Real Life No Excuses 2020 at Ballarat – gallery

No Excuses #2 brought heads-up radial racing back to the Ballarat airstrip

Photographers: Chris Thorogood

AFTER the success of the inaugural World Advertising No Excuses event back in December 2018, organiser Paul Sera and the Radial Life team knew they were onto a good thing and returned with No Excuses #2 in 2020. Thankfully the gloomy Victorian weather decided to give it a rest for a day and provided blue skies, sunshine and comfortable temperatures. The Ballarat Drag Racing Club blocked off one of the Ballarat Airport runways to the noisy metal birds that call the area home and the racing was on!

No Excuses is a radial tyre-only event with four classes (235, 275, 325 and AWD) and extra prizes awarded for various performances like the obligatory Best Burnout. As the title implies, No Excuses doesn’t involve winning with dial-ins or best average times – when the light goes green, the first car to reach the other end of the 1/8th-mile track wins. There were 69 entrants in all sorts of crazy-fast machines ranging from 60s muscle to VF clubbies, with a significant number of Supras and Skylines lining up to stick it up the V8s.

Even with its difficult surface, Paul loves the Ballarat Airport track. “The best part about Ballarat is it’s about who can deliver their power the best, not necessarily who has the most power,” he said. “You have to drive smart.”

Unfortunately, not everything went to plan, with the timing gear suffering an altercation with a car during the middle of the competition, but the team found a way around it. “We had officials at the finish line and we had some races that were so close the drivers couldn’t even tell who won,” said Paul.

With 1000 spectators through the gates and a fantastic grassroots atmosphere, No Excuses #2 was a great day’s racing for all involved and so successful that planning for #3 is already underway. Make sure you check it out!

Tuners Edge 235: Ben Polson – VZ Clubsport (above)
Refined Car Detailing 275: Matt Brame – LH Torana
Pro-Fab Racing 325: Kai McPhee – VC Commodore
Radial Life AWD: Jason Ruby – S13 Silva

Fastest Ford: Rob Adamo – Bronco (above)
Fastest Holden: Kai McPhee – VC Commodore
Fastest V8: Ali Sead – LC Torana
Fastest Six: Lance Warren – R35 GT-R
Fastest NA: Dom Zito – LJ Torana
Best Burnout: Ertan Özer – RB32 VL Turbo
Promotor’s Choice: Leon Rosario – RX-3 Coupe


1. Peter Dabelic’s tidy EL Fairmont might not look too quick, but with 455kW at the tyres, it’s a mean street car. There’s nothing E-series about the running gear, with a boosted Barra up the front end, a built ZF auto for picking gears, and an AU diff under the bum. It’s also had turning and stopping upgrades, with the EL front end swapped out in favour of BA K-frame, suspension and brakes. “I take it to hillclimbs and roll racing and cruise it on weekends,” said Peter.

2. Kevin O’Neill’s ’56 FE Holden stood out like a sore thumb among the considerably younger cars at No Excuses #2, but it more than made up for its age with some serious speed. “I’ve had it for 30 years,” said Kev. “It used to be a family cruiser but the family grew up and won’t come cruising with me anymore, so I thought I’d make it a bit angry and race it.” Supplying the speed is a 400-cube Dart-block Chev making around 630hp with a TH350 and a 9in, and there are Wilwoods on the HR front end to wash it off with haste. Kevin, who uses the Holden for nostalgia racing and has taken it on Drag Challenge twice, made it all the way to final in the 235 class.

3. There were more than a few Drag Challenge cars at No Excuses #2, including Dusty Benson’s eight-second VC Commodore. “We’ve never been here before, so it’s a bit of a learning curve,” said Dusty, “All we’ve done since DC last year is change the diff gears to 3.5s for the eighth-mile.” The unassuming VC packs an aluminium 6.0L assisted by a pair of baby turbos.

4. Jamie Knight’s HZ Premier is a genuine street car, with 3.2:1 gears in the 9in for easy cruising and boosted LS2 for bruising.

The engine is practically stock, with nothing but a healthy cam, a 75mm VS Racing snail and a diet of corn juice to turn it into a low 10-second powerhouse. “I blew it with a red light in the first round, but we had a great day,” said Jamie.

5. Rob Marinelli had two of his cars at No Excuses #2 – while Rob steered the blown Cortina, he threw Steve Koukouletas the keys to the nitrous-snorting 11-second XP. Rob picked up the XP from the auctions a few years ago and has swapped out the six-cylinder for a Competition Engines-built 347 Windsor with air con for comfortable cruising and a 150 shot for extra fun at the track.

