Drag Challenge Weekend 2020 Day Three

With scorching weather and a punishing road loop, the Drag Challenge Weekend entrants faced the toughest challenge on the final day at Willowbank


THERE is a very good reason we call our event Drag Challenge and not Drag Easy. More than 600km of challenging road legs during brutally hot Queensland weather made this year’s Drag Challenge Weekend one of the toughest, and that is before we get to the competition between 129 stout street cars.

Day Three was held back at Willowbank, where the hot weather threatened to prevent quick times. But the racers who turned up for the final day dug deep to pull a bunch of swift passes out of their bag of tricks.

From the outset, everyone was chasing Ben Vlekken’s two-tone VH Commodore wagon, with his first pass of the day an arrow-straight 7.90@180mph to lock him in as the king of the 275 pressure-fed crew in Haltech Radial Blown, as well as securing the Overall win for Drag Challenge Weekend 2020. It was the second seven by the turbo-LS VH for the weekend, having pumped out a 7.80@172mph on Day One, along with a 5.18@141mph Warwick on the eighth.

Alon Vella lifted his eighth Drag Challenge class win, dominating Pacemaker Radial Aspirated with a one-and-done 8.85@150mph early on Day Three. The 450ci Ford Capri led home Jesse Davidson’s HG Holden and Tom Hasting’s big-block Ford Customline.

First down the Willowbank quarter was Ben Paganoni, who rocked his Barra Mustang to an 8.92@158mph despite issues with glitter in his engine oil, backed up later by 8.79@163mph, 8.73@163mph and 8.68@162mph, which was enough to seal second place in Speed Pro Six-Cylinder class.

Benny Neal had the Cresta set to kill from the start of the day. Launching in second-gear, he ran 8.40@163mph to win the Speed Pro Six-Cylinder class, as he chased down a podium finish in the Overall stakes. Benny had fixed his overheating issues by running on the taller drag radials on the road loop from Warwick to Willowbank.

Mark Van Der Togt was one of the first to try and run a number, but the big twin-turbo XW blew the tyres off on the hit several times in a row. Eventually he managed to take enough out of the tune to click an 8.80@169mph and then 8.51@170mph, which left him second in both Haltech Radial Blown and Overall.

Trent Brimble’s first run in his turbo LS VL, VILLIN, netted him an 8.46@165mph, which he backed with an 8.41@159mph to lock in third Overall and in Haltech Radial Blown. Other fast runners in the class included Jamie Swift, whose NOGILT VH Commodore knocked out an arrow-straight 8.72@164mph, while Rob Armstrong ran 8.69@163mph in the EZI09S Camaro and Shane Baker’s turbo plastic-powered VH Commodore posted 8.95@160mph.

Rahim Tarr took out Turbosmart Outlaw Aspirated after a horror Friday. His 9.73@136mph was solid in the big-tyre NA class, but his bonnet flew up while leaving Willowbank, smashing his windscreen. By 10pm he had a new screen in the 434ci XD Falcon and started on his road loop, before staying the night in Jimboomba.

That left a monster 450km loop to complete on Day Two as he finished the drive to Warwick, where he ran 6.37@108mph, before driving all the way back to Ipswich for Sunday. A 9.74@136mph was enough to give him the class win over Steve Micallef’s Tonner, the only other finisher in Turbosmart Outlaw Aspirated.

There was a battle between Supra-driving mates as Scott Hoffman’s turbo 1UZ V8 Supra went 9.29@150mph with more boost left in his tank, but Billy Yarwood shut down their Mk4 stoush when he went 8.89@157mph in his 2JZ-powered example. As neither car had rollcages or tech inspections, they had to sit the rest of the afternoon out.

Chris Ethell’s 2JZ-powered VL (9.58@145mph) and Benny Wilkinson’s Integra (9.82@145mph) were also booted, as they aren’t tech-approved to run quicker than 10.0 on the IHRA-sanctioned track.

One of the wildest cars in the whole field, Reion Sammons’s blown 598ci fat-block HQ put on a huge show, and his 9.05@159mph left him way out in front of Turbosmart Outlaw Blown. The Townsville local did it the hard way, swapping the blower and injection hat off the Quey for each road leg.

Tuff Mounts 235 Aspirated was taken out by Brodie Olsen’s awesome plastic-powered LX Torana hatchback, one of the neatest, most well-presented cars in the whole field. While he’d run 9.75@141mph on Friday, Day Three’s heat saw him with a best of 10.21@139mph, though it was enough to finish ahead of Kevin Brown’s Commodore.

Tuff Mounts 235 Blown was a battle between Juan Kundig in the triple-charged HT Holden sedan and Jason Ross’s turbo-LS UC Torana. Juan had run an 8.63@159mph on Day One, but he struggled on Day Three to finish with a 9.36@137mph. Jason had the last pass of the day, running a 9.22@154mph to take the win in the little-tyre forced-induction class.

In Carnage Dial Your Own, the action was tighter than a supermodel’s undies, with Mitchell Jannusch in the XD panel van coming home 0.00400 off his dial-in time, leading home Simon Stockton’s fifth-generation Toyota Supra and Wade Moran’s Mustang.

As the sun set and the trophies were handed out to the winners, many said this was the toughest Drag Challenge event they’d done – and that they’d be back for whatever Street Machine, Mother Nature and the racing gods could throw at them! See you in 2021, when Drag Challenge will return.