WITH a week to recover from New Year’s Eve, everyone was bright-eyed and well rested when it came time to head to Canberra for Summernats 29. While the SM crew gets there a little bit earlier to set up camp and maybe get a peek at a new car or two, the event officially starts at lunchtime on Thursday with the City Cruise. This year 260 cars lined up on the burnout pad before heading down Northbourne Ave, chucking a U-ey right out the front of Parliament House and then heading back to EPIC to kick off the cruising. Truth be told, it’s probably the only time you can do that run with green lights all the way.
People lined the streets along the entire route, with the crowds getting much thicker the closer we got to the city centre. It was great to see that the authorities were relaxing the rules a bit and letting a few of the more extreme cars join in. There were blown methanol beasts cruising along, bringing tears to the eyes of onlookers, who were probably wondering why they suddenly got emotional at the sight of these tough cars driving past.
It was also pretty cool to cruise along with the Aussie Attack Torana – the car that went to Drag Week in 2013 – and it was surprising how quiet it was as it drove down the street.
I didn’t see it when it ran up on the dyno a couple of days later, but I’m pretty sure it was making plenty of noise as it punched out 1277hp at the wheels.
The late arvo saw 20 cars vying for the last three spots in the Burnout Masters competition.
It was a pretty epic way to start the event, watching some of the biggest and best names in the burnout game give it their all in a last-ditch effort to make the cut. When guys like Peter Grmusa (ATRISK), Phil Kerjean (TUFFST) and Nik Fraser (MELTEM) are the last three to qualify, you know how tough the competition is.
While we all know that Summernats has become the equivalent of a burnout Grand Final, there are some that still like to present a spotlessly clean, meticulously detailed machine, and Friday night is when we get to see them at their finest. This year they re-jigged the
CRIES of jubilation could be heard all around Canberra when local girl Amanda Beattie was crowned Miss Summernats on her third attempt. The 20-year-old from Amaroo in the ACT won in a photo finish over Jazmyne Wardell from Tumbi Umbi, NSW, with Kali Shaw from Tumut third. Amanda was both shocked and relieved to have finally snared the breakthrough win after finishing in the Top 10 at Summernats 27 and third last year.
“When they announced I’d won I was so happy I didn’t know whether to cheer or cry or scream!” said the redhead, who drives a Honda Accord but dreams of one day owning a Mustang, “any kind of Mustang”.
JOHN Saad is this year’s Summernats Grand Champion with his Mazda RX-3 sedan. It was a very satisfying moment for John, who after winning Top Judged Elite last year, suffered the heartbreaking setback of alternator trouble with his turbocharged 13B rotary-powered sedan just moments before last year’s Grand Champion grass driving events. But he was back, and confident, for Summernats 29. After raiding the Elite trophy shelf – the car again won Top Judged Elite, as well as just about every other trophy it was eligible for – John met the criteria for Grand Champion by completing the on-grass motorkhana on Saturday night and the Go-to-Whoa on Sunday. John had some strong competition for Summernats’ most coveted award. As well as People’s Choice winner Grant Connor and his XR Falcon, John had to edge out the Top 20 Chev Nova of street machine legend Rob Beauchamp – and the built-to-be-driven FC Holden ute of Glenn Profilio (SM, Dec ’15). Rounding out the Elite cars in contention were Michael Ellard’s LS1-powered Rodeo minitruck, Michael Brown’s orange ’72 Rambler Hornet and the Falcon XB GS sedan of Michael Stivala (SM, Apr ’15). John’s win is only the second – and the second in a row – for rotary power, after Nathan Borg’s win in his Mazdapowered red Datsun 1200 ute last year.
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THE prestigious Top Judged Street award went to the impossibly smooth ’66 Chev Impala of Glenn Southern. When Glenn gave this original right-hook, Holden-assembled, Aussie-delivered classic to body man Carmine De Maria of CAD Custom in Tullamarine, Victoria, it was “a bucket of bolts”, he reckons. That was five-and-a-half years ago, during which time the lads got their heads together to build a tough – it’s powered by a big-block Chev – yet high-class pro tourer that retains the Chev’s broad and bold factory styling but with a spanking new level of sophistication. Glenn’s Chev was unveiled to the Summernats crowd on the Friday night, and as well as Top Judged Street, it went on to win 2nd Top Interior, Top Standard Paint, Top Bodywork and Top Sedan.
TOP Street Overall (the street-class equivalent of Grand Champion for overall driving and presentation excellence) and the Street Encouragement Award were taken home by Emanuel Darmanin and his pearl orange ’69 Ford Mustang (see page 66 this issue). Like many Summernats success stories in recent years, this one was built (by RestoMod Performance) to pro touring specs for 100 per cent street driveability. Powered by a present-model Ford 5.0-litre DOHC Coyote V8 and six-speed manual – and with rack-and-pinion steering and big brakes – Emanuel’s Muzzy has already racked up about 10,000km in NSW, Victoria and SA, proving you certainly can have your cake and eat it too. 052 STREET MACHINE
Elite Hall a bit, lining up the eight cars to be unveiled in an avenue that led to the relocated stage. The new layout worked really well and the unveiled cars covered a wide range of what turns people on in this diverse passion that we call street machining. From the tiny rotary-powered Datsun Sunny drag coupe of Shane Bugeja to the luxury and expanse of Glenn Southern’s big-block ’66 Impala, there was plenty to look at regardless of what you were into.
It was pretty clear from the outset that the likely candidates for Grand Champ were going to be the brand new XR Falcon of Grant Connor and the show-winning RX-3 of John Saad.
With the XR taking out People’s Choice and a spot in the Top 20, and the RX-3 winning Top Judged and hence a Top 10 berth, it was going to be a close-run race when it came to the driving events. By early Sunday morning it was all done and dusted and the internet was already abuzz about a rotary-powered Grand Champ well before the award was officially announced. After Chic Henry handed John the Grand Champ sword and the Mazda had received a very big cheer from the crowd, it was time to get serious with the burnouts.
The Burnout Masters had been whittled down to just 10 finalists and everyone was putting it all on the line. This year there was a stipulation that the tyres had to stay on the car for at least 60 seconds, and with Jake Myers (SICKO) finishing third with a skid that lasted just 59 seconds, the podium did not end up looking as most people expected.
Andrew Pool (IBLOWN) came away with the Burnout Masters win, with Brett Battersby (BLWNLUX) taking out second spot.
The event that always closes off each Summernats is the Burnout Championship, and this year’s winner was Darren Bromage (SMOKINU). Matthew Cowan (ONIT) still had his trophies in the boot from his Tuff Street win and grabbed second place, while Dom Luci did the naturally aspirated boys proud with strong performances all weekend to finish third.
Summernats 29 was a bumper event with huge crowds and over 1900 cars entered, so who knows how big it will go next year when it celebrates 30 years. Do you think it’s time for Summernats to grow up? Nah, stuff that!