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All thrills, spills at dragster nationals

Graham Lilly’s Ford Popular before a spectacular crash PHOTO/JADE CVEKOV


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High speed crashes, personal bests and a big crowd, all contributed to an action-packed weekend of drag racing at the Masterton Motorplex.

Although Anthony Marsh, in his top alcohol rail set an Australasian record, and Pirinoa’s Gavin Greene, in his 1968 Pontiac, was one of about 20 other drivers to set personal best times, much of the interest on Saturday was in two high speed crashes.

Upper Hutt’s Paul Davison had reached a speed of about 200mph when the twin parachutes on his Group One alcohol rail failed to open, sending the car out of control through the primary stopping area of 450m and then the secondary stopping area, made up of tar seal and a sand trap, before a two-metre drop on to concrete blocks in scrub where it finally came to a stop. The popular drag racer walked away but the car was a write off.

Even more spectacular was a breathtaking crash involving the supergas Ford Popular of Graham Lilly, from Palmerston North. The highly-modified car was written off after it hit the wall at high speed, rolled several times, before coming to a rest and spreading debris over a large area of the track.

That led to a 90-minute delay in racing while the dragstrip was cleared of wreckage.

Masterton Motorplex president Bob Wilton said the accidents highlighted the safety features of the cars and the dragstrip.

“Remarkably both drivers walked to the ambulance and were later walking around and mingling with drivers and spectators at the track.”

Anthony Marsh, driving the Marsh Motorsport rail, won the Group One Top Alcohol series, which was contested over four meetings at the Masterton Motorplex and Meremere Dragway. Johnny Alsop, of Christchurch, finished second in his top alcohol altered.

Wilton was not certain of Marsh’s exact time, but said he bettered the 5.3 second mark for the quarter mile and set an Australasian record.

Barry Plumpton, in his 15.7-litre nitrous-boosted 68 Camaro, took out the Group One Doorslammer series. Greene, who imported his Pontiac from Australia last year has progressively got quicker and quicker, and he set a personal best in the 6.0 to 6.1 second range.

Wilton said Greene’s “achievement of taking several tenths of a second off his times since he bought the car are outstanding”.

Despite the fast times, the $5000 cash prize offered for the first Doorslammer driver to break six seconds for the quarter mile at the Masterton Motorplex was not won.

Overall, Wilton was over the moon how the meeting went. “The Group One series was really well received.”

“We had a really good crowd, some people came from Auckland to watch the racing, and we had drivers come from all over the country, even from as far south as Gore.”

Wilton said the track came in for high praise from the top teams.

“The track was absolutely perfect, and Tony Marsh said you can’t find a better track outside America; it’s a really super tight track.”

Wilton said “the track preparation was perfect, the guys worked for hours and hours to get the rubber [on the launch pad] just right, and the weather played its part; it was a great way to finish the season”.

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