If you ever need a reminder of just how vast our country is, consider that Alice Springs is a full 1500 kays from any capital city. Bringing a top-notch street machine, rat rod or racer through the arid centre of Australia is no small feat, so to have north of 800 entrants taking on the ninth instalment of Red CentreNATS is kind of a big deal – not to mention nigh on 15,000 punters streaming through the gates!
This year’s Grand Champion chase was a doozy, with 14 cars in contention, ranging from a blown two-door VE to a T-bucket and even an Isuzu Bellett! To win, entrants must score well not just in the show judging, but also in the People’s Choice vote and the drag racing, motorkhana and grass driving competitions.
Among the front-runners were Paul Tinning’s insane-but-legal, twin-turbo Viper V10-powered XP Falcon, Lee Povey’s seven-second VL Calais, Judith Menso’s uber-sweet LX Torana hatch, and the Dodge Dart of RCN 5 Grand Champ Brent Murray.
Renowned show judge Owen Webb’s money was on Lee’s Calais, but while Lee dominated the drag component, he wasn’t able to pull together the runs needed in the motorkhana or grass driving events to take the cheese.
Instead, Brent Murray from Portland in Victoria pipped the field in his Dodge Dart clone (SM, Mar ’16). Brent and the Dodge have form in Alice Springs, having won the title in 2019.
“Brent took it out [this year] by just one point over Dilan Saitz in the T-bucket,” said Owen. “The funny thing there is, Dilan’s dad Radek has been giving Grand Champion a nudge for a while now, but his son came out and blitzed him first go.”
Judith Menso in her Holden-powered and Whipple-blown LX Torana hatch (SM, Sep ’21) was right behind Dilan in third place.
“What I love about this event is the spirit the entrants bring to it,” said Owen. “They really embrace it, and there is nothing but positive vibes.”
Of course, it’s not a ’Nats show without a heap of fun on the burnout pad, and many of the biggest names in the sport duked it out for two Street Machine Summernats 36 Burnout Masters tickets, fresh from a tilt at Gazzanats in Darwin.
Kyle Douglas in the monstrous LUXIFER HiLux wound up on top of the Pro class, followed closely by Andrew Lynch in the LYNCHY Corolla and Jake Myers’s S1CKO Mustang, while Pete Thomsen in his XD Falcon bagged the Open-class win from Aiden Leist’s VK and Dylan Rowley’s VS ute.
Proper quarter-mile drag racing is another special part of the weekend, this year featuring four time brackets alongside a bike class. Lee Povey took out the 8.00-8.99 category in his VL, followed closely by Luke Rosadi in his twin-turbo VE Maloo. Dennis Baylis was quicker again, winning the 7.00-7.99 prize in his blown altered dragster.
Red CentreNATS has always been such a dynamic, multi-faceted event, but for 2023, organisers added yet another highlight to the program, inspired by the success of the Fringe Festival at Street Machine Summernats.
“For years, the Aces & Eights Car Club, who are awesome supporters of Red CentreNATS, have organised a cruise on the Thursday evening of the event,” said Adrian Hodgson from Out There Productions. “This year we made it an official part of the program, staging a Fringe Festival at the Todd Mall. It was killer!” A couple of hundred entrants turned up, parked their rides and enjoyed the atmosphere, with music, food trucks and rides for the kids, and local pubs and eateries packed to the rafters.
The Motorvation Supercruise at Alice Springs Inland Dragway was yet another new addition to the RCN program this year, borrowing from the popular feature of its namesake West Australian event. It sees entrants powerskid the drag strip, then stop and light the tyres up on the burnout pad on the way back to the pits, borrowing from the popular feature of its namesake West Australian event. It sees entrants powerskid the drag strip, then stop and light the tyres up on the burnout pad on the way back to the pits.
