Race day at Nitro Up North delivered action aplenty in front of a record crowd at Hidden Valley Drag Strip on Saturday night.
As the opening round of the 400 Thunder Professional Drag Racing Series and the Summit Sportsman Series, Nitro Up North saw Darwin become a focal point for revheads from across the nation.
The first round of Top Fuel saw Mark Sheehan narrowly avoid the wall, and opponent Terry Sainty, when he spun the tyres part way through his run. Sheehan crossed into Sainty’s lane, but fortunately after Sainty was already well ahead. In the same round, Peter Xiberras tore past Kelly Bettes just before the finish line with a top end charge of 498kmh, as both drivers recorded times in the four second zone.
Before racing, Bettes was hopeful of a track record speed of over 530kmh. The current record is held by the team she now drives for, Lamattina Top Fuel Racing.
“We are looking to do that and better, looking at resetting the track record is something we will all be aiming for,” she said.
The Darwin track didn’t disappoint, though she was unable to clinch the record early in the night.
“The speed is mind blowing, it’s so fast it takes your mind a little while to catch up to yourself in the run,” she said. “It really threw me back into the seat when I launched.”
Sheehan was able to make amends in the second round of the night, running the quickest time of the event to that point with a 4.73sec. pass.
“Unfortunately when the car got sideways in the first round we damaged a motor,” he said. “The team all worked hard to get the whole motor replaced by the next round and we were able to make it back out again to face Peter Xiberras.
“To run the 4.73 and set the pace was a confidence booster.”
But it was Bettes who had the last laugh with a 4.58sec. run in the final round to earn the Louie Rapisarda Low ET Trophy for the quickest run of the event, not to mention narrowly missing the track record.
Queensland’s Gary Phillips made it two Nitro Up North Pro Slammer victories in a row with a win against Pro Slammer debutante Paul Mahouyet, who had a busy lead up to the final round with the team changing a motor after the semi finals.
“We just wanted to be out here for Lucas Oils this weekend, thank you for 20 years,” Phillips said, acknowledging his departing sponsor.
“We had a really short crew this weekend and congratulations to Paul and the Moits team for making the effort that they did to get to the start line.”
Darwin’s Scott MacLean advanced through the first round of Pro Slammer, taking out Sydney’s Sam Fenech, but fell to Phillips in the semi final.
Mark Drew returned to form in Top Bike, with a series of low 6sec. passes enough to take home the trophy, while Chris Matheson went to the runner up spot.
In the Summit Sportsman Series, Victorian Justin Russell took a solo pass in the Supercharged Outlaws final when Mark Hunt could not make it to the start line due to damage in the semi final.
Top Sportsman saw Victorian Jason Arbery face Vlado Turic in the final and take his first win of the season with a .031 reaction time and an 8.397 on an 8.39 dial in.
Modified Eliminator saw Darwin local Dean Radcliffe put away South Australian Sergio Bonetti.
South Australia’s John Kapiris defeated Darwin’s Ashley Smith in the final round of Super Sedan.
Western Australia’s Gordon Crawford made his long tow worth it with a win against Dale Smith.
Tim Bryan defeated Shaun Boyer in Super Street and Connor Begley got by Brodie Zappia in the Junior Dragster final.