WE DON’T have actual figures to back it up, but it’s fairly safe to say that the sport of burnouts is the fastest-growing motorsport pursuit in Australia. At a time when many fine racing disciplines are struggling to maintain car counts, sponsorship dollars and spectator interest, burnouts is bucking that trend big-time.
The growth of the sport over the past three decades has been exponential, with everything from entrant numbers to engine sizes to attendance figures getting bigger year on year. And just as no one back in the early days could have foreseen how massive this was going to become, it’s anyone’s guess as to when this rising popularity will plateau.
Ross Heasley of MRBADQ fame sums things up well when he says: “The competition continues to step up. Guys are going out there now and they don’t care if they burn the car to the ground or bang it into a wall, as long as they get a set off and entertain the crowd. To compete with that, you’ve got to lay it all on the line every time.”
Rest assured, folks, what we are witnessing here is a golden age for this burgeoning outlaw sport. To get a deeper insight into how things currently stand, we spoke with some of the heavy-hitters and up-and-coming skidders on the scene. Here’s part one; we’ll have more next issue.
Machine: BLWNVC, 1981 HOLDEN VC COMMODORE Engine: 532CI DART BIG M BIG-BLOCK, 16/71 LITTLEFIELD BLOWER “WHAT we are doing with these engines is so far outside the automotive guidelines, it’s astronomical. John Pilla at Powerhouse Engines does a good job to get them to last like they do!
I’ve had some bad luck with some engine combos and spent a lot of money staying in the sport, but I wouldn’t do anything else. A big draw for me is the social network – all the burnout guys are good mates, we speak week to week, it’s like a family. There was a period last year where I did seven events in eight weeks and it was the best fun in the world! We travelled everywhere, from Sydney to Brisbane to Cairns to WA. It was the best road trip I’ve done, maybe because the car ran solid the whole time. But as the burnouts get bigger, I want to get out and experience new places like New Zealand or Tassie. I just want to skid everywhere.”
BRETT Battersby won Burnout Masters in 2015 and he’s been at the pointy end of the pad ever since. From Portland, NSW, he’s been skidding his HiLux for most of the 20 years he’s owned it, and has also had fun spinning the wheels of a couple of Commodores and a blown Holden V8-powered Mazda 1000 ute. Brett’s ascent to the big time coincided with the implementation of his nasty 8/71-blown, 540-cube Dart donk, which can slurp up to 100 litres of methanol in a single skid. “I never won a show for the first 14 years but there were two events I wanted to win,” Brett explains. “The first is Kandos, because that’s near where I’m from, and the second is Burnout Masters. I won them both, but Kandos still places higher in my Machine: BLWNLUX, 1987 TOYOTA HILUX Engine: 540CI DART BIG-BLOCK, 8/71 BLOWER pecking order. Don’t get me wrong, Summernats is incredible, but I’ve been going to Kandos since I was a kid and always wanted to win that.”
Machine: MRBADQ, 1971 HOLDEN HQ MONARO COUPE Engine: 350CI CHEVY SMALL-BLOCK, 6/71 BLOWER “I ALWAYS loved going fast and testing the ability of any machine. When I was younger I raced BMX and motocross, and I did a bit of historic motorcycle racing too. But burnouts are just the best fun. Normally, if you ever get to see cars like these, they’re in a static show – you never get to see the owner absolutely handing its arse to it. It’s a unique thing.
We build the highest-quality cars and then go out there and give them the hardest time possible. And it’s for up to two minutes at a time. You watch a really good drag race, it’s over in seconds, whereas an average burnout lasts 90 seconds. A lot of things can happen in that time, so it’s exciting to watch.
Sometimes the car fights you the whole skid; sometimes it works with you. On those days when it works with you, there’s no better feeling.”
Machine: KILLA-B, 2010 CHEVROLET CAMARO Engine: 510CI DART BIG M BIG-BLOCK, 16/71 LITTLEFIELD BLOWER STEVE Nogas dropped plenty of jaws when he debuted his KILLA-B Camaro in 2012, and he’s still wowing people with it, including the judges of this year’s Summernats Burnout Masters. While Steve was obviously stoked to take home the $15K cheque and all the associated bragging rights that come with a Masters win, the Werribee, Victoria resident reckons his greatest reward for being involved in burnouts is simply time spent with the family. “My sons are into cars as well, so we do this as a family and we have so much fun,” he explains. “I’m a believer in giving kids something to do other than roam the streets and look for trouble. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve spent a lot to participate in this sport, but I’ve got a friend whose son has an addiction problem, and mate, I can guarantee you he’s spent more money on rehab for that boy than I have on this car.”