“Entrant numbers were 834 for 2023, which in this economic climate is a pretty exceptional result,” said Adrian. “Next year is the 10th anniversary of Red CentreNATS, and we’re looking to expand the Fringe Festival, the Supercruise and the overall scale and footprint of the event. The 2024 event has only just gone on sale, and 200 entrant passes went in the first day! A lot of our entrants have done all nine events so far, and they’re excited for number 10. It might just be the first time we see Red CentreNATS entries sell out!”
RCN’s street parade is picturesque and super-varied, snaking through the city and surrounds at dusk. Everything from tidy restos to methanol-sipping burnout cars get a run!
Matt Berntsen came all the way from Perth with his Top Ratter-winning 1931 Model A. There’s 800hp of 6/71-blown fat-block Chev living in front of the 6in chopped and channelled body, paired to a TJ400 and 9in. Matt coordinated the driveline himself. “It’s just an entertaining car; people love it,” he laughed.
Inspired by the epic Summernats version, the Fringe Festival is a new part of RCN for the Thursday night. It allows rad cars to park up and mingle with visitors in a relaxed atmosphere, with food, drinks and tunes aplenty. Neil Ingram’s 1966 Isuzu Bellett was an enthusiastic participant in just about every aspect of the event, including the Grand Champion chase! He came away with one of two Spirt of the Event awards.
The Motorvation Supercruise was another debut attraction that proved to be heaps of fun. Drivers powerskidded the whole drag strip before running amok on the burnout pad, WA style.
Jarred Fiorenza’s blown 250 crossflow-powered XL Falcon ute was red-hot on the pad after a successful Gazzanats. “In the past couple of weeks, it’s ruined nine sets of tyres and roughly 280L of methanol over these two events, and it drove back on the trailer,” he enthused.
Wayne Casey was uber-consistent across the driving events, finishing second in every category to earn overall Drivers’ Champion in his Mazda MX-5. The South Australian has been twirling wheels in motorsport for the better part of 20 years.
Brendan Wright’s XM coupe left a big impression on punters and judges alike, coming away with a Top 10 Street placing and People’s Choice. And he gave it a good thrashing in the Motorvation event on Sunday morning.
The covers came off George Anthony’s mean ’69 Mustang Mach 1 back at MotorEx 2022. The 428-cube/four-speed car earned Top Paint and a Top 10 Elite finish at RCN 2023 thanks in part to paint by Trevor Davis Auto Refinishers and custom work by Maskell’s Customs & Classics.
Lincoln Stevens’s rad BMW E30 has been popping up all over Australia since being unveiled last year, from Rockynats to MotorEx and now Alice Springs! The Townsville fella’s three-pedal, twin-cam hottie came away with Top Interior and Top 10 Elite awards this time.
Peter Thomsen’s screaming XD is a retro-style powerhouse with its 80s graphics and 289 Windsor mill. Two precise efforts using every inch of the pad got him the Open-class win in the burnouts.
If only GM-H had nutted up and built a VE Commodore coupe! Brendan Findlay’s 800hp, 427-powered car hides a Maloo chassis and debuted back at MotorEx 2011. Brendan brought the VE to RCN 1, and was back for a shot at Grand Champion this year, earning Top Bodywork in the Street category along the way.
Seeing the S1CKO Mustang in its GM176-era gear never gets old! Jake Myers had a good crack in the SMOTY ’23 finalist, coming away with third in the Pro burnout stakes.
Driving 4500km in a windowless T-bucket is Sammy Cooper’s idea of fun! At least he had a roof this time, unlike his last mission to RCN in 2022. The 253 ’slapper-powered rod gets 150km to a tank with its matching spare-parts trailer in tow, and cruises at 2500rpm on the freeway.
America’s 1320Video crew hopped in Kyle Douglas’s LUXIFER for a white-knuckle passenger run. Kyle had already earned a Burnout Masters ticket from Northern Nats, so the Pro class win was icing on the cake!
Jono Kelly did it all in his NASCAR-powered 3FIVE5 VK Calais, smashing sets in the Pro burnout class and also finding time for a lash at the drags, for a best of 10.89@130mph.
