Thirteen new drag racing records and history was again reset at the 2015 NZ IHRA Nationals, held 14th & 15th March at Meremere Dragway.

The most exciting of these for the crowd that attended the two-day event was New Zealand’s second four-second pass by Anthony Marsh in his fire-breathing AA/FD dragster, clocking the country’s first 300 mph top speed when he ran 307.72 mph (495.227 kmh) with a time of 4.872 seconds. His competitor in the best-of-three shoot out, Reece Fish, in his Fish Family Racing AA/FD, had an engine failure in the race, but still managed to go through the lights in an impressive 5.045 seconds at 260.15 mph, ultimately improving his performance with a 5.012 second clocking after prize-giving to go down as the best Grand Finale to an NZ Nationals ever.  

In the Top Alcohol ranks, Shane Lodge set a new elapsed time record of 5.516 seconds piloting his Bowen Rear Engine dragster, while Chris Johnston came away with the top speed award in his Uyehara rear-engined dragster, covering the quarter-mile course at a blistering 251.81 mph (405.24 kmh).  Johnston went on to take his ninth Nationals title in a row.  Chasing him down was always going to be a tough ask.

New Zealand drag racing’s fastest female driver, Tauranga’s Karen Hay, took her twin-turbocharged Evil II Model T roadster to a new AA/A record of 6.418 seconds.

Heath & Jarrod Mahon’s hard-charging Z28 Camaro claimed both A/MS elapsed time and top speed records, clocking an amazing 7.968 at 176.24 mph (283.63 kmh), while Pukekohe’s Gary Bogaart drove his wild, wheelstanding 1975 Ford Falcon Coupe to a new EE/MS record of 8.688 seconds. Roger Binnema travelled a long way and was rewarded with the CC/TS record 7.367 @ 193.06mph for his efforts.

In the Sport Compact class, Ben Cox took out the S/M record with a phenomenal 8.173-second pass in his immaculately prepared Datsun 1200 Coupe.

Seasoned competitor, Jodey Irving, set both elapsed time and top speed records in his 1988 Camaro taking the SS/AA index to 7.349 seconds and 188.31 mph (303.05 kmh).

A number of motorcycle records were set, including Bill Hamilton’s new AA/AB benchmark of 8.090 seconds, riding his Bird of Prey Suzuki Hayabusa, while Ian Wilkins, in the saddle of his Afterburner II Kawasaki, took out the AA/DB top speed record, with a 182.35 mph (293.46 kmh) clocking.  Not to be outdone, the other Ian, Ian Hilder that is…piloted his Rice Rocket II Prostock Bike to a new A/DB record of 7.810 seconds.

Tony Gray, riding a 396cc Suzuki showed that smaller capacity machines are also capable of setting records, taking both the C/MB elapsed time and top speed to 14.212 seconds and 99.44mph (160.03 kmh).

Strong fields battle for quarter-mile supremacy

This year’s IHRA NZ Nationals featured a very large number of competitors across a wide range of classes challenging each other over Meremere Dragway’s legendary quarter-mile course.

Top Fuel competition saw Anthony Marsh in The Mount Shop-sponsored AA/FD and his team sweep the three-round Top Fuel match race against two time Nitro Shootout winner Reece Fish and the Fish Family Racing entry. Other nitromethane-fueled machines putting on a show for the large crowd of spectators included Willy White, who brought his Funny Car all the way from Hastings, the legandary Phoenix Camaro Funny Car of Les Herst and the Flying Kiwi, Athol Williams, who amazed race fans with mid-6- second passes on his Top Fuel Drag Bike.

In addition, the jet-powered Funny Car of Steve Zahorodny made an exhibition pass covering the quarter mile in 8.7 seconds as he works towards making his mark as New Zealand’s quickest and fastest Jet Funny Car. 

The BurgerFuel® Top Alcohol final was a match race between the two Rear Engine Dragsters of Chris Johnston and Shane Lodge. Despite going quicker than any other Top Alcohