Turbos are the norm for the big power players at Drag Challenge, but there’s plenty of angry aspirated machines taking it to them in our hotly contested aspirated classes.
Tony Di Biagio of TDR Engines is one of those, returning to Drag Challenge for a second time in his 1971 XY Fairmont in our Pacemaker Headers Radial Aspirated ranks. The XY will be running the same 905hp Clevor V8 Tony built for it some time ago, and with a few more aces up his sleeve he’s gunning for low nines this time around.
“We’ve got a new converter in it to help with the 60-foot, and we’ve bumped the compression up a bit as well,” Tony told us. The XY ran a best of 9.98 @135mph at DC earlier this year, and the XY has gone as fast as a 9.7 with the old converter.
“With those tweaks I’ll be hoping to run low nines at the event this year, and then my goal after the event is to get it in the eights aspirated,” says Tony.
We did a full run down on the Dart 451ci Clevor in great detail in a separate story, which you can read right here. If you’re too lazy for that, here’s the basic cliff notes: a Dart Windsor block, Callies crank and rods, CP pistons, solid roller stick and Higgins heads. It makes 905hp in race spec on 109 VP race drum goodness, and 860hp on pump 98 for street duties with Holley-controlled injection.
He did have plans to run a heavy amount of gas on that engine when we first featured it, but reckons now he’ll save that for another package. “I’ll keep this one aspo, and then likely build another engine with better pistons to suit gas and go for it after we get that eight aspirated,” he says.
Tony not only finished Drag Challenge 2022/23 back in February, but did so with a fourth in class in a ripping opening encounter. “It was a good week, other than a few broken rockers we didn’t have many dramas, and it was good fun so we’re back again this year,” he says.
The most recent Pacemaker Radial Aspirated class winner Keith Hards has opted to put his eight-second 1968 Camaro on ice for the upcoming October DC, instead choosing to pilot Frank Marchese’s old 2018 Drag Challenge-winning FAIRXW in Haltech Radial Blown.
That means that if Tony can get his XY down into the low nines territory, he’ll likely be the next contender at the top of the tree with eight-time Radial Aspo champ Alon Vella, who is back again to re-take the title this year. “Al really knows what he’s doing, so we won’t be beating him!” laughs Tony. “But with Jarrod (Wood) out, I’m hopeful we could maybe grab second spot in class if it all goes well, which’d be a good result for us.”
The XY has been in Tony’s possession for around four years now, and was already a bit of a rocket when he got it. “It had a 393 in it when I purchased it, and that went 10.8 straight away,” says Tony. He kept that package for a little while, until it made its way into a friends XA so Tony could beef up the Fairmont.
“Once we sold the driveline we mini tubbed the car, fitted the nine-inch, put the cage in and did a bunch of chassis strengthening to get ready for the new engine,” says Tony.
Despite what you may think the XY sees its fair share of street duties, a common practice for Geelong locals like Tony. “I get it out most weekends, it’s built to be used and that’s what it’s for, there’s no point being precious about it,” he says.
We wish him all the best in testing, and can’t wait to see the XY in action on October 10 at Tailem Bend.