NOTHING beats heading north for a few days in winter to take in some sun and drink beer on balmy evenings. And if you happen to be in Darwin on the right weekend, you can head out to Hidden Valley Raceway for Gazzanats.
This article was first published in the October 2019 issue of Street Machine
I wasn’t the only one escaping the single-digit temperatures, with 16 cars hauled up and over from WA, as well as a truckload of Riverina Thrashers cars from NSW. For most it was the first of a two-phase mission in the NT, with Red CentreNATS being held in Alice Springs just two weeks later.
It’s a massive trek to the Top End, but well worth the effort as Darwin is such a great place to hang out, with a laidback vibe and a multicultural experience like no other in the country. To sweeten the deal for burnout competitors, there were spots in the Summernats and RCN Masters up for grabs. The highly desirable Summernats ticket went to Robert Cottrell in his LS-powered XD Falcon, 4DH8ERS. Considering Cottrell practically tore the corner off the XD at Summernats 32, it was great to see it back and doing so well. In the crash, the shock tower was pushed in and back a considerable amount, so it required a fair bit of massaging to get right, and then a new front corner was welded on. To remind Rob of the history, and to proudly show off the car’s battle scars, the welds were only partly finished off before painting. Thanks to a bunch of help from his dad, the car lives to fight another day. Let’s hope he has a better time in Canberra next year.
The efforts of Andrew Coen and Billy Seton cannot go without mention. Sharing driving duties in the SILYTOY VK Commodore, which was sporting a brand new, untested 6.0-litre combo from Warspeed Industries, the pair smashed eight sets of tyres between them. Even when Coen tapped the wall after a botched tip-in, he backed up and got back into it and put on a killer show. A ratchet strap and a Land Cruiser sorted out the dent, while cable ties sorted out the rest. The repairs held up and Coen went on to take third place while Seton took the win in the Normal class, and they topped it all off with a trophy for Best Engine Bay.
But when it came to stellar performances, nobody came close to Anthony Page, who put on a master class in the Super Skid competition, blazing his tyres way past the timing tower on the main straight: “No one told us where to stop, so I just kept going!” He basically ran out of road before he ran out of tyre smoke, buttoning off after laying almost 500m of rubber down the track. In fact, he had a blowout on his second attempt because there wasn’t enough rubber left on the tyre. A switch to 17-inch tyres – thanks, Jake Myers – ensured the tyres survived the next two super skids and he easily took the win ahead of runner-up Joel Sykes in his LETSGO HK Belmont, who improved each time he went out.
Pagey also schooled everyone on the burnout pad with two killer skids that showcased his aggressive style, but as he’d already qualified for the Masters, the ticket went to Rob Cottrell.
One thing Gazzanats NT is never short of is variety, with everything from 70s-built T-buckets to brand new Porsches lapping the track. The show ’n’ shine had some neat stuff on display, and while some were happy to just park up for the day, quite a few of them hit the track, including the King of Show ’n’ Shine, Mark O’Callaghan. He did a bunch of laps on the track in his Deep Impact Blue ’69 Mustang coupe and showed a clean set of heels to many of the cars in the roll racing.
Another car I was familiar with from last year was Matt Berry’s Toyota Starlet EVIL TWIN. He’s spent a lot of time tuning the motors – yes, motors; there are two of the suckers! – over the past 12 months: “I’ve figured out that if I put more power in the front it pulls the car straight, so the front motor has 300hp and the rear about 270.” It was stupidly quick last year, and a bit squirrelly, but this year it looked like it was on rails and even quicker! It’s destined for a nine-second timeslip for sure.
While the humidity may play havoc with your tune up – or more importantly, your hair – Darwin and the people of the NT are well worth paying a visit. Make a holiday of it and enjoy a part of this big brown land that’s unlike any other. It has a fascinating history, lots of great food and plenty of pubs to check out. Just don’t go in the water, as one of the locals warned me: “We get it drummed into us as kids, everything in it wants to kill you or eat you!”
I spotted Ben Revie’s Opel Monza/VH Commodore hybrid last year but never got a chance to chat to him properly, so I made sure to track him down this year. Some of you may know that Peter Brock slotted a 5.0-litre into a Monza as a bit of a design study for HDT, but the production version never got off the ground. Ben has taken his Monza even further, also slotting in a 5.0 but adding VH Commodore front and rear sheet-metal to make a “what if?” two-door version. With the Group C flares, 17×10 BBS knockoffs and mesh headrest Recaros, it’s the perfect picture of what could have been.
