Drag Challenge madness: twin-turbo Lambo, Carl Cox Mustang and more

230 of Australia's quickest street cars have turned out at Heathcote Park Raceway in readiness for a week of drag-and-drive action

Photographers: Shaun Tanner, Noah Thorley

Street Machine Drag Challenge 2022/23 is finally on! After three years of delays, we’re stoked to finally welcome 230 entrants to Heathcote Park Raceway for registration and scrutineering. Racing starts at 9am tomorrow, before we pack up and motor to South Coast Raceway in Portland.

Here’s a small taste of what rolled through our sticker zone today. This crop is mostly Holdens, but fans of the Blue Oval and everything else shouldn’t despair; we’ll bring you boatloads of those tomorrow morning!

Race Parts Melbourne boss-man John Ricca had jaws dropping and eyebrows raised with his entry for this year’s Drag Challenge: a twin-turbo Lamborghini Huracan. The Italian sled is the first exotic we’ve ever had entered at DC, and don’t worry – she’s definitely not stock.

Built by Precision Racing in Sydney, the Lambo V10 has been fully renovated with beefy internals to take boost from a pair of turbos. John told us the combo is good for 1500hp at the hubs, and has run eights at Cootamundra Airport.

The cargo pod was a last-minute addition for DC. “We’re carrying 30 extra litres of fuel, so when we did that we realised there was no extra room for my clothes and helmet,” John laughs. “So we measured up the roof and just got one from Autobarn to put our luggage in.” He didn’t give an exact estimate of the pace he plans to extract from the Lambo this week, but single digits shouldn’t be much of a stretch.

World-famous DJ Carl Cox is in the house for Drag Challenge, taking on his first marathon in this Tickford-fettled S550 Mustang. Carl built a sweet small-tyre HG Premier specifically to do DC, but as he puts it, “we blew it up pretty badly” not long ago. ”With that car down, I thought I’d get my first one done in a nicer, newer car to get a feel and experience the event.”

Carl has been wanting to take on DC for a while, and can’t wait to get stuck in. “I’ve always wanted to do it,” he says. “I watched Drag Week in the States, and then when I found out we do one here in our own backyard, I just had to get involved.”

Trent Blainey’s freshly built WALKE VL has to be one of the neatest cars we’ve ever seen fronting up to contest Street Machine Drag Challenge. “We’re pretty well-prepared, which is a good thing. Let’s see what the week brings us!” says Trent. The car ran a PB in testing the day before registration for Drag Challenge, reeling off an 8.2@165mph – promising numbers given the car is still early on in its development.

The MPW-built HSV tribute runs a Dart-blocked LS with twin Precision turbos and the full suite of Haltech engine management goodies, with paint and panel duties taken care of by Trent’s business, Total Workz. “The car works really well and it drives great; I’m really happy to be starting from this kind of benchmark within the first few outings. If I can get an 8.0 out of it this week I’ll be rapt, and anything better than that would be a bonus.”

Drag Challenge debutant Luke Furse and his co-pilot Amanda Percy are keen to experience the event first-hand in Luke’s turbo LS-powered VF SS, VFJET. The car was pieced together and tuned by MPW Performance, and its iron-blocked 403-cuber is boosted by an Aeroflow G42 turbo and backed by a Powerglide trans and Truetrac diff, all riding on custom MCA coil-overs.

It drinks E85, makes around 1300rwhp and has clocked a PB of 9.1sec, but for Drag Challenge, Luke will turn the car down and aim for consistency in the Vibrant Performance DYO class. “The goal is just to finish for now,” Luke says. “The car doesn’t have a ’cage, so I’m going to run it on a lower power setting and try for mid-10s in DYO. I just want to enjoy the event and hang out with all the boys.”

