An event summary from Australia’s remarkable first season/closing event for its newly formed NDRC….

History was made at fabled Willowbank Raceway as Australian drag racing’s major league came to a thrilling conclusion last weekend. Both the inaugural National Drag Racing Championship (NDRC) champions were crowned alongside event winners and including Aeroflow National Sportsman champions, following the Gulf Western Oil Winternationals – 56th edition.

Attending racers took full advantage of a now masterpiece-prepped all concrete drag strip racing surface – following that just completed $12M injection into the Willowbank facility (located just west of Ipswich QLD).  That produced no shortage of edge-of-your-seat action and plenty of side-by-side and career best runs throughout the event weekend.

The Top Fuel racers started the event with only three rounds of racing left to decide if Damien Harris would claim the inaugural NDRC Top Fuel championship, or if his team-mate Wayne Newby would snatch it away.

With no team orders in play for the Rapisarda Autosport International teammates, the intensity was high throughout the event, but when both Harris and Newby found themselves in the A-Final, Harris was confirmed as the title winner, backing up his 2022/2023 championship.

The pair had everyone on their feet in the A-Final with a side-by-side drag race to the end which saw Newby snatch the Winternats honours with a blistering 3.779-second 520.75kph pass over Harris’ equally impressive 3.778-second 521.62kph run.

RAI team drivers Wayne Newby (top) & Damien Harris both emerged with major season titles after the NDRC season concluding Gulf Western Oil Winternationals event.

In the B-Final Xiberras laid down a flame-throwing 3.866-second 509.52kph solo run. Phil Read would have met Xiberras in the B-Final; however, it was a weekend to forget for the Jim Read Racing team. In the first round their air timer log blew out, ruining their run, and then a currently unknown issue put an end to their weekend when a fireball erupted as Read left the line. — and the Sydneysider put on a fantastic drive job to keep all four wheels on the ground. Unfortunately, the damage was too great to fix in time for round three.

“To go home with the Gold, the Silver, and the Stan Sainty Cup as a team is amazing and what we set out to do at the beginning of the year,” Harris said.

“I am disappointed for Wayne as I have been in that situation before, losing by only a couple of points. I can’t thank the Rapisarda family enough, Santo Snr, Wayne, Suzanne at Atlantic Oils, all my guys have worked amazing, let’s see what happens next!”

Winternats event winner Newby emotionally thanked his team and sponsors at the end of today’s racing and is already looking forward to next year.

“Congratulations to Damien, Santo and the team on the championship. Thank you to everyone, the Rapisarda family, Atlantic Oils, Santo’s Cranes, Wild Ink, I can’t thank everyone enough. It has been a killer year, and hopefully, next year can be that little bit better!” Newby said.

RAI team owner/Top fuel class kingpin Santo Rapisarda once again prevailed within Australia’s Top Fuel scene.

The Aeroflow XPRO Nitro Funny Car A-Final saw Queenslanders Justin Walshe and Brandon Gosbell line up for the final championship race of the weekend and that match not only confirmed Walshe as not only the inaugural NDRC champion but also delivering the Harts Paints racer his first coveted Winternats event title. Walshe won on a holeshot — with his 4.085-second 516.79kph run against Gosbell’s 4.080-second 516.79kph pass.

Walshe had earlier recorded two wins against newcomer Josh Leahy with a 4.151s/ 515.07kph performance in round one and a 4.073s/518.38kph effort in round two, to Leahy’s 4.091s/462.73kph and 4.131s/427.92kph runs. Gosbell meanwhile had taken a win from Murrihy in round one and Begley in round two, with the second race seeing him drop it into ‘the threes’ for the first time today (3.985s/504.43kph) over Begley’s 10.860-second 131.99kph run.

Justin Walshe won X4 in 2024 in the XPRO Nitro FC division – including the marquee season finale Winternationals — to claim the overall season championship.

“When you are the older bloke in the class and coming up against these young guys, all you can do is get there and give it everything you have got on the tree,” Walshe said.

In the B-Final, Morice McMillin and Adam Murrihy lined up alongside each other for the second time today, with the previous pairing seeing Murrihy shattering McMillin’s A-Final and championship hopes in the second all-run round. This run, however, would go to McMillin with another three second performance – an impressive 3.945-seconds (low ET of event) at 511.32 kph pass over Murrihy’s 4.184-second 497.27kph run.

In the C-Final, Begley took the win with a 4.456-second 449.15kph pass over Leahy who was left on the tree before shutting it down to record an 8.666 second ET in a disappointing run given the earlier strong performances for the newcomer today.

For Top Doorslammer, Pro Alcohol, Pro Stock Motorcycle, Top Fuel Motorcycle, Pro Stock, and FuelTech Pro Mod, all competitors raced running within a traditional 8-car qualified elimination format.

In Top Doorslammer, rookie and Top Qualifier Russell ‘Ice Man’ Taylor laid claim to his first NDRC championship title when in the semi-finals fellow class newcomer Ronnie Palumbo (5.750s/399.88kph) knocked out 11-time champ John Zappia (5.700s/407.75kph) on a holeshot.

Taylor would go on to set his quickest ET of the season in the final, where he also claimed the Winternats event win with a 5.592-second 416.51kph run over Palumbo (5.728s/400.46kph). Earlier in the day, Taylor took wins from Nasser Matta in round one and Neil Murphy in round two, while Palumbo preceded his win over Zappia with a round one victory over Peter Lovering.

Russell Taylor clinched both the season title and an event win within Australia’s ferocious Top Doorslammer class —  for 2024.

