The Winternationals is the race that everyone wants to win. It’s a race that attracts a worldwide audience and gathers the best racers in the land.
After last years strong showing with two cars in the field and a string of six-second passes, rain unfortunately cut short the event and the 2013 Winternationals was cancelled.
For 2014, the reigning Pro Stock champ and ANDRA Pro Stock record holder Jason Grima, was looking to go even further in the PC Cranes Ford Mustang. The weather was fine and joining them in the pits was the return of the PC Cranes Harley-Davidson Buell. The bike had been repaired and rider Tony Hinkley was healed following his frightening fall at Calder Park earlier this year.
Friday saw the first Pro Stock qualifying session with Grima recording a 7.122 at 193.07 that stood tenth at the close. It was also a session that saw three drivers record six-second ETs, in particular Emilio Spinozzi recording the quickest Pro Stock pass in Australian history – 6.975 at 196.67 mph though that wouldn’t survive the weekend.
Grima was a previous Pro Stock record holder when at the 2012 Australian Nationals he reset both ends with a 6.982 at 195.79 mph.
By the second session Grima picked up the pace with a 7.019 at 194.86 mph, which was the third quickest of the session.
The following day Grima remained consistent with a 7.019 at 195.22 mph and clocked the best RT of the session at .007. The final qualifier saw the six-second passes continue and the benchmark drop to 6.964 at 196.67 mph.
Having qualified seventh, Grima faced number eight John Barbagallo in the opening race of the round. This race was decided at the tree when Barbagallo grabbed a huge holeshot with a .003 reation time to a .115 from Grima. At the finish line Barbagallo took the win by 0.0363 of a second with his 7.12 ET defeating a quicker 7.04.
“That was a tough loss and I have no one to blame except myself. It just wasn’t our weekend,” said a disappointed Grima. I just wasn’t in the right headspace and we were down on horsepower, which didn’t help. But congrats to all the Pro Stock competitors who set new PBs and national records. Pro Stock was simply outstanding at the Winternationals.
“For JGM, we now have a big break before our next round. We’ll regroup and get ready for Sydney in November.
“I’d like to thank my hard working team, our sponsors and supporters. Keep in touch with us on social media and also on our website,” added Grima.
The weekend was also tough for the PC Cranes Buell making its second appearance of the season following its nasty crash at Calder Park back in February.
The bike was rebuilt and ready to go for the Winternationals, but for rider Tony Hinkley, he wasn’t out to set the world on fire. It was more of a case of getting down the track and building up the rider’s confidence, one run at a time.
“The weekend started off with extra long flight on Thursday from Perth to Brisbane via Melbourne following a last minute flight change,” said Hinkley.
“Dennis Ackland was unavailable so we arranged for Scott Keogh and Damien Snell to assist our regular crew chief Steve Stanley and Rick Wood.
“The plan was to build up to a full noise pass in the last qualifier to settle everything, including the riders nerves and confidence, as this was my first outing since Calder.
“Steve had the bike running for a considerable time in the workshop with no apparent issues but the fire up prior to the first qualifier is where an electrical gremlin raised his head and continued to frustrate us all weekend.
“The engine kept dropping a cylinder which is a bit hard to keep alive when you only have two! We thought we had it sorted prior to the first round of qualifying, but the bike shut down prior to the burnout. This continued despite checking and cleaning every plug connection, and replacing switches or connections that looked suspect,” continued Hinkley.
For the final qualifier the bike stayed alive through a strong burnout and into stage. Even though it was a small field, Hinkley wanted to get a good run on the board for the team. Unfortunately a shift issue resulted in a short run. It may have been a thumb fault by the rider as the bike launched hard and straight and made Hinkley sit up and take notice. The rider then clutched it very early to save over revving it and rolled over the finish line in 18 seconds.
“This certainly blew out a few cobwebs and nerves, but it wasn’t the sort of start we wanted,” said Hinkley.
Unfortunately for round one the PC Cranes/JGM Buell continued to have the blues. With the number one qualifier Luke Crowley in the opposite lane, Hinkley needed to pull a rabbit out the hat. Sadly the bike went silent before the tree despite the rider’s best efforts to keep it alive.
“It just wasn’t our weekend and when you are chasing electrical gremlins, its pretty much hit and miss. This was very disappointing for the whole team, as a considerable amount of effort had gone into the rebuild by Jason, Steve and the Pro car crew as well. It was a big thrash to get it back on the track.
“The little bit of racing that I was able to see was first class as was the track and facilities. It is easy to see why this is one of the biggest events on the Australian drag racing calendar, with racers and spectators from all over the country attending. The number of records set reflects the hard work put into the track and race vehicles alike. We’ll get the PC Cranes Buell sorted and get ready for the next round at Adelaide International Raceway,” said Hinkley.
Image courtesy: Dragphotos.com.au