Machine: BRN RBA, 1974 HOLDEN LH TORANA Engine: 434CI CHEVY SMALL-BLOCK TORANA-loving Victorian Lisa Howie first skidded onto the scene in her pink LJ, a stout N/A six-cylinder specialist with a worked 173. After a brief stint shredding tyres in an SL/R 5000, the ballsiest mum in Cranbourne then slipped behind the wheel of her mean, green/aquamarine LH, powered by a Shafiroff-built 434 Chev that also breathes naturally and runs on E85. Lisa has a spare big-block that’ll eventually go in it, but for now she’s content with the freshly rebuilt engine package, straightened-up bodywork, and the new wrap that stole the hearts of every Disney fan at Summernats 30!
“I put the Frozen wrap on it and I didn’t realise the impact it was going to have,” Lisa says. “Y’know, kids were loving it, fathers and daughters were bonding over it, and I just love that because my husband and our girls have always done car events as a family.” Lisa reckons her husband would prefer it if she wised up and sent the LH down the quarter-mile.
“He hates the burnouts,” she laughs.
“He thinks it’s absolutely ridiculous.
But I guess that’s love for you!”
Machine: ONIT, 1974 HOLDEN LH TORANA Engine: 511CI DART BIG M BIG-BLOCK, 14/71 BLOWER THE ONIT Torana gets double the punishment of most other top-line burnout cars. Canberra lads Matt Cowan and Mark Siracusa run the car together, and both know how to make the smoke flow. The showquality green LH was unveiled at Summernats 28, and after a healthy stint of trophy-collecting (including claiming Tuff Street Champion two years running), Matt and Mark drove it onto the pad and started giving it hell. “The quality of burnout cars these days, the level has gone through the roof,” Matt says. “Mark and I, we own the car together, so that offsets the cost a bit. But you couldn’t do it if you were worried about the money.” Unfortunately for the lads, Mark went viral when he aquaplaned the prize Torry into the wall at Summernats 30, and the front-end damage is currently being fixed.
Machine: IMMORTAL, 1977 HOLDEN HZ UTE Engine: 372CI CHEVY SMALL-BLOCK, 6/71 KOBELCO BLOWER A FORMER champion hydroplane boat racer, Brett Niddrie from Melton, Victoria got bitten by the burnout bug while building and tuning Steve Nogas’s motors. Before too long, Brett was pulling the blown 372ci aluminium small-block set-up out of his world championship-winning boat, IMMORTAL, and replanting it in an HZ ute. Believe it or not, one of the key draws in him switching pursuits was safety. A big crash on the water 13 years ago landed Brett in a coma for two weeks. “I actually drowned and I was very lucky to survive it,” he recalls. “I went back to racing boats because that was all I knew, but eventually I decided to build a burnout car for a bit of fun, and so I don’t get hurt.” While Brett admits he is “just starting to learn to drive it”, behind the scenes his BNR Engines workshop is becoming a mecca for some big-name shredders.
DON’T FAIL TO PLAN – For all odds, something will go awry and your gameplan will go out the window, but if you have a rough plan of attack it will calm your nerves and give you a starting point.
REVS – Use plenty of ’em! Some skidders love the sound of a rev limiter being savaged, while others say no to mang and skilfully regulate the throttle to keep it off the limiter. Either way, turn the thing hard!
THE PAD IS YOURS – Go out there and explore it! You’ll score well and have more fun if you run right up and down the length and breadth of the pad. Flirt with the wall, but don’t hit the bloody thing!
TOP-GEAR IT – Get the car into top as quickly as possible. When it comes to making smoke, tyre speed is your best friend.
START IN THE DRY – Instant smoke is something the judges have always looked for, and the crowd loves it. Starting in the water box might be easier on your driveline, but will dramatically affect the volume of smoke you can produce in the opening seconds of your skid.
GO THE DISTANCE – To finish first, first you must finish. Be aware of any minimum or maximum time limits that may apply and do your best to stay within them.
GET THE CROWD INVOLVED – Most of the top skidders work hard on winning the crowd over. Acknowledge them during the skid, and once you get the tyres off, jump out of the car and celebrate with them. They’ll love you for it!
PLAY BY THE RULES – Judging criteria varies from one event to the next, so if you’re out to win, take the time to familiarise yourself with the rules and criteria for each competition, and drive accordingly.
Machine: FUKYEA, 1970 FORD CAPRI Engine: 377CI CHEVY SMALL-BLOCK, 6/71 WEIAND BLOWER DANNY Younis was born into a family of muscle car builders and street car racers, but the Sydneysider has veered off in a different direction to his dad Tony and big brother Louis, building a Capri that melts tyres with style points. He’s had the car eight years, since he was 15, and skidded it for the first time two-and-a-half years ago. Back then it ran the engine package out of Tony’s infamous wheelstanding Anglia and was set up to go down the track. “I had Dad’s old motor and I was literally racing it, naturally aspirated, and then one day I did a burnout comp just for fun and got hooked,” Danny recalls.
