ROLL Racing Brisbane has a simple selling point: “All the street-style racing you can handle without the risk of getting into trouble.” That’s a hell of a hook for anyone with a performance car and a desire to keep their licence, and it’s working a treat – Roll Racing Brisbane has 14 events listed for 2021 at Ipswich’s Queensland Raceway.
But there’s more to its popularity than just a catchy slogan, starting with the incredible value-for-money it offers. For $80 you score hours of track time, racing your mates or whomever you line up against, with the added bonus of a pitlane chockers with import, domestic and supercar eye-candy. No disputes – well, less disputes than at the drag strip – and hundreds witnessing the showdowns.
Canvassing some of the regulars at the final event of a very disrupted 2020, it seems they come back for the (usually) no-bullshit environment, camaraderie and emphasis on fun. Events are limited to 110 cars, and most are a sell-out. Cars must be registered with a proper seat and proper belt. No methanol, wheelie bars, radials or front-runners are allowed. A rollcage is not required, and you won’t get booted for going too fast.
As far as the “registered” bit goes, organiser Neil Lewis suggested: “Some people stretch the road rules, of course.” A parachuted Barra-powered VL a whisker off being a seven-second car was a case in point, but the ultimate victor at this pre-Christmas event was Goran Ivanovic’s Barra-engined TD Cortina. Shortly after winning, the 1100rwhp classic was cruising the highway home, five kays under the speed limit.
An average night of roll racing at QR goes something like this. From 6pm to 9pm, you queue just before the hairpin leading onto Dick Johnson Straight. A Race Ya Mate lane is there for you to choose your opponent, or a Race Anyone lane is where you play the horsepower lottery. Scoring over 30 runs is not unheard of, so you get solid value for your 80 bucks.
When 9pm ticks by, all races are knockout elimination. By about 9:30, it’s the last two standing, and the pit wall is rammed with buzzing fans as heroes are made in a final sprint to the line.
Mates race others in similar machinery – BMW M cars, supercharged Minis and AMGs – but the proper-quick rides are the turbo imports and wildly fettled V8 street cars. An imported dual-cab Nissan Atlas pick-up and nana-spec Toyota Crown 2600 raised a laugh, until these turbocharged sleepers launched with surprising venom.
When a pair is signalled away – every 15-20 seconds or so, action here is non-stop – they cruise towards the hairpin, some spinning tyres for heat. The idea is for competitors to match one another’s speed around the bend and launch at the startline from around 40km/h. The trick is getting power to the ground as quickly and effectively as possible.
There’s no launch shock on the drivetrain, making it far less strenuous than standing-start drag racing. “We don’t get a lot of failures,” said organiser Neil. “We’ve had a couple of people blow engines, which is to be expected, but transmission and diffs are not something we normally see here.”
Danny Meredith, owner of a 1200rwhp Supra, agreed: “There’s not much risk really. There’s plenty of room either side of the track, and from what I’ve seen there aren’t many idiots. Everyone wants to look after their car and do the right thing.”
Lochlann Miller – who dropped his 1988 R31 Skyline down to 1000rwhp for maximum traction – said Roll Racing was “different to drags, as the people are a bit more fun and you can have your mates in the car. And with everyone watching, it’s good street cred.”
Key to keeping things that way, organiser Neil explained, is having no prize money or trophies, and no classes – although a few drivers would at least like to see the 2WDs and AWDs grouped separately. “I’m more interested in safety and fun rather than saying they’ve got to have these tyres or this turbo,” he said. “We pride ourselves on the social side.”
The event’s popularity is encouraging. With the performance levels of street cars continuing to rise, keeping racing off the streets looks smarter all the time. “For my job’s sake, I don’t race it on the street,” said finalist and previous Roll Racing winner Connor Whitehouse of his Skyline R33 GTS-T. “It just doesn’t put power down on the street anyway.”
But it’s naïve to think it could ever totally replace street racing. “There’s a certain buzz you get from street racing because you’re doing the wrong thing,” Neil concedes. “But you get a different buzz here because you have spectators and you get the kudos for it. On the street, nobody could see you win.”
