Brent Murray has become the first-ever Red CentreNATS entrant to claim a second Grand Champ trophy, edging out the competition by just one point in his stunning 8/71-blown Valiant hardtop-turned-Dart over the weekend in Alice Springs.
It was a super-tight chase with a wide range of cool stuff duking it out for the trophy.
Since we featured the blown stunner back in 2016, Brent has pared the big coupe’s PB down to a 9.2 over the quarter, with more to come! We caught up with him before he hit the road back home to Portland with his wife and co-pilot Tiffany.
Congrats on another win, Brent!
I wasn’t expecting it! I thought I’d just go to make the numbers up, but I did drive the car extremely hard and that’s why I won it. When they said there was only one point between first and second I went ‘oh no, not again,’ because that’s what happened when I lost [the Grand Champ chase] at Summernats. As soon as they read ‘entrant five zero’ I knew it was me! The best thing you can do is go there expecting nothing, and if you come back with something it’s a bonus.
How was the journey up to Alice?
The trip up was good. We just got the motor back in three weeks ago, so it was my first drive in over a year.
What’s the story there?
Last year was the first time we’d been allowed to go back after COVID, so I ran the Heavy Hitters and did most of the meeting with a hole in one cylinder! It was still running 9.3s; all my coolant was going out of the engine and into the exhaust. We did the street parade and it was like a chaff cutter going around, and I had to pull out of Grand Champion so I didn’t kill it.
How’d you do on the dragstrip?
We went out to the drags for the Heavy Hitters again on Saturday, and it was my fault – my ANDRA licence had run out for the nine-second class, so they only let me do one run. I’d filled out the paperwork and the car was teched, I just hadn’t done the medical. I was a bit gutted to be honest, but it was probably a blessing in disguise because the car stayed intact for the Grand Champion stuff on Sunday.
You must’ve done pretty well on the driving side.
I lit the tyres up after a big burnout on the radials. The first pass was very loose so I did a little one on the second pass, and it just hooked and took off. I got 300 metres down the strip and the air cleaner blew off the car! The base, cleaner, lid and nut were all gone and we found the whole lot, would you believe that? Then I was running late as usual for the photo in front of the sign. They could hear us coming! It was like a scene from Running on Empty.
Was it tough throwing the car around on the grass?
I was a little concerned with the motorkhana because it’s got 40-spline axles and a full locker diff. Last time I had a Detroit and it had a little bit more drivability. The first lap I thought ‘gee, it’s moving quite good!’ If you’re not going to go flat-out you won’t win that event – you’ve gotta risk it. At the grass events I took one of the guys from 1320 Video from the States. He was loving it, it was singing!
Sounds like you put on a good show.
Yeah, people were coming to watch the car. When I got second place at Summernats I didn’t do as well in the show hall, but in the driving events I smashed it. She’s a big girl to swing around so it’s a lot of wheelwork!
Do you reckon the Grand Champ competition is getting tougher?
Some years it is. It depends on whether people want to push their cars as hard as they can. I’m at the point where I run my own panel shop, so if something goes wrong I’ll fix it!
I’m hopeful they’ll invite me out West to Motorvation or maybe I’ll go to Summernats again. I’ll do anything in the car. It’s done a 9.2 on the dragstrip, and I know it’s gonna run a 9.0! I’m going up to a 30-inch tyre in the back instead of a 28 because I’m running out of legs in the top end. I’ll be back here next year for sure. It’s the 10th anniversary so I’ll bring back a bit of a set-up with the trophies.