Inaugural 400 Thunder round draws bumper Pro fields
MEDIA RELEASE: Australia’s new professional drag racing series, 400 Thunder has attracted bumper fields to its inaugural round, the East Coast Nationals, which will be held at Sydney Dragway on 7-8 November.
Sixty-two teams have entered the six professional brackets – Top Fuel, Top Alcohol, Top Doorslammer, Pro Stock, Top Fuel Motorcycle and Pro Stock Motorcycle – with entries received from every state and territory in Australia, plus the United States.
A full eight-car contingent of Top Fuel dragsters headlines the East Coast Nationals, with Sydney-based Rapisarda Autosport International entering four of its 10,000-horsepower nitro-burning dragsters.
American stars, Cory McClenathan and Dom Lagana lead the Rapisarda team with reigning Australian Champion Damien Harris and local Wayne Newby completing the quartet.
McClenathan is a four-time NHRA Top Fuel championship runner-up and two-time U.S. Nationals winner with 65 national event victories in the world’s premier drag racing series to his credit. He won Australia’s biggest annual drag racing event, the Winternationals at Willowbank in June, in his last appearance for the team.
“I got the call from [team owner Santo Rapisarda’s son] Santo Junior a few weeks ago and I was very happy to hear about the race and asked if I could come down and drive one of the Rapisarda Autosport International dragsters,” McClenathan said.
“I’m very excited to run with three other team mates. They are all great drivers so it should be a blast. I’m also looking forward to working with [renowned American crew chief] Lee Beard and seeing all the Rapisarda family. I enjoy the fans in Australia, they’re some of the best in the world.”
Four-time Australian Top Fuel Champion Darren Morgan makes his fulltime return to the sport in Sydney after running a limited schedule in recent seasons, Morgan having recently announced AEG Powertools as major partner for his team’s 2015/16 campaign.
Eight-time Australian Champion John Zappia heads the impressive Top Doorslammer entry list, with 16 cars attempting to qualify for an eight-car elimination field – former champions Ben Bray and Peter Kapiris amongst those vying for event honours.
An exciting mixture of 12 Top Alcohol cars has nominated for the event; eight Funny Cars, three dragsters and a solo altered – the field headlined by 17-time Australian Top Alcohol champ Gary Phillips and fellow Queenslander John Canulli, who endured a 400km/h fireball when he went close to wrestling the title off Phillips last season and is now back and determined to turn the tables on his rival this season.
Reigning champ Lee Bektash will begin his Pro Stock title defence in his factory-backed Mopar Dodge Avenger, Bektash heading in a 13-strong entry list that also features recent Winternationals winner Nino Cavallo and North Queensland’s Tremayne brothers – Tyronne and Aaron.
Former NHRA Pro Stock driver, Grace Porter (nee Howell) is the lone female competitor in the professional ranks, the 29-year-old who is now based in Queensland will drive husband Scott’s Ford Mustang.
A national champion in Junior Dragsters, Porter made her NHRA professional debut at the 2011 U.S. Nationals with Cunningham Motorsports, and three times qualified for eliminations in the sport’s most competitive category.
The two-wheeled professional categories, Top Fuel Motorcycle and Pro Stock Motorcycle, also have strong fields, with an assortment of Harleys and Suzukis featuring in the seven-entry fuel bike field led by reigning and two-time Australian Champion Mark Drew.
Current Australian Champion Maurice Allen heads the six-bike Pro Stock Motorcycle entry list aboard his Vance & Hines Suzuki, standout rookie Brad Lemberg, who won the Winternationals on debut in June, looking for a repeat performance.
General Manager of Sydney Dragway, Peter Beaumont said the huge entry list is validation of the new series’ core values and ideas.
“400 Thunder set out to make drag racing more competitor, corporate and media friendly, and to have more than 60 professional teams enter its inaugural event is confirmation we have taken right direction with the new series,” Beaumont said.
“The new series is centred around a more comprehensive broadcast package and greater competitor representation in decision making, and our new formula is already proving to be a winner.
“With such strong competitor support for the East Coast Nationals, race fans will be in for an incredible two days racing at Sydney Dragway.”
A new broadcast arrangement with Fox Sports has already been announced for 400 Thunder, while an exciting new live-streaming package will be revealed in the lead up to the event.
In addition to 400 Thunder’s six professional categories, the East Coast Nationals will include the second round of the Summit Racing Equipment Sportsman Series.
The East Coast Nationals takes place at Sydney Dragway from 7-8 November, with qualifying and racing from 9:00am both days.
Further event information and ticket prices can be found at www.sydneydragway.com.au.