Drag Challenge 2018 – Day Five report & gallery

Australia’s toughest street-car test wraps up for 2018 at Calder Park

Photographers: Nathan Jacobs, Michelle Porobic

AFTER four hard days of racing and around 1500km of road driving, Street Machine Drag Challenge 2018 finished up at Calder Park yesterday, and the battle for the Outright win went right down to the wire. Here’s how it all went down, class by class.


FRANK Marchese led the Haltech Radial Blown class as the Drag Challenge convoy headed back to Melbourne, having snared the overall lead late on Day Four with the quickest and fastest pass we’ve ever had: 7.36@192mph. Behind him, the LS Commodores of Adam Rogash and Lorenzo Gullotto were duking it out, too.

Calder would once again be a 1000ft run, but that didn’t stop everyone turning their cars to kill-death mode and sending it.

Adam RogashAfter leaving Swan Hill, a cracked converter halted Adam Rogash’s progress. He got it changed and fronted at Calder to run a 6.51@166mph, finishing third in class and fourth Outright, having run eight seven-second passes over the week.

Just 0.141sec ahead of Adam was Lorenzo Gullotto’s VL Calais from WA. Coming home strong in the second half of the week, Lorenzo ran 6.47@167mph on Friday to place second in class and third Outright.

holden kingswoodMatt Lampard’s LUMPER had a killer week, ending it with a 7.10@152mph. It saw him finish sixth overall and fourth in class.

But the man of the hour was Frank Marchese. His FAIRXW Fairmont is an amazing piece of engineering and ran a 6.36@171mph at Calder to take out the Haltech Radial Blown class, as well as the overall win for Drag Challenge 2018. In addition to this, the Dandy Engines guru now owns the record for quickest ET and highest mile-per-hour we’ve ever seen at Drag Challenge, and also took home gongs for Quickest Ford, and Quickest and Fastest passes.


HAVING lost more than half the Turbosmart Outlaw Blown class through mechanical attrition, the eight survivors arrived at Calder Park following a marathon 400km leg through the Victorian countryside. But they were ready to send it on the 1000ft Calder track.

Holden Commodore BT1John Ricca’s RB30-powered VL BT1 was the first six-pot to run a seven at Drag Challenge, with a 7.91@171mph on Thursday at Swan Hill. For Friday he was planning on pushing 60psi boost through the 3.2-litre DOHC-headed RB, and ran 6.64@158mph in the 1000ft, finishing second in class, fifth Outright, and winning Quickest Six.

Jake Edwards managed to get his famous Torana to Calder after blowing one header apart at Swan Hill on Day Four. A 7.71@136mph snared him the Quickest Holden trophy.

Marcus Howe’s nitrous 434ci XW took home the Quickest Without Trailer trophy after stopping the clocks at 8.40@99mph on Day Five.

The twin-turbo 411ci XY Falcon of Alex Moshopoulos freight-trained a 6.77@155mph over 1000ft, finishing the week in 10th Outright. The super-tidy sedan ran hard all week and looked amazing doing it!

Harry Haig was one of the first in line at Calder Park on Friday, ready to let the big HQ bark. Only 0.02sec behind Frank Marchese for the Outright win coming into Day Five, Harry’s best time on Calder’s 1000ft surface of 6.49@171mph wasn’t quite enough to get past Frank, though he still took out Turbosmart Outlaw Blown and Quickest Chev. Ever-ready with a sharp quote, on Thursday afternoon Harry had said: “My main goal for this week is to drive through the gates at Calder. After that, I don’t really care!” Mission accomplished, and then some!


ALON Vella had an unassailable lead in Pacemaker Radial Aspirated going into the fifth and final day of Drag Challenge at Calder Park, but a lot was still to be decided, with just 0.141sec separating second to fourth position. And unlike the blown cars, the aspirated classes had the privilege of running the full quarter-mile at Calder for the final day of competition.

Ford CapriVella was never challenged on his way to a fifth consecutive Drag Challenge Radial Aspirated class win, handing in a best of 8.74@152mph on Day Five to win the class by a whopping 5.23sec and finishing 11th Outright for the week.

Prior to the commencement of Day Five racing, Dylan McGavigan in the Ford Cortina was barred from competing until his car’s safety measures were upgraded, leaving second place wide open for Peter Haravitisidis in the 440ci XY Falcon. He ran a 9.81@138mph to take home the Radial Aspirated runner-up trophy in his first crack at DC.

Ford CapriThe third place cherries went to Nathan Ghosn, a DC veteran who battled head gasket issues all week yet still managed to finish on the podium. He had a good night at Calder; a 9.80@137mph was a solid effort by the boys.

Donnie Zurcas continued his strong run of PBs to finish off the week, his EK Holden breaking into the nines with a 9.99@134mph to finish sixth in class.

Michael Ryder was the final withdrawal from the class for the week, failing to make it to Calder for Day Five. This gifted tenth spot to Bill Ewing in the Ford Mustang, who punched out 11.38@118mph on the final day to round out the Top 10. Only four of the 23 cars in Pacemaker Radial Aspirated withdrew from the event by week’s end, an incredible effort from the all-motor crew.


THE seven remaining Tuff Mounts Outlaw Aspirated entrants stayed strong until the end, all rolling into Calder to complete Drag Challenge 2018.

Daniel Cassar managed to hold Mark ‘Bushy’ Busscher off for the class win, but it was a good battle between the two heavy-hitting matte-black cars. Daniel held off the wheelspin in his light-bodied ’32 Ford three-window coupe to cut a 9.91@130mph on Friday to bring his cumulative ET to 46.016.

Bushy knew there was more in his HQ Tonner, having run a PB months before Drag Challenge. While he kept hitting the track in a bid to repeat the 9.73, he eventually had to be satisfied with a [email protected] and a total of 46.355sec to take runner-up position.

Dave Rogers in his 584-cube HK Monaro was looking stronger as the week progressed, and after a bad start to the day he eventually took out the quickest time of the class on Day Five with a 9.62@143mph, for a week total of 48.292, bringing him up to third in class.

Dodge ChallengerThis relegated Jon Mitchell to fourth after he ran a conservative 10.61@125mph in a bid to see the Challenger not lean out at the top end, leaving him with a total of 49.235sec for the week.


AFTER a five-day battle, and with split times measured in the thousandths of a second, Darren Parker took out K&N Dial Your Own at Drag Challenge 2018. His Commodore SS Redline Sportwagon has a cam, ported heads and a tune loaded onto its LS, plus a set of diff gears and, for Drag Challenge, some sticky treads.

But as success in DYO depends on the consistency of the car and driver rather than low ETs, it was Darren’s effort to keep his daily driver within a tight ET range (around the 11.7sec mark) that got him the trophy.

Second place was Paul Topping in a supercharged VF HSV ClubSport, with a well-deserved third to Steve Nightingale in his big-inch, bright orange XA Falcon.

But these three weren’t the only ones having a red-hot go.

Daniel Grima in his LS-powered ’55 Chev was keen to make up for not quite winning last year (rain on the last day robbed him of the one last run he needed to win), so he was running plenty of passes to try and hit his target, finishing up 10th in class.

For most of the week, Alysha Teale was usually confident enough to hand in her ‘good’ timecard early in the day before having some simple fast fun in her black 383-powered HQ, but couldn’t quite get in the zone on Day Four. Still, a better showing on Day Five saw her finish the week ninth in class.

Steve Grima was doing plenty to make sure his LS-powered VK Calais was on the mark, too, and finished fourth.