for us. A massive effort! But the poor bugger had the same thing happen again; this time the fire was bad enough that he had to spray down the engine with his fire system
AFTER a very testing 300km drive through the Victorian-New South Wales border country at the end of Day Two, Day Three saw entrants line up at Mildura’s awesome Sunset Strip eighth-mile track for another cracker-jack day of racing.
The Haltech Radial Blown cars came to throw down in clear and sunny conditions. Frank Marchese, Adam Rogash, Mark Drew and Lorenzo Gullotto were separated by 0.444 of a second, first to fourth – it was anybody’s race.
Frank came out late second-quickest time day to run the of the with a 5.13@148mph, just pipping Adam’s 5.26@142mph. Mark popped out a 5.48@116mph but hurt his Torana’s heads and dropped out of DC18. In a double sting, his turbo HR sedan, piloted by Kon Michaloudakis, also retired from the Haltech Radial Blown class after running 9.49@153mph at Swan Hill on Day Two.
Lorenzo came away with the quickest time of the day and the first ever four-second pass on the eighth-mile at Drag Challenge, running 4.97@144mph.
Eight of the 18 cars in Turbosmart Outlaw Blown class were out by the end of Day Three. One of our favourite Drag Challenge veterans, Noel Inman, grenaded the transmission in his ’22 Ford Model T, though he did turn in a timeslip of email@example.com.
Harry Haig came in leading and left on top of the standings with a 5.18@145mph. John Ricca’s BT1 smacked out a killer 5.26@134mph, while Alex Moshopoulos’s twin-turbo 411 ci XY Falcon wound up with a 5.56@128mph after a bunch of laps trying to get the power down.
Al Vella once again stamped his authority on Pacemaker Radial Aspirated, stretching his lead to just under three seconds thanks to a 5.57@123mph. Dylan McGavigan held second-place in class with a 6.27@107mph, while Peter Haravitisidis’s XY Falcon finished the day in third thanks to a 6.36@108mph.
After bending a valve at Swan Hill in their ’34 Ford hot rod, Andy Milne and co-pilot Gavin Edmonds worked ’til 6am to get the car ready for the drive to Mildura. Starting the day late, Andy managed to get in a 9.23@82mph to stay in the competition. Nathan Jehu also managed to get his Radial Blown WK Caprice fixed early on the morning of Day Three, then road-tripped to Mildura to stay in play.
Only seven entrants were left in Tuff Mounts Outlaw Aspirated by the end of Day Three, with Daniel Cassar in the lead. His ’32 coupe ran the quickest pass of the day for the class with a 6.29@107mph, narrowly edging out Bushy Busscher, who went 6.30@107mph in his HQ Tonner. Drag Challenge veteran Jon Mitchell was third in his 440 Dodge Challenger, cracking a 6.76@101mph on his first pass of the day.
The Queen of DYO and DC stalwart Alysha Teale topped the K&N DYO standings on Day Three with her murdered-out HQ sedan holding a split of -0.00708. Day Two’s joint leaders Paul Topping and Zaaron Titmarsh drifted down to fifth and seventh, respectively, while ex-Super Stock national champ Darren Parker took second place in his VFII Sportwagon (-0.00731), with Chris Martin and his Camaro (-0.008) in third.
02: “Being consistently in the mid-eights was a bucket-list thing for me,” Rodney Browitt reckoned. “I’ve ticked that one off.” This year Rodney has made a raft of changes to his HQ Holden ute. With a fresh castiron 6.0L and a massive GTX55 turbo, he’s running the numbers he wants with a bunch less boost than the old combo. It certainly doesn’t hurt that he’s also taken at least 100kg out of the back end. “Once we sorted out a few gremlins on Monday, we had a pretty uneventful trip,” Rod said. “We were pretty stoked about that. It’s also much nicer to race on 275s than it used to be on the big 325s”
AFTER another 300km trip through rural Victoria at the end of Day Three, everyone was frothing to be back at Swan Hill as the crew there had spent all Wednesday prepping the track, and it looked awesome. Cool temperatures and a bit of a breeze kept the flies to a minimum in the morning and the expectations were that we’d see some big numbers.
Al Vella extended his lead in Pacemaker Radial Aspirated with the quickest naturally aspirated pass ever recorded in Drag Challenge history – a ridiculous 8.69@152mph – pushing him almost four seconds clear Dylan McGavigan’s of Cortina in second place.
