Junga Bunga’s No Prep Cash Days

At Warwick Dragway during COVID-19, less traction equals even more fun

Photographers: Rick Welch, Dave Reid

Long-time readers may be familiar with my love of Queensland’s Warwick Dragway. I got to know the eighth-mile track when I visited their headline Dragfest event back in 2004, and have returned many times since for the Six-Banger Nats and our own Drag Challenge Weekend. What I dig most about the volunteer-run facility is the vibe. The atmosphere is friendly, the track staff welcoming and there is always an interesting bunch of cars in attendance.

First published in the October 2020 issue of Street Machine

But like just about every drag strip in the country, 2020 has been a challenging one for the Warwick crew. COVID-19 has meant they’ve had to cancel their usual program, including the Six-Bangers, Dragfest and the VW Nationals.

“With the borders shut, we decided not to run those events,” says Warwick Dragway’s Matt ‘Junga’ Loy. “We get a lot of interstate competitors and it just wouldn’t be the same without them. And they are big meetings; Dragfest usually has around 240 entries, and that just won’t work with the COVID restrictions.”

The ever-changing rules around what is permissible make it tough to organise just about anything except test-and-tunes, but Matt has come up with an ingenious plan to keep things on the boil at the track, without needing big numbers or even spectators.

Dubbed Junga Bunga’s No Prep Cash Days, the new series pretty much does what it says on the box. Normally, staff will apply track prep to the startline to help cars gain traction, but at a no-prep meeting, the race surface has no traction aids applied at all.

While there are quite a few no-prep events in the US, the concept has never really taken off in Australia. “We have tried it a couple of times over the past few years,” says Matt. “We learned from that, and it’s starting to take off. A key thing seems to be to keep it to minimal classes.”

One big advantage of no-prep racing in the COVID era is that it reduces the upfront investment for the club, but it also has the bonus of levelling the playing field. “This type of racing is an equaliser,” says Matt. “It isn’t necessarily about who has the most horsepower; it’s about who can get their car down the track.”

The disadvantage of running without traction compound is the added potential for things to go pear-shaped, as we’ve seen numerous times in the US. “Of course racers are always going to be competitive, but we just emphasised that the aim of the day was for everyone to come away unscathed,” Matt says. “Better to pull out of the pass if it gets sketchy than stay in it and wreck your car. We want everyone to walk out happy at the end of the day.”

For the first No Prep Cash Days, Matt ran just two classes: Small Tyre for racers running 275 radials or 10.5 slicks or smaller, and Street Tyre for cars running on hard street rubber. “The 275 radials are really popular,” says Matt. “They fit under a lot of cars without cutting them up, and it’s where all the fast guys want to be.”

The Street Tyre class is something new. At Drag Challenge, hard street rubber is banned because it rips up our expensive track prep, something that isn’t a problem at a no-prep meeting. “The Street Tyre class is great. On one hand, you have folks in their regular muscle cars just coming out for a hit. But we are also getting guys who normally run on drag radials having a go. It is a real challenge, and again, it levels the playing field. We define a street tyre as anything with a tread wear index no lower than 140.”

For this first meeting, only 100 people were allowed on site due to COVID restrictions, so Matt kept the entries to just less than 30 cars per class and ran without spectators. Each racer was allowed two test passes; then racing began. Running on a Pro Tree, the meeting ran elimination-style, with knocked-out racers able to come back out to make grudge passes.

Another wrinkle was the fact that no times were called over the PA; while racers were given timeslips with their own ETs, they weren’t able to see what their opponents ran.

All of that meant that watching the livestream on Overtaking Lane’s YouTube channel was intriguing, seeing how the racers sized up their opponents and came to grips with the conditions.

“Take Mark Green’s HG Premier,” says Matt. “He normally does all the Kenda Radial meetings and runs 6.30s on the eighth-mile. He opted to run in Street Tyre here. He ran high sevens and ended up winning the class. We had some pretty big names deciding to do the same; Scott Cortina [of Gazzard Brothers fame] was out in an HG wagon and Brett Benz [who normally pilots a seven-second VL] was running his RB30-powered EK ute.”

The Small Tyre class was won by Greg Trapnell, a veteran of both Drag Week and Drag Challenge. Greg was out to play in a ’62 Chev powered by a mechanically injected and nitrous-assisted 589-cube big-block. “You wouldn’t have picked Greg as being a contender from his first pass; it was all over the shop!” says Matt. “But they played the game and gradually fed in the power over the day and got a handle on it.”

