Getting hot and steamy in the tropics at the inaugural Northern Nats 2016 in Cairns

Photographers: Simon Davidson

THE second ever Northern Nats is being held this weekend up in far north Queensland at Springmount Raceway just outside Cairns! It’s an awesome event with burnouts, drag racing, power skids, dyno and show and shine all rolled into one killer weekend out in the sun. The burnout comp is always a big draw card for spectators and this year’s lineup of pro skid rigs ready to tear up Springmount won’t disappoint.

 The list includes Sam Surace in MADSAM, last year’s winner Ross Heasley in MRBADQ, Ryan Pearson in HOLDON, Tommy Beltrame in INFERNO, Nik Fraser in his recently revamped Corolla NOTORIOUS (formerly MELTEM) and Andrew Pool in IBLOWN. Gary Myers will also be debuting his new AGROXA burnout car at Northern Nats! The lineup has impressed the Summernats crew so they’ve put up three Red CentreNATS Burnout Masters tickets along with $1000 tow money to Red CentreNATS for the top three entrants!

Check out our yarn from last year’s Northern Nats below, and make sure you enter or go along as a spectator if you’re in the area, it’s an awesome event!

 IT ISN’T always easy being a street machiner up in Far North Queensland – particularly at the moment. The downturn in the mining sector has really knocked around the economy up that way and a lot of folks are doing it tough, leaving little spare cash for automotive fun. The big distances between tracks and the scarcity of events is also a problem, while the attitude of officialdom towards motorsport varies significantly from place to place. Savannah Dragway in Townsville closed in 2012, leaving only Palmyra in Mackay to wave the flag for drag racing in the northern half of the state.

This article was originally published in the July 2016 issue of Street Machine magazine – the second Northern Nats is being held this weekend!

 Happily though, things took a dramatic turn for the better when Springmount Raceway opened earlier this year. Located near the town of Arriga, about an hour south-west of Cairns, Springmount has a top-notch quarter-mile track and a dedicated burnout pad. They’ve had a couple of small meetings to get warmed up, but their first big hit-out was the inaugural Northern Nats in May.

 A town planner by trade, Cairns car nut Evan Yelavich runs the track with his wife, and they partnered with Lee Harvey to create Northern Nats. It was Lee’s first time running a car event, but as the owner of an XR Falcon and eight-second XD ute, he knew how it all should go.

 The three-day event included drag racing, powerskids, a dyno comp, a show ’n’ shine and the big drawcard – a winner-takes-all $20,000 burnout competition. A bunch of the big-name cars from the burnout brigade made their way north, including ATRISK, S1CKO, MRBADQ, ULEGAL, LYNCHY, UCSMOKE, FEAR and Gary Myers in the 2INSANE Mustang.

 Before these guys rocked up, Springmount’s squeaky-clean burnout pad had barely a set of tyre marks across it, which made for a very interesting first round of skids on Friday night. Without any rubber stuck to the surface, the going was pretty slippery. Paul Cook in BLWNVC was one of the first tough blown cars to come out, and pulled off one of the best burnouts I’ve seen from him; it was fast, violent and you felt the exhaust pops smack you on the chest. And as he was one of the first interstaters to hit the pad, the crowd went mental.

 Later Peter Grmusa came out in ATRISK. Bloody hell, this thing never ceases to amaze me. With 2000hp and 700 cubes on board, that XR Falcon looked hard to pedal as it danced across the pad; the front end was bouncing off the ground as Pete tipped it in at great speed. You might’ve seen the video on the Street Machine Facebook page; I’ve seen Grmusa’s car do some weird stuff (airbag suspension handling for the win), but this was definitely up there.

 Later I found out not much went right for Pete over the weekend. “Everything’s stuffed,” he laughed. “The airbags aren’t working properly and the brake lines rattled loose while it was on the truck up here, so when I went out on Saturday I had no brakes! The only thing that’s working properly is the engine.”

 There were some interesting local cars giving it a crack too. One of those was Matt Smith in his V8-powered Morris ute. Even crazier was Chris Grant’s tiny blown big block-powered Goggomobil. I don’t know how they got the engine in it, but even more surprising was that two big blokes still fit inside the cabin! Murray Rowe’s infamous twin-engine Mitsubishi L300 burnout van also made a brief appearance before blowing one of its donks, and of course local hero Brenton Miller was present with his Lexus-powered Chrysler Centura.

 The highlight of the burnouts had to be Andrew Lynch and Steve Loader swapping cars on Saturday night though. “We’ve been thinking about doing it for a couple of years and we just thought, why not do it while we’re up here in Cairns?” Steve said. Neither one wanted to ride shotgun while the other drove their car, so they took turns watching from the sidelines. “I wanted to watch my car; because I’m always in it I never know what it looks like,” Lynchy said. Loader, on the other hand, reckoned he was simply too nervous to ride in UCSMOKE with Lynchy behind the wheel.