Dylan, third-placed Peter Haravitsidis and fourth-placed Nathan Ghosn were split by just 0.141 seconds. Peter had a scary moment after a jammed throttle nearly threw his immaculate XY Falcon into the wall after the finish line. He managed to turn in a 9.87@136mph timeslip to retain third spot in the class, ahead of Nathan.
While there were only seven entrants remaining in Tuff Mounts Outlaw Aspirated by Day Four, they all made it from Mildura back to Swan Hill. Daniel Cassar’s ’32 three-window coupe struggled with grip but banked a 9.86@130mph timeslip to hold the class lead, ahead of Bushy Busscher’s HQ Tonner.
Bushy threw down a 9.94@131mph but battled fuel pump issues, while Jon Mitchell’s epic big-inch purple Dodge Challenger sat in third thanks to a 10.64@124mph.
K&N Dial Your Own had seen three class leaders in three days. By stumps on Day Four it was Darren Parker and his 11.7-second VF SS Sportwagon topping the class on -0.007315, leading Paul Topping by just 0.00469 coming into the last day. The stage was set for an epic DYO finale.
The small-tyre, big-power crew in Haltech Radial Blown saw three cars running seven-second passes, with Lorenzo Gullotto running a new PB for his charcoal VL Calais, stopping the clocks at 7.65@180mph.
Not to be outdone, Adam Rogash pulled two high-seven-second passes, turning in a 7.78@179mph, but the ALLSHOW VK broke a converter after leaving Swan Hill. They managed to get it fixed and made it back to Calder Park.
In Turbosmart Outlaw Blown, John Ricca’s VL BT1 cracked a seven; the first time a six pot-powered car has managed to do so at Drag Challenge. The RB-powered VL busted out a 7.9@171mph early in the day, with John holding at least 15psi worth of boost up his sleeve for Calder.
Harry Haig had everyone on their feet, running a 7.50@174mph with the front wheels of POP666 off the deck. While he cemented his lead of Turbosmart Outlaw Blown, it wasn’t quite enough to hang onto the Outright lead.
In the end, the day belonged to Frank Marchese and FAIRXW. Frank stopped everyone in their tracks late in the day with the quickest and fastest pass we’ve seen at Drag Challenge, ever.
Having struggled with overpowering the track in his first few passes of the day, the Dandy Engines legend returned as the clock wound down to 3pm and belted out a wild 7.36@192mph to take the Outright lead by 0.02 seconds heading into the final day.
AFTER approximately 1500km of torture on side roads and highways through rural Victoria and New South Wales, the remaining Drag Challenge entrants had the luxury of a late start to Day Five.
The entrants didn’t have an easy run back to Melbourne, however, with Scotty throwing a mammoth 400km road leg to take the weary teams from Swan Hill to Calder Park, via Lake Tyrrell. With racing running from 3pm ’til 9pm, it afforded an extra six hours for the survivors to prepare or, in some cases, repair their steeds before throwing down one final time.
In Pacemaker Radial Aspirated, just 0.141sec separated second to fourth positions at the start of Day Five. Al Vella and his trusty 450ci Windsor-powered Capri were never threatened for their fifth consecutive Drag Challenge Radial Aspirated class win, finishing another triumphant week with an 8.74@152mph.
Dylan McGavigan’s second-place Ford Cortina ran afoul of ANDRA tech inspectors and was barred from competing until its safety measures were upgraded, which allowed DC debutante Peter Haravitisidis’s 440ci XY Falcon to claim second in class with a 9.81@138mph.
The final spot on the podium for Pacemaker Radial Aspirated went to Nathan Ghosn, who overcame chronic head gasket issues all week. The DC veteran finished the week with a 9.80@137mph.
In Tuff Mounts Outlaw Aspirated, Daniel Cassar managed to hold off Bushy Busscher for the class win, with Daniel’s ’32 hot rod cutting a 9.91@130mph on Friday compared to Bushy’s 9.94@132mph.
Drag Challenge newbie Dave Rogers had his 584-cube HK Monaro set to stun and ran 9.62@143mph to come third in class, while Jon Mitchell finished fourth and bagged the award for Quickest Mopar.
Darren Parker took out K&N Dial Your Own in his VF Sportwagon, finishing ahead of Paul Topping’s supercharged VF HSV ClubSport by a measly 0.00369 of a second, with third-placed Steve Nightingale in his XA Falcon only 0.00292sec further back.