Flared Group C goodness and turbo Barra stonk make Stu Cameron’s XD one tough customer. It’s a regular on the RCN cruise route.
Steve Robson’s SPOTTO57 Chev snapped an axle during a Macca’s run on Friday. With some rapid help from some local businesses, the car was back together in time for the Pro-class burnouts and even reached the finals!
“I went left when I should’ve gone right,” laughed Matt Watts of his burnout pad stack in his BLO202 Corolla. Local legend Axle Greening came to the rescue with a spare guard, enabling Wattsy to win the Best of the Rest trophy in style.
Paul Rockes’s unsuspecting EK van is rocking a turbo Barra transplant, and made the near-5000km round trip to Alice from his home in central Victoria. With the car recently completed, Paul was beyond stoked to be asked to take part in the Grand Champion running, and took home trophies for Top Retrotech – Street and Street Top 10.
Geoff Houlden’s FX made the mammoth road trip to Alice from Victoria with good mate Paul Rockes. The humpy runs an unusual combo of a Holden 202 bottom end with a Ford 3.9 SOHC EA Falcon head and triple SUs, backed by an Aussie four-speed and Centura diff. The FX is mainly built for corner-hunting at the track, but it did the road trip with ease.
Red CentreNATS 5 Grand Champion Brent Murray became the first-ever entrant to claim a second GC trophy, edging out the competition by just one point in his stunning 8/71-blown Valiant hardtop-turned-Dart. Since we featured it back in 2016, the Portland bloke has pared the big coupe’s PB down to a 9.2 over the quarter, with more to come!
Father-and-son Radek and Dilan Saitz hail from Darwin and brought a two-car team down to Red CentreNATS this year. Radek was back for another crack at the Grand Champion title in his trick 1JZ-powered XM Falcon ute, while Dilan was piloting a 350 Chevpowered Model T Ford. The pair both gave the Grand Champion title a good shake, but Dilan came out on top, finishing second overall behind Brent Murray’s Dodge Dart!
We first met Lee and Anna Povey at Red CentreNATS 7, and since then, their VL Calais has just got better and better as an all ’round, show-and-go streeter. It has a 7.54sec PB to its name and recently took out the roll racing competition at Springmount Raceway’s Northern Nats. At RCN 9, Lee won the 8-8.99 class in the Heavy Hitter drags, and placed in the Top 10 in the Street Class judging, along with winning Top Engineered and Top Engine Bay in the same class. Congrats on the win, mate.
Judith and Rodney Menso have travelled all over the country for shows in their respective rides (HERLX for Judith, and Street Machine’s legendary giveaway car from the mid-80s, HQFORU for Rodney), but this was their first trip to Red CentreNATS. With Rodney’s famous Monaro in pieces, it was Judith’s Torana’s turn to shine, and it gave a good account of itself, running third in the Grand Champion chase.
Paul Tinning brought his November ’22 cover hero (and SMOTY ’23 contender) XP coupe for a second crack at Grand Champ. Though he missed out on the big trophy, the twin-turbo Viper-powered hottie still earned a Top 10 Elite finish and the Top Undercarriage/Engineered gong.
- Kyle Douglas – 2005 HiLux
- Andrew Lynch – 1981 Corolla
- Jake Myers – 1966 Mustang
- Pete Thomsen – XD Falcon
- Aiden Leist – VK Calais
- Dylan Rowley – VS Commodore ute
TOP 10 ELITE
Brent Murray – Dodge Dart
George Anthony – 1969 Mustang
Tim Hancock – 1932 Ford tudor delivery
Peter Hondow – 1933 Ford coupe
Peter Hondow – HG ute
Apples Kemp – 1934 Ford tudor
Judith Menso – LX Torana
Brett Peterson – 1923 Ford Model T
Lincoln Stevens – BMW E30
Paul Tinning – XP Falcon