AUS: Title chase heats up at Willowbank Winternationals

Claiming a maiden group one Australian Drag Racing Championship title has given a handful of competitors added incentive to have their machines firing on all cylinders during the June 11-13 Winternationals at Ipswich's Willowbank Raceway. But ...

Claiming a maiden group one Australian Drag Racing Championship title has given a handful of competitors added incentive to have their machines firing on all cylinders during the June 11-13 Winternationals at Ipswich's Willowbank Raceway.

But perhaps the most focussed of racers is current Top Bike leader Jay Upton who is keen to shrug off a recent history of near misses.

The Western Australian is a former British National champion who has the unprecedented honour of collecting five runners up titles since beginning his Australian campaign in 1988.

"I suppose in some ways I've been a victim of my own racing attitude in that every time I go out on the strip I want to extract every bit of power from the bike and sometimes things can work against you," said Upton.

"This time last year I was leading with a bigger points buffer but I pushed too hard during the Winternationals and we suffered mechanical problems which once again cost me.

"But during the past few years we've managed to secure the lowest elapsed time and fastest mile per hour records which is certainly a positive.

"Maybe our team is testament to the saying that record breakers don't always win races.

"The bike is nearing the end of a five year program and we are finally starting to gain some reliability which will hopefully hold us well during the Winternationals.

Upton holds just a 20-point buffer on Queensland rider Brett Stevens who has already masterminded his first group one championship title through a dominant season display in the Top Doorslammer bracket.

"We've enjoyed a great run this season and up until the last rounds in Top Bike and Top Doorslammer we had contested every final," said Stevens.

"We've managed to maintain reliability and consistency throughout the season and that's ensured some good passes in less than ideal drag racing conditions.

"We're shaping well towards the Winternationals and it'd certainly be cool to top it all off with a double of titles."

Another two-wheeled Queensland campaigner, Daniel Peatey has been quietly working his way towards an Australian Championship and is the current leader in the Pro Stock Bike category.

The Gladstone rider holds a 40-point lead over Victoria's Maurice Allen, but concedes there's still a lot of work to do during the Winternationals.

"There's still five riders in contention for the Australian Championship and that's sure to make for an intense Winternationals," said Peatey.

"All I can do is continue with what's been working so successfully for us this year and hopefully that'll be enough to get us over the line.

"We're coming off a good win during the all-bike meeting in Sydney but such is the competitiveness in the bracket that there was just a tenth of a second separating first and eighth in qualifying."

Tony Wedlock is another of the Queensland drag racers searching for his first Australian Championship in Pro Stock.

Success for the Toowoomba driver would provide the perfect season finish to a career spanning 20 years, while New South Wales juggernaut Johnny Cowin has dominated the Top Fuel bracket, and like Wedlock remains undefeated leading into the Winternationals.

Reigning Top Alcohol leader, Brisbane's Gary Phillips is poised to claim back-to-back Championship crowns and if successful on June 11-13 will add to his personal tally of 11 Winternationals titles.

The Ipswich City Council is fully committed to motorsport in the region and is an active member of the Carnival of Horsepower promotion that seeks to encourage the general public to attend three major events on the Ipswich sporting calendar.

The Willowbank Raceway Winternationals will be held on June 11-13, the Ipswich Turf Club will host the Ipswich Cup on June 19 while V8 Supercars are featured during the 6th round of the Australian V8 Supercar Championship series at Queensland Raceway on July 2-4.

-www.willowbank-raceway.com.au

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