Calder once again saw the blown class cars run to 1000ft due to safety concerns, but that didn’t diminish the ferocity of racing. In Haltech Radial Blown, Adam Rogash ran a 6.51@166mph to finish third in class and fourth Outright, having run eight seven-second passes over the week. Just 0.141sec ahead of Adam was Lorenzo’s VL Calais, running 6.47@167mph to place second in class and third Outright.
The Turbosmart Outlaw Blown cars had a good night on a sticky track with cool air. John Ricca’s VL BT1 ran 6.64@158mph in the 1000ft, finishing second in class, fifth Outright, and winning a trophy for Quickest Six. Marcus Howe’s nitrous 434ci XW sedan took home the Quickest Without A Trailer trophy after stopping the clocks at 8.40@99mph on Day Five.
The big battle everyone was watching, however, was Harry Haig against Frank Marchese for top honours. After cutting plenty of laps, Harry’s best time of 6.49@171mph on Calder’s 1000ft wasn’t quite enough to get past Frank, though he still took out Turbosmart Outlaw Blown and Quickest Chev. He never stopped trying, however, running to the dying minutes before a broken control arm stopped him in his tracks.
“I said on Day One that I didn’t care if I ran an 18-second average over the week, I just wanted to get back to Calder on Day Five and break those beams to finish the week,” said Harry. “After not getting there the last two years, and disappointing my son Corty, I felt like the worst dad in the world.”
Although he’s a veteran of Hot Rod Drag Week as well as our own Drag Challenge, Harry’s guts were doing backflips on the drive back to Melbourne on Thursday night.
“I’ve never been so nervous in my life,” he said. “I’m listening to weird noises I’ve never heard before, watching the gauges like my first porn movie. Then I see the beautiful lights of Melbourne, and the greatest sight on earth: a NASCAR stuck on top of an old shipping container. I wake Corty up in back seat and point to the Bob Jane sign and he’s yelling: ‘We’ve made it, Dad, we’ve made it!’ Instead of tears of failure now we have tears of joy. It’s the best bloody day of my life.”
Frank’s FAIRXW Fairmont ended up running a 6.36@171mph to take out the Haltech Radial Blown class, as well as the Outright win. The Dandy Engines guru now owns the record for quickest ET and highest mile-per-hour we’ve ever seen at Drag Challenge, and he took home an extra gong for Quickest Ford.
“The whole event was a marathon,” sighed Frank. “Drag Challenge is really more a test of your mental strength than how fast your car is. We had to overcome issues and find a way to make our car get down a different track each day, then pack up and drive hundreds of kilometres. But it is also the best event – I had an awesome time and have to thank my crew, Harry, and all the other competitors for making it a real family event.”
Congratulations to not just the winners, but everyone who completed everyone Australia’s again ultimate in 2019! test for s fast street cars. We look forward torturing
1. Frank Marchese (XW Fairmont)
2. Harry Haig (HQ sedan)
3. Lorenzo Gullotto (VL Calais)
4. Adam Rogash (VK Commodore)
5. John Ricca (VL Commodore BT1)
6. Matt Lampard (HZ Kingswood)
7. Ben Vlekken (VH wagon)
8. Mark van der Togt (XW Futura)
9. David Best (VY Commodore)
10. Alex Moshopoulos (XY Falcon)
DAY 5 CLASS LEADERS
1ST FRANK MARCHESE
1970 FORD XW FAIRMONT Time: 33.224sec ONE of the quickest street-registered drag cars in Australia, Frank Marchese’s FAIRXW packs over 2000rwhp from its twin-turbo World Products Windsor. Running on Roo16 race gas, the car’s 7.36@192mph pass on Day Four stands as the quickest and fastest pass we’ve ever seen at DC.
2ND HARRY HAIG
1972 HOLDEN HQ KINGSWOOD Time: 33.374sec HAVING run a 7.40 at Swan Hill prior to DC18, Harry Haig had his HQ SS set to kill, with the Robby Abbottbuilt, twin-turbo 540ci BBC-powered missile leading the Outright standings for the first three days. Harry was 0.15sec off first place in the end, but easily won the Turbosmart Outlaw Blown class.
3RD LORENZO GULLOTTO
1987 HOLDEN VL CALAIS Time: 33.906sec LORENZO rebuilt his VL Calais for DC 2018. Packing a 388ci Dart SHP based on an LS V8 with Trick Flow 255 heads and a pair of Precision 6870 snails, the combo has done 1460rwhp. At Mildura on Day Three, Lorenzo ran the event’s first-ever foursecond pass on the eighth-mile!
