South Coast 660, Portland – round 10

Victoria was off and racing again in late-January after COVID-related lockdowns, lighting up the Portland eighth-mile

Photographers: Chris Thorogood

AFTER almost a year of COVID-related lockdowns, travel bans and shuttered tracks, championship drag racing made its triumphant return in Victoria in late January, with Portland’s South Coast Raceway hosting the South Coast 660.

The Street Machine team just had to be there, so we brought a big crew with us to cover the event – and to race our Carnage Volvo for the first time. Portland is a five-hour haul from the home base of Carnage’s Scott Taylor, but like a lot of folks, we’d drive just about any distance to race at the moment! And besides, Portland’s eighth-mile is one of the prettiest tracks in the country, with outstanding facilities and awesome track staff.

The meet formed round 10 of the extended 2019/20/21 Summit Racing Equipment Sportsman Series, which sees racers in 10 classes vying for bragging rights (and part of a $100K prize pool) at drag strips around the country. More than 150 cars and bikes took to the strip for this round, offering up a non-stop feast of horsepower.

Variety at the raceway was considerable. Punters were treated to everything from small-tyre Super Street muscle to ludicrous rails and funny cars, and virtually everything in between. Racers travelled from far and wide to compete, with a strong contingent of SA racers making the thousand-kilometre round trip.

Most of the weekend’s racing took place under dial-your-own rules. If you’re unfamiliar with this form of racing, drivers first set a ‘dial-in’ time during qualifying and then aim to match this ET during elimination rounds. ‘Breaking out’ of your time by running too quick means an instant loss. Consistency is key in this format; a slower car with a smaller spread can defeat a much quicker car that doesn’t stick to its qualifying time.

A pre-meet test and tune session kicked off on Friday afternoon, offering drivers a chance to reacquaint themselves with their cars and the track after a painfully long period of downtime. Any concerns regarding the track surface were quickly put to rest, with car after car hooking up thanks to the warm weather and track crew’s expertise.

This theme continued into Saturday’s qualifying rounds, in which each car was given three dial-in runs. Oil-downs and track delays were few and far between on the sticky eighth-mile, resulting in a virtually uninterrupted seven hours of drag strip action.

Chris Naughton claimed top qualifying spot in the Super Street class, piloting his 347 Windsor-powered Capri to a 6.62@102mph, while Keith Hards’s Impala SS set the Super Sedan pace at 5.50@126mph.

Sunday’s eliminations saw the field narrow rapidly, with one car knocked out on every pass. Though warm weather prevented most drivers from cracking PB times, racing was seriously competitive.

The Super Street gong was taken by Paul Garbellini driving his LS-powered WA Performance VZ Commodore. After travelling across the country to race, Garbellini faced off against Paul Tabone in the final, who broke out in his VH Charger. Warrnambool’s Stephen Griffin came out on top of a Torana-packed Super Sedan bracket, defeating Robyn Phillis’s LH in his purple 355-cube LJ.

And our Volvo? It’s a Toyota 1JZ-powered 240 sedan that we bought as an unfinished project in 2019. Carnage frontman Scott Taylor got the Swedish brick running in time for Street Machine Summernats 33 in 2020, where it ran amok and made over 300rwkW on the dyno.

Since then, Scott has done a bunch of upgrades on the car, including an LSD, a bigger turbo and a TH400 gearbox swap. Last year’s COVID shutdown has meant we’ve not had the chance to put the beast down an actual drag strip, so we were stinging to beat on the thing!

Friday’s test and tune session at Portland gave Scotty a best of 7.35@97mph – a great result for the Trolvo’s first-ever time down the strip.

On the following runs, however, Scotty felt a hesitation from the car midway down the tarmac – likely a shortage of fuel due to an undersized pump. To play it safe, Scotty turned down the boost and dialled in at 7.80 for Sunday’s eliminations.

Placed against Dutchy Holland’s HQ Tonner, the Volvo suffered a first-round defeat in the unforgiving eliminations format. Despite the early knockout, Scotty was stoked by the potential of the car. Next steps are an upgraded fuel system and a rollcage!

