Last weekend’s iconic “Winternationals @ Willowbank” has concluded this season’s major racing schedule for Australia…. 

The legendary event, which was held for the 51st time in history, and was presented by Great Western Oils, was both a drama filled and consequential affair as not only did it determine individual event winners, it was the decisive race that decided the overall season points champions for Australia’s industry leading 400 Thunder Drag Racing Series.

Driving for the Fuchs/Lamattina Top Fuel team – Kelly Bettes made Australian drag racing history by becoming that countries first female Top Fuel series champion.

The biggest news story to emerge from the event was that for the first time in Australia drag racing history – a female racer is the Top Fuel series champion.   Those honours go to rookie racer Kelly Bettes who prevailed for the season title by edging out Damien Harris by just a 2 points differential in the final season tally.

The 33-year old Queenslander secured the title by virtue of winning the semi final round against the reigning champion, RAI Motorsports driver Wayne Newby.  Kelly drover the Fuchs/Lamattina Top Fuel dragster to a narrow 3.801 to 3.842 decision in that match up – which mathematically was the clincher.

Bettes did take on her chief rival Damien Harris in the final round, but some tire shake early in that pass ended her chances of doubling up and it was Harris who sped to victory.  Harris, had a remarkable event as he set new Australian drag racing records for both ET and speed in one of the three entered Rapisarda Autosport International dragsters.  His best run was a final round “full candle” pass at  3.777 secs at 525.40 KMH (326.48 mph) – the quickest and fastest run ever seen in Australian drag racing history. 

An emotional Bettes was overwhelmed by the 400 Thunder championship win in what was her first season in the ultimate class category.

“I don’t even know what to say. To Fuchs, all the team, I’m blown away, we’re just all stoked,” she said. “Those guys (Rapisarda Autosport International) are awesome competitors.”

The championship was the first for team owner Phil Lamattina since his own 2014 national title win. The Victorian carrot farmer said the 400 Thunder trophy was the reward for taking a chance on Bettes, a former Australian Modified and Junior Dragster champion.

“We took a chance on a young lady and she has paid us back in spades,” he said. “She has taught me so much this year. The Rapisarda team pushed us to the limit and that is what it is all about.”

Bettes was not the only rookie to taste series championship success as New South Wales’ Paul Mouhayet defeated 11 times national Pro Slammer champion John Zappia in a thrilling semi final round to take home the 400 Thunder title.

Paul Mouhayet unseated legendary John Zappia for the very hard fought  Australian Pro Slammer class season championship title.

Mouhayet and Zappia met in a ‘winner takes all’ race which saw Mouhayet streak to a 5.65 second win as Zappia rubbed against the safety wall and aborted his run. Mouhayet would then go on to the event victory in the Moits Racing/Mack/Komatsu Ford Mustang, defeating veteran Gary Phillips with another 5.65 second pass.

“We had a great season. Everybody who makes this happen, you know who you are, thanks very much,” Mouhayet said. “I’d like to thank Moits for allowing me to do this, Mack Trucks and Komatsu.”

Pro Slammer runner-up Gary Phillips also raced in Pro Alcohol and won the Winternationals event racing his Chevy Monte Carlo-bodied car.  Phillips defeated Russell Mills by a 5.459 to a 5.598 secs count for that title.  But the overall 400 Thunder Pro Alcohol Championship went the way of Queensland’s Steve Reed, who last earned that national title back in 1994.

400 Thunder Pro Stock class racing has been all about one family this 2018 season – the Tremaynes and that pattern did not change at the Gulf Western Oil Winternationals — when brothers Aaron and Tyronne met in the final round. Aaron took the win with a 6.926 to a 7.000 on a day where he also won the 400 Thunder Pro Stock Championship, while Tyronne racked up enough points to overtake Jason Hedges for second.

Aaron Tremayne won the 2018 400 Thunder Pro Stock season title.

“It has been a big effort for the whole Mega Racing team,” Aaron said. “My brother’s car is back online, one-two in the championship and we couldn’t be any happier.”

Pro Bike produced a stunning conclusion to the 400 Thunder Championship as Victoria’s Maurice Allen clinched an unlikely victory. Points leader Corey Buttigieg lost to Allen in the first round, which opened the door for Allen to take the title should he win the event. That was exactly what he did, defeating a red lighting Glenn Wooster in the final round with a 7.265.

Chris Matheson rode his awesome “Nitro Voodoo” to another Australian Top Bike championship.

Chris Matheson claimed the 400 Thunder Top Bike Championship and the Gulf Western Oil Winternationals victory aboard his ‘Nitro Voodoo’ machine. Matheson ran one of the quickest passes of his career, a 6.082, in the final round as he also earned the day’s trophy.

Posted with files by Bruce Biegler & Kevin Prendergast

Photos by Grant Stephens and Bruce Biegler

For more in-depth coverage of the Gulf Western Oils Winternationals event please visit our Australian media partners : and also

RAI Ends Season with some very Speedy Dignity 

(posted by John Doig)

Rapisarda Autosport International were part of history when Queenslander Kelly Bettes became the first women in Australia to win a Top Fuel championship. The young lady won the title by a minuscule 2 points over RAI star Damien Harris.

Damien Harris won the season ending 400 Thunder Winternationals event in a record setting fashion

There was redemption for RAI when Harris won  the  Gulf Western Oil Winternationals, the most prestigious event on the domestic calendar, plus setting a new Australian record for the1000 foot race distance  along with strong performances from his team mates Wayne Newby and Ashley Sanford. 

In Qualifying Harris headed the field with a world class run of 3.78//524 km/h to earn a first round bye then faced off against Sanford who earlier in the day had easily defeated Victorian racer Rachelle Splatt. 

There were no team orders from within the RAI camp with Harris, needing to defeat Sanford to keep his title hopes alive.

Both cars stepped off the line in unison. Harris edged to the front and hung on to  with a new Oz record of 3.78/526 km/h to Sanford’s 3.89/509 km/h.

In the other semi -final Bettes needed victory to secure her championship while Newby was on a mission to win and give team mate Harris the chance to win his second 400 Thunder title. Both cars launched hard and set sail to the end zone. Bettes prevailed and took the win in a photo finish to claim the 400T title.

The T/F final was a brutal affair. Harris nailed the green light and with a full candle pass of 3.77/527 km/h defeated Bettes smashing his Australian record and grabbing the prized Winternationals championship much to the delight of the near capacity crowd.