Don’t always expect sunshine and smiles, though. Competition and egos are as old as motor racing itself. The final – Cortina versus Skyline – was watched closely from the tower by Neil, communicating with those at the startline. The Cortina didn’t get into it, as its driver suspected a jump-start, so they dutifully rolled around again.
The classic Ford won by a car length to great cheers, and, of course, there was a bit of chatter about the previous jump-start both at the track and afterwards on Facebook. Enough calming, sensible voices managed to chill things – it seems nobody wants these events to lose their laidback, in-this-together vibe.
“Sure you want to win, but if you get beaten, who cares?” said Alex Hayward with his TETNUS RX-3. “We race because it’s fun and your friends get to experience it.” So roll with it.
Photos: Ashleigh Wilson
“I’d rather spend $30,000 on going faster than on paint and body,” said Alex Hayward of his tinwormed TETNUS 1976 RX-3. It’s a battered weapon with a built 5.3L and single S480 turbo making 950hp at the tyres and weighing just over 900kg. Despite “looking like it’d been pulled out of a bush after 20 years,” it secured a spot in the final four.
Dan Bangent’s ’92 R32 GTS-T has welcomed a JZ with a Precision 6667 turbo and big set of cams for around 650rwhp. “It’s the atmosphere that drew me to this event,” said Dan. “Everyone’s competing on the track, but we all talk to each other and nobody gives others shit about their cars.”
Nicholas Haggett was making his Roll Racing debut in his ’96 Supra with a single Precision 6870 strapped to a 2JZ with Camtech cams. The car was built at home by Nicholas and his old man, who get extra kudos for the Samsonas sequential trans with hyper-shifter.
Danny ‘The Hekla’ Meredith shows his Supra build some love. DJZ Fabrications worked the JZ with a Precision 7675, Emtron engine management and Powerglide. Dan reckons it’s good for 1200rwhp, but he’s constantly fighting high engine temps, hence the mighty bonnet and headlight cut-outs.
Runner-up after a rerun was Connor Whitehouse in his ’93 R33 GTS-T, powered by a 920hp turbocharged RB26/30 built by Miller Engines in Toowoomba. “There’s good vibes here and good blokes; it’s an awesome time,” said Connor after the final race. “The car had a misfire, but that’s racing. I’ll be back to send it.”
Serial Roll Racing winner Goran Ivanovic’s Barra-engined 1975 TD Cortina took top honours for the night. Despite the obvious advantage of its all-wheel-drive rivals, the rear-drive classic Ford proved imperious, with a Garrett GTX4202R turbo, CP pistons and Kelford Stage 4 cams offering 1100rwhp at 35psi. Mini-tubs and 275 rear tyres all help the style.
NA hero Russell Tonkin’s ’69 HT Holden with 434 Chev and Powerglide was looking showroom-pretty. “It’s naturally aspirated with about 600hp at the tyres, but it will still mix it with the big turbo cars and do well,” Russell said. “There are decent people here and there are no politics like next door [at the drag strip].”
Father and son Darrin and Lochlann Miller of Miller Engines bond over Roll Racing. Dad used to take son to kindy in their 1988 Skyline R31, but these days Lochlann uses the 6.0L LS with CP Bullet pistons, Eagle rods and a GT47 turbo. It’s good for up to 1170hp with 20spi, but “we won’t push more than 1000 through it tonight.”
Dan Theopapadoplous of Wogboy Media with his original body, paint and seats 1982 RX-7 FB. Running a DJZ Engines & Fabrications-built JZ motor making 700hp on 30psi, the mini-tubbed Mazda gott an incredible jump in the first elimination round against the NANA Gemini. Unfortunately for Dan, the Holden won the battle of these old heroes in a close one.
Paul Butler’s Gemini TX with NANA plates was bought from a 76-year-old lady, the car’s first owner. The bars, handles, rubbers and mint interior are all original; all Paul has done is the paint – and the small matter of inserting a turbo SR20, good for around 700rwhp