Red CentreNATS 2021 – results

Alice Springs copped some rare precipitation, but Red CentreNATS 7 rocked on despite the rain

Photographers: Ashleigh Wilson, Tim Nicol

WHEN the rest of the country was hunkered down trying to get through the tail-end of winter, it sure was nice to embark on a warm getaway to Alice Springs the first weekend of September for the seventh running of Red CentreNATS. As my Wi-Fi-equipped flight took off from Perth, I snapped a photo out the window and put up a slightly smug post online letting everyone know I was “off to sunnier skies and warmer weather”.

Well, how wrong was I? I stepped off the plane and instantly regretted not packing my Street Machine hoodie – cloudy skies, cold wind and many bewildered locals trying to figure out what the wet stuff coming out of the sky was. In the previous six months, it had rained for one day, back in March. No wonder everyone was confused. The rain definitely kept a lot of the cars off the street, but there were still quite a few – including some of the big guns – making the obligatory Macca’s run.

Throughout Friday afternoon the rain kept rolling in and it wasn’t looking too good for the start of the burnouts that evening. Thankfully, the weather gods stopped tormenting us and the festivities began, even if it did mean a few of the early burnout competitors had to help dry out the pad. With that done, smoke clouds started billowing, tyres started popping and all was right again with the world. By the time the Masters qualifying started, the pad was dry as a bone. Saturday is always a massive day at RCN, kicking off this year at 9am with the show ’n’ shine at Blatherskite Park and grudge racing at Alice Springs Inland Dragway. There’s always plenty of cool stuff that shows up, and I’m always blown away by the quality of the local NT cars. Add to that the people who put in the massive effort to get the cars there from interstate and you have one hell of a show.

It was also great to see a bunch of SM feature cars at RCN, including Billy Shelton’s VL Calais, Graham Miller’s EH panel van, Charles Harley’s ’57 Chev and Nigel Warr’s HQ ute. Even better, all of them were having a crack at Grand Champ, so people got to see them cruising the streets and being driven in anger during the driving events.

From 3pm, the cars started lining up for the Street Parade, so it was time to find a good spot in town to watch the cars go by. The spot I chose happened to be in a pub, so I made sure to blend in by grabbing a beer and cheering on as the seamlessly endless parade of cars cruised by. It must have taken an hour for them all to finish filing past; I did hear from one entrant that he hadn’t even left the park by the time the first cars were getting back, so the convoy must have been at least 10km long!

It was then time for a quick drive to the drag strip south of town to take in some of the grudge racing. But while it might have been billed as such, most people were using it as a test-and-tune for the night’s main event, the Heavy Hitters. What a top idea – heads-up racing with cars broken up into seven-, eight-, nine-, 10- and 11-second brackets, with big cash prizes for the winners.

On Sunday morning we were back at the track nice and early for more racing, this time a Dial-Your-Own format broken up into a Pro and a Street class. West Aussie Connor Begley took the win in Pro against Kass Ward after a double-red-light, double-breakout run. The Street class win went to Adam Cross in the GARAGE1 VX SS, with Dierdree Viero and her HSV Clubby close behind.

The morning’s racing got the crowd warmed up for what was to be one of the most memorable moments of RCN 7. Twelve people had put their hand up to have a crack at the Grand Champ award, so the crowd were in for a treat as a dozen of the nicest cars you’ll see anywhere lined up for solo passes. First in line was Billy Shelton in the SICKEST VL Calais, which had already gone as quick as 8.30@163mph – surely he wouldn’t come close to that having just rolled out of the show ’n’ shine? Well, not quite, but he still smashed out an 8.60@161mph. Shut. The. Gate. With a couple more driving events still to come, it was Billy’s to lose, and lose it he didn’t – though when all was said and done, he took the win by only one point.

The event wrapped up with the Burnout Championship and Masters being decided on Sunday afternoon, with Frank Paesel in RUB1OUT and Jono Kelly in 3FIVE5 taking the gold respectively against some very tough competition. With that, it was back to Blatherskite Park to see who would take home the tinware, and if you still had it in you, the after-party with Sneaky Sound System.

A big thanks to Andy Lopez, the Red CentreNATS team and NT Major Events Company for putting on another epic event under some very tough conditions. They must be doing something right, because they’ve just locked in RCN for another four years. So if you need a deadline, 2-4 September 2022 is a pretty good date to aim for.


1. Frank Paesel – KE20 Corolla (RUB1OUT)
2. Adam Howell – Suzuki Carry (HOWLEY)
3. Mark Neverov – Datsun 240K (HOLDAT)

1. Jono Kelly – VK Commodore (3FIVE5)
2. Wal Gersekowski – HG Holden ute (1TUFHG)
3. David Cufone – Chevy Nova (NOVAKILL)