New Zealand's best put on a show at Meremere Dragway
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The Wellington invaders and the Meremere Dragway regulars proved to be evenly matched as the first major drag race meeting of 2020 raced in the Saturday evening darkness.
The annual Wellington Invasion event was the fourth round of the new national points series for most classes but the first outing for the Group 1 Top Door Slammer and Top Alcohol categories.
Buckland’s Chris Johnston claimed a home track win in Top Alcohol, making an unopposed run in the final with his dragster while Featherston’s Gavin Green ('68 Pontiac Firebird) gained the opening round Door Slammer honours over the turbocharged Pontiac Grand-Am of New Plymouth’s Jeff Dobson.
Both headline classes saw cars suffer early season teething problems.
Anthony Marsh (Auckland) set the Top Alcohol qualifying pace with a 5.513secs pass in the heat of the afternoon while Johnston had earlier clocked 5.618secs. Marsh overpowered the track in his round one round bye run while Johnston put down the quickest run of the season to-date with a strong 5.497secs pass to take a first round win against the Altered of Wayne Curry (New Plymouth).
There was a 5.674s run — with a mid-track lift — from Johnston in his semi-final bye while Marsh’s car wasn’t fired as the team discovered a fuel line was leaking moments before his semi-final against Masterton’s Dwayne Garrett.
It was disappointment for the Marsh Motorsport team which had made an aggressive step with the tune-up looking to take advantage of the cooler early evening conditions.
Garrett raced solo to a new personal best at 5.973s but a pop just short of the finish and only 209.59mph through the top end beams indicated an issue. The supercharger burst panel had blown and Garrett couldn’t return for the final against Johnston.
The Door Slammers also suffered some technical problems with defending champ Barry Plumpton (Auckland) deciding not to run in eliminations after a crack was discovered in the chassis of his Camaro.
Mark Bardsley clocked a first round 6.520s pass in his '68 Camaro which was the quickest run of the day but the Aucklander suffered an electrical problem after completing his semi-final burnout against Dobson.
Green and Dobson raced into the darkness in the final and with Green improving on each of his elimination runs his 6.592s effort was too good for Dobson’s 6.911s.
Supercharged Outlaws had diverse field of dragsters, altereds and door cars with the final featuring a front-engine dragster duel. Cameron Paterson (Lichfield) and Ross Brown (Whangarei) elected to race a "heads up" final in their low 7secs diggers and Paterson claimed the win.
The quickest Supercharged Outlaw contender was Otaki’s Rex Duckett who firstly achieved his first 200mph performance with a 203.16mph effort in his Pontiac GXP and later ran a new personal best of 6.832s.
Corey Silk (Paraparumu) won the Modified category against Te Puke’s Ben McLeod and Top Street honours were secured by Balclutha racer Roger Binnema in his supercharged small block Chevrolet powered Honda Accord.
Impressive reaction times and consistent performance made for a successful night’s work by Super Sedan points leader Lee Sherwin (Pukekohe). He raced through five rounds of eliminations in his V8 powered Escort to claim a win over Tauranga racer Anton Silva (Mazda RX7).
It was Sherwin’s second win in four national events and in the process of extending his points lead he defeated nearest challenger Anthony Wijdeven (Pukekohe) in an important semi-final match-up.
The national series now heads south for rounds at Ruapuna (Christchurch) on January 26 and the Motueka airport on February 1. The Top Alcohol and Top Door Slammer cars are next in action at Masterton Motorplex for the Auckland Invasion meet over the February 15-16 weekend.