4TH ADAM ROGASH
1985 HOLDEN VK COMMODORE Time: 34.047sec MPW Performance’s Adam Rogash ran a string of sevens at Drag Challenge 2018, with his ALLSHOW VK Brock tribute finishing fourth Outright and third in class. The twin- turbo Dart LS Next provided enough grunt to keep Adam busy hunting traction all week, even in the top end of the track!
5TH JOHN RICCA
1987 HOLDEN VL COMMODORE BT1 Time: 34.673sec THE quickest six-pot ever at Drag Challenge, John’s VL started life as a genuine Absynth Yellow BT1, but then he pushed the original RB30 block out to 3.2L with a Nitto stroker kit and fitted an RB26DETT DOHC head. The snail is a Gen II Garrett GTX4720 that can push up to 60psi running on E98.
6TH MATT LAMPARD
1978 HOLDEN HZ KINGSWOOD SL Time: 36.448sec MATT’S LUMPER HZ Kingswood was at Drag Challenge with a new LS-based combo. The near-1500rwhp twin-turbo set-up runs a 427ci Dart short motor packing six-bolt LSX heads and twin BorgWarner billet SXE64/64 turbos, with the combo capable of running either 98RON PULP or E85.
7TH BEN VLEKKEN
1984 HOLDEN VH COMMODORE Time: 36.609sec HAVING competed in our three-day Drag Challenge Weekend event earlier in the year, Ben Vlekken actually drove all the way down from Queensland in his VH wagon for DC18. Running a Garrett GT4788 on an alloy Gen IV L98 LS, the wagon ran as quick as 8.28@167mph on the quarter.
8TH MARK VAN DER TOGT
1970 FORD XW FAIRMONT Time: 37.198sec MARK’S twin-turbo, 393ci Windsorpowered XW won Drag Challenge Weekend in Queensland earlier in 2018, but the 3795lb brute struggled to get all its estimated 1600rwhp to the ground at DC18. It’s a true street car that often gets driven on 150km round trips to cruise nights.
9TH DAVID BEST
2003 HOLDEN VY COMMODORE SS Time: 37.405sec TASMANIAN David Best had a fresh combo in his VY SS this year, with a Powerhouse Engines-built 430ci Dart LS Next 2 running twin Turbonetics billet 76mm snails, backed by a two-speed ’Glide and a live-axle nineinch rear-end. An 8.55@160mph on Day Two reset the car’s PB by over one second!
10TH ALEX MOSHOPOULOS
1971 FORD XY FALCON Time: 37.742 ALTHOUGH it looks like a tidy GT replica show car, Alex’s XY packs a 411ci Dart Windsor inflated by a pair of high-mounted Garrett GTX35 turbos to make 1091rwhp on E85. Impressively, the XY is Alex’s first car and he’s done over 10,000km on the street with this combo in three years.
1ST DARREN PARKER
2017 HOLDEN VFII SS-V REDLINE SPORTWAGON Spread: 0.008sec 2013 Australian Super Stock champ Darren ran his well-modified (heads/cam/trans/ gears/rear suspension) SS down the strip around the 11.77sec mark all week. The car is capable of an 11.59 (a PB at Swan Hill), but by driving it to suit each track, Darren won K&N DYO with a spread of just 0.008sec.
2ND PAUL TOPPING
2014 HSV VF CLUBSPORT Spread: 0.012sec DRAG Challenge firsttimer Paul Topping had his Magnuson-blown, Morpowa-tuned, E85-burning Clubby neck-and-neck with his mate Darren for DYO class honours. Running around 10.90, the Clubby was the quicker car, but by looking at the data, Paul threaded the needle to a well-deserved place.
3RD STEVE NIGHTINGALE
1972 XA FALCON 500 Spread: 0.014sec WITH a 427ci carb-fed Windsor V8, Steve Nightingale’s Falcon ran around 11.13 all week to be the first ‘old-school’ street machine home in DYO. Steve competed in the Atura Championship at Sydney Dragway a couple of years ago, so like the other podium finishers, he knows a thing or two about
4TH STEVE GRIMA
1985 HOLDEN VK CALAIS Spread: 0.02sec STEVE Grima runs a Warspeed-built, truckspec turbo LS in his Calais. Behind it is a TH700, and the power got to the ground this year through a BorgWarner axle after a nine-inch blew up just before DC18. To save the diff, Steve softened the tune and spent the week floating around
5TH MATT CAREY
2005 HOLDEN VZ COMMODORE UTE Spread: 0.021sec MATT is 2018’s highest-placed newbie in DYO. His Street Quick Performancebuilt, Magnuson-blown 6.0L has around 600hp, but because the ute is un-’caged, it was limited to an ANDRA-okay 11.0211.04 all week. Oh, and by the way, Matt is a C6 quadriplegic, so he was ‘pedalling’ his ute with hand controls. Legend!
