If there’s one thing to know about the sport of drag racing, it’s that it always has been, and always will be, about going faster. It doesn’t matter about DYO-format racing rewarding consistency over outright speed — drag racing exists because of the urge to go fast, and then to go faster still. 

And that was evident at the 2016 IHRA Nationals, held over the weekend of March 12–13 at Meremere Dragway. The two-day event was part of the 2015–’16 New Zealand IHRA National Series, so the racers weren’t taking things lightly by any stretch. The spate of PBs over the weekend just seemed to confirm that. 

One of the best runs that weekend was done by Jason Sellars in his twin-turbo Falcon XY ute. Having only just spun the Dynopower dyno to over 1600hp at the treads, his second run on Saturday netted a 7.525-second pass at 185mph — a good indication of the ute’s potential. Unfortunately, the freshly rebuilt transmission had had enough, calling it quits on the very next pass, and putting an end to the team’s efforts that weekend. Even so, they’re stoked with the result, and it says a lot about Dean and Warren Landon’s engine-building ability when the factory-cast two-bolt block and iron heads are holding up better than a fully built transmission. 

Not long after Jase ran his quickest-ever quarter, Kevin McGregor piloted the Heat Treatments–sponsored Pontiac GTO to a 7.367 at 178.3mph, setting not just a new PB, but a new record for the A/TS class. 

It wasn’t the only GTO reeling off a PB, either — Michael Franklin’s ‘540GTO’ cut a rapid 7.847 at 174.6mph. The ‘Drunk Goat Racing’ team, who had — up until that weekend — struggled to crack the sevens were suddenly rewarded with a string of seven-second passes, a clear sign of things to come. 

The Mahon brothers also managed to extract a 7.86-second quarter-mile from their ’00 Camaro, proving that you can run quick with a big single carb — that said, a naturally aspirated 618ci Steve Schmidt–built big block can’t hurt, either. The 7.86 was backed up with Heath running a 7.85 at 181mph, and they reckon there’s still some more left in it. Check the gallery below for a rare photo of Jarrod Mahon working on the car. 

In Top Doorslammer, the whole weekend was neck and neck, but it was undoubtedly the pairing of Trevor Smith and Rod Benjes that suggested they were taking the class name a touch too literally. The balls-out racing did culminate in PBs for both the TSR Statesman and the DB Racecars Beretta — a 6.49 at 219.65mph for Smith, and a 6.47 at 220.91 for Benjes. 

Unfortunately, it couldn’t be all PBs and happiness — Jodey Irving smashed the Camaro into the wall on Saturday morning, after a hard launch saw it veer right into the barrier. While the remainder of the weekend was a write-off, at least Jodey walked away unscathed. 

Straight after the Irving Camaro’s debris was cleared, Karen Hay almost suffered the same fate, having to button off to avoid driving the Model T dragster into the wall. She’d go on to earn herself the Hard Luck trophy after she injured her calf muscle jumping from the moving car when it caught fire on Sunday. Still, it wasn’t all hard luck — she ran her fastest-ever quarter-mile, running through the traps at a huge 221mph on a 6.44-second quarter. 

The wildest ride of the weekend would undoubtedly have been the Topolino Altered driven by Glen Collett. You can read more about it in the ‘Dragged Up’ section of NZV8 Issue No. 132 (coming out soon). The 14-71 supercharged TFX engine gave some huge bunny hops, a section of wall was scraped by the headers, and, ultimately, a PB of 7.371 at 181.3mph was achieved — not bad at all for a wild Altered that’s only just hit the track! 

In other Altered-related news, Steve Milliken ran the GSS Performance Topolino to a 7.91-second pass at 161.15mph. While the car is just as wild as always, Steve seems to have gotten on top of its unpredictability, and with last year’s engine issues looking to be a thing of the past, we’re expecting good things to come from the GSS team. 

On the other end of the comfort scale, Mike Bari had his immaculate ’71 Chevelle out to play, proving once and for all that it’s got more go than show — and that’s saying something! His weekend culminated in him running the big old tank to a best of 9.26 at 148.92. Considering the 598ci big block is equipped with both plate and port nitrous injection, and Mike’s only been using the plate, that’s seriously impressive. On his 9.26-second run, Mike managed a 1.45-second 60-foot time, and if he can get the car to launch even harder, we’re expecting even lower nines before he even hits the second stage of nitrous. 

4&Rotary man Azhar Bhamji was another one to shake up the list of quick streeters. His Mazda R100 has recently gained a turbocharged 13B two-rotor built by Aussie rotor legends PAC Racing, and tuned by Dyson Bros Racing, and this has shown with his 9.346 at 148.33, with a blistering 60-foot time of 1.24 seconds. At this stage, he is still running his Tremec TKO600 five-speed H-pattern gearbox, and will soon be switching to a custom HGT sequential transmission. We’re expecting even lower ETs once this change is made, and Azhar’s definitely going to be one to keep an eye on. 

Also stepping it up a notch in the rotary world were the Abbott brothers; Jeremy and Cory Abbott managed an extreme 6.97-second pass at 195.99 — Australasia’s first six-second quarter-mile by any 13B-powered vehicle; a seriously impressive feat!  

And Robbie Ward ran the RIPS Racing ‘MGAWOT III’ R32 GT-R to a 7.28 at 194.04mph, tantalizingly close to the current GT-R world record — 7.26 at 203mph, run by EKanoo Racing’s R35 GT-R. Robbie is no stranger to the title of ‘World’s Fastest GT-R’, and we’re hoping it’s one he’ll be reclaiming before long. 

The entire drag meeting was everything you’d expect from one of the larger drag racing events of the year. Of course, there was a whole lot more action than what we’ve outlined here, and we’ll have an event overview in the upcoming issue of NZV8 — keep an eye out.