IT’S A horrifying image that was replayed many times during the Summernats 30 TV broadcast – the much-loved ONIT Torana aquaplaning into the barrier during Burnout Masters Qualifying.
Canberra boys Matt Cowan and Mark Siracusa run the car in tandem, but Mark was the unfortunate one at the wheel at the time.
“It was bound to happen sooner or later, but unfortunately it happened at the biggest burnout comp in Australia!” Mark tells SM. “But I think I’ve accepted it now. On the day it was a bit depressing. Me and Matty walked off the burnout pad without our car – that’s something we’ve never done before.”
Mark’s meeting with the wall made Matt’s task in the Burnout Masters Finals the following day all the more difficult. But when they wheeled the car back to their campsite, they discovered the damage wasn’t as bad as first thought.
“In the video it looks really bad,” says Mark. “But we quickly realised the damage was not as bad as what we thought.”
While the lads bashed the front end back straight and patched up the radiator and transmission cooler, fluid was leaking from the car while Matt was on the start line. Of course, he still gave it everything on entry, but then he pulled a similar move to Mark, where the Torry straightened and headed for that same spot on the wall. Thankfully, Matt pulled it up in time, and continued to skid until the car overheated.
“I think because it was our first time in that spotlight – the Burnout Masters – we got a bit nervous,” Mark says. “The judges were emphasising the requirement to take it to the next level – they wanted to see speed, use of the whole track, exit and entry lanes, everything… So I think I built it up in my mind too much.
“I’d come in hot at Summernats 29, so I tried to take that to the next level, but as I came out of the smoke after the first donut, I knew I was in trouble. Matty was pointing down the exit road, but I didn’t have a lot of control to get it there.
“You work so hard to get to that position, you’re not just going to go out there and play it safe. I just took it a little bit too far.”
ONIT was originally unveiled at Summernats 28, where it won all sorts of praise and prizes. It collected Tuff Street Champion at Summernats two years’ running, plus tinware at MotorEx and Autofest and elsewhere, at which point its owners were ready to drive it onto the burnout pad and show how much punishment its blown 511ci Dart Big M big-block could withstand.
With the car now in need of TLC, the boys are taking the opportunity to wind back the clock
two years and restore it to its unveil quality. After that they’ll start thrashing it mercilessly again.
“The damage at this stage is nosecone, radiator support, and a little bit of the engine bay,” explains Mark. “There are a lot of little parts needed, but we showed the panel beaters and they said it’s not significant and it’s all relatively easy to fix.”
Mark has sourced the major front-end bits, getting a nose cone from Queensland, a grille from Canberra and a bumper bar from the internet.
ONIT has been trailered to Exclusive Customs at Heathcote in southern Sydney, who’ll handle the job of piecing it together.
“Most of the replacement parts were fairly easy to find,” Mark says. “And since we’ve got the opportunity, we’re doing some mods that we’ve wanted to do for the past two years but we didn’t, because we would’ve had to paint sections of the car and try to colour-match.
“We love the colour, so it’s staying the same, but we’re painting the car again. We’re fixing a few little things in the engine bay and also fixing some gaps on panels. We’re rolling the guards, and fixing some panels that have been damaged previously, and some damage on the rear end from tyres exploding.”
The engine will be pulled apart to be polished and all the painted bits repainted. The cabin will stay as is, except that the Auto Meter gauges will go and a Racepak data-logger will be installed.
As far as timelines for the car’s reappearance go, Mark and Matt expect it will roll out of the shop mid-year, and they’d like to get it in time to head to Tropical Meltdown in Cairns in July.
“Our target is Cairns,” says Mark, “but if we don’t achieve it, we’re not too fussed.
There’s always a burnout comp just around the corner.”