6TH CHRIS THOMPSON 2017 HOLDEN VFII DIRECTOR Spread: 0.027sec CHRIS could have bought this Director and stuck it in a dark shed, saving it for the future. Instead, he added a set of CNC-ported heads, a Magnuson blower and a fat fuel system for a 10sec daily driver. After a 10.79sec run at Calder, Chris settled in around 10.9 all week.
7TH JOHN KERR 1964 MERCURY COMET Spread: 0.028sec JOHN has participated at every DC in his Dart-blocked, carbfed, 364ci Windsorpowered Mercury Comet, which he’s been racing since he bought it in the early 1990s. Like a few others, John’s car has no ’cage, so he kept within the rules by running around 11.2.
8TH CAM SCOTT 1982 HOLDEN WB UTE Spread: 0.029sec WITH a $5K rebuilt heads-and-cam 5.7L LS1 in front of a 4L65E four-speed auto, Cam Scott raced his WB ute straight off the street – complete with air con, power steering and fast glass – for 12.3s all week. The DC first-timer will be back with a Holden VZ ute next year.
9TH ALYSHA TEALE 1973 HOLDEN HQ PREMIER Spread: 0.030sec REGULAR racer Alysha is another veteran of Drag Challenge, having completed every event in her 383ci HQ sedan. In fact, she’s probably run more DC passes than anyone. Her experience resulted in a spread of just 0.030sec around her 11.2 ETs.
10TH DANIEL GRIMA 1955 CHEVROLET BEL AIR Spread: 0.036sec DANIEL Grima ran DYO at his first DC last year and scored second. For 2018, he was looking for victory in his gorgeous 6.0L heads-and-cam LS2-powered ’55. But he admits he struggled with consistency, especially as the weather changed on Friday and made the car quicker!
IN THE lead-up to Drag Challenge 2018, Frank Marchese from Dandy Engines copped a lot of heat about whether his leaf-sprung XW Fairmont could be considered a proper street car. He’s certainly silenced those critics after driving it 1300km through rural Victoria with a trailer on the back and a bunch of sevensecond timeslips in the glovebox!
Despite having never run Drag Challenge, FAIRXW was a serious contender from the moment Frank pulled it into the Calder Park pits. With a new World Products 450ci motor inflated by a pair of 88mm Precision Pro Mod turbos, and run by a FuelTech ECU, the big four-door sedan had run a string of sevens in testing, with a PB of 7.00@203mph.
Running on VP Racing Roo16 race gas at the track and pump fuel on the road, the XW struggled on its first pass on Day One at Calder, before coming out late in the day to run a 6.56@168mph on the 1000ft strip. It was enough to place Frank second overall and at the top of Haltech Radial Blown.
Day Two finished with Frank in the staging lanes after almost everyone else had packed up and fled the plague of flies. It was worth it, as FAIRXW laid down a 7.79@152mph despite a big pedal and having the ’chutes out at the 330m mark to stop the car heading towards the centre-line.
The Dandy Engines crew then had to overcome a cracked up-pipe on the exhaust, as well as heavy rain giving the sensitive electronics a bath on the road leg between Swan Hill and Mildura at the end of Day Two.
“We found a workshop in Mildura who lent us some hoist space to fix the exhaust, which was grouse,” said Frank, who then went out and ran 5.13@148mph on Mildura’s Sunset Strip eighth-mile. “It’s disheartening for me, because the car normally goes 4.6-flat in the eighth!” he laughed.
Day Four will go down in the record books, as Frank and Harry Haig both threw the kitchen sink at the Swan Hill track in an effort to run big numbers, and boy did they do that. Though Harry managed a 7.50@174mph in his big-inch HQ, Frank had everyone falling over themselves late in the day with a 7.36@192mph – the quickest and fastest pass we’ve ever had at Drag Challenge!
“This feels so good; I’m ecstatic to have done that,” said Frank straight after the run. “I wanted to do this so badly for my guys who’ve worked so hard on no sleep, from before the event even started. I’m just emotionally wrecked!” The Dandy crew made it back to Calder Park on Day Five with a lead of under half a second from Harry Haig, and they went pass-forpass right until the lanes closed, with Frank’s 6.36@171mph over 1000ft enough to get the job done.
