RAI Top Fuel star Damien Harris and Funny Car privateer Justin Walshe have been crowned champions at the final round of the inaugural NDRC series held in conjunction with the 56th annual Gulf Western Oil Winternationals at Willowbank Raceway, June 6-9.

Harris, who also won the 2022-2023 title, has become only the third person to claim four Top Fuel championships. 

Sharing the limelight with Haris was teammate Wayne Newby who finished second overall in the championship. Newby outpaced ‘Damo’ in the A-Final that was the quickest and fastest side-by-side pass ever witnessed in Australia. A 3.779, 322 mph from Newby to Harris with a 3.778, 323 mph. 

“This was a very good way to end the season,” said team owner Santo Rapisarda. I’m so very proud of my boys, for what they have achieved. This was a victory for both teams including all the boys and girls who work on Damien’s and Wayne’s car. We all race in memory of my son Louie who lost his life here at Willowbank over 30 years ago. He would be proud of what we achieved today and over the year.”

“Santo Junior and his crew have been outstanding,” said Harris. “I will always have the hunger. I’m disappointed for Wayne. I have been in that situation before, losing by only a couple of points. I can’t thank the Rapisarda family enough for giving me the opportunity to race for their team.”

Walshe, who first won a National title in Competition back in 2007 dominated the Funny Car series with three wins from four starts, defeated fellow Queenslander Brandon Gosbell on a holeshot in the A-Final. Walshe ran 4.085, 321 mph to Gosbell with a 4.080, 263 mph.

“At the start of the year I didn’t think this would have been possible,” said Walshe. “Anyone could have won the championship but if you turn the screws the right way and do a good job driving, then it will all come together. Driving a Funny car is a challenge. One run you can be a hero then the next time you can lose it all before your off the start line.”

Russell Taylor capped off an outstanding rookie season in Doorslammer to win both the Aussie championship and Winternationals. Taylor defeated archrival John Zappia whose hopes of a 12th title evaporated after he lost to gun rookie Ronnie Palumbo in the semi-final. 

“I think it will take a couple of days for what’s happened to sink it,” said Taylor. “We put together a great crew including Steve Ham and Stew Rowland, who made my job a lot easier and as the season progressed, I think I got more confident behind the wheel.” 

Top Alcohol veteran Russell Mills went into the meeting with an unassailable 138 points buffer over rising star Daniel Reed who turned the tables on the day to post his second win of the season and recorded a personal best of 5.39/270 mph.

“Obviously I would have liked to have won the event today as well,” said Mills.  “My car was on a pretty good run – everyone always says that though – but it didn’t do the run I was hoping for. Congratulations to Daniel and his great family on their win.”

Old school racer Craig Burns went into the meet as hot favorite after scoring   two wins from four starts and secured his maiden Pro Mod title after top qualifying for the third time this season. However, on race day he rolled the beams in a shock round one loss to unheralded Daniel Camilleri. Sydneysider Zoran Gajic won the meet with a 5.89 to Camilleri’s 6.23.
“We top qualified at three of the four events this season,” said Burns. “Going into this weekend we were under real pressure. The turbo guys were fast and chasing the win. There’s not much of a spread over the first half dozen cars but we hung in and got the win.”

Victorian Rob Dekert snared the championship in Pro Stock and homegrown Tyrone Tremayne took out the Winternationals. “I’m rapt to have won the championship,” said Dekert. “There were a couple of curve balls on the way, but we kept strong. I messed up the final with a red light against Tyrone.” 

In the two-wheel category Luke Crowley took out the Pro Stock Motorcycle title as well as claiming his third Winternational victory with a win over veteran Jason Lee in the Final.
“To win this event three times in a row, well, I didn’t think it would happen,” said Crowley “The last three weeks have been an absolute thrash and it has been a struggle, but obviously, this makes it all worthwhile.”
In Nitro bike Benny Stevens won the NDRC title and teammate Aaron Deery took home the gold Christmas Tree after Corey Buttigieg crossed lanes in the final.
“It’s satisfying to win the championship,” said Stevens. “The bike ran well all year. What we need is to get a few more bikes out on the track for next season.” 




