NZ's fastest dragsters set to do battle at Meremere this weekend
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New Zealand’s fastest cars accelerate into action as the new national drag racing championship shifts into top gear on Saturday at Meremere Dragway.
The Meremere ‘strip hosts the fourth round of the national series running this summer under the combined sanctioning of the NZ Drag Racing Association and the International Hot Rod Association (IHRA).
Early season rounds at Christchurch, Tokoroa and Taupo have been for the Group 2, 3 and 4 Index and Dial Your Own racing categories and this weekend the Group 1 Top Door Slammer and Top Alcohol cars join the fray with ‘‘heads-up’’ racing.
There’s plenty of attention on the Door Slammers at present with a new performance benchmark already laid down this summer. In early season outings Auckland’s Barry Plumpton delivered New Zealand’s long-anticipated first 5secs Door Slammer performance with a 5.925s/237.42mph pass at Meremere in his 15.7-litre nitrous-boosted ‘68 Chevrolet Camaro.
Plumpton won last summer’s Kiwi Thunder title and his challengers include the supercharged cars of Hamilton racer Nigel Dixon in his BA Falcon, Featherston’s Gavin Green (‘68 Pontiac Firebird), Aucklander Mark Bardsley in his ‘68 Camaro and the Chevrolet Beretta of Wellington racer Rod Benjes along with Taranaki’s Adam Prestney in the twin turbocharged Pontiac Grand-Am.
Top Alcohol is likely to see the duel between the closely matched but very different dragsters of Anthony Marsh (Auckland) and Chris Johnston (Buckland).
Since a June visit to the Winternationals in Queensland, the Marsh Motorsport team has made ‘‘back half’’ chassis updates to dragster which shifts the engine location in search of a harder launch.
Marsh’s injected nitro A-Fuel car is a contrast to the supercharged alcohol dragster of Buckland’s Chris Johnston. November test runs saw Johnston clock a strong 5.569secs/262.79mph in the Noonan powered dragster which is the quickest run on a New Zealand track this summer.
A career-first 5secs(5.991secs) run by Masterton’s Dwayne Garrett in the Torquing Heads dragster on his home track in December is another recent top performance while Tamara Silk (Paraparaumu) continues to knock on the door of her first 5secs pass in the ex-Bert King Dragster which runs a supercharged big block Chevrolet engine.
Among the classes that are already three events into the 2019-20 national title chase the closest competition is in the Super Sedan ranks with Lee Sherwin (Pukekohe) the early points leader in his 8.2-litre Ford Escort. Sherwin has 250 points and leads Anthony Wijdeven (Pukekohe) on 219 and Taupo round winner Jeremy Hewson (Putaruru) on 186 points.
Saturday’s meeting is the first half of the annual ‘‘Invasion’’ double header. Billed as the Wellington Invasion it brings brings many of the lower North Island competitors to Meremere while the reciprocal event is the Auckland Invasion set for the February 15-16 weekend at Masterton Motorplex which is also round seven of the national series.
The Meremere event starts at 1.00pm and will race into Saturday evening under the track’s newly upgraded lighting. The Group 1 cars are scheduled on track for qualifying at 2.00pm and 3.30pm with elimination rounds set for 5.30pm, 7.30pm and 9.00pm.