Top Fuel action at Mildura’s Sunset Strip

Nitro-guzzling racers descended upon the rural eighth-mile track for the first time in almost a decade

Photographers: Chris Thorogood

PBs have tumbled on the first day of the Ken Scroop Memorial meet at Sunset strip, including what looks to be a new record for a Top Fuel racer on an eighth-mile track.

The country dragstrip is playing host to a full field of six Top Fuel cars, for the second round of the Australian Top Fuel Championship.

Though it’s not the first time Top Fuel racing has been held in Mildura (the last event was a 2014 exhibition), it marks the first time an Australian championship round will be held over the eighth-mile. Also included in this weekend’s meet are Top Bike, Pro Stock, and Supercharged Outlaws classes, alongside a bevy of more street-oriented racers.

Racing kicked off at 3pm on Saturday, with several cars making their first-event passes in front of a big crowd. Most cars hooked up well on the track surface, putting on some impressive wheelstands.

However, it was a different story for the first round of Top Fuel racing. Beginning at around 7pm, drivers found themselves turning tyres and failing to lay down a successful run in their 10,000hp cars.

The second session proved more fruitful, particularly for Phil Read of Jim Read Racing. He launched the Hydraulink-sponsored racer to an incredible 3.19@247mph — a new track record for Sunset Strip and we think a new record for a fuel car on an eighth-mile track.

Racing will continue in Mildura from 2pm tomorrow, while the Top Fuel Australia championship will continue from 4pm.

On a personal note, this was my first time seeing Top Fuel in the flesh and oh boy, what an experience! If you’ve never had the chance to experience it yourself and you’re within cooee of Mildura, get your rear in gear!

Besides the Top Fuel cars, there were a stack of other cool cars on track, here are a few of our faves:

Murat Gemci is debuting his genuine SL/R 5000 at Mildura. There’s a 408ci LS under the bonnet, paired to a ‘Glide and 9in third member. “I’ve owned the car for nearly nine years now,” Murat says. “So it’s been a long project!” Though it’s only been street tuned to far, he reckons it’s good for six to seven hundred horses. While he’s not yet set a goal ET for the weekend either, he ran a 7.54 on Saturday.

This killer HG ute is about to grace Drag Challenge Weekend with James Sparkes at the wheel. The donk is a 572 Dart Big M unit topped with AFR heads and sipping 98 through Holley injection. Last time it was dyno’d, the combo made 758hp at the hubs, though James says he’s had the ute running quicker since. With some tweaks to the freshly-installed Rod Shop front end, he’ll be ready for the drag-and-drive torture test.

Adelaidean Corey Pocock’s tube-chassis EH van was previously a Murray Anderson-raced, FE ute-bodied racer. “In 2003 I built a tube-chassis EH ute and killed it at Whyalla,” Corey recounts. “I’d bought this FE ute, but I’d always had EHs and this body came along, and it all roughly fitted.” Weighing in at 1120kg with chromework intact, the body is a bolt-off affair. It’s powered by a 406-cube LS, which has sent the can to a 6.0 across the eigth. “When I had the FE body on, it had twin carbs and went 5.80 — so it could probably do that again but I don’t want to do the maintenance!” Corey laughs.

Kieley O’Connell’s HB Torana was saved from a life as a burnout car. Motivation comes from a tough Ford 250 Crossflow, packing roller rockers and fed by a Holley 600 carb. It’s backed by a C4 and 9in diff. Kieley beat her PB on her second run of the day, clocking a 7.39@91mph.

Kym Driesener’s 2JZ-powered 1983 Toyota Soarer was a rare six in a crowd of bent eights. But it’s no slouch, pumping out 980rwhp thanks to a huge GTX35 snail, itself aided by a shot of nitrous. “It’s running relatively low boost,” Kym says. “That’s on about 32psi, when this motor should be able to run at least 50.” Though limited by a small tyre, he set a new PB on Saturday, recording a 6.0@105mph.