Scotty was also impressed with how the Portland crew ran the meeting. “Man, they run a tight ship down there,” he said. “All the spots in the pits were allocated ahead of time. They had run times for all the classes and stuck to them all weekend, and they managed any delays really well. It was probably one of the best-organised meetings I’ve seen anywhere!” So yeah, you can bet we’ll be back to South Coast Raceway.

1. Wheels up! The combination of 235 radials and a transbraked AllFast Converters TH400 means the 1JZ-powered Carnage Trolvo bites hard and gets out of the gate like a scalded cat. Best pass was a 7.35 before boost pressure issues crept in. With that fixed, we should see the car deep into the 10s over the quarter.

2. Two-time Drag Challenge survivor Mark Barber rocked up in his well-driven Torana, making the seven-hour trek from his native SA with wife and kids in tow. Competing in the Super Street class, the car runs a boosted and injected 202. Mark qualified with a dial-in time of 6.95 on Saturday, but was knocked out in the first round of eliminations by Jake Hards’s Bel Air.

3. Rob Kardum left the nitrous at home for the South Coast 660, jamming 5.11 gears behind his Dandy Engines small-block-powered XE Falcon. The fresh Dart-blocked 434-cuber runs a shot of gas to compete in Top Sportsman, with a different stall converter and diff gears. “It’s basically our first time out with this motor,” said Rob. “But there’s a bigger one going in soon!” Rob’s granddaughter Allirah also hit the track, taking on the Junior Dragster class.

4. Singing to an incredible 10,700rpm, Steve Norman’s 325ci small-block BMW 335i was unmistakeable in both sight and sound. “It’s a baby Pro Stock motor,” said Steve. “It’s lots of maintenance – we check the valves and springs after just warming it up!” The car was imported from the US in 2017 for its desirable left-hook layout, which helps to counterbalance chassis twist during hard launches. Class regulations also require the car to run a full dash, which remains mostly unmolested.

5. Keith Hards brought along his monstrous ’65 Impala, qualifying with a top-of-the-table 5.50@126mph in Super Sedan. Unfortunately, the Sonny’s-built 582ci donk hurt a lifter, forcing Keith and his team to thrash on the car into the evening. The boys eventually found a damaged lifter bore, at which point Keith chose to bow out. The car tips the scales at 4000lb, and Keith reckons launching it is “like moving a D10 dozer off the line!”

6. James Fitzgibbon has raced his Ford-powered FJ Holden for over 20 years. “The opposite of a Boss motor,” according to James, the 351 Cleveland runs a set of World Products Windsor heads. The donk has only required one rebuild across two decades of racing duties. Out the back, a 9in diff centre spins LandCruiser stub axles.

7. When Robyn Phillis’s LH Torana broke its bellhousing, she and hubby Graham yanked its blown 253 in favour of modern LSA grunt! Backed by a Powerglide and 9in diff in a four-link set-up, the car laid down reliable passes all weekend. The Whyalla retiree first ran the car in Super Street before graduating to Super Sedan. “It’s just so hard to slow it down!” said Robyn. Her 6.38 dial-in took her to the class’s final round, finishing second to Stephen Griffin’s LJ Torana.

8. Michael Jennings campaigns a replica of Tony Prentice and Graham Elliot’s ‘Exterminator’ FJ Holden, which terrorised Aussie strips through the 60s and 70s as the first early Holden to achieve a 14sec quarter-mile. Graham is also co-owner of the car, which runs a Toyota-blown 202 and Trimatic combo.

9. Paul Jennings’s Nova wagon put on a great show! The 383-cube small-block wears cast heads and is mated to a transbraked Powerglide transmission. He ran a 7.15@94mph qualifying time on Saturday, progressing to round two of Sunday’s eliminations.