 Loader was up first in Lynchy’s Corolla, and grabbed neutral on the tip-in, which made for a clunky start. Soon enough though he was turning it around easy. “It definitely handles a lot better than my car,” Steve said afterwards. Lynchy was ecstatic up in the crowd, cheering on his mate like a madman – right up until the tailshaft snapped out of the diff housing. Oops!

 Then it was Lynchy’s turn in UCSMOKE, his first steer of a blown car. I tell you what, he took to it like a fish to water, throwing the big HT Prem around with the same lunacy he displays in his own car. “I was extremely happy with my skid in Loader’s car, except I broke his auto – but I guess we’re even now!” Lynchy said. “The blown car was pretty cool; I might have to look into a blower set-up for mine!”

 The tough part about the Northern Nats burnout comp was that the winner was decided by totalling the scores of three skids over the weekend, so you had to wreck three sets of tyres and hopefully not break anything to be eligible. A bunch of guys hurt their cars on Saturday and didn’t make it to round three. Warren Gersekowski’s 1TUFHG had a pretty bad engine bay fire that sidelined him, Mick Brasher hurt the engine in ULEGAL, Grmusa in ATRISK had a list of dramas and didn’t skid on Sunday, plus SKIDMA and UCSMOKE (thanks Lynchy) were out.

 Somehow Lynchy was able to fix the tailshaft and diff in his car though, and came out on Sunday. But after smacking the gutter on tip-in and then ending up in the gravel down the exit road, he summed things up succinctly: “Maybe I should have stayed home.”

 At the end of the day it was the on-a-roll Ross Heasley and MRBADQ that took out top place and the $20,000 prize money – and therefore had to shout all the burnout boys a seafood dinner that evening. Nik Fraser in the MELTEM Corolla took home second place and the best tip-in award and was tied on points with Fred Watson in FEAR, Rick Fuller in LSONE and Jake Myers in S1CKO, who got third, fourth and fifth respectively.

 Over at the drags there was a bunch of cool rides running quick times. The track is still new, so it could have been stickier, and the volunteers that ran it were still learning how everything works, but most competitors were just happy to be able to get their cars out of the shed and race.

 Local Cairns racer Nigel Davidson brought along his HT Monaro running a 465-cube small-block Chev. Northern Nats was only his third time racing the car, and he ran a very respectable 9.5@142mph. But the quickest timeslip of the weekend went to Trevor Smedley from Townsville, pulling a 7.33@199mph in his 2200hp, 16/71-blown 540ci big-block Outlaws Camaro. Nothing else came close. How he got the car hooked up on such a green track is beyond me; there were cars with half the horsepower sideways at half-track.

 Geoff Clarke, another Cairns boy, owns the stunning bronze ’71 XY Falcon with a 427 Windsor and 8/71 pump. “I’ve never been to Summernats or Powercruise or any of those events, so it’s fantastic to now have a race track and an event like Northern Nats so I can use the car properly,” he enthused. “It is a street car, but I can’t push it much on the public road.” It was quick too, running a 10.6@130mph.

 Geoff was a big fan of the powerskids, though, and after swapping his drag slicks for steelies his Falcon was almost a match for some of the blown burnout cars that entered the comp. But Gary Myers’s 2INSANE late-model Mustang reigned supreme in the powerskids, easily frying its tyres for the whole quarter-mile and taking home first place.

 Chris Gofton is another ’71 XY owner from Townsville. His rig runs a 351, 8/71 blower and a Big & Ugly injector hat. “This is the first event I’ve taken the car to, and it’s hung together,” he said. “It’s been great to get out and enjoy the car; it’s not a streeter so I haven’t been able to use it much without a race track!”

 The car is more of a drag-strip warrior, but while it was running strong Chris thought he’d try a burnout. The rear brakes were toast by the end of it, which made stopping at the end of the drag strip later on a fun exercise. “I ended up going into the gravel trap a couple of times,” he said. “Lucky I had the ’chute, otherwise I might’ve gone even further!” For his efforts, Chris ended up winning the Car of Show award and $2000, plus Top Engineered and Top Competition Vehicle.

 With the first Northern Nats done and dusted and the new Springmount venue well and truly christened, things are starting to look positive for the FNQ car scene. “We’re very happy with how the first event went,” Lee Harvey said. “Everyone we spoke to loved it; we had 250 entrants and 10,000 spectators. There are a few things we know we can improve on, as it was a new experience for a lot of the volunteers working with us and it was my first time running an event, but it’ll be bigger and better next time ’round.”

 The second Northern Nats is on this weekend at Springmount Raceway just outside Cairns. For more information click here!