Sugar City Powerfest 2021

We headed to Palmyra Dragway in Mackay on the weekend for three days of sweet action

Photographers: Ashleigh Wilson

Mackay, the sugar cane capital of Queensland, welcomed skidders and drag racers to Sugar City Powerfest on the weekend, an easy-going three-day festival of power at Palmyra Dragway.

The prize pool of over $26,000 included $5K for top Pro Class burnout; $2500 for top V8; $1500 for top four/six-cylinders; and $1800 to fastest in the eighth-mile radial shootout.

With burnout judging accumulated across three days it was a case of running hard and well with every skid. Not easy on a fairly tight pad that saw numerous wall tags over the weekend.

Mark Schwarz’ ’73 HQ Monaro HANFUL was an early favourite, but on his very first skid a wiper blade came off and jammed onto the throttle cable, restricting Mark’s right foot control. What are the chances?

Meanwhile, Wal Gersekowski’s 1TUFHG was its usual high-control, high-smoke entertainment, and ultimately took the Pro Class win. But not without some late drama. His final run ended with two popped tyres but an unwelcome bang and bits of metal from the engine bay rearranging themselves, but it was enough to just pip Jamie Harvey’s blown LS1 VB Commodore MISFIT.

Terry Blanchard’s LS1-powered KE30 Corolla JOYRIDE was third, while topping the V8s class.

The drag side of things saw some epic contests. Todd Marshall took top prize in his ’75 347-cube turbo LS1-powered ’75 Cortina, beating Jayden Gray’s 2NASTI ’69 Chevy Camaro with 509ci turbo big block Chev in the final in searing hot conditions.

Here’s a taster of some of the action we enjoyed.

1. Garry Hunt’s ’79 VB Commodore was bought off a little old lady seven years ago, showing just 23,000km. How things have changed. In went a 440-cube LS with Dart block to now make just over 1000hp on the engine dyno. As an NA, “it’s probably the quickest registered LS combo in Australia I’m told,” Garry said. The VB runs on 235 radials, with bests of 8.47 @ 158 on the ¼-mile and 5.38 @ 128 over the 1/8-mile, and secured a class win here at Powerfest

2. Local turbo guru Lionel Durre’s exceptional ’68 Plymouth Barracuda packs a 588-cube alloy Keith Black Hemi, assisted by a 106mm Turbonetics Super Thumper mounted out the back. The 4300lb Mopar currently has an 8.15-second PB to its name. Hopefully we’ll see this weapon at a Drag Challenge event one day

3. Morry Magic: Matt Smith’s ’55 Morris Minor ute sits on an HQ chassis with meth-fuelled 410-cube with Turbo 400 and 9-inch. It tore up the pad on each day of Powerfest, but had dramas including blowing an ignition coil and losing reverse. “It’s a bit scary but fun,” Matt said of his 65-year-old muscled Morris, while taking second in the V8 class. Late on Sunday, he was the only one game for powerskids after most others had packed up. Ever the entertainer, he got loose near the finish line and looped the little ute. One run was enough after that!


4. Andrew Vock’s YPAYTAX Mk2 Escort with LS1 was one of the few to take on both strip and pad, making for a busy weekend. “It’s a handful, prepping between runs,” he said. “Every time we take it out in needs fuel – it drinks fuel like you wouldn’t believe – then doing the rear suspension.” No wind and a tight pad saw the usually acrobatic Escort muzzled a tad, with the little Ford stuck against the wall on a couple of occasions. Andrew’s beard-lined smile never left him though. “There’s nothing I want to do more than get off the brake and let it spin like a bottle top but there’s nowhere near the room here,” he explained

5. Modified Mayhem drag winner Ashley Pemberton and his 900hp ’87 VL SL Turbo had a hugely successful weekend. The Townsville racer PB’d with P3MBO virtually every run, with a best of 5.7 @ 129.60 on the eighth-mile. It took a re-run to win his final after some issues with the Christmas Tree, but soaked up the pressure for the victory

6. Jim Kahler’s Black Snake – a 1952 Mk1 Ford Zephyr, owned since he was 17, and now he’s just turned 70, these two are a pairing for life. The original 132-cube’s long gone, and now with 347 Windsor dials up about 600hp on the dyno, has done a 10.08 @ 132. “It’s the first time I’ve run it on radials, and it’s as straight as a die – before with the slicks it was all over the place.”

7. Jason Rockstroh’s 1970 VG Valiant ute with 427-cube small block Chrysler with single carbie on alcohol is a 10-second weapon. It ran a couple of 6.40 passes to get into the final where it was narrowly beaten by Garry Hunt’s VB, but Jason said he was happy to have been in with a shot.

8. Local Mackay racer Tony Wilson’s 1979 Pontiac Grand Le Mans was a huge crowd-pleaser. This was the Le Mans’ first outing after its build with 454 big block Chev, notching up a 7.2 at 163 over the eighth-mile, with mucho wheelspin. This was Tony’s first drag race for 30 years!

9. Todd Marshall’s ’75 Cortina with 347-cube turbo LS1 met Jayden Gray’s 2NASTI ’69 Chev Camaro with 509cu turbo big block Chev in the Pro Outlaw Radial final. The Corty took the trophy and $1800 in spectacular fashion

10. Joe Gosschalk’s Bugzilla with his old mate Bones riding on top. The 1960 Beetle with supercharged LS3 lit up the pad with some of the quickest loops and turns in Palmyra’s skinny chute

11. Nathan Lewis’ Buddy’s Fire ’73 HQ one-tonner with blown 377-cube small block Chev is renowned for living up to its name and catching ablaze in some way. At Powerfest the orange skids ute didn’t disappoint, with the exhaust coming off on the pad and melting a fuel line

Photographers: Ashleigh Wilson