race reports

IHRA Summer Thunder at Sydney, Australia


Words and photos by Jon Van Daal


As recent northern climes were starting to emerge from their winter hibernation, in Sydney, Australia, the temperatures at the recent IHRA Summer Thunder race was the exact opposite – sweltering heat that had drivers, riders and spectators alike reaching for the drink bottles. In fact, it was so hot that the Sydney Raceway track management imposed a two-hour respite in the early afternoon as a sunburnt JON VAN DAAL informs us.

Kelly Bettes


Originally a single day event, the schedule was extended to two days with the addition of Top Doorslammer with Friday afternoon’s events beginning at an agreeable 4 p.m. Despite the ambient heat a good Saturday crowd came in that evening while time and again drivers commented on just how good the track conditions were.


As far as the seven-car Top Fuel field went the entire weekend belonged to Kelly Bettes who was at the butterfly of the Lamattina Top Fuel dragster. With only a handful of meetings under her belt she came out fighting with a 3.878/307.16 to lead the only other 3-second runner, Peter Xiberras on a 3.985 in the practice session.

Peter Xiberras threw a blower belt and lost against Ashley Sanford.

Phil Read's wing disintegrates (circled areas) half way through his solo second-round pass.


On race day an all run, three-round format was used with the two best runners of the day running for the title. This paired Bettes with Damien Harris for the money run.

The Rapisarda dragster driven by Damien Harris had a fire in Round 1, but came back.

American racer Ashley Sanford.


Bettes had the best reaction time in each round that put away fellow female driver American Ashley Sanford in round one and Terry Sainty in the second round.

Harris had a round-one solo and then dispatched teammate Wayne Newby with a 3.913 while the latter exploded into a fireball.


Bettes, too was on fire in the final, with a great .030 reaction time (against Harris’ normally solid .074) and when added to a low ET of the meet 3.832/308.43 she took an easy win over her troubled opponent’s 4.893.


“I knew we had a good car, I just had to do my job and I couldn’t be happier for my team,” Bettes remarked. “We had the logo of Anita Board on our car this weekend [Board was tragically killed in her Junior Dragster late last year – Ed.] and it has been an honour to run with Anita in our hearts,” she tearfully added at the presentations.

Kelly Bettes (far lane) got the final-round win over Damien Harris.


Pro Slammer saw a great eleven-car field and on the Friday evening John Zappia came out and cranked out a 5.653 in practice to lead another three cars in the five-seventies. Come Saturday after three rounds of racing no one was surprised to see Paul Mouhayet in his Mustang facing John Zappia’s Holden Monaro in a final round.


On the green Mouhayet took a solid lead off the line (.070 to .114) with Zappia in hot pursuit. On the one-two shift Zappia’s car shook violently that was so bad it blurred his vision. He then got back on it but was weaving around the lane while Mouhayet went on to click the win light. His 5.774/252.76 more than covered a second best 6.186 from the Westralian.


“Unfortunately, the track was a little different, more slippery early and then really grippy after 60 feet,” Zappia explained, “so we took off with a lot of wheel speed and then it was able to carry the wheels and get out of the groove.


“When I punched second gear it rattled the tyres out of control and turned into a blur. I had to pedal it way too much and I almost gave up on the run entirely, but I decided to carry on just in case something happened to Paul.”


At the presentations after the event Mouhayet told the assembled throng that

“It was third time lucky for us,” he beamed. “We have had a couple of runner ups so to finally take the win is a great feeling.”


Both the Top Bike and Pro Alcohol brackets had small fields but the entrants were as tenacious as ever.

Pro Alcohol saw the same two go head to head in the final for the second consecutive round, with Russell Mills leaving a red light to hand another victory to Steve Reed (shown).

Chris Matheson scored the win in Top Bike with a final round 6.104 win over Rob Barchet – that time being the best Down Under in many years. 




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