AGONY & ECSTASY

TRIUMPH – INCLUDING A 351KM/H TOP SPEED – AND TRAGEDY MARKED THE 2019 RACEWARS IN ALBANY, WA

STORY BORIS VISKOVIC PHOTOS JORDAN LEIST & BV

IN EARLY March, Albany in Western Australia once again welcomed the fastest cars in the land for Racewars 2019. It was the third time the picturesque coastal town had hosted the event, with a weekend of 400m and 800m rolling-start races and a 1000m standing-start VMax event on Albany Airport’s 1.8km runway, as well as a hillclimb sprint on the Monday public holiday.

Always looking to improve the event, the organisers made a few changes to the schedule this year, relocating the Monday hillclimb from an industrial estate on Albany’s outskirts to Middleton Beach, a beautiful spot not far from the centre of town.

With last year’s champion Eddy Tassone sporting a new engine combo in his 2005 HSV GTO – a billet Noonan block punched out to 454 cubes with water-jacketed Energy billet heads and a pair of 88mm Pro Mod Precision turbos, with a proven 2371hp at the hubs – he was a pretty good chance to keep that #1 sticker. But there was some pretty serious competition in town – local and interstate – so he was going to have to pull something special out of the bag.

IT WAS ALWAYS GOING TO BE A TIGHTROPE WALK BETWEEN BOOST, POWER AND TRACTION, AND THIS TIME, TRACTION LOST

01: Andrew Strickland had a very busy year after lunching his engine at last year’s event in his internet-sensation Volvo, ‘LOLVO’. As well as sorting out the mill, Andrew got busy slotting a four-link and massive rubber under the rear. He improved his speeds by over 10km/h to 292.12km/h and would have definitely been knocking on the door of the 300 Club if he had more runs

02: Jose Jardim on his way to setting a new Aussie record, although he would only hold it a few minutes before it was snatched away from him

03: Glen Badger from Badger Motorsports brought along a couple of his cars: a tyrefrying XW Falcon and a nippy little Mk2 Escort

After a mad thrash to get the car done in time, Racewars was the first chance Tassone had to drive the car. The first pass was always going to be a tightrope walk between boost, power and traction, and this time, traction lost. After some adjustments to the boost timing, Tassone made another pass and set a speed of 323.06km/h over 800m. A few years back, that would have easily won the event. With the potential to add another 15-20km/h to that number over 1000m, it was pretty clear the old mark was going to be smashed.

The holy grail most Racewars for competitors is to join the 300 Club, and as a clear indication of how much performance has improved since the very first event in 2013 – where the top speed was 275km/h – there were nine cars this year that topped 300km/h over 800m! Sunday’s 1000m event was shaping up to be pretty epic.

01: Jaydin Rebrovic has had quite a few engine combos in his VG Valiant, with the latest being a 6.4L SRT Hemi. Because that’s not enough, he’s put on a BW S475 turbo, ported the heads and slotted in a cam, and controls it all with a MegaSquirt ECU. It’s mostly set up as a pro tourer, but the car went 10.96 with a Vortech-blown 265, so this new combo should see it well into the 9s

02: Last year Jarred Dowdell had some issues keeping all of the boost in his VL Commodore’s RB30, so this year he fixed it with an LSA crate motor boosted with a Garrett 88/91 and tuned by Streetbuilt to punch out 1070hp at the tyres – 300hp more than last year when he ran 270km/h. This year he didn’t get a run in the 1000m event, but still managed 261km/h over 800m.

03: Rene Tassone on her way to becoming the fastest female in Australia. Although she didn’t quite make the 300 Club, she came mighty close with a 291.18km/h run

THE HOLY GRAIL IS TO JOIN THE 300 CLUB, AND THERE WERE NINE CARS THIS YEAR THAT TOPPED 300KM/H OVER 800M!

Last year’s third-fastest competitor, Jose Jardim, had stepped up his Supra considerably and had been running very strong over the quarter-mile, but the big news was that the Willall Racing team was in town with its all-conquering R35 GT-R. It was already the fastest car over 1000m in Australia – albeit by just 1.5km/h over Tassone – but what could it do at sea level? Last year’s speeds were no doubt affected by a stiff headwind, but this year the 1000m VMax event was scheduled for first thing Sunday morning, with light winds and cool temperatures forecast.

Did it make a difference? Abso-bloodylutely! The first car out was Jose’s Supra, and right off the bat he bettered last year’s speed, setting a new national record at over 335km/h, before backing it up with a 338.54km/h run. Unfortunately, that run ended in disaster when the parachute didn’t deploy and the car went backwards into a culvert at the end of the runway. It was a sad end to the event for Jose, who was sent off to hospital while his twisted car was hauled onto a flatbed. He has been a part of Racewars since its inception and has always put on an impressive show.

To add further insult to injury for Jose, the Willall Racing GT-R demolished the national 1000m record with a 351.43km/h blast. What was truly amazing about watching this run was how easily the car appeared to do it – no squirming or squirrelly behaviour; it was like it was on rails. Unfortunately, we didn’t get to see the Willall car do a run with the supercomputer set to ‘full send’, which would have utilised the launch control and shifted at 8500rpm – as opposed to the soft launch and 7000rpm shifts on the previous run. If all the planets had’ve aligned, we may have seen speeds around 380km/h and an ET deep into the 13s!

01: Rob Harvey from Monsta Torque once again flew the Fast Ford flag and proved the Barra six is a world-class performance package. Built in just eight days, the Falcon finished eighth overall with a 313.29km/h run, giving the team a 300 Club berth

02: It’s pretty clear these guys are out to have fun. Adam Farmer and Harry Liva of Team Tuba built this open-wheeled terror as a bit of a pisstake. It’s got a 3.0L Camry 1MZ with individual throttlebodies off a GSXR750

03: The neat XB GT of Walter Naylor sports a 408 Clevo and managed a best of 218.8km/h over the 800m course

IT’S A VERSATILE CAR IF YOU CAN RACE IT IN A STRAIGHT LINE ONE DAY AND THRASH IT AROUND SOME CORNERS THE NEXT

Unfortunately, the event was marred by another incident on Sunday, where a driver had to be airlifted to hospital after the Mustang he was driving went off the end of the airstrip, rolled several hundred metres and burst into flames. Sadly, he passed away in hospital the next day.

This tragic incident put an end to the racing for Sunday, and although the hillclimb event at Middleton Beach still went ahead on Monday, there was definitely a pall over proceedings. While not all of the airport competitors raced the hillclimb – and vice-versa – there was a fair bit of crossover, and none did it better than Simon Richards and his R32 Skyline. It sure is a test of a car’s versatility if you can race it flat-out in a straight line one day, then with perhaps nothing more than a tyre change, thrash it around some corners the very next day. Simon not only placed second in the hillclimb – by just 0.04sec – he also finished 15th overall in the 1000m VMax event, with a speed of 293.75km/h, and to top it all off, he drove the car to Albany from Perth – about a five-hour drive – with his race tyres in the back seat!

It was hard to ignore the chatter around town that surely this would be the last Racewars event following the terrible occurrence at the airport, but the Albany community and the Racewars organisers are committed to putting on the best top-speed event in the country, so we can only hope this isn’t the end.