Top Fuel returns to Heathcote Park Raceway

Summernats Slam brings Top Fuel, Burnout Masters and much more to the newly revamped Heathcote Park Raceway

Photographers: Shaun Tanner, Michelle Porobic, Simon Davidson

The last time Heathcote Park Raceway hosted a championship round of Top Fuel racing was over 30 years ago, with Jim Read and Bob Sherry doing battle in their dragsters at the 1989 running of the Nationals.

Top Fuel has run in Melbourne sporadically since then, with the fuellers last seen at Calder Park in 2017.

That all changed on Saturday at 2.00pm, when six Top Fuel dragsters rolled into the staging lanes at Heathcote Park Raceway, in front of a massive crowd. They were there to compete in round five of the Bursons Australian Top Fuel Championship – and to be the star attraction at Heathcote’s first Summernats Slam event.

Besides the fuel cars, Summernats Slam offered a star-studded Burnout Masters qualifying round and a full compliment of support categories, ranging from Top Sportsman through to Junior Dragsters.

While official attendence figures are yet to be released, we do know that 10,000 tickets were pre-sold by Friday and lines to get into the joint on both days were long.

Despite HPR opening up new parking areas, they filled up before lunchtime and some punters parked as far as five kilometers away and hiked their way in! If there was ever the drag racing equivalent of Woodstock, this was it!

Inside the venue, the the hills on both sides of the track were packed with spectators of all ages.

But what made all of this remarkable, was the race before the race, to get the venue up to the standard required to host the kings of our sport.

Track owner Lance Warren and his crew have been making continual incremental improvements to the venue from the moment he received the keys to the joint on 31 December, 2021, including replacing the old armco fences in the deep end with concrete walls.

However, the prospect of running Top Fuel at Heathcote demanded a massive commitment to serious upgrades, including full track lighting, brand-new prep gear and the whole track ripped up and resurfaced back to the 120m concrete startline.

With that in mind, the crew ran an Easter Mayhem meeting and then closed the track for four weeks to concentrate on getting the job done.

It was a supremely ambitious undertaking and while the crew worked up until the last minute to get the job done, they did nailed it! The Top Fuel cars went down the track as if they’d been running there forever. By our count, 15 of the 18 Top Fuel passes on Sunday were side-by-side full noise affairs, with Saturday being very similar.

For many of the spectators, this was the first time they’d had to experience Top Fuel in person. And this didn’t only apply to the kids! We met many life-long drag racers who were getting their first taste of nitro-burning action.

Some folks were also pleasantly suprised at just how accessible the Top Fuel pits are, with the fans being able to get up close as the crews worked their magic on their between-run teardowns.

It was also rad to see Chris Matheson and his mind-blowing Nitro Voodoo Top Fuel Bike, as well as a host of cool cars and bikes in the support categories.

Burnouts were also a big part of the equation. Again, the Heathcote Park team did an incredible job of cleaning up the burnout pad/speedway area.

The entry list was a mighty one, including Lynchy, Steve Loader in UCSMOKE, Peter Grmusa in his new NORISK XA Falcon sedan, Adam Slorach in NUMNUTZ, Paul Cook in GRUMP and Tim Brown in CEMBLO.

The atmosphere around the burnout pits was killer all weekend. The Blown Class was won by Andrew Kerr in SYKOR8, with Matt Addinsall runner-up in BLWNVL. The NA class was taken out by Robert Cottrell in FATTONY. All three earned themselves invites to the Burnout Masters at Street Machine Summernats 35.

And in the big one, Phil Lamattina beat Peter Xiberras in the final of Top Fuel to become the first two-time event winner in this series, while Wayne Newby reset the track record to 4.005-seconds after Lamattina made it 4.009-secs in qualifying.

There is little doubt that we’ll see the three second barrier will be broken when the Top Fuel cars return to HPR, 1-2 October.

And what’s more, they’ll be bringing the Top Doorslammer boys with them, thanks to the news that the Slammers will be taking part in all eight rounds of the 2022/2023 Top Fuel Championship series.

Our own Scott Taylor entered the Carnage MX-5 into Super Sedan for the event and had a blast. This was the first time that we’ve had the Barra-powered Mazda IHRA-teched, so we were keen to see what it would run over the quarter mile. You’ll have to wait until the new episode drops on Friday to see how Scotty went, but lets just say has nine reasons to feel good…

We got to pit right beside the Top Fuel guys in the newly-concreted pits, complete with lighting! That was a taste of luxury we’re not used to and we were even joined by Rod Hadfield’s Warman Special on Saturday. And, like many sportsman racers we spoke to, we were stoked just to be a part of such a historic event.

There were a bunch of fast radial and Drag Challenge cars in attendance including Luke Foley’s VH, Blake Evans’s VL, Sam Stornello’s twin-turbo Chevy Monza and Nathaniel Ardern’s Harrop-blown, Godzilla-powered XA Falcon.

Other crowd-pleasers included Trashy’s infamous EH Holden, Danko’s giant-killing Ford Capri and Michael Ryder’s wheelstanding VN.

Stay tuned for more on this mega event!