QUALIFYING  - Race starved Queenslanders got their first taste of Top Fuel racing since January 2023 when the venue was closed for renovations. Harris topped the time sheets with a 3.79, 325 mph. Last round winner Peter Xiberras slipped into second with a 3.80, 319 mph ahead of Newby and veteran Phil Read who encountered electrical gremlins and shut off at half-track. “Pommie” Steve Read on the comeback trail was fifth with a 4.98/251 mph. 

ROUND ONE. - Newby and Xiberras kicked off racing with a spectacular side-by-side pass. Newby took the win by .015. Harris with a pedal and shake and a couple of stabs on the throttle accounted for Read who was up in smoke around half-track. Read and Stipanovich were no shows.
ROUND TWO. - Prior to the round Harris’ team was forced to change the engine after breaking rods in the first round. What was shaping up as one of the defining rounds of the meeting turned anti-climactic when his rival Xiberras cut a red light - his first since 2022. “I saw it happen,” said Xiberras. “It can happen when you try too hard.”
Newby had off track dramas when he put out a cylinder during engine warm up. His battle with Read ended early when Read went up in a massive fireball and crossed lanes. Newby had his own issues including lifting the blower at the end of the run. When Read’s car returned to the pits the crew discovered major damage to the chassis and was ruled out of the B-Final against Xiberras.

FINAL ROUND - Xiberras, on a solo, won the B-Final. The Newby versus Harris duel, as the two cars marched in unison down the track, will go down in the annals as one of the best drag races in Aussie drag racing. Newby winning the race and the championship going to Harris. 

“Congratulations to Damien, Santo and the team on the championship,” said Newby. “Thank you to the Rapisarda family. I can’t thank everyone enough. It has been a killer year, and hopefully, next year can be that little bit better.”


QUALIFYING  - Category stand out Morice McMillin claimed his first top qualifier for the season with a stout 3.98, 316 mph ahead of teammate Brandon Gosbell who clocked 4.02, 311 mph. Rookie Josh Leahy, making only his second start in the elite category, impressed with a 4.06, 311 mph. Championship leader Justine Walshe was slightly off the pace in fourth ahead of fan favorite Adam Murrihy. Budget racer Anthony Begley was fifth after a 4.46, 279 mph.

Chris Stipanovich subbing for team owner Tim McCarthy was forced to make an engine change between QI and Q2 was sixth. 

ROUND ONE. - Gosbell drove around Murrihy who glanced the wall near the finish line. Walshe’s decision to deep stage against the inexperienced Leahy paid dividends when he took victory by .007 sec. McMillin cruised to an easy win after Begley snapped the accelerator cable on the start line. Stipanovich, on a solo, went into tire shake then pushed out a burst panel. 

ROUND TWO.  - Privateer Adam Murrihy caused the biggest upset of the season when he defeated odds on favorite and series contender McMillin. ‘Supermac’ got out of shape near half-track and could only watch as Murrihy stormed to the finish line. 

Walshe advanced to the A-Final thanks to a superb .049 reaction time and a 4.07 against Leahey who ran 4.13. Gosbell laid down a strong 3.98 pass to down Begley who lifted the blower on the hit.

FINAL ROUND. - Walshe went into the final round knowing he had already clinched the Funny Car title and went for broke on the tree with a .01 rection time to claim victory over Gosbell. McMillin led all the way against Murrihy in the B-Final and Begley took out the C-final when Leahy cut a red light and shut off early. 





For the first time this season ’slammer ran with an eight-car elimination format.

The season long battle between 11-time champ John Zappia and rookie Russell Taylor went up another level as the two protagonists slugged it out in qualifying. ‘Zap’ dominated until Q3 when the duo came face to face. Taylor took out ‘Zap’ with 5.61/257 mph to relegate ‘Zap’ to second on a 5.69/253 mph. 

Rookie of the year contender Ronnie Palumbo had a heart in mouth moment when the throttle jammed open in first round of qualifying. His GM Monaro was only slightly damaged after scrapping the wall, recovering well for third spot ahead of Rob Harrington and Neil Murphy.

