5 April 2018

There's a saying that old age and treachery will defeat youth and exuberance, but winners from both sides of the spectrum took home trophies at the Santo's Super Thunder event at Willowbank Raceway on Good Friday.

Queensland's Kelly Bettes (Top Fuel, 33 years) and New South Wales' Russell Mills (Pro Alcohol, 65 years) both enjoyed success that has seen them become 400 Thunder championship threats.

Bettes earned her victory against Peter Xiberras in a messy final round, with both drivers on and off the throttle as they struggled for traction. Neither was ready to give up with the Santo's Super Thunder win light so close, but it was Bettes in the Lamattina Top Fuel Racing dragster who eventually got the nod with a 5.32 to a 5.47.

“That run was ugly but I wasn't getting off (the throttle),” Bettes said. “The car shook really bad so I gave it a quick little pedal and back into it. I saw Pete come up next to me and then saw him fall behind again so I kept it floored, it was drifting down the drag strip I reckon.”

Bettes, the youngest driver in the field, is now just two points behind 400 Thunder series leader Damien Harris, while Xiberras remains in striking distance a further 20 points back.

“The dream of winning a Top Fuel championship in my rookie season just got closer,” Bettes said. “I'm feeling more driven than ever to achieve big things and am so very grateful to be a part of the Lamattina Top Fuel Racing team with the opportunity to drive.”

Bettes was not only the winner, but also the quickest and fastest driver of the night with low ET at 3.892 seconds and a top speed of 311.77mph (501.73kmh).

With Bettes scoring for youth, Pro Alcohol winner Russell Mills ensured the opposite side of the age spectrum was represented with a close victory against class veteran Gary Phillips.

It was a reaction time advantage giving Mills the win with a .090 to .219 holeshot meaning a 5.622 was able to defeat a 5.515 by just over two hundredths of a second.

Mills laughed that with a combined 129 years of life between them, he and Phillips represented the senior citizens of Pro Alcohol.

“Before the race Gary came up to me and said how good is this, a race of the old blokes!” Mills said. “We think it might be one of the oldest final rounds ever in pro drag racing.”

Unlike Mills' last trip to Willowbank which saw a damaged motor and an injured leg from moving the car, his journey this time was nearly perfect.

“We had three very consistent runs and right from the test run on Thursday through to the final the car performed well,” he said. “I didn't always get to the finish line at full power on some runs because of the sun and then some vibrations in the car, but we had enough there.

“The whole Pro Alcohol field put on a great show for the spectators, out of 20 runs from the field there were 17 full passes and the slowest of those was a 5.82.”

Like Bettes, Mills has closed up the 400 Thunder points margin to leader Steve Reed.

“We are just 13 points behind now so we are in a good position heading back to our home track Sydney Dragway for Gulf Western Oil Nitro Thunder in May.”

400 Thunder Sportsman winners for the event included Tony Bellert (Competition), Blair Pennington (Comp Bike), Jason Ellem (Extreme Bike), Jason Vanderlinde (Modified) and Michael Beaton (Modified Bike). 

Willowbank Raceway's action only gets more intense with a strong line up of events set to thrill spectators including Jet Car Thunder on April 14 featuring Rachelle Splatt, the Aeroflow Outlaw Nitro Funny Cars on May 12 and then the 51st Annual Gulf Western Oil Winternationals on June 7-10.