12 June 2016

If fans thought that the days leading up to the fourth and final day of the 2016 City of Ipswich Winternationals had been the stuff that memories were made of, then nothing could have prepared them for the wild racing action that marked the finals competition of the 49th running of Australia’s most prestigious Drag Racing event.

While the other three days got the pick of the weather, the cloudy skies couldn’t take the shine off the Pro Class racers, all of whom had finalised their race strategies and were leaving nothing on the table in the last-minute hunt for valuable championship points, and glory in the inaugural 400 Thunder Championship series.
Like all good elite-level sport, Pro Class racers at the 2016 Winternationals played to a full-house – a packed out grandstand at Willowbank Raceway, as well as fans stretching the entire length of the quarter mile on the grassy hill on the northern side of the complex. Fans flocked to watch the best racing anywhere in the world outside of North America, and that’s precisely what the Winters delivered.
Pro Bike sees some of the world’s bravest racers strap themselves to what might best be likened to a rocket ship with wheels – heavily modified motorcycles capable of covering the quarter mile in seven seconds. In this field of verifiably insane racers, Glenn Wooster proved victorious as he watched competitor Daniel Rabnott’s bike succumb to mechanical failure, running 7.21sec at 181mph.
Pro Bike’s bigger brother is the Top Bike category – a more explosive version of Pro Bike, piloted by riders looking for an even more extreme rush. In the finals, rookie rider Damian Muscat met Gavin Spann. Muscat’s brazen, no-fear riding style would go on to clench him the victory by the narrowest of margins, pipping the more experienced Spann with a 6.87sec at 161mph.
On four wheels, the Pro Stock category was a showdown between Wayne Daley in the right lane and his engine builder, Aaron Tremayne in the left lane. After getting an early jump on Tremayne, Daley took the lead however was run-down by Tremayne deep in the track. Tremayne clenched victory by a hair, running a 6.915sec at 197mph.
The contentious Pro Slammer category had seen plenty of upsets in the lead up to the finals, including the ousting of multiple-Championship winner John Zappia in the Semi Finals. The Finals saw Mark Belleri of New South Wales meet Queensland’s own Ben Bray, of the venerable Bray Drag Racing family. Bray couldn’t stop Belleri’s run to the top, with Belleri ultimately clocking a 5.795sec at 243mph.
Pro Alcohol was one of the most publicised categories of the event, thanks in part to the very public competition between Series Champion Gary Phillips, and Series Contender John Cannuli. The two had exchanged blows over the weekend, leap-frogging one another on their way to varying records in the sport, and this culminated in an explosive finals race which saw Cannuli’s vehicle come in to contact with Phillips at around half-track.
Both drivers walked away from the incident unharmed with only cosmetic damage to their vehicles, however it would be Phillips who would take home the silverware based both on his quicker 5.69sec pass, and the fact that Cannuli’s vehicle crossed the centreline instantly disqualifying him.
With a short break to clean the track, the action peaked when Larry Dixon and Wayne Newby took to the track in their Rapisarda Racing-prepared Top Fuelers. The Top Fuel field was incredibly hard-fought this year, with a string of low 4.6-second passes and multiple 4.5-second passes dividing the Semi Finalists by mere hundredths of a second.
In the Semi Finals, the crowd looked on eagerly as Larry Dixon and Damien Harris reeled off the Fastest Ever Side-by-Side pass in the Top Fuel category in Australia. Despite the record-smashing run, Dixon stopped the clocks first and sent the newly-crowned Top Fuel Champion Dixon home in Third place at the Winternationals.
Wayne Newby had all the potential to be a formidable opponent to Dixon as the pair staged for the last pass of the meeting, however was forced to abort the run early handing Dixon the win in front of the Australian crowd. The run was Dixon’s slowest of the weekend, despite the fact that he travelled 400m in under 5-seconds and at over 250mph.
The full list of Pro Class victors is below:
Pro Bike – Glenn Wooster
Top Bike – Damian Muscat
Pro Stock – Aaron Tremayne
Wallace Bishop Loyal Watches Pro Slammer – Mark Belleri
Pro Alcohol – Gary Phillips
Top Fuel – Larry Dixon
For more event information including a full list of winners, or to find out more about Willowbank Raceway visit