AUS: Willowbank warrior is ready

Willowbank Warrior Ready For The Big Time On the back end of four straight Event successes, an Australian record-equalling 12 straight round victories, numerous World standard marks plus no shortage of future potential, it's fair to say 20 ...

Willowbank Warrior Ready For The Big Time

On the back end of four straight Event successes, an Australian record-equalling 12 straight round victories, numerous World standard marks plus no shortage of future potential, it's fair to say 20 year-old Ben Bray has well and truly stepped from the shadows of his iconic drag racing father Victor Bray.

It's also an under-rated statistic that Australian drag racing, in particular the ever-popular Top Doorslammer professional bracket which Bray contests, is now at the crest of securing a slice of major International recognition.

Bray's ability to generate speeds in excess of 240 miles per hour allows him to cover the quarter mile competition distance at an exceptional rate, however as yet, he nor any other driver in the World has been able to eclipse the magic six-second class-legal mark for the racing category.

In Outlaw form, where there are limited regulations on the general set-up of the car, a sub six-second feat was achieved by American Mitch Stott when he ran a time of 5.98 seconds over the quarter mile.

That achievement itself adds further weight to the superiority of any individual who is able to eclipse six seconds within category specifications.

To that end Ben Bray is confident his 1957 Super Cheap Auto's Chevrolet has the capacity to sweep all before him.

The young Queenslander's next opportunity to create International sporting history will present itself during a home-state New Year's Day date with destiny, during the finals of the iTEL Community Telco Drag Racing Nationals at Willowbank Raceway.

"In every event since the Tin Top Titles back in April I've been able to secure times within various thousandths of a second of breaking into the fives (seconds)," said Bray.

"These six '0' times have continually reset the performance bar as progressive National records and only a couple of weeks ago in Perth I was able to secure a 6.024 second pass.

"This sits as the class-legal best in Australia but even better for the team is the fact all Six '0' passes recorded at that meeting, rate as the best three times secured in the World for Top Doorslammer.

"There's no doubt we have the best track in Australia at Willowbank Raceway and if the air is right and all other variables work in our favour a five second pass will come sooner rather than later.

"It could come at the iTEL Nationals which would mark a great start to the New Year but ultimately I'm just out there to win my next race and if in the process I can break the elusive six then that's great."

Motor racing pedigree is something Ben is definitely not short of.

He was raised in an environment saturated with motorsporting successes as his World-renowned father Victor catapulted himself to six successive Australian Championship titles during the 1990's.

Along the way Victor gathered a cult following among racing fans and to this day remains the fastest Top Doorslammer driver in the World setting an incredible mark of 245 mph. During Ben's recent elapsed time record pass in Perth he managed a speed of 243 mph which stands as the second fastest recorded in the category.

It was no surprise to anyone that after enduring a brief, yet highly successful, adolescent stint in drag racing's grassroots Junior Dragster category, the lure of methane-charged professional competition proved too strong for Ben.

The then 19 year-old debuted in the Top Doorslammer category, going on to become the World's youngest Group One National Championship titleholder during his first year of competition, when he claimed the ANDRA Australian title during the 2002/03 season.

While he may have since relinquished his crown to the equally popular Jack Daniels Racing driver Brett Stevens last season, Ben maintains one of the most amazing strike rates in World motorsport.

Of the 22 events contested so far during two full seasons and including his undefeated run in 2004/05, Ben has managed to win through on nine occasions and was placed runner-up twice.

The 20 year-old currently commands a 110 point lead in the ANDRA Top Doorslammer Australian Championship.

Ironically his nearest rival is father Victor, followed by reigning champ Stevens.

As Ben's star continues to shine and the wins keep flooding in, the iTEL Nationals could very well provide another magical milestone.

"I'm now equal with Dad's record of 12 successive round wins and only need to win my first race at the iTEL Nationals to move ahead.

"When I started out in the bracket, winning the championship was my main goal but now the focus of Team Bray is to continue moving forward and to have both cars running at peak performance.

"We're obviously doing something right when you look at the fact I've come up against Dad in three of the four Event finals since April.

"As a team we're out there having a ball, winning and continuing to run better with every race. There's no doubt the enjoyment factor has maintained the positive vibes."

Two thousand and five will see the coming-of-age of Ben as he celebrates his 21st Birthday in March, but it's fair to say his maturity and poise on the racing strip have already been established over the last couple of years.

His iTEL Nationals, New Year's Day assignment will prove more cut-throat than normal as qualifying has already taken place during the originally scheduled November 5-7 dateline of the Event.

As the quickest in qualifying and boasting such an impressive winning streak, Bray is considered one of the favourites to claim the Top Doorslammer category but even he acknowledges the potency of the opposition.

"My New Year's resolution would probably be to ensure the Team works together and is consistently running at 100%, which we'll need to be doing to win back the Championship.

"Dad's always going to be a huge threat and with Brett's (Stevens) team of cars coming through in a huge rush there's going to be a stack of top line drivers to contend with as the season progresses.

"Second qualifier for the iTEL Nationals is Aaron Lynch, a down-to-earth racer who can't be discounted.

"But the driver who could surprise many this season may be Australian Top Alcohol Champion Gary Phillips.

"He is a very smart, knowledgeable driver who approaches everything in a nuts and bolts fashion. Gary's driving with a new computer this season and will be a force to reckon with."

For now, success at the iTEL Nationals would mark the ideal start to what is shaping as another action-packed year for Bray Junior.

Added to the 2005 mix will be the opportunity to temporarily break away from Top Doorslammer competition to test a range of new Top Alcohol Funny cars currently in production.

If all goes to plan during what can still be regarded as the formative years of Bray's professional drag racing career, opportunities for the Queenslander may also present themselves abroad.

"There's no doubt one day I'd like to have a go at racing in the NHRA Series in North America but I'm not prepared to set a time period on when this may occur.

"I'd like to think I'll have a career long enough to be able to get over there sooner or later but in the mean time I'll continue to take it as it comes for me in the sport. "I was beaten in the iTEL Nationals semis last season so it'd be great to rectify things there before targeting any other future plans."

The November 5-7 iTEL Nationals program was switched to January 1 following inclement weather conditions forcing the abandonment of all racing.

The 39th iTEL Nationals enjoys the continued support of the Queensland Government through Queensland Events.

-wr-

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Series GENERAL