IF YOU’RE looking for the toughest street car event this side of the equator, then Street Machine Drag Challenge is it. Entrants have to drive 1500km over average Aussie roads in five days and race at five tracks just to finish. Throw in the pressure of competition, parts breakages, late nights, some unpredictable weather and the police, and you’ve got a recipe for the ultimate racing road trip. It’s exhausting and soul-destroying, but it’s also a whole heap of fun, and that’s why entrants keep coming back year after year.
In 2014 we called up 40 people and asked if they were interested in giving it a go and 18 said yes. Almost all of them came back to do it again in 2015, and word of mouth saw the field expand to 50 cars. Then we put the call out for people to register their interest for 2016 – nearly 200 people sent us emails. Knowing that we couldn’t handle that many cars, we sent them all an invite anyway and held our breath. It didn’t take long to hit 115 entrants before we had to shut things off.
As with last year, we’re going to do the 2016 Drag Challenge in Victoria, but with a few little differences. The check-in and scrutineering will be at Calder Park the day before we race, and the tracks will be run in the reverse order to last year, with Swan Hill swapped in for Portland which has turned into swamp land with all the recent rain. So itt'll go Calder – Heathcote – Mildura – Swan Hill – Calder.
The top two contenders for the past couple of years have been Quentin Feast and Terry Seng. Unfortunately, Quentin’s Torana is in pieces and won’t be ready to run at the event. Nevertheless, the competition will be tougher than ever this year. Over a third of the field is packing boost or nitrous, and many of them are capable of eights – some are even quicker!
So let’s take a look at a few of the entrants coming to the party!
HOLDEN LH TORANA TWIN-TURBO 427ci
Mark Drew has given his old Crusty Holden LH Torana a bit of an upgrade in recent months. Gone is the tough 434ci naturally aspirated small-block Chev; in its place sits an even tougher twin-turbo 427ci LS combo. With the naturally aspirated engine the barn-find Torana ran 9.7@140mph, but Drewy is looking to punch it deep into the eights, or even possibly high sevens.
The turbos are tucked up under the front guards, giving the engine bay a very clean appearance. We saw plenty of people checking it out at MotorEx and walking away thinking that the car just had a tidy naturally aspirated engine. We reckon this car is going to be one to look out for at Drag Challenge 2016.
HSV VT CLUBSPORT TWIN-TURBO 427ci
After finishing third overall last year, and winning the Outlaw Blown class, Adam Rogash is looking to step things up this year. His twin-turbo Clubsport is currently being converted to run methanol at the track with 16 injectors in the intake, and then they’ll switch to pump 98-octane fuel for the open road.
Based on his experiences from last year, Adam is looking to reduce engine bay temperatures by moving the turbos under the front guards.
“We had dramas with engine bay temps on the long drives last year, like the drive from Mildura to Heathcote,” Adam says. “Also we don’t want to have to pull the headlights out for airflow to the turbos like we did last year.”
HOLDEN LC TORANA TWIN-TURBO 408ci
Adam Styles is a bit of a dark horse. He hasn’t raced a lot over the past 12 months or so, but his twin-turbo Holden LC Torana certainly has the credentials to match it with the best that Drag Challenge has to offer.
The car has run 8.13@172mph in X275 spec with a pair of 62mm GTX35 turbos, but Adam is considering a pair of bigger 68mm turbos for even more grunt.
We’ve been for a ride in this car and can attest to its performance capabilities – it’s a missile in a straight line, but still streetable to make the drive from track to track. Barring any mechanical gremlins, we reckon he’ll be up towards the pointy end of the field on day five.
HSV GTO TWIN-TURBO 434ci
We see plenty of tough machinery built over in West Oz, but other than a few burnout cars most of the coolest stuff seems to stay on the west coast. Well that might be set to change later this year. Eddy Tassone has entered one of his twin-turbo HSV GTOs (a black one, not the yellow one pictured) in the Snowy 1000 at Cooma, and he reckons he might as well do Drag Challenge too.
The stealthy twin-turbo HSV coupe has run 8.71@156mph at Perth Motorplex and sees regular street duties over that side of the country. How it’ll fare doing 1500km on rural Victorian roads remains to be seen, but Eddy has a reputation for building tough streeters, so we reckon he’ll do all right.
