Video: Barra-swapped LC Torana takes on Drag Challenge

We follow the adventures of Tassie-based mates Darby Hamilton and Mark Whitla, as they put Darby's wild Barra-powered LC Torana to the test at Street Machine Drag Challenge 2022/23

Photographers: Shaun Tanner, Chris Thorogood, Noah Thorley
Videographers: Paul Cronin, Matt Hull, Shawn McCann, John-Paul Beirouty

Darby Hamilton and Mark Whitla love a challenge. The boys have plenty of Drag Challenge experience, including taking Mark’s nitrous BBC-powered Capri to second place at Drag Challenge Weekend 2022.

This time around, the boys brought Darby’s big tyre, Barra-powered LC Torana to DC. As usual, the boys did the event without a trailer. And if that wasn’t enough of a challenge, the first day of the event was Mark’s first time down a race track in the car!

Our lads Paul ‘Gus’ Cronin and previous DC winner Bubba Medlyn followed the boys around for the week and produced a killer video documenting how they went. From hillbilly air conditioning solutions, to close encounters with the wall at South Coast Raceway, there was no shortage of action or laughs. Enjoy!

UPDATE February 9, 2023:

Following their wild wall-scraping ride at Portland, Darby Hamilton and Mark Whitla got stuck into reworking the LC Torrie’s rear end before heading up to Mildura on day three of Drag Challenge 2022/23.

“We backed the power right off and it ran straight, but then it rained,” Darby recounts. “It ran 5.70 with no boost in it, but we left after the rain started to come.”

It was then back to Heathcote for more quarter-mile action on day four, where Darby ran a few passes to fully sort out the rear end settings before turning over a best of 8.53@165mph.

“On Saturday we ran an 8.4; we put a bit more boost in it, and it ran an 8.4 again,” he laughs. “We were like ‘oh, what’s going on here?’ We handed the time slip in and I went to move it, and a guy that was talking to our group went ‘your turbo’s loose!’ I was like ‘what do you mean?’ He grabbed the turbo, and it was about to fall off!

Two nuts were gone between the turbo and the manifold, and the other two were loose, so that’s why I wasn’t going any quicker — there was a boost leak between the turbo and the manifold.”

The errant snail was interesting way to end Darby and Mark’s week, but their efforts were enough to place them in second in Turbosmart Outlaw Blown and eighth outright, plus the Quickest Six-Cylinder and Quickest Ford-Powered tinware. “We’ll fix up the rear end and get it back out, and hopefully it should run a seven easily enough,” Mark says.

The story to here

February 2, 2023: Tasmanian duo Darby Hamilton and his good mate Mark Whitla are normally spotted in the Drag Challenge top runners with Mark’s big-block Mk1 Ford Capri, but for Drag Challenge 2022 they’ve brought along Darby’s 1000rwhp, controversially Barra-swapped LC Torana.

If the car looks somewhat familiar, that’s because we covered in our August 2020 issue (which you can now read here) back when it was built by West Aussie Al McClure. The car was built in his back shed in Serpentine with his two sons Connor and Bailey, running mid-eights in their hands.

Since Darby took ownership of the LC in the Apple Isle, he and Mark have mostly given the Torana a bit more snot and some simple basics to make it more street-friendly for Drag Challenge, where they’re running in the TurboSmart Outlaw Blown class. “We added a proper radiator for the street, and we’ve changed the head for a ported one with some bigger cams,” says Darby. “The other big change is we put a bigger GTX55 turbo on.” On 30psi those alterations made the combo good for 1058rwhp.

The ECU of choice is a Haltech Elite 2500.

The first day of DC 2022 at Heathcote was the boys first crack in the Torana at the track. They’re sharing the driving duties on the road and track, and Darby was in the hot seat at Heathcote for Day One. “We ran an 8.44 @172mph so that’s obviously our PB, and it drove down the track beautifully,” Darby told us.

The 400 kilometre plus road leg from Heathcote to Portland’s South Coast Raceway gave the boys plenty of time to test the Torana’s streetability, and just like with Mark’s Capri the boys are doing it all without a trailer. “It’s the best way to do it on our opinion,” says Mark. “It’s the hardest but it’s the most challenging, it’s how we do the Capri so it’s what we know.” They both admitted the car itself definitely needs more improvement before its next DC to make it nicer on the road. “We’ll definitely be doing the next one in it,” says Mark. “But the seating sucks so we need to fix that, and probably the exhaust as well and a better fuel tank.”

Darby also added: “On the list is also proper doors, because these ones don’t have real windows that go up and down, so we’ll definitely want that for next time.”

From a reliability point of view the boys made it to Portland uninhibited. It was Mark’s turn to drive at Portland, and while the Torana left the day with a best of 5.62 @126mph it was just lucky they got to continue at all, with the Torana coming unstuck during a pass and giving the passenger side sheet metal an unwanted massage. At the end of Day Two the pair sit second in the TurboSmart Outlaw Blown ranks behind Harry Haig and eighth overall.

Thankfully the damage was only cosmetic, and Darby and Mark were able to convert the little Torry back to street trim to attempt the biggest street leg of the whole week from Portland all the way to Mildura, where we’ll be racing tonight for more eighth-mile action before heading back to Heathcote for the final two days of competition.