TAR WARS

RUNWAY RACING IN WA FOUND A NEW HOME WHEN MOTUL RACEWARS HEADED TO ALBANY

STORY BORIS VISKOVIC PHOTOS BRAD MISKIEWICZ, ANDREW GOODWIN AND BV

THERE aren’t too many car events that take a ‘gap year’ and then come back bigger and better than ever, but that’s just what the organisers of Motul Racewars – WA’s airstrip top-speed challenge – did. After threeFstor successful events at Wyalkatchem airport in 2013, ’14 and ’15, the organisers took a year off to find a new venue that would handle the everincreasing performance of the competitors.

Since that first event, the terminal speeds have increased from 275km/h to almost 325km/h, and with higher speeds you need more braking area and preferably a run-off area without barbed-wire fences.

It was a pretty brave move to relocate the event to a venue that’s further away from the main population centre, but when that location is Albany – a former whaling town and famous for being the last view many ANZACs had of Australian soil – there were no complaints. The heart of the Great Southern region of WA, it’s a beautiful part of the world, and the 4.5- hour drive from Perth – longer if you’re towing a car – didn’t seem to put anyone off. Albany Airport is also a much smoother racing surface than Wyalkatchem, which was notorious for a nasty bump around the 400m mark. It’s also a couple of hundred metres longer at 1.8km, so there was no need for any of the cars to pull parachutes to slow down. Not yet, at least!

There were about 200 competitors and somewhere around 7000 spectators for the weekend, and while many made the trek from elsewhere, the Albany region has a thriving car scene in its own right and a lot of the locals came down for a look, with several competing as well.

Racewars is essentially an event of three parts. Proceedings kick off with a rolling start, side-by-side 400m event. The theory with the rolling start is that people get their cars up to 60km/h, and at the 100m mark that’s when the race is on. It’s a bit more sympathetic to the machinery and also to the racing surface, an important factor as this is an active airstrip and it has to be kept in pristine condition.

The 400m event gives the competitors a chance to feel out their cars and the track and make sure everything is okay.

But things start to get serious when the finish line gets moved to the 800m marker.

There’s still a rolling start and side-by-side racing, but now you start to see who the big hitters are. Cars that are topping 270- 280km/h in the 800m are usually a good bet to crack 300km/h in the 1000 VMax event and join the prestigious 300 Club.

This year a couple of cars – Matt Haines’s Skyline and John Kopcheff’s Gallardo – topped the 300km/h mark in the 800m, so the signs were good for some very big numbers to be run in the 1000m VMax. This is the real deal – cars

run one at a time and no passengers are allowed. It’s timed from a standing start and prizes are awarded for both the highest top speed and the quickest elapsed time over the event.

My favourite car of the weekend was a ’70 Dodge Challenger owned by Albany local Shane Jordan. The muscular lines of the classic US machine were backed up by the 440ci late-model Hemi stuffed under the hood, but it wasn’t just about straightline performance for Shane. Underneath was all updated as well, in keeping with the pro touring theme of the car, with tubular IFS replacing the torsion bar front end and a four-link and nine-inch out back.

Another local, Mark Sugg, rocked up with his ‘Barrel Racer’, a ’38 Ford barrel-nosed pick-up. It was the polar opposite of the Challenger. Suggy (as his mates call him) pieced it together with stuff he had lying around, so it all sits on a ’95 Mitsubishi Triton chassis. “It handles like shit,” Suggy admitted, but it’s a lot of fun with the LS1 and T56 six-speed. It managed a top speed of just over 194km/h in the 800m and had a crowd around it all day.

While old muscle cars and hot rods always draw me in, there was plenty of latermodel stuff to check out that was equally impressive. While I’m not often exposed to European exotica and wild Japanese pocket-rockets, I still enjoy checking them out and seeing what people do to make them go fast. You have to admire how much horsepower these guys are getting out of their small-capacity Nissan, Toyota and Subaru donks.

While the field was heavily biased towards Skylines of all shapes and colours – no wait, most of them were grey – there was a huge variety of cars to check out, including a decent array of Aussie muscle, old and new. It was great to see Mark Grose and Brad Gardiner in their HTs – a Monaro and a ute respectively, both running nitrous-fed small-block Chevs – cutting laps all weekend. Over the 400m events these cars are tough to beat, but that’s about where they top out.

Mark did suggest that the much smoother surface of Albany’s airstrip made him keen to come back next year with some taller gears to see what the old girl can do over the longer distances.