The meeting was such a success that Junga Bunga’s No Prep Cash Days #2 should be done and won by the time you read this. “The COVID restrictions have relaxed a bit, so we can have 500 people on site,” says Matt. “That means we should be able to have spectators and run more cars. But we’ll still keep it capped to around 80 cars. We’re also having a Big Tyre class, but we’re not expecting big numbers – at least to start with.”

There will be more money up for grabs too – $3500 for Small Tyre, $2000 for Street Tyre and $1250 for the Big Tyre runners.

For Matt, it is all about giving people an opportunity to race and keep things ticking over. “This year is the 20th anniversary of the club. We were really looking forward to celebrating it at Dragfest, but I guess it will be the 21st now,” he says. “We’ve all missed being able to race, and meetings like this help the club pay the bills in the meantime.”


“We knew it would be a challenge out here,” said Jason Seng, who recorded the quickest pass of the day in his LS-powered LJ. “We turned it down at Kenda the week before to try a few different settings and get ready for the ice rink – I’d get more traction out on the highway! But it is lots of fun; I’m just hoping to keep it in my lane and keep it straight”

Ross Costello is a Warwick crew member, but also races this super-tough EH ute that he has owned for 18 years. The beast is powered by a 489-cube, fuel-injected big-block Chev

Mark Green ditched the radials for regular street rubber and ended up taking out the Street Tyre class in his HG Premier. The Prem runs a nitrous-assisted 383 Chev, Powerglide and 9in combo

Luke Kestle’s 7sec HG ute, BUMPIN, usually runs radials, but was on a set of 28×10.5in slicks for Junga Bunga. Power is provided by a small-block Chev and big single-turbo combo

Winner of the Small Tyre class was Greg Trapnell in his ’62 Chev, which packs a 598ci BBC with mechanical injection and up to 370hp of nitrous. Greg faced Ben Vlekken’s Drag Challenge-proven, turbo LS-powered VH wagon in the finals. While the Chev crossed the finish line first, some confusion during staging meant that Trappy opted to split his winnings with Ben

Local engine guru Shane Baker was out to play in his twin-turbo, 352ci factory-block Holden V8-powered Commodore. The VH is on a mission to run sevens, with a best of 8.4@165mph in the bag so far. “I struggled to get down the track at Junga Bunga, but it was a lot of fun and a challenge,” said Shane

Phil Halpin did Drag Challenge Weekend 2019 with ease in his turbo LS-powered WB van. And the van remains a crowd-pleaser, earning Phil the Most Spectacular gong

Daniel Ward got his twin-turbo LS VG Valiant (In the Build, SM, Aug ’20) ready for Junga Bunga just in time. Unfortunately, the Val’s budget Powerglide didn’t survive the meeting, but he’s already upgraded it and stuck it back in the car

Luke Hauser was another radial racer to try his luck in the Street Tyre class. Luke’s Corolla runs a stock-bottom-end VP V6, with a single turbo, E85 and Trimatic. The car has run a 6.00sec best on the eighth-mile, with a 9.50sec pass over the full quarter – both times with a built motor

Organiser Matt Loy’s HQ wagon runs a stock-bottom-end 6.0L L77 with nitrous, backed by a TH400 and driving on a 235 radial. The car’s PB down the quarter is 10.65@123mph, and its best time on a no-prep track is only a tenth slower than on a fully prepped surface

Peter Sauer’s ’73 Mercury Comet GT runs a gassed 366ci Windsor, with a best of 5.96 over the eighth-mile on a prepped track and a 9.0 down the quarter. He wasn’t far off his best at Warwick, running 6.0@118mph on 275 radials

Warwick local Chris Kaarsberg drove all the way to Victoria for Drag Challenge 2019 and finished in the top 10 overall in his twin-turbo LS-powered Torana. While Chris struggled to hook up at Junga Bunga, he is getting close to his first 7sec pass, recording 8.027@175mph at a Willowbank test-and-tune earlier this year

The Spot On Performance crew pose for a photo with Andrew Coles’s ballistic VL Calais, which has an eighth-mile PB of 4.73@152mph to its name. From left: Tony Mounsey, Brent Coles, Dale Stapleton, Andrew Coles, Matt Hazlewood, Tyler Coles and Jon Lansdowne

Ben Vlekken placed seventh overall at Drag Challenge 2018, driving his VH wagon down from Brisbane. He’s since given the car a birthday, adding a 400ci Dart-block LS with Brodix heads and a GTX55 turbo. He’s hoping to improve on his quarter-mile PB of 8.16@158mph, and reckons he just “turned it down a bit” to cope with the conditions at Junga Bunga