Nitro funny cars coming to NZ in force
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With the Australian Supercar teams now back at home from their annual Pukekohe pilgrimage, another top line Australian motorsport drawcard is preparing to make its first visit to New Zealand early next year.
The Aeroflow Outlaw Nitro Funny Car series will be the prime attraction at Meremere Dragway during the 2017-18 season with a Saturday February 3 date set to deliver a quarter-mile spectacle of header flames and thunder.
The series has five dates at Australian tracks with Meremere joining the series to host round four. Eight supercharged nitro-burning funny cars and two flame-throwing "wheel standers’’ are booked to make the trip.
‘‘Eight nitro cars on track at one meeting is something New Zealand has never seen before,’’ says Meremere Dragway track manager Gary Bogaart.
‘‘I think it’s going to be one of the biggest events we’ve ever staged at Meremere.’’
The series showcases the nitro-burning funny car class which isn’t recognised in Australia’s 400 Thunder national championship.
The Terminator `69 Camaro driven by Justin Walshe is the newest addition to the Aeroflow Outlaw Nitro Funny Car field. Photo / Colin Smith
Six cars come from the Aeroflow stable of stalwart Australian drag racer Graeme Cowin with leading drivers including Justin Walshe (above), Anthony Begley and Rick Gauci among the pilots. The other two cars are from the DBS Motorsport team of Dan and Jake Donnelly.
The funny cars consistently run deep into the five-second bracket while producing side-by-side competition.
The series has a strong Nostalgia theme with ‘57 Chev Coupe, ‘69 Camaro, `73 Mustang and ‘77 Pontiac Trans-Am body styles included in the line-up with names such as Dark Horse, The Bandit, Terminator and The Avenger.
All cars run supercharged nitromethane-fuelled Hemi engines in the 7.0-litre range producing 4000bhp to launch them down the quarter-mile and through the finish line at speeds in the region of 400km/h.
DBS Motorsport provides two of the nitro funny cars for the February events with Dan Donnelly at the wheel of The Avenger. Photo / Colin Smith
Providing further entertainment is a pair of 1500bhp flame-throwing ‘‘wheel stander’’ rear-engine funny cars designed to hike their front wheels at the first hit of throttle and complete quarter-mile passes on their back wheels.
Two rounds of the 2017-18 series have been staged at Queensland tracks with the next booking for the series at the Perth Motorplex on December 2 before the cars are shipped to New Zealand.
The Aeroflow Outlaw Nitro Funny Car series manager is former NZ Top Alcohol champion Morice McMillin (bellow), who also drives the ‘77 Pontiac Trans-Am bodied One Bad Kiwi in the series.
‘‘Going to New Zealand is a great opportunity for our racers and the New Zealand fans,’’ says McMillin.
‘‘A full field of nitro funny cars is something New Zealand hasn’t seen before and I’m confident we can put on a massive show for the New Zealand public.’’
One Bad Kiwi `77 Pontiac Trans-Am. Photo / Colin Smith
‘‘We had an impressive show at Willowbank [Queensland} last month with races decided by a few centimetres. Judging from crowd response that’s exactly what they wanted to see.
‘‘To bring eight nitro funny cars, two wheel-standers and the associated parts and pieces to run them all is a huge undertaking for Aeroflow Outlaw Nitro Funny Cars and Meremere Dragway and both parties are very excited about the show we can deliver.”
The series runs a fast-paced race programme that begins with an on-track ‘‘Cacklefest’’ style Salute to the Crowd fire-up for all cars followed by three rounds of racing with a 120-minute turn-around time. A points format with a race win worth three points and a loss gaining one point is used in place of an elimination system and any ties are broken by elapsed times in the third round of racing.
‘‘We always run the three-round format with all cars coming out for three rounds,’’ McMillin says.
"It’s about giving the crowd the entertainment they came to see. Nobody wants to see their favourite car eliminated in the first round and not come back out again.’’
Meremere Dragway staged its opening meeting of the 2017-18 season last month and racing steps up a gear over the November 18-19 weekend with "Test and Tune’’ format on Saturday followed by the Harley Davidson IHRA Spring Nationals on Sunday.
2017-18 Meremere Dragway calendar:
November 19 — Harley Davidson IHRA Spring Nationals
January 13 — Competition Meeting, Wellington Invasion
February 3 — Aeroflow Outlaw Nitro Funny Car Series
February 24 —NZ Junior Dragster Champs
February 25 - Competition Meeting
March 18-19 — IHRA New Zealand Nationals
April 8 — Competition Meeting