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Dragged up: the 49th NZDRA Nationals

28 March 2017

The 49th New Zealand Nationals was hosted by New Zealand Drag Racing Association (NZDRA) over the weekend of March 7–8 at Masterton Motorplex. The weather wasn’t the greatest on the Saturday, with grey clouds blocking out the sun and making for a cool track — and making things worse was occasional drizzle. 

But with 161 drivers coming from as far as the top of the North Island down to the bottom of the South Island, the show had to go on, and it did, thankfully with the weather turning into perfect conditions for racing on Sunday. 

One of the biggest movers on the day was Brendon Shearing in his ’71 HQ Monaro all the way from Riverton. The 100-per-cent street-legal car sports a 509ci Donovan block with twin Garrett GT45R turbos. Prior to this event, Brendon had managed an 8.70 at 168mph. 

Here, though, his first pass down the strip netted him a 8.44, which he was extremely happy with. The car continued to get quicker all day with a final effort of 8.1 at 171mph, making him the second fastest street car in New Zealand. 

Fellow Southlander Stephen Excell, all the way from Invercargill, brought his ’77 Torona powered by a 400ci small block Chev with an 8/71 supercharger. After some strong burnouts and wheels-up launches, he qualified 17th in a very full Super Sedan field  with a 9.99 at 138mph. 

To look at Tim Lazey’s ’81 Commodore you wouldn’t think much of it, but this is a sleeper running a Buick V6 turbo engine, backed by a turbo 350 trans with 5000rpm stall converter. Despite the small tyres, he ran a best of 10.5 at a whopping 150mph. 

Euan Mark has been around drag racing a long time, driving his ’23 T-bucket named ‘Puff ‘n’ Stuff’. The previously road-legal machine sports a 461ci big block Chev with a 6/71 blower and twin 1050cfm Holley dominators. 

Back in the Thunder Park days, his best was an 8.22 at 164mph running in Wild Bunch. Now, running in modified, Euan qualified number two with an 8.3 at 159.15mph — a best in recent years. 

On the newer end of the scale was this beautiful 2012 Pontiac GXP— built in America and now owned by Rex and Monique Duckett. The car is powered by a 632ci big block that makes around 1300hp naturally aspirated or 1800hp on the bottle. 

Rex qualified the car with a 7.98 at 153.30 mph, but was sadly out in the first round with an off-the-pace 8.75 at 174.57. With this being the car’s first meet under the Duckett’s ownership, we have no doubt it’ll be flying very shortly. 

Bruce Smith was another to head home happy, running a PB of 6.93 at 183mph in his FED.

Sadly, not everyone’s event went as well. Tamara Silk’s dragster sustained oil pump problems, while her good friend Vanessa Lilly (driving Gerald Smith’s altered), was also out when the car punched a rod through the block. 

Grant and Adrian Rivers also had problems with their Blues Brothers dragster, resulting in a hole in the block as well. Rather than pulling the pin, they made the trek home to Whanganui and changed the engine in time to go racing again on the Sunday, where they made the finals against John Gourdie, but finished in second place. 

On fire, in a different way, was the jet Funny Car of Steve and Lynda Zahorodny. Steve managed a few runs, with a best of a 6.5 at 240mph, running the car into the dirt at the end of strip. The photo here was a blow out caused by too much burner pressure. While it didn’t help performance, it made for a great spectacle.

While the event was to decide the winner in all classes for the 2016–’17 NZDRA season, a few other awards were also up for grabs, including one for Best Appearing Crew, which went to Stacey Price’s team.

Best Wheelstand was Sue Gray, while Best Burnout was Kurt Goodin. For a full results list visit nzdra.co.nz.