Iconic Canadian drag racing mind Al Billes choreographed an impressive PDRA Championship title during 2018…..

Aligned with skilled Floridian-based driver Tommy D’Aprile behind the wheel, the Barrie Ontario-based team owner roared past the competition to claim the PDRA’s overall Pro Boost points title.  

The very formidable independent Can-Am team of Tommy D’Aprile and Al Billes claimed top season honours within the marquee 1/8th mile PDRA circuit.

For Billes, whose experience within Pro Mod class drag racing runs extremely deep, the title came racing his own car — a supercharged 1969 Camaro.  That is a car which is not only highly competitive but one that is used as a rolling testbed within his relentless quest developing new high performance components.

“The history of this car goes back to the NAS racing team from the middle east,” Al revealed.  “It’s a Jerry Bickel built car which I tuned for them when it ran in the P/X (Pro Extreme) class.  It was a very familiar car for me, so when it became available — I went for it.”

Billes bought the car turnkey in late 2017 and then re-aligned himself with driver D’Aprile, whose reputation within drag racing Pro Mod cars is also top shelf.

“Tommy and I do go quite a ways back, “Al continued.  “He drove the blue ’63 Corvette I had back in 2013 and we managed to win some big races together — including the winter series events back-to-back at West Palm and Bradenton (Florida).  Then I also worked with Tommy when he drove for Mel Bush (tuning that car). Then when Mel got out of it – Tommy came over to drive my Camaro.”

Together this duo was pretty darn dominating during the PDRA’s 2018 season campaign.  They won three season races and in fact qualified #1 at all the events they entered except one.   Their best time of the season came during the PDRA’s season concluding Finals held at Virginia Motorsports Park last month when the car hit a swift 3.62 secs ET.

While Al Billes is very familiar with many mainstream supercharged alcohol burning motor configurations, he employs one of the sport’s most creative new products within the frame rails of his Camaro – using an Australian conceived and designed Noonan engine.

“Our engine is one of their new “4-900” blocks,” he explained.  “I first became familiar with that while racing over in Australia.  The bore space between cylinders is 4.9 inches versus the standard 4.8 inches and that extra thickness does offer quite an advantage.  In fact last year we didn’t break anything the whole season.”  

The Noonan motor configuration is now becoming more popular too with other teams over in the NHRA Pro Mod series who are starting to use them — including Todd Tutterow and Marc Caruso.  Toronto’s Raymond Commisso has now also joined that list.

Billes and D’Aprile clinched the PDRA Pro Boost title mathematically following the first round of competition at the season ending event and with that just the latest feather was added to Billes’ signature hat.

“To be honest when I started out this season the intent was really primarily to use the Camaro to grow some R&D for my components,” Al revealed.  “I wasn’t sure at the beginning what my program would be like or if it would be competitive or not.  It was really just one race at a time at the start.  But then we got the car running fast and well — so we just continued on.”

“This title win was nice,” he added. “As you know over the last 15 years or so I’ve spent most of my time helping other team programs. So it was gratifying to be able to go out there and be competitive and successful again — but this time with all with my own stuff.  That makes this championship special.”

Posted by Bruce Biegler

Photos by Steve Embling, Roger Richards & Bruce Biegler