NORTHERN EXPOSURE

WITH BURNOUTS, DRAG RACING, A DYNO COMP AND MORE, NORTHERN NATS AT SPRINGMOUNT RACEWAY WELL AND TRULY PUT FAR NORTH QUEENSLAND ON THE MOTORSPORT MAP

STORY AIDEN TAYLOR PHOTOS CHRIS ROBSON

THE second running of Northern Nats at Springmount Raceway, near Cairns, went off! The 2017 event was like a mini-Summernats held in the tropics, combining burnouts, powerskids, drag racing, a dyno competition and a show ’n’ shine, so there was something for everyone. This year 350 cars entered – around 100 more than last year – and 10,000 spectators came to soak up the high-octane action!

Springmount Raceway is located about an hour inland from Cairns.

The drive out is crazy; from the sea, through rainforest and then up into the dry mountainous tablelands, it’s like going through three different continents in an hour. The track itself is located at the base of a desert-like mountain range, and the view is unreal. But we didn’t come for the landscape; we came to see some angry cars tearing it up on the blacktop.

The $15,000 burnout competition is the big drawcard of the event and it brings out the big-name interstate cars, plus heaps of spectators. This year Ross Heasley returned in MRBADQ to defend his title after taking out the Pro class last year. Burnout legend Gary Myers also made the trek once again, debuting his new AGROXA blown burnout car. Thomas Beltrame came up from South Oz with INFERNO, and Andrew Pool in IBLOWN, Sam Surace in MADSAM, Rick Fuller in LSONE, Ryan Pearson in HOLDON and Brendan Cherry and Leigh Pearson sharing driving duties in BACKUP were all present and correct.

The locals had some pretty rad rides too. Matt Smith with his crazy V8-powered Morris Minor ute, Martin Roper’s ROPABLE and Andre Cuthbertson’s bad-arse blown and injected Holden ute were among those taking it to the interstate guys.

The competition was hotly contested – and in the case of Cherry and Pearson and their BACKUP VH Commodore, in more ways than one. The blown LS in their car called it quits after some hard abuse on the pad and exploded in a fireball. “The car was 90 per cent dead and had a bad bottom end knock, but we still had to send it,” said Brendan, who was driving at the time. Both of the boys laughed it off and had a ripper time.

“It was really laidback, well-organised, and a good-sized pad,”

THE SCENERY IS UNREAL, BUT WE DIDN’T COME FOR THE LANDSCAPE – WE CAME TO SEE SOME ANGRY CARS TEARING IT UP ON THE BLACKTOP

Brendan said of the event. “Our car was buggered soon as we got there and we were betting on how long it would last, but we still had a ball. The backdrop and views were crazy as it’s surrounded by mountains!”

At the pointy end of the Pro burnout field, it was no surprise that the big-name interstate cars dominated, and really got the crowd going. Andrew Pool – a former Summernats Burnout Master – was the top-ranked Queensland-based contender, coming in fifth place overall ahead of fellow Queenslander Todd Kopelke in his tough Torana. But it was New South Welshman Ryan Pearson in HOLDON who took out the number one spot and the $15,000, ahead of Ross Heasley in MRBADQ in second, Rick Fuller’s LSONE in third and Gary Myers in his new AGROXA Falcon in fourth.

Tickets to the Red CentreNATS Burnout Masters comp were also up for grabs, so the top three cars snagged those. However, because Rick Fuller had already secured his Masters spot his ticket went to Gary Myers.

Gary also put up four tickets to his own Gazzanats Darwin event later this year, which went to four standout North Queensland burnout cars from the weekend. Burnout judge Nathan Owens- Place selected Matt Smith and his V8 Morris, Andrew Pool and IBLOWN, Dale Butterworth and his HQ tonner, and Andre Cuthbertson and his Commodore ute.

