It’s been a bit of a torrid time for drag racing in Australia of late. Warring factions, shuttered tracks and multiple governing bodies with conflicting tech requirements have upped the degree of difficulty and taken the shine off the sport for competitors and spectators alike. But the tide seems to be turning.
New tracks are being built while others are being upgraded, and success stories like the well-attended Summernats Slam event at an impressively rejuvenated Heathcote Park Raceway, the vibrant Kenda 660 radial series and our own Drag Challenge events are all signs that the sport is emerging from the doldrums. And if the recent Powercruise Street Outlaws Australia meet at Sydney Motorsport Park is any indication, there is an increasingly hefty appetite for no-prep action Down Under, too.
No-prep is the hot new thing in drag racing, spawned at least in part by the popularity of the Street Outlaws and Street Outlaws: No-Prep Kings TV shows. It’s designed to emulate street racing but in a controlled environment: heads-up, first-to-the-stripe, run-what-you-brung thrills on an unprepared, street-style surface, minus the risks associated with racing on public roads and, of course, Johnny Law.
The rules are: there are no rules. With no official sanctioning bodies to please, the tech requirements are pretty light, just as they are on the street. Entrants’ cars must be two-wheel drive with swinging doors, and pass a basic safety check. From there, the aim is to progress up the Top 50 list by calling out the racer in front of you, knocking them off their perch and taking their spot. As you might expect, this spawns plenty of online trash talking, which seems to be half the fun!
The second round of the series took place in July on Sydney Motorsport Park’s front straight, and it attracted a who’s who of the Sydney pro street scene. Names such as Tristan Ockers, Mark Hayes, Simon Kryger, Alon Vella and Jason Mansweto fronted up, bringing with them some properly heavy metal.
The promise of all that action called to Sydney’s disciples of horsepower. What looked to be 1000-plus spectators lined the SMSP rooftop and milled around in pit lane late into the night, which only heightened the atmosphere.
“Look at the rooftop; it’s electric!” beamed Al Vella while readying his Capri for a second race for the number-one spot against Mansweto. “I can’t remember seeing this place so packed.”
Fireworks for the night were provided by Tristan Ockers’s infamous MINCER Capri, which was out to claim some grudge racing scalps. It wasn’t TO’s night, but that didn’t get in the way of him being the biggest crowd-pleaser of the event. His first pass against fellow pro street legend Mark Hayes saw him give the wall a love-tap in what was one of the most exciting runs of the evening. Sparks flew during his second pass after a lean-out caused a head gasket failure and a spectacular fireball to boot. Tristan had the engine plucked from MINCER and repairs were well underway just days after the event, so we’re sure he’ll be back with a vengeance.
Capris were the flavour of the month at the pointy end of the Top 50 list, with Jason Mansweto’s nitrous-huffing example maintaining number-one spot despite an assault from the Capri of Drag Challenge veteran Al Vella, which held out at number two. “We managed to keep our number-one spot, and what a meet it was; watching a lot of the pro street boys having fun grudge racing brought back a lot of good memories!” said Mansweto. “I’m sure the next meeting is going to be even more exciting, as there are a few quick guys carving up the list who want my number-one position!”
Nathan Ghosn’s Capri had proved that horsepower isn’t the be-all and end-all in no-prep racing, with his all-motor small-block 235 radial streeter sitting in third spot heading into the night’s racing. However, a tough night saw him shuffled back to seventh, with Mr Powercruise himself, Michael ‘Gup’ Gilbert powering into position three with the candles lit in his wild, nitrous-powered HQ wagon.
At the conclusion of the night’s racing, the Toranas of Danny Nobrega and Tom Kacsof were holding it down for the Holden fans, rounding out the top five.
The main appeal of the Street Outlaws Australia format seems to be centred around just how simple it is. With its relaxed approach and street-style rules, it’s the ideal forum for online bench racers to put up or shut up!