After five days of knock-’em-down, drag-’emout racing, Frank’s combined ET of 33.224 seconds was 0.15sec ahead of Harry’s 33.374. This was enough for Frank to take out the top spot in both the Outright and the Haltech Radial Blown standings, along with awards for Quickest ET and Fastest MPH of Drag Challenge and Quickest Ford-Powered.
“On Monday afternoon about 4pm I was asking what I’d got myself into, and Friday driving through those gates was the most emotional feeling I’d had,” Frank sighed. “I’d just proved all those doubters wrong!”
1970 FORD XW FAIRMONT Class: Haltech Radial Blown
Engine: World Products 450ci Windsor
Turbos: Twin Precision Pro Mod
Gen 1 88mm
Transmission: Protrans TH400
Converter: ProTorque EV1
Diff: Profab 9in, 3.40:1 gears
Previous PB: 7.00@203mph
HOLDEN HQ SEDAN Class: Turbosmart Outlaw Blown
HARRY Haig is an institution at both Street Machine Drag Challenge and Hot Rod Drag Week in the USA, and he brought his twin-turbo big-block ‘Shonky’ HQ SS back to Turbosmart Outlaw Blown for the 2018 running of DC.
The Quey is powered by a 540ci big-block Chev inflated by a pair of 88mm Garrett GT47 turbos, running pump gas on the road and methanol on the track to make an estimated 1860rwhp at up to 24psi. With a Holley ECU controlling the combo, Harry’s biggest issue is getting all that horsepower to the track.
“It’s pretty much the same combo as last year, but we had all sorts of dramas just getting here this year, so don’t care about ETs, just want to be here on Friday,” said the visibly exhausted Harry on Monday morning. “We got to Calder at 4:30am and had a sleep on the footpath because my fancy $2000 radiator crapped out, so it took us nine hours to drive what would normally take an hour. It was going through 20L of water every six kilometres, so I was dragging jerry cans down to creeks in the middle of the night.
“We got the car and the engine back Wednesday night, so we have had about six hours’ sleep from Wednesday morning until early Monday morning. I’d really like to get a pass in, hit the road, eat something that isn’t from a bain-marie, have a shower, and get some sleep – but I’m sure we’ll get in at 5am because adventure finds us.”
Despite all the misadventures in the lead-up, Harry’s first two passes at DC18 saw the big dog bark off the two quickest runs on Day One, with a 6.49@170mph over 1000ft placing him first in class and in the Outright lead. He hit the road and smashed plenty of bugs on the way to Swan Hill, where he had run 7.4@190mph previously.
Day Two saw the HQ crack out a 7.69@182mph, backing that up with a 5.18@145mph on Mildura’s Sunset Strip eighth-mile on Wednesday to retain the Outright lead. Having trekked back to Swan Hill for Day Four, the Shonky SS blew everyone away with a 7.50@174mph, though Frank Marchese pipped Harry by the slimmest of margins to put the HQ into second overall, but still first in class.
At Calder on Day Five, Harry came to let the HQ eat, with a 6.49@171mph putting him close to knocking off Frank for the overall win. Unfortunately, busted steering put a halt to his last-ditch pass late in the night, though Harry still finished Drag Challenge as winner of Turbosmart Outlaw Blown, as well as taking home the Quickest Chev-Powered trophy.
LORENZO Gullotto’s VL Calais was on a hunt from the very start of Drag Challenge 2018, challenging the front-runners in the Haltech Radial Blown class with lightning-fast ETs and impeccable on-road cruising manners.
“We didn’t do too much testing in Perth, but the car is working really well so far,” said Lorenzo, competing in his second Drag Challenge in the VL after coming over for the 2017 event with a crew of West Aussies. “We know the combo has power to run numbers, but it is all about getting it to the track.”
That power comes from a 388ci LS motor based off an aftermarket Dart SHP block, with Trick Flow 255 heads and a pair of Gen II 68mm Precision 6870 turbochargers mounted under the headlights, good for 1460rwhp on a hub dyno. Capable of flowing up to 35psi, they were only running 32psi during Drag Challenge, putting the hurt on a two-speed Powerglide, TCE 10.5-inch converter and nine-inch diff rocking 3.25 gears. The 3430lb VL even packs a 93L fuel tank that the boys kept topped up with E85 from their trailer.
It all makes for a ripper package that, according to Lorenzo, drives like a stocker. “It drives killer, better than my daily driver I reckon!” he said. “The temperature has been good on the highway and we’ve just been doing basic service like oil changes and the like.”