“I’ve only owned the Cortina for three months,” he said. “It was a burnout car from Queensland. Steve spent a month fixing everything, like the brakes and the blower drive and I rubbed it back and sprayed it.” Under the bonnet is a 302 Windsor with a B&M blower, backed by a manualised C4 and 9in.

6. Corey Vanderlei’s eye-popping LX hatch was featured in SM September 2017 when it was owned by Jodie Guilfoyle, but it’s had a few changes since then. The 406ci small-block has made way for a 427-cube LS wearing a 2.9L ’charger for extra breathing ability. Backing the LS is a built ’Glide and a 9in supporting more than enough tyre to qualify for the 325 class. “It’s pretty crazy out here,” said Corey, “I’m just on and off the throttle, it won’t hook up. I was thinking of changing to the bigger pulley, but it’s called No Excuses so I’ll just have to send it!”

7. Yani Rustemi’s XE looks a bit rough on the outside, but behind the stone chips is a driveline that’s propelled it into the nines at Calder.

The Barra is a stock G6E Turbo engine with head studs and valve springs for reliability and big high-mount snail for power, with a Turbo 400 sending twist to a four-pinion BorgWarner diff. “It was supposed to be a budget build, but the budget’s long gone!” quipped Yani.

8. Mark Attard’s Torana caught everyone’s eye, with its retina-cooking paint job and deafening roar. Ali Sead built the monster 565-cube big-block Chev under the bonnet and was nominated to operate the tiller at No Excuses #2, going quick enough to earn the gong for Fastest V8.

If the giant capacity wasn’t already enough, the donk can suck down 700hp worth of laughing gas as well. “It’s probably not the right car for this track,” said Mark, “but it should do low eights on the quarter without the nitrous.”

9. Although Fox-bodies are commonplace in the States, seeing one at Ballarat Airport was pretty different. Tommy Pronobis bought his 1993 example from a mate as an unfinished project and has stuffed it with an SVO-based 330ci Windsor and a couple of Aeroflow turbos.

With 40psi shoved down its gullet, the little Windsor pumped out 1300hp at the hubs, though Tommy had it running a more conservative tune for the slippery Ballarat track. “It went 140mph when we took it to Portland for licensing on 26psi, so hopefully once we turn it up it’ll run sevens,” said Tommy.

10. There was not one but two turbo Territories running in the AWD class, with Stathi Kavadias of Independent Motorsports steering the maroon monster and Joe Camilleri piloting his Ego grey weapon. Stathi had just finished a rebuild before the event, with a new billet crank and cams and some driveline upgrades, including an RVO Automatics-built ZF.

With 1090hp at all four tyres and a race weight of more than 2.2 tonnes, Stathi’s Territory has previously run a best of 9.45 on the quarter. Joe’s is a very similar set-up only with a larger turbo and more power, but both Aussie AWDs were knocked out of the competition by Lance Warren’s stonking R35 GT-R.

11. Peter Vouyoukas had previously run 10.1 in his mean LSA-powered VF before it grenaded, prompting him to upgrade to something a bit beefier. The mill is now a Dart-based 427-cuber, and the whine was swapped out for an 88mm whistle on KillaBoost plumbing.

Running on corn syrup and tuned by Allsparks, the combo makes 1034hp through a full exhaust, standard auto and standard diff. “I won’t be going back to the blower,” says Peter, “The top end with the turbo makes it all worth it.”

12. Alex Stamatopoulos’s XW stood out among the boosted late-model cars with its polycarbonate scoop and the fierce naturally-aspirated rumble. The driveline consists of a 749hp 434-cube Clevor with a Powerglide, QA1 carbon-fibre tailshaft and a sheet-metal 9in filled with Strange goodies. There are still cart springs holding up the bum, though they’re split mono-leaves controlled by nine-way shocks and a 36mm bar. In street trim, the XW has broken the nine-second barrier at Calder to the tune of 9.98@135mph.

13. Troy Seguna and his dad Michael threw this R31 wagon together with a basic RB30 and a GT42 from a truck and managed to run a 9.60@146mph before 43psi of boost lifted the head. The head copped a port job from Horsepower Junkie and the turbo got binned in favour of a new Aeroflow one. With 637rwkW pushing through a ’Glide and a built BorgWarner diff, the guys are looking for eight-second time slips. “We’re not really hard-core drag racers,” Troy laughed.

14. Kai McPhee has had a lot of success in his VC Commodore in the last six months. He finished fourth overall at Drag Challenge, won the 325 class at No Excuses and ran a new PB of 7.867-seconds at 180mph at the Sydney Jamboree. The 5.3-litre iron block-based engine is out to 359ci, runs Higgins-ported cathedral heads and a big single. The car has imput from some of the best and brightest in the scene, including Mark Drew, Shane Marshall , Jeff Johnson and Tim Bailey.