The Australian Nationals returned to Calder Park for the first time since 2001 as Sportsman racers lifted their game to produce plenty of drama, first time winners and some outstanding performances.
Competition Eliminator winner Craig Geddes advanced to his sixth final in as many starts this season picking up his fifth winners trophy and yet another National Record.
Geddes eliminated Kit Hunter and David DeQuen either side of a solo Round 2 pass to set up a final with Pro Street regular Steven Athans.
Reacting first, Geddes was unstoppable on a 7.264 elapsed time on a 7.52 index from Athans completing the quarter mile with a 7.298 second pass on a 7.20 index.
“Oh man I cannot believe what is going on here,” said Geddes.
“Six finals in a row, five wins, I just don’t know why this stuff is happening. We’re going fast, we’re winning races – it’s fantastic.
“We’ve got a great car, great team, things are gelling and we can’t put a foot wrong at the moment it’s fantastic.”
His 7.262-second pass in the semi final was also good enough to set a new B/D National Record capping off another successful weekend.
Reigning Super Stock Champion Steve Norman won his first ever Gold Tree at a National Event with a win over Super Stock stalwart Les Heintz.
Norman reacted quicker and drove around Heintz with a 7.946 ET on a 8.14 index to Heintz’ 9.975 second pass on an 8.71 index.
“It’s really good, we’ve been at this caper for a long time and we’ve had a pretty good year so far,” said Norman.
“A special thanks to Pistol (Peter Pisalidis), all the track staff, the ANDRA staff – it’s been a fantastic weekend.”
“The crowd has been fantastic and a special thank you too from Summit for being involved in the Series.”
Norman defeated Louis Svingos and top qualifier John Kuiper, despite running a new National Record, before accepting a solo semi final into the decider.
Kuiper reset the C/G record by backing up his 8.02-second effort in qualifying with an 8.051 in that loss to Norman just falling short of what was needed to back up his stunning 7.952 ET that earned him top spot on day one.
In Competition Bike Rob Cassar won his first ever Gold Tree defeating top qualifier Brett Ghedina despite a .205 second reaction time to Ghedina’s .049.
Cassar completed the quarter mile in 7.800 seconds on a 7.84 index while Ghedina posted an 8.068 on a 7.94 index. Cassar defeated Corey Scholes and Niki Zakrzewski to move into the final.
“It’s been 20 years since me and Igor Krasnowsky won together and at our home track,” said Cassar.
“Nobody said this event could work (at Calder Park) but I think everyone has pulled it off.
“I’d like to thank my wife for supporting me all these years, 20 years it’s taken me, 20 years of hard work, thank you.”
In Supercharged Outlaws, Peter Datson won his first ever Gold Christmas Tree with a win over Murray Edgar with a 6.748 ET on a 6.69 dial in to a 9.614 on a 7.75 dial in.
“It’s awesome, I’ve been chasing one of these for 20 years,” said Datson.
“The crew are pretty excited, they’re more excited than me. I’d like to tahank my sponsors; Con from Competition Automotive – he’s awesome, Mark Lee from Pro Towing, all my crew they just put in 100 per cent. I think we’re going to have a few drinks tonight.”
Datson advanced on a solo in Round 1 then eliminated John Brunner and Mark Zauch on his way to the maiden Gold Tree victory.
Elsewhere in Supercharged Outlaws, the Gridstar by YBI Best Presented Team Award went to Adam Murrihy and his team. They received the Best Presented trophy, six Best Presented caps and a $50 Summit Racing Equipment voucher.
Paul Partridge came out on top in Top Sportsman defeating Stuart McBain with a big holeshot advantage and an 8.137 ET on an 8.10 dial in from McBain’s 8.842 on an 8.00 dial in.
Earlier round victories over Top Sportsman debutant Matt Forbes, top qualifier Darren Saliba and consistent performer Jason Arbery put Partridge into the final against title contender McBain.
Modified’s Jess Turner seems to only collect Gold Christmas Trees backing up her 2014 Winternationals win with the Australian Nationals title in front of her home crowd.
Turner’s strength came at the start line with consistently good reaction times on a solo Round 1 and defeats of Travis Liefting and Shane Wynd.
Even when Cory Dyson out reacted Turner at the tree she drove around him to set up what would be a solo 7.315 second final victory lap when Derek Wills could not make the start.
George Tipoukidis secured his first Gold Tree in Super Sedan with a win over Enio Marrocco. A .011 reaction time by Tipoukidis set up a 10.076 ET on a 10.07 dial in forcing Marrocco to break out as he chased “Tipo” down on a 9.405 on a 9.44 dial in.
In a field of 50 cars, Tipoukidis knocked out Frank Fonanelli, Colin Boyd, Joe Bresciano and top qualifier Michael Vlasakakis followed by a solo semi final ahead of the near perfect final run.
Also in Super Sedan, the Longest Distance Award went to Ashley Smith after he travelled all the way from Winnellie in the Northern Territory.
Gavin Dohnt survived a double breakout in Round 1 and carried his good fortune all the way to the final benefiting from a red light by Johnny Hog in Round 2.
When he needed to be good he was very good by out reacting Shane Walker to take a semi final victory before a lightning quick .002 reaction time in the final put the pressure on Edgell Mallis who eliminated himself with a red light.
Without knowing the race was already won, Dohnt recorded a 9.456 second pass on a 9.41 dial in as Mallis added a breakout to his red light with a 9.226 on a 9.23 dial in.
Super Street title chaser Kylie Tanner made a charge to reach the 300 points cap by going all the way to the final but it was Robert Camilleri who came away with the win when Tanner broke out with an 11.853 on an 11.86 dial in to an 11.062 on an 11.03 dial in.
Camilleri ousted Samuel Franze, Robert Forte, Noel Inman and Portland winner Chris Tatchell to set up the showdown with Tanner. Runner up in Portland Paul Garbellini was the only competitor across all brackets to register a .000 reaction time earning the Perfect Light Award following his monster road trip from Perth in his racecar.
Antonio Panetta could harldy speak after he picked up his first Gold Christmas Tree in Summit Racing Equipment Junior Dragster taking the win over Jake Cartledge in the final.
Following a long burn down, Panetta came out on top with an 8.317 on an 8.30 dial in to an 8.406 on an 8.24 dial in. To reach the final Panetta out reacted Blake Hayes, top qualifier Natalie Bishop, Maella Ward and Joel Burns to claim a string of impressive victories.
Matt Forbes, competing in three brackets over the weekend, had been cutting great lights all day in Super Gas but when it came to the final he pushed too hard red lighting by .009 seconds leaving Darryl Stephen to run the car out the back door on a 9.841 in the 9.90 fixed index bracket.
Stephen needed to get past Michael De Rose, Adrian McGrotty and Richard Caval to set up the final with Forbes and claim a long awaited win.
And finally the Best Engineered Award went to exhibition Outlaw Radial Frank Marchese for his seven-second Twin Turbo full-body XW Fairmont.
The Summit Racing Equipment Sportsman Series now moves on to Steel City Raceway in Whyalla March 12-13.
Images: ANDRA (top), Grant Stephens / Drag News Australia