It’s early days for Australia’s newest style of drag racing, but the punters have spoken, and so far it’s clear that the ‘less politics, more racing’ mentality has plenty of merit. Hit up Powercruise on socials for details on the next round on 20 August, and get your backside trackside. Or better yet, enter your car and see if you have what it takes to battle your way onto the list!
Here’s John Saad cleaning the tyres of his blown Capri ahead of a run against Steve Grima’s turbo LS-powered VK.
Grima was disappointed his pro street Camaro wasn’t ready for the event, so he stuffed the biggest tyres he could under his streeter and did his best to fend off call-outs.
The pit complex at Sydney Motorsport Park was packed to the hilt with punters eager to see pro street legends like Johnny Habib battle it out on a street-style surface.
Johnny claimed plenty of scalps on the night and finished up in ninth spot.
Street Outlaws Australia brought many Aussie pro-street racing legends out of the woodwork to grudge race, including Mark Hayes in his amazing, nitrous-huffing LC.
The list! The order of the Top 50 cars changes throughout the course of the night as racers call each other out and either move up or get bumped down the list.
Meanwhile, newcomers grudge-race to decide who gets a crack at ‘the gatekeeper’ in the 50 spot to make their way onto the list.
The Blown Outlaws duo of Adam Ursino (Datsun 1200 ute) and Danny Younis (Capri) can most often be found pumping high-speed helis on the SMSP main straight at regular Powercruise events.
This time they tried their hand at no-prep drag racing.
MINCER’s spectacular mid-track head gasket failure was the talk of the event. “What a wild night of racing with a bunch of like-minded lunatics!” said owner Tristan Ockers post-event.
“Unbelievably, there was hardly any damage, just a burnt head gasket and slightly melted alloy head. The engine is already out and at ProFlo Performance for some love.”
Winners are grinners! Jason Mansweto successfully fended off a hard-charging Al Vella to maintain his spot at the top of the Powercruise Street Outlaws Australia Top 50 list.
Shadi Tobaji’s all-motor small-block Cortina is a beast, having run into the eights at the drags. Here we see it facing off against Andrew Natoli’s VK.
Aaron Gregory’s HR pano is an absolute stunner, and quick enough to hold down position 37 on the list at the conclusion of the night’s racing.
Andrew Natoli’s BG Engines-built nitrous Holden V8 was our Mill of the Month in the August 2020 issue of SM, and it was getting a full workout in his VK Commodore at Street Outlaws Australia.
Trash talk and heads-up no-prep racing go hand in hand, and while most of it takes place via socials, Simon Kryger went to the trouble of having a custom scramble button made to stir the pot with event promoter and fellow competitor Michael ‘Gup’ Gilbert!
Tom Kacsof’s LC Torana was one of the movers and shakers of the event, pictured here about to knock off Sam Lentini’s XD Falcon for the number-seven spot on the way to a top-five finish.
Perennial Drag Challenge Radial Aspirated champ Al Vella could hardly contain his enthusiasm for the Street Outlaws Australia format, and clung to his number-two spot on the list.
It was so good to see Tristan Ockers and MINCER out of hibernation. ‘The quarter-mile freak show’ lived up to its reputation, glancing the wall in the deep end during a wild pedal-fest with Mark Hayes’s nitrous Torana.
The hotly anticipated grudge race between Simon Kryger’s 864-cube nitrous Torana and Gup’s epic Kingswood wagon saw Krygs get the chocolates on this occasion, but something tells us there will be a rematch.
Gup’s HQ wagon has a hell of a lot of presence! Built as a dedicated no-prep car, it runs a mega-cube Sonny’s motor and all of the nitrous. It went on a tear at the recent round, shifting up to the number-three spot on the list.
Mudgee racer Glenn Box’s tough-as-hell nitrous small-block HG ute was back in action after giving the wall a nudge at Powercruise. He ended his night in mid-list in 29th spot following a gearbox issue.