NZ's fastest dragsters to do battle at Meremere this weekend
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New Zealand’s fastest racing cars are being finely tuned for the highlight of the local drag racing calendar this weekend.
The 52nd New Zealand Nationals at Meremere Dragway offers both standalone titles and is also the penultimate round of the combined national points series being run this year under the dual sanction of the NZ Drag Racing Association (NZDRA) and the International Hot Rod Association (IHRA).
The combined national series has set aside a lengthy split in the quarter-mile sport and has brought strong fields to drag strips around the country this summer.
For the Group 1 Top Alcohol and Top Doorslammer categories this weekend’s Meremere event is the third of four national rounds. The Index and ‘‘Dial Your Own’’ racing categories along with the Junior Dragsters have already contested as many as seven events at six different venues since Labour weekend and also have two more opportunities left this month to boost their point tallies.
In the Top Alcohol division the title battle is between long-time rivals Chris Johnston (Buckland) in his supercharged Noonan powered dragster and Auckland’s Anthony Marsh in the Marsh Motorsport A/Fuel (injected nitromethane) dragster.
Johnston holds the mid-season lead with 234 points ahead of Marsh on 196 while Masterton’s Dwayne Garrett — who has raced his dragster into the 5secs bracket this summer — is third with 172 points.
Marsh has been the quickest and fastest driver on New Zealand tracks this summer with a 5.347secs ET and a top speed of 271.77mph (on separate passes) at Masterton last month.
Final round appearances at both Meremere and Masterton rounds has powered the turbocharged Pontiac Grand-Am campaigned by Taranaki’s Jeff Dobson and Adam Prestney into the lead of the Top Doorslammer class with 213 points ahead of Featherston’s Gavin Green (‘68 Pontiac Firebird) with 188 and Hamilton’s Nigel Dixon (BA Falcon) on 155.
Whanganui’s Rivers Family lead the Competition category in their Blues Brothers big-block Chevrolet powered dragster ahead of Northland’s Michael Coward (Ford Pop). Super Stock racing has seen South Island drivers to the fore with Christchurch’s Scott Tolhurst (Toyota Soarer) leading on 278 points from Balclutha’s Roger Binnema (Honda Accord) on 234.
In the strongly-supported DYO Supercharged Outlaws category Palmerston North’s Mark Gapp (‘41 Willys Coupe) and Putaruru front-engine dragster driver Cameron Paterson are tied in the series lead ahead of the Ant Hill Mob Chevrolet Camaro funny car of Bill and Clinton Minchington (Christchurch).
This weekend’s Nationals will feature racing in up to 14 categories with qualifying on Saturday and eliminations on Sunday. On-track action starts from 10am both days. The final points round will be part of the Aeroflow Outlaw Nitro Funny Car Series event at Masterton Motorplex on Saturday March 21.