In the Modified burnout class, Todd Kopelke took home the silverware with his carbied LS-powered two-door Torana. He snagged himself $500 for the class win in addition to his sixth spot overall for the event. Cassidy Pumpa was also outstanding in her HQ ute, taking out the Six-Cylinder class win and the award for Best Ladies’ Burnout.

The powerskids were another crowd favourite, with plenty of the blown burnout cars giving the straight-line stuff a crack. Gary Myers was a standout in his new XA, happily blazing the rear hoops for the full quarter-mile. Geoff Clarke’s blown 427 XY Falcon was another tough skidder, as was Chris Gofton’s race-spec blown and injected XY. But in the end the judges favoured Matt Smith’s lightweight small-block Chev-powered Morris Minor ute, awarding it the Top Powerskid gong.

Springmount is the only quarter-mile drag strip in Far North Queensland; the next closest strip is in Mackay, which is only running eighth-mile since Cyclone Debbie’s heavy rain destroyed the track earlier this year. So you can bet your cheese and biscuits that just about every drag racer in FNQ was itching to get out on the strip.

One car that really got our attention was Chris Kepper’s XW Falcon GT, which loves to pull the front wheels. Chris came up from Townsville for the event, and his 438ci methanol-chugging aspo Falcon racer ran nines all weekend.

However, hands down the craziest car on the strip had to be Glyn

THIS YEAR 350 CARS ENTERED – AROUND 100 MORE THAN LAST YEAR – AND 10,000 SPECTATORS CAME TO SOAK UP THE HIGH-OCTANE ACTION

Smith’s crazy Pro Mod Pontiac. Packing a 700ci big-block, it was the quickest thing on four wheels, running a 7.44. But Glyn couldn’t hold claim to the highest mph; that went to Anthony Spataro, who clocked 185mph in his similarly stout 540ci blown methanoldrinking Monaro.

There was big prize money up for grabs in the drags too. And to keep it fair, it was all class-based dial-your-own racing, with a Chicago Shootout on the Sunday for the top-ranked bracket drivers from each class. A total of $7000 was split between each class winner, as well as $1000 each for quickest ET (Glyn Smith), highest mph (Anthony Spataro) and quickest reaction time (Rino Gava).

The overall dyno comp winner, Peter Larios, did very well too, taking home $2000 for his efforts. His turbo 427ci LS-powered VE Holden ute made a massive 1435rwhp. Peter has won the Northern Nats dyno comp two years on the trot now, making over 1400rwhp on both occasions. We were also impressed by Shaun Mann’s BA XR6 Turbo, which stomped out 1049rwhp, claiming the Forced Six- Cylinder dyno award.

The Car Of The Show award went to Gary Myers’s new AGROXA burnout car, winning him $1000. Gary entered the car in everything from the show ’n’ shine to the burnouts and powerskids – he even put it on the rollers for the dyno comp! The Blown Motorsports-built injected 360ci Windsor made 828rwhp, still 1000rpm shy of the 9200rpm Gary puts it through on the pad.

Overall, Northern Nats was a fantastic, well-organised event.

Organisers Evan Yelavich and Lee Harvey are both car nuts, and after the success of the first go-round last year, the 2017 outing was only going to be bigger and better – and it was. Thomas Beltrame (INFERNO) reckoned it was well worth the trip north from South Oz.

“It was a great event with great people running it, and the action was non-stop, which I really liked,” he enthused.

“The support we’re getting towards the event will ensure that it’s a permanent fixture on the Springmount calendar,” Evan said.

Lee concurred. “The feedback has been awesome; I haven’t seen any complaints and basically all of the interstate burnout guys have messaged or called me saying they’re coming back, so we’re pretty happy,” he said.

With this level of support from the interstate guys and of course the Queensland locals, Northern Nats has a bright future ahead – and we’re not just talking about the weather. s

THE SUPPORT WE’RE GETTING TOWARDS THE EVENT WILL ENSURE THAT IT’S A PERMANENT FIXTURE ON THE SPRINGMOUNT CALENDAR