Stephen Hyslop’s UC hatch is LS-swapped with an STA blower and, as of very recently, a 750 Holley blow-through carb. “It had FiTech EFI on it for years, but the other day the computer decided to give up the ghost,” Steve explains. “It didn’t matter what I did, I couldn’t fix it, and because it’s from America I couldn’t get parts, so I just grabbed a 750 Holley, modified it and chucked it on and loaded it on the trailer. We’ll see how we go!”

The UC sees action in a variety of different motorsport events from drag racing to street sprints, hillclimbs and track days, and this is the second time it’s contested Drag Challenge. “When I did the 2018 Drag Challenge, I drove it the whole way down [from the Sunshine Coast] with all my gear packed in the back of the hatch. This time I got a bit old and soft and I trailered it down. I’m hoping for 11s out of it this week.”

Dusty Benson first did Drag Challenge in this VC Commodore in 2016 when it was a basic SBE 6.0-litre alloy block combo with a single turbo, but it’s an entirely different (and much quicker) beast these days. It now runs twin GTX3582 symmetrical turbos and a built engine that still retains the OEM alloy block.

“It makes 1300rwkW on 30psi and has been 7.9 here at Heathcote on the old surface,” Dusty says. “It’s gone 1.17 to the 60 at Sydney, so it’s showing some good numbers. The main objective is to finish the event and try not to hurt it before Saturday; then I’ll get after it if I can. It’ll be hard to hold back on Friday night, but we’ll see!”

David Best of DC Automotive in Tassie has had many a crack at Drag Challenge in his VY SS. The 432ci LS-based combo runs twin 79mm Aeroflow turbos and makes 1700rwhp on 34psi. It’s outfitted with a Powerglide, McDonald Bros four-link rear and Haltech Nexus engine management. “The big goal for the week is to bring the car home in one piece,” laughs David. “The current PB is an 8.54, but since then we’ve gone to methanol, more for safety than to push the car any harder. That being said, a PB would be good!”

Daniel Case will contest the Pacemaker Radial Aspirated class in has staunch all-motor LX Torana, powered by an 8300rpm, 420ci small-block with a Dart block and Dart 23-degree heads. Daniel has competed at Drag Challenge Weekend before in his native Queensland, but 2023 marks his first crack at the full-fat, five-day event. Having run into the fives over the eighth-mile in the past, David has his sights set on mid-nine-second quarter-mile passes this week.

“We were chasing a miss in testing yesterday; the air seems a little different down here, but we’ve made a jetting change and hopefully that does the trick,” David says. “The main aim is just to finish, but if we can average a nine-second quarter or equivalent and finish the event, that’d be great. I don’t care where I finish; it’s just great to race against guys like Al Vella; he’s an inspiration in this class.”

For obvious reasons, a late-model Holden One Tonner makes for a pretty handy DC rig. With a factory-fitted LS, huge cargo area, good load carrying capability and mod-cons like air con, they’re a handy thing for tackling drag-and-drive events. Darren Vartuli’s example runs a 5.7 LS with Higgins heads, a Holley high-rise and a Vortech V2 T-trim blower. “It’s gone 11.2 before, but we’ve put a little bit more boost in it and given it a tickle up since then,” Darren explains. “It’s running just shy of 490kW at the wheels, and we drove it here yesterday from Broken Hill in the rain. We threw it together with left-over bits; it’s a bit of a Frankenstein unit. If it runs anywhere in the 10s, I’ll be pretty stoked.”

Sydney bloke Pete ‘Ducky’ Kelly’s HQ sedan runs a basic LS1 combo, Turbo 350 trans and nine-inch diff. “It’s a home-cooked combo that does the job; a weekend warrior street car,” says Pete.

“I’ve done the event a few times as crew, but this is my first time entering. The car has gone 11.4 at Sydney Dragway, and I’d like to finish first and foremost, but if I can run a mid-11 at every track I’ll be happy. It’s a fairly fresh combo, so if I make it to the end and it’s still healthy I might try and wick it up a bit on the last day. A PB would be an awesome way to finish Drag Challenge!”