HOLDEN HZ KINGSWOOD TURBO 403ci LS
When Jesse Boothroyd sent us photos of his Holden HZ Kingswood, we knew he just had to score an entry for Drag Challenge.
“I’ve been building this car for an event like Drag Week in the US, so when I heard about Drag Challenge I knew I had to enter,” Jesse says.
He bought the old Holden from a mate who found it up near Shepparton. Then they went to town on it, building a tough 403ci engine and mating it with a Powerglide and a sheet-metal nine-inch. Jesse is a boilermaker by trade so he did most of the fab work himself.
It’s got some grunt too. We saw it punch out 850hp to the treads on E85 at MPW recently. The word is that they’re aiming for high eights.
1970 HOLDEN LC TORANA WITH TOYOTA 2JZ TURBO SIX
While the Aussie Attack Holden LC Torana is officially entered under Jake’s name at the moment, he’ll be teaming up with John Whyte and Paul Allen to tackle Drag Challenge this year. The guys had a good crack at Drag Week in the States a few years back, but the car never showed its real potential.
Nowadays the 2JZ-powered Holden is pumping out over 1300hp at the tyres, and Jake reckons the Torana is definitely an outright contender. In the meantime he is still working on a sleeper-spec turbo LS1 VT Commodore, and his son Max has entered his ’84 Corona station wagon, which also sports an LS1 donk – albeit without a turbo.
FORD CAPRI TURBO 376ci LS
We've seen a few tough Capris at Drag Challenge, but those have all been naturally aspirated so far. Elvio Gonzalez’s 376ci LS-powered Ford Capri has an eBay GT42 turbo mounted in the boot and has run 8.57@157mph.
The car has been a solid performer at the track, but we’re not sure how it’ll go with the long trips on the open road. Elvio’s plan is to tow a small enclosed trailer, seeing that he can’t put too much in the boot of the Capri.
He’s also looking for sponsors to help him raise money for charity. They’re still working out the details but basically people will be able to sponsor Elvio per kilometre, with all the money raised going to the Cerebral Palsy Alliance. Nice one!
1932 FORD COUPE WITH BLOWN 392ci HEMI V8
Norm from Aussie Desert Coolers has expressed an interest in doing Drag Challenge for the past couple of years, but work kept getting in the way. Well this year he’s planning to down tools and drag Rod Hadfield along for the ride. The car? Norm’s blown 392 Hemi-powered ’32 coupe.
Now we’re not saying the dynamic duo are contenders for outright honours, but it’s going to be an interesting trip doing 1500km in the tight confines of a chopped hot rod. Rod actually went over to the US last year to check out Drag Week, so he knows what they’re in for.
If there was a trophy for coolest car on Drag Challenge, this would probably win it.
DRAG CHALLENGE: WHEN AND WHERE
MONDAY 24 OCTOBER
Calder Park Raceway, Melbourne
TUESDAY 25 OCTOBER
Heathcote Park Raceway, Heathcote
WEDNESDAY 26 OCTOBER
Sunset Strip, Mildura
THURSDAY 27 OCTOBER
Swan Hill Dragway, Swan Hill
FRIDAY 28 OCTOBER
Calder Park Raceway, Melbourne
TURBOSMART OUTLAW BLOWN
For vehicles that run a radial tyre wider than 275, or slicks of any size, or all-wheel drive, with superchargers, nitrous or turbos, or any combination thereof.
MOTHERS OUTLAW ASPIRATED
For vehicles that run a radial tyre wider than 275, or slicks of any size, or all-wheel drive, with no forced induction at all.
HALTECH RADIAL BLOWN
For vehicles that run a radial tyre 275 or narrower running superchargers, nitrous or turbos, or any combination thereof.
EARLS RADIAL ASPIRATED
For vehicles that run a radial tyre 275 or narrower with no forced induction at all.
TUFF MOUNTS DYO
The DYO (Dial Your Own) class is for entrants who don’t wish to compete in the ‘tyre classes’, and because we will be competing at both eighth-mile and quarter-mile tracks we will have to adjust some times to suit. All eighth-mile times will be multiplied by 1.555 to create a quarter-mile time.