A new addition to this year’s Racewars was a Street Outlaws-styled, no-prep, eighth-mile drag racing event called Cash Days. The brainchild of Jordan Leist, it was a $100 buy-in and there were three

RESULTS-1000M VMAX

DRIVER/OWNER VEHICLE TRAP SPEED (KM/H) ET (SEC) 1) John Kopcheff 2011 Lamborghini Gallardo 324.97 18.979 2) Matt Haines 1994 Nissan Skyline R32 GT-R 324.32 17.925 3) David Christie 2002 Holden Commodore 302.58 19.95 4) Joshua Iacob 2009 FPV F6 302.46 20.028 5) Adam Monck 1996 Nissan Silvia 298.95 21.179

GROSE DOMESTIC PRODUCT

A GENUINE nine-second car over the quarter-mile, Mark Grose’s HT Monaro has more than enough grunt to beat a lot of supercars over the 400m runs, but that’s about as far as Mark is willing to push the old girl. Those modern European and Japanese cars with their working suspensions, good brakes and aerodynamics soon prove their superiority over the longer distances.

Mark – who has owned years – had been running a 383 SBC combo for several years, which pushed the car to high 10-second quarters naturally aspirated and well into the nines with the 250-shot of nitrous, but a couple of weeks before Racewars a new 434 combo went in. It dynoed at 687hp at the crank, and Mark still has a 250-shot of nitrous up his sleeve, which will give the HT for 31 him over 900hp! That’s pretty handy for a car that regularly sees street duty, does a ton of drag racing and gets flogged to the limit at events like Racewars.

With the relocation of the event to Albany this year, Mark did feel a lot more comfortable in the car and hinted that he might give the 800m and maybe even the 1000m VMax challenge a crack next year.

That will be something worth seeing! hi

TAKING IT TO THE LIMIT

THEY call Matt Haines ‘Hollywood’, but he’s about the most un-Hollywood bloke you’ll ever meet. After hurting the bearings on a brand new engine for his Skyline just weeks before Racewars, Matt refused to give up and ordered the parts he needed while he was on site doing his FIFO gig. Once he’d flown home again, he got stuck straight into repairs.

Thankfully, the crank and block damage was minimal, so after the engine block, head, oil lines, oil pump and dry-sump tank were flushed to remove any bearing material, the motor was reassembled, and dropped back into the car around 11:30pm the Thursday night before the event.

“After four or five hours’ sleep that night I woke up somewhat fresh and had the task of finishing off the car, starting it, running it in, packing the Patrol, and heading to Albany that night,” Matt said. “I started the car up around 7pm on the Friday night and took it for a five-minute drive to make sure there were no leaks or unusual noises. Success!”

Success is an understatement. Matt had the fastest speed of the event (324.32km/h) right up until late Sunday afternoon, when John Kopcheff’s twin-turbo Lamborghini Gallardo pipped him by just 0.65km/h.

Matt did end up with the quickest ET of the event, covering the 1000m in a blistering 17.925sec, while the Lambo was almost a second behind at 18.979. Driving into a fairly stiff headwind, the Gallardo’s aerodynamics came to the fore to snatch the victory away from Matt, but he was more than stoked to finish second.

classes: RWD, AWD and Outlaw (for the more race-oriented machines). The winner of the RWD and AWD classes battled it out to see who would take home the larger portion of the 60/40 split of the $3300 purse!

Once the dust had settled and the gravel had stopped bouncing, it was Brook Gunning and his XE Falcon that took the win over Rikki McLaughlan’s WRX – a big surprise considering how loose the startline surface was.

In the Outlaw class, Peter Selby’s awesome Charger took home the cash after edging out Stephen Adams in his VK Commodore. It was dark, it was windy and it was cold, but it was a pretty cool way to finish off a big day of racing.

There’s no doubt the Racewars crew are onto a good thing by moving down to Albany. The airport is only 10 minutes out of town and there is plenty to see and do in the area, including the Mt Barker wine region just 50km up the road – so there’s no excuse for not taking the missus. The only small issue with the venue is that it is an active airport that has to be shut down for the weekend, although the flying doctor still needs access during emergencies. This caused a bit of a delay on Saturday morning with no regular racing happening until almost lunchtime, but once the lanes were opened, the cars cycled through very quickly and people got plenty of passes in. There were no accidents and no major engine failures that oiled down the track, so the racing was continuous with very little delay between runs.

According to event director Jonathan Murray, this year’s Motul Racewars brought somewhere between $1.5 and $2 million into the region. Deputy Mayor Greg Stocks even came down for a look and jumped into Jamie Paolucci’s M3 for a quick 240km/h blast down the runway. He was suitably impressed, both with the high-speed blat and how well the event was run, and it appears he’ll be more than happy to support future Racewars events.

Plans are already in place for a Great Southern Motorplex not far from the airport, so the success of events like Racewars can only add support and lend validity to the fact that there is a need for a purpose-built motorsports venue. Let’s hope the government gets behind it so that we’ve got even more reasons to head down to Albany.