10. Sipping on E85, Steve Hunt’s seriously tidy 408ci XW van is a raceway regular. This time around, Steve reached round three of the Super Sedan class on a dial-in of 6.46. The Cleveland is backed by a C4 auto with a 5600rpm converter, and a 9in diff – a combo good for consistent 10.0sec times on a full-sized strip.

11. One of many big-block Toranas at the raceway, Peter Tzokas’s LX debuted a new 565-cube donk, fed by two 1150 Dominator carbs under the self-described “ugliest scoop in Adelaide”. The Super Sedan racer got to round three before being pipped by Stephen Griffin’s LJ.

12. Michael Bridges brought some Mopar flavour to the ‘small car, big engine’ subset. The compact Chrysler runs a healthy 265 powerplant with flat-tappet cam, plus a shot of laughing gas in first gear “to make things fun”. It’s backed by a C4 auto and BorgWarner diff. Michael has owned the car for 28 years, trekking as far as Perth to race. He went down in round four of Super Street eliminations to eventual class victor Paul Garbellini.

13. Mick Piscioneri laid down a PB during Friday night’s test and tune, before slicing off another four-hundredths to qualify in Super Street with a 5.98@117mph. The LC coupe runs a tried-and-true big-block, Powerglide and 9in combo, plus a McDonald Bros front end and four-link rear. “We’re getting sharper all the time,” Mick enthused.

14. After a 15-year break, Mick Hanrahan returned to drag racing in 2015 with his tough Monaro. Running in Super Sedan, a 454 sits within the HQ’s fibreglass front end. Warm weather kept Mick from claiming a PB, but the truckie still qualified with a 6.62@102mph.

15. When was the last time you saw a ridgey-didge XT GT head down a strip in anger? Robert Forte’s JG33 Falcon hides a 363ci Windsor thanks to a Scat stroker kit. The car runs a C9 auto, 3800rpm converter and lazy 3.7 diff gears, and Robert says it’s “a cruiser more than anything”. Revving to a relatively mild 6000rpm, the car runs an 11.9sec quarter-mile.

16. Greg Angus’s Monaro adds some cool muscle car vibes to the Supercharged Outlaws field. Its 376ci small-block Chev wears an 8/71 blower with Enderle hat, followed by a ’Glide and full-floater 9in with 4.30 gears. “It’s really competitive and super consistent,” said Greg.

17. Jason Keily’s chest-rattling ’34 Ford was unmissable all weekend. The coupe runs a 526ci Keith Black Olds plant, force-fed by a gargantuan PSI D-rotor blower and hooked up to a three-speed Lenco transmission. Jason battled with the car all weekend, qualifying mid-pack with a 4.84@148mph before a round two loss against Wayne Talbot’s funny car in Supercharged Outlaws.

18. Terry Waterman’s off-tap RX-2 is motivated by an all-billet, dry-sump 13B on a methanol diet! The two-rotor breathes through a chunky Garrett GTX5533R snail, while a clutchless Lenco five-speed handles shifting duties. “We started getting good passes just before COVID hit,” said Terry, “and now we can finally get back out there.” Saturday saw the car qualify with a 4.60 ET in Super Comp. Up against the ultra-competitive Craig Geddes, Terry copped a first-round knockout.

19. Dave Sultana’s gorgeous Torana is equal parts show car and drag weapon. After treating the car to a full-rotisserie rebuild, tubs and a ’cage, Dave dropped a 421ci small-block into the spotless engine bay. Now running Holley Terminator EFI, it’s making around 500hp at the wheels. The super-straight panels are coated in Devil Yellow from a V2 Monaro. The car hooked up well on Saturday, lifting the wheels for a 6.36@106mph.

20. Max Brouggy spent the 90s terrorising the streets in his 11sec, 265 Hemi-powered Hillman Hunter. Though it now runs a genuine 327 V8 and hand controls due to Max’s MS, it’s still a drag strip regular. Gremlins, including a failed alternator, dead thermo fan and blocked carby, scuttled Max’s weekend – issues he attributes to the car sitting unused during a year of lockdowns.