1st: Jack Seaman – HQ One Tonner LOOSEQ
2nd: Rebecca Harris – Nissan Silvia CHNSMNRO
1st: Anthony Page – HZ ute PAGEY
2nd: Joel Sykes – HK Belmont LETSGO
1st: Dave Carpenter – ’68 Camaro 68SS
2nd: Warren Eustace – HQ Kingswood WAZ-308
3rd: Lachlan Bell – Toyota Supra MKIV
4th: Telfer Thorbjornsen – Toyota Supra SPOOLN1
BURNOUTS – FEMALE
1st: Brooke Harris – OFFTAP
2nd: Debs Benedetto – ANDROMEDA
BURNOUTS – BLOWN
1st: Anthony Page – PAGEY
2nd: Robert Cottrell – 4DH8RS
3rd: Frank Paesel – RUB1OUT
BURNOUTS – NORMAL
1st: Billy Seaton – SILYTOY
2nd: Kevin Mantach – ALCOTRAZ
3rd: Andrew Coen – SILYTOY
BURNOUTS – SIX-CYLINDER
1st: Jesse Guy – SLUTLUX
2nd: William Waddell – LOGANBGN
3rd: Bradley Jackson – WHYBSHY
BURNOUTS – BIGGEST TIP-IN
Ben Lugg – COLLATERAL
After a 12-month rebuild, Matt Hughes’s MON5TA is looking great. The once bright green tray back now sports a well body and black and flamed paintjob. Matt also went for an 8/71 with 16psi of boost on a sacrificial bog stock LS1 while he works everything out.
Corey Johnson brought his sedate-looking HJ Kingswood FLYBLOWN up from Perth to smash multiple sets of tyres. Well, sedate until you spot the metal mountain poking out of the bonnet.
This tough little Mazda 1000 truck is owned by Troy Dunning, who is also building the Viper-powered XP beside it. The four-pot has been replaced with an extended bridge port 13B on E85 and there’s a Supra 5-speed and 9in behind it. Tough!
If this T-bucket looks like it rolled right out of the 70s, that’s because it did! Built in 1976 in Illinois, it was exactly what new owner Bundy had been searching for. With the faded “Royal Flush” lettering on top of the cowl, wooden dash and tons of brass, it’s a real survivor.
Brandon White’s RIPA SKID VZ ute has no problems living up to its name.
Jack Seaman somehow managed to win the Go-Whoa in his burnout-focussed one tonner. No rear brakes made the Whoa part of the equation sketchy at times, but the Go segment wasn’t a problem for the blown 400ci SBC. Transmission problems meant he couldn’t compete in the burnout comp.
Even the radio station promo cars are cool up in Darwin.
The final of the roll racing came down to Warren Eustace in his HQ and David Carpenter in his ’68 Camaro. A slight wiggle and loss of traction for WAZ-308 saw the Camaro take the win in a very tight contest.
Ben Moore’s LX Torana was an outstanding performer in the roll racing before losing out to the eventual winner. I was surprised to hear that it was a brand-new build as he seemed to have the car dialled. The Shafiroff Big Dawg 434 was on song all weekend.
Tom Lacey’s HiLux one tonner is a deceptive car in many ways. Subtle body and interior mods combine with a not-so-subtle 355 Holden stroker that makes 570hp at the crank. A 150-shot of nitrous adds some fun.
BIGREV indeed. The screaming Windsor in Kevin Windle’s XE Falcon put on a great show all weekend, including a massive tyre fire in the burnout finals.
All the way from Canberra, Joel Sykes finished second in the Super Skids but a broken brake caliper mount stopped him from driving off the burnout pad in the finals, leaving him in fifth place in the Blown class.
Joe Thring’s DEATHROW is a new car to the scene. He has kept all of the trimmings of the VF HSV, including the full interior, but stuffed the engine bay full of 510 cubes worth of BNR Engines blown goodness. Making around 1500hp, as you can see, it fries them up real good.
Grant Rowe’s neat-as-a-pin TC Cortina has a Blueprint Engines 408ci Windsor crate motor that has seen the car run low-12s, although the 115mph trap speeds tell us there’s a lot more in it if he can find some traction.
When tip-ins go bad. Andrew Coen in SILYTOY didn’t quite get it right and skidded into the wall, but that didn’t stop him finishing his skid, before unbolting the damaged bits and getting back out there for a second skid. Top effort!
Darwin local Chaise Bouchere puts on a great show wherever he goes, but it’s on his home turf where he really shines. In fact, it wouldnt feel like Gazzanats NT without seeing his blown, injected LS1-powered VE kill a set or two.