The FUKYEA fastback received a blown, injected Chevy small-block powerplant two years ago, and Danny’s having tons of fun. “Burnouts are obviously the next generation,” he says. “You look at the size of the crowds that are coming now and drag racing just can’t compete.”
Machine: FROM HELL, 1981 VC COMMODORE Engine: 515CI CHEVY BIG-BLOCK, 8/71 BLOWER CHRIS Genter and his wife Kirsten have gradually stepped up their game over the past few years. The young parents from Albury, NSW debuted their FROM HELL VC as a cruiser at Summernats 26 with a blown, injected Holden 355 in it. Now it’s sporting a Powerhouse-built 515ci big-block along with all the juicy fruit. “The sport’s evolving, so you’ve got to evolve with it,” Chris says. “This car’s been on fire, it’s been into walls, but it’s still competitive.” In order to step things up yet again, Chris and Kirsten are currently building a 2002 GTO Monaro. Envisioned as the perfect advertisement for their growing Genter Race Fabrications business, it’ll be fixin’ to compete for Summernats Grand Champion before it ever chucks a skid. “We are going all-out with this Monaro,” Kirsten says. “I’d say we’re going to be very precious about skidding it when we finally get it done!”
Machine: TUFFST, 1981 HOLDEN VK COMMODORE WAGON Engine: 3377CI CHEVY SMALL-BLOCK, 8/71 BLOWER VETERAN skidder Phil Kerjean still remembers what it was like way back when he actually drove his now famous VK wagon to its first Summernats! That was 16 years ago, and the car has undergone a few wild upgrades since, most recently being re-unveiled in its Tuff Street tribute guise at Summernats 28. The continual evolution of Phil’s machinery has run parallel to the growth of burnouts as a motorsport. In fact, they’ve driven one another. “In 15 years, the whole thing has gone crazy,” says Phil, who also runs the annual Burnout Outlaws comp in Sydney.
“Everyone is running LS engines and a lot of guys don’t care if they hurt them! It’s definitely a different landscape now.” And Phil ain’t planning on disappearing from the landscape anytime soon, despite torching the back half of his VK wagon during Burnout Masters qualifying in January. “I’m not gonna stop. It’s too much fun.”
WHEN they eventually get around to building a Burnout Hall Of Fame, Steve Loader will be one of the first inducted. He’s won most things there is to win over the years in his evil UCSMOKE HT, while also simultaneously running the orange UNLOAD VE Commodore, which was sold to Steve Edsall in 2014, followed by the green RELOAD VF Commodore SS-V Redline. “I’ve been doing this for a while and at the moment, the cars are unbelievable,” Steve says. “You go anywhere in Australia and the quality of the cars is up there, and there’s a lot more people travelling to the different events.” As co-organiser of The Ultimate Burnout Challenge at Winton, Steve reckons the current level of professionalism in the sport is just about spot-on. “I like that with burnouts there’s no association and no bullshit,” he says.
Machine: UCSMOKE, 1969 HOLDEN HT PREMIER Engine: 532CI CHEVY BIG-BLOCK, 8/71 BLOWER “It’s just have fun, have a skid, “It’s just have fun, have a skid, have a laugh. When you start getting too professional then it becomes a money thing and whoever’s got the biggest wallet is going to win.”
Machine: ULEGAL, 1973 TOYOTA KE20 COROLLA COUPE Engine: 377CI CHEVY, 6/71 WEIAND BLOWER IT’S hard to say which one’s crazier, Mick Brasher or his ULEGAL Corolla. The cult hero from Taree, NSW, and his blown, injected KE20 gained instant fame five years ago when a wild backyard burnout party went viral. That little shindig has since grown into the legitimate Brashernats events, and along the way Mick and the car also skidded to a Burnout Masters victory.
The chameleon two-door Corolla seems to change looks with the seasons, which is a reflection of Mick’s hyperactive persona and his natural flair for showmanship. “I’m more of a show-off,” counters Mick. “I’ve gotta keep the car fresh, gotta keep people talking about what’s next.” As far as what’s next for burnouts as a semi-professional sport, Mick’s got no idea where it’s headed.
“It’s f**kin’ off its head at the moment,” he says. “Back in the day, it was only 10 blokes that were blown and injected, but first-year apprentices seem to have the gear these days, and they just keep comin’. I don’t know where the sport’s going. I’ve thought myself: ‘Do I be the game-changer and go V8 diesel?’” If anyone’s mad enough… s