Having laid down a PB of 7.90@174mph back home in Perth, the charcoal four-door blitzed that time at Drag Challenge, stopping the clocks at 7.72@180mph on the quarter-mile at Swan Hill on Day Two and 4.97@144mph over the eighth at Mildura the following day– the first four-second pass on an eighth-mile strip at Drag Challenge!
On Day Four at Swan Hill, Lorenzo reset the VL’s PB once again, cracking off an arrow-straight 7.65@180mph, before running a 6.47@167mph over the 1000ft at Calder Park. This saw the West Aussie finish second in Haltech Radial Blown, third Outright, and take home the trophy for Quickest LS-Powered.
1987 HOLDEN VL COMMODORE Class: Haltech Radial Blown
Engine: LS Dart SHP
Turbos: Twin 68mm Precision 6870
Converter: TCE 10.5in
Diff: 9in, 3.25:1 gears
Previous PB: 7.90@174mph
Engine: 450ci Windsor
Transmission: C4 & Gear Vendors
Converter: SDE 7200rpm
Previous PB: 8.73@155mph
EXPERIENCE counts for a lot when you attack any form of racing, but not many can lay claim to five consecutive class wins in Drag Challenge events like Alon Vella and his Mk1 Ford Capri can.
Having won four Radial Aspirated titles (three in regular Drag Challenge and one in our first Drag Challenge Weekend earlier this year) coming into DC 2018, Alon was well rehearsed in what was needed to keep his little Capri at the front of the field, so a top-ranked result wouldn’t have raised too many eyebrows. Even so, his sheer dominance throughout the entire event was remarkable, starting off with a margin of 1.1 seconds at the end of Day One and never looking back, stretching the gap to an eyewatering 5.2 seconds by the end of the week.
To top off his authoritative display, Alon’s PB for the week was 8.69@152mph – not only the quickest pass Alon’s ever made in the car but also the quickest aspirated pass in DC history.
The 450ci Windsor from BG Race Engines was the only aspirated engine to make it into the eights for the week. Damian from BG confirmed the boys took on both the street and strip with virtually no issues on the way to their big win: “No dramas this year. All the things that let us down last year we fixed up, and this year has been really smooth and we’re ready for the next one.”
Despite his success, the racer in Alon still wants to push even more out of the little Capri, with goals of chasing down a seven-second pass and potentially taking his racing overseas. “We don’t know where we’re going to go to from here – maybe Drag Week in America, see how we fare over there,” Alon said.
Needless to say, it’d be pretty awesome to see the green machine running low numbers at next year’s Hot Rod Drag Week!
“I ALWAYS wanted to do Street Machine Drag Challenge, and I love watching Drag Week in the States,” said first-time entrant Daniel Cassar. “It’s a good way to prove that your car can drive on the street.” Daniel and his wife Ebony (Iron Maiden, SM, Aug ’18) own and run Fast Lane Speed Shop out of Ballarat, so he knows his way around cars, and he whipped up a fresh ’32 Ford three-window coupe for his Tuff Mounts Outlaw Aspirated entry.
Sitting above the coupe’s IFS front end is a tough 406-cuber built by James from Melway Competition Engines, topped with a 950 Quick Fuel carby and Street Dominator manifold. The combo is good for 680hp at the flywheel. It’s backed by a Paul Rogers Performance-built Powerglide with a 6200rpm BTE converter, running back to a nine-inch with Detroit Locker and 4.3:1 gears.
Daniel tested the freshly built ’32 at Portland, but no timed passes were laid prior to Day One of DC at Calder, where he ran a snappy 9.93@133mph to see him in second place, and after Day Three he was leading the class.
The coupe’s strong performances continued all week, seeing Daniel take home the Tuff Mounts Outlaw Aspirated win by a little over three-tenths of a second. His PB for the week came on Day Four at Swan Hill with a 9.86@130mph, backing that up with a 9.91@130mph on the final day at Calder Park to seal the win.
Not only did Daniel and crew win their class in their first hit-out, they also had virtually no troubles either on or off the track – an incredible rookie performance.
“Other than a fuse, we had no dramas whatsoever,” Daniel said. “We literally just put fuel in and kept driving.
“We all know the ins and outs of making a good street car or race car, but putting it all together becomes really hard,” he continued. “Big thanks to James at MCE for the engine, Paul Rogers Performance Transmissions and Brian at Aikman Engineering.”