In Pro Alcohol, Russell Mills was the inaugural NDRC champion elect coming into the Winternats weekend and also had his sights set on picking up an event Gold Christmas Tree. However, it would be local racer and championship runner-up, Daniel Reed, who would take the event honours.

Mills’ extremely configured machine made it’s way through the two elimination rounds against Chris Hargrave and Gary Phillips to line up in the final against Top Qualifier Reed.

But Reed took the event win in his Chevy-bodied Pro Alcohol Funny Car by laying down a new career-best run of 5.395-second 436.34kph over Mills (5.561s/401.80kph). Prior to the Reed took round win-lights over the Funny Cars raced by John Cannuli and Luke Marsden.

2nd generation racer Daniel Reed won over a tough 8-car field in the Pro Alcohol division but Russell Mills (below) was the overall NDRC season champ with his very much – one-of-a-kind machine!

For Reed, taking home the Winternats win was a dream come true.

“The car was on rails all weekend, Dad and the crew did a good job to give me a brilliant car which just went better and better every lap we did,” he said. “The track was good and we knew it could handle it, so we just went after it for the final. To win the Winternationals, well it is the Bathurst of drag racing, it is the ultimate, the one everyone wants to win, so to win it today is just every drag racer’s dream.”

In Pro Stock Motorcycle, it was inaugural NDRC championship-winning racer Luke Crowley who would secure event honours, claiming a rare third consecutive Winternats win.

As the Top Qualifier, Crowley enjoyed a bye in round one, before a win over Tony Frost in round two. In the final, Crowley took the win with a 7.132-second 305.38kph run over Jason Lee’s 8.015-second 192.75kph effort. Lee earned his way to the final with victories over Paul Andrews and Daniel Rabnott.

Winternationals Motorcycle class racing produced wins for Luke Crowley (PSB) and Aaron Deery  (Top Fuel).

In Top Fuel Motorcycle it was Benny Stevens claiming the season championship Christmas Tree, while his Dananni Hotshots teammate Aaron Deery took the event win on ‘The Gorilla’ machine.

In Pro Stock, Rob Dekert claimed his first NDRC championship win, decided in the nail-biting first elimination round of the weekend. With Rick Chilton knocked out in the first round by Omar Sedmak, all Dekert needed to do was claim victory over John Barbagallo to clinch the championship, which his 6.916-second 304.87kph in round one then accomplished.

Rob Dekert claimed the first NDRC Pro Stock season points championship – but lost the Winternats final round to Tyronne Tremayne (below).

Heading into the final run of the day, Dekert and Top Qualifier Tyronne Tremayne had been relatively evenly matched, with Dekert running lower ETs and Tremayne quicker on the tree in rounds one and two. Ultimately it would be Tremayne who would claim back-to-back Winternats event victories when both racers red lit on the line, with Dekert being the first to do so.

In FuelTech Pro Mod (which is campaigned using a 5.85 secs index) Top Qualifier Craig Burns went on to take home the first NDRC Pro Mod championship win, even though his Sunday running “The Villian” Ford Mustang was cut short when he rolled the beams in round one due to a mechanical failure.

Driving what is arguably one of Australia’s “all time cool cars” – Craig Burns -clinched the 2024 FuelTech Pro Mod class points title.

It was defending FuelTech Pro Mod series champion Zoran Gajic that would however go on to claim the Winternats event honours. He did that with a round wins over Steve Smith and Frank Tarabay before taking the final race win over Daniel Camilleri. Gajic’s turbocharged Mustang clocked in a 5.894-second 411.31kph to win over Camilleri’s supercharged Chevy Nova.

“I am very happy about the win,” Gajic said. “It was hard work — yesterday was a bit of a disaster with everything breaking — but we got the job done today.”

Zoran Gajic thrilled the Pro Mod class fans with both wicked burnouts and a visit to victory lane in his turbo Ford Mustang.

A full complement (12 championship brackets) of Aeroflow National Sportsman Championship racers also wrapped up their Eastern Conference chase during the event.

Toby Austin was one of two racers to secure both a Winternationals win and an Eastern Conference win this weekend, taking out the honours for Supercharged Outlaws. Craig Collis meanwhile took the Real Street win for both his Conference and the event.

Taking out the Eastern Conference wins for their respective brackets were Dean Jamieson (Modified Bike), Craig Collis (Real Street), Zayne Condello (Junior Dragster), Adam Jordan (Junior Drag Bike), Luke ‘Tex’ Griffiths (Super Street), Daniel Morris (Top Sportsman), Sean Maher (Super Sedan), Cory Dyson (Modified), Leonard Azzopardi (Extreme Bike), Edge Mallis (Performance Bike), Toby Austin (Supercharged Outlaws), Mitchell Oxley (Competition) and Darrin Gay (Super Stock).

Joining them in end-of-event presentations were the Gulf Western Oil Winternationals event Sportsman winners: Brian Alvisio (Modified Bike) Craig Collis (Real Street), Carlos Harvey (Junior Dragster), Marcus McDonald (Junior Drag Bike), Josh Fletcher (Super Street), Paul Doeblien (Top Sportsman), Victor Tsatlogianis (Super Sedan), Lucas Holz (Modified), Nathan Neilson (Extreme Bike), Phillip Webster (Performance Bike), Toby Austin (Supercharged Outlaws) and Luke Cartledge (SuperComp).

One non-championship bracket — Factory Xtreme – was also contested at Willowbank with Collin Willshire taking the final over Jason Payne.

Posted with files by Amanda Cobb (Jigsaw Communications) & Bruce Biegler
Photos by Bruce Biegler

To view our LMLC Media Winternationals event photo gallery – click: HERE