RACE DAY - Taylor cruised to the final with easy wins over rookie Nasser Matta and Sydney sider Neil Murphy who shut down early. Palumbo was in superb form driving around Peter Lovering then taking a holeshot win over Zappia to make the trophy round. In the final it was all Taylor who prevailed with a 5.59 - the quickest ET of the season - to Palumbo’s 5.72. 

“If you had said to me at the start of the year, I would be racing off in the final of the Winternationals, I would have said you were dreaming,” said Palumbo. “I’m here thanks to team owners Maurice and Mary Fabietti who have given me this amazing opportunity to go racing in Doorslammer.” 



TOP ALCOHOL - Like Doorslammer, Alky regular all-in race format was replaced with an eight-car elimination format 

Rookie Daniel ‘Boon’ Read upstaged series leader Russell Mills with a silky 5.41267 mph to grab the top qualifier spot. Third went to local Jake Donnelly courtesy of a 5.48/255 mph ahead of Luke Marsden. The most decorated racer in Aussie Alky Gary Phillips was sixth after a rollicking pass that included a close encounter with the concrete wall. Read made it to the final. 


PRO MOD. - Craig Burns continued to dominate the category with a 5.86 to topple last year Winter’s winner Zoran Gajic from the top of the field. Some consolation for Gajic was taking victory in the delayed A-Final held over from the Nitro Champs on a solo when teammate Paul Mouhayet was a no show for the final. Newcomer Daniel Camilleri squeezed in the field in eighth then barnstormed his way to the unlikeliest of final round. That is when it turned pear shaped as his vastly more experienced rival took a comfortable win.

PRO STOCK. - With an entry list of twelve, the most this season, race organizers decided to abandon the all-in format in favor of an eight-car field. 
Hometown heroes and 2023 Winter’s winner Tyrone Tremayne and sibling Aaron went one and two in qualifying. Tyrone set the pace from Q1 and was never headed finishing with a 6.90.  

Series leader Rob Dekert was third ahead of nearest rival Rick Chilton in fourth.
Shane Tucker, who has plied his trade on the NHRA circuit returned home for the meet and snuck into the field in eighth.

Tucker would fall victim to Tyron Tremayne in round one. 

The finals of Pro Stock held over from the Nitro champs in Sydney was held during Q3 and saw Tyrone Tremayne take the win over Chilton. 

RACE DAY - Dekert secured the NDRC title after defeating veteran John Barbagallo in round one. Fittingly it was Tyrone Tremayne versus Rob Dekert in the final. Both went early and lit up the red light on the tree. Dekert was first to go red and the win went to Tremayne who claimed back-to-back Winters. 


LONG WAY JUST TO WATCH - Lisa and Daniel Gregorini, who finished fourth and fifth in the Doorslammer points, made the trip from Perth to spectate at the event. Both had a stint at race commentary as well.

FIRST TIMER  - Doorslammer winner Russell Taylor had never raced at Willowbank until the weekend. “It’s a great venue. They’ve done a great job with the new surface, flat and smooth and the crowd are very welcoming.”

VETERAN TO MAKE COMEBACK IN 2024-2025 - W.A. Craig Glassby has announced plans to race the Pro Alcohol tour next season. The one-time holder of the world record in Altered will have fellow Alky racer Shane Davison as crew chief. Glassby has spent most of this season crewing on a variety of cars including Anthony Begley’s Funny Car.

RETURN OF A LEGEND - Victor Bray, the popular face of Doorslammer over the past three decades, made an appearance at the event much to the delight of his army of fans. Bray has made few public appearances since the passing of his beloved wife Maree in late 2023.

SPOTTED IN THE CROWD - Ex-pat Jeff Burnett, noted NHRA fabricator, made the trip from hometown Indianapolis to work on the Alky car of Luke Marsden. Also, in the crowd was  1999 Top Fuel champ Robin Kirby. 

ON THE ROAD - John Zappia won the award for spending the most miles on the road over the season. Zap lives in Perth on the West Coast and traveled 23,860 miles. 

Special thanks to his brother Richard for compiling the statistics.