1932 FORD COUPE Class: Tuff Mounts Outlaw Aspirated
Engine: 406ci SBC
Intake: Street Dominator, 950 Quick
Converter: BTE 6200rpm
Diff: 9in, Detroit Locker, 4.3:1 gears
Previous PB: N/A
HOLDEN VFII COMMODORE SS-V REDLINE SPORTWAGON Class: K&N Dial Your Own
Engine: GM/Holden LS3 6.2-litre
Transmission: Holden six-speed auto
Converter: SDE 3200rpm
Diff: 3.73:1 gears
Previous PB: N/A
IN RACING, as in many areas of life, consistency is the key. And it was the razor-sharp thousandths-of-asecond consistency of Darren Parker, driving his VFII Commodore SS-V Redline Sportwagon, that earned him the K&N Dial Your Own winner’s trophy at Drag Challenge 2018.
With timeslips in the 11s, his Commodore daily obviously isn’t standard under the bonnet. Being one of the last built, his SS-V Sportwagon has a 6.2-litre mill from the factory, which Darren has upgraded with a CNC-ported heads-and-cam kit. The trans and exhaust have been tweaked, too, and the diff gears dropped. The result is 470hp at the wheels. The rear suspension – independent in all Commodores for the past two decades – has been settled down with a bunch of bits imported from the US and intended for a Camaro.
But there was more to Darren’s effort and success than simply putting his car in D and flooring it. He has been running cars down the quarter for a long time – he’s a past ANDRA National Super Stock champ – so he used brains as well as brawn to beat the other 68 finishers in Dial Your Own.
“I’ve done a few quarter-miles; I’m very competitive!” he told us on Day Four when we asked him about knocking the similarly enthusiastic and experienced Alysha Teale from her Top 10 position (she bounced back on Friday to finish ninth in class).
As with most winners, Darren’s process was more about management of the situation than she’ll-beright. A close look at his pit kit reveals a miniature portable weather station jobbie, and, like many other bracket racers, he used tactics such as loading his spare wheel back into the car to slow it slightly and keep his target times ‘in the spread’. “I slowed the car down at Calder on Day One to keep something up my sleeve,” he explained on Day Four. “It’s easier to slow down than to speed up. This is a great fun event, but I’m here to win!”
JAKE Edwards’s LH Torana has owned the Summernats Horsepower Heroes dyno competition for more than half a decade, run eight-second passes at the strip, and powerskidded the length of Sydney Motorsport Park’s front straight. But Jake reckoned driving the retina-bashing sedan on the road as part of the Drag Challenge 2018 Turbosmart Outlaw Blown class was what got him really excited.
“I’ve owned this car since about 1993, but I think I’ve only done about 2000km in it in all that time,” said the Canberra local. “It’s been great doing all the other events with the car, but to be driving it on public roads after so long is just great.”
While Jake made over 2000rwhp with a 496ci big-block Chev and a ludicrous 114mm turbocharger, the LH fronted at Calder Park for the start of Drag Challenge with a 355ci Holden stroker running HQ iron heads and a custom 76mm Garrett turbocharger, which helped the bright-yellow sedan make 711rwhp on Jake’s own dyno. “I had almost everything lying around in the shop, so all had to buy was the cam, rings and bearings, and Craig Bennett gave me the intake manifold,” he said. “I had an old Torque Power one, but he wouldn’t let me run it, so he shipped me this one!”
The non-intercooled donk runs a tame 8.2:1 compression ratio, and Jake was limiting boost to start with: “I’ll run 15-16psi to start with, but I’d like to see what it can do on 24psi.”
Jake ended up running a 5.90@118mph on the Mildura eighth-mile, before blowing one header apart on his first run at Swan Hill on Day Four. His 11.92@72mph was enough to keep him in the game though, so he patched it together for the final road leg and went hunting for a new Holden cast header. He made it back to Melbourne for Day Five to round out the week with a 7.71@136mph over the 1000ft at Calder Park, enough for him to finish eighth in Turbosmart Outlaw Blown and take home the trophy for Quickest Holden-Powered vehicle. His best time for the week was 9.51@146mph on Day Two at Swan Hill.
“My goal was to run a nine-second pass at each track; however, this car has done eights with similar power figures in the past,” Jake said. “Ultimately, Drag Challenge is such a torture test I’m thankful just to get to the end of it with the car in one piece. It is a genuine SL/R, so I think the Holden nuts are going to want to kill me!”
1974 HOLDEN LH TORANA SL/R Class: Turbosmart Outlaw Blown
Engine: 355ci Holden