Highlights from testing at Willowbank before rain cancelled the Kenda Radial Riot


LAST weekend we headed up to sunny Brisbane for the Kenda Tires Radial Riot at Willowbank Raceway. One of the first dedicated radial-tyre drag racing events in Australia, the Radial Riot is all about bad-arse, heads-up, big-horsepower, small-tyre eighth-mile racing. It’s the final round of the Kenda 660 Drag Radial series that has been running all year. Along with the series cars, a bunch of the quickest radial cars in the country came up for the event to duke it out for some serious prize money. And had rain not got in the way, I’m sure we would have seen the first-ever three-second pass by a radial car in Australia.

 Yep, ‘sunny’ Queensland was absolutely pissing down on Saturday. Willowbank was flooded and drivers would have had better luck getting down the track with a couple of oars than their 2000hp race cars. So the event was canned, but the overwhelming support from racers around Australia means that it’ll happen again sooner rather than later. And still, plenty of cars got some great practice runs in on Friday, with several entering the 4.1-second zone.

 The track was on-point too. Event organisers Scott and Justin flew out radial track-prep legend Tyler Crossnoe from the States, and it was one of the best surfaces I’ve seen – cars were absolutely jetting out of the hole. We saw countless four-second passes, and a handful in the 4.1s.

 Early on all eyes were on series leader Perry Bullivant, who laid down a 4.18@180mph on Thursday – the quickest and fastest radial pass in Australia thus far – so we expected big things on Friday and Saturday. On Friday morning the transbrake in his Snickers Camaro stopped working, so the team had the ’box apart, got it working again, and the car then went even quicker with a 4.12@183mph. Perry lined up again and damaged a turbo during the burnout. The crew was able to repair it ready to race for the series win on Saturday, but Mother Nature had other ideas. Perry was awarded the win anyway, but we get the feeling he would have preferred to race for the elusive three-second pass.

 Shaun Hale’s Mustang was another hottie that may have run a three-second pass. Brought over from the States, the twin-turbo Pro Line 481X-powered ’Stang was the first three-second radial car in America, and it’s getting close to doing the same here in Australia. During Friday’s testing session it went 4.17@185mph.

Nikki Hepburn’s Toyota 86 continued to impress, running a string of 4.30-second passes with the insane turbo 1FZ Toyota six up front.

Drag Challenge contender Jarrod Wood was also out with his new twin-turbo Pro Line-powered Mustang for the first time; his crew are still working to get the car tuned, but a 4.73@124mph with an early shut-off is nothing to sneeze at.

Matt McCarthy was there with his Nissan Bluebird, with its 400ci small-block Chev and new 76mm Garrett GTX4202 turbos. He has just given the car a birthday with a few tweaks to the engine to chase even more grunt. The car was on the dyno at JW Automotive in Queensland a few days earlier, where it snapped a strap and almost took off from the dyno, so the new combo is definitely healthy! Matt ran a 4.69@163mph; a little off his PB of 4.51@166mph, but not bad for a new set-up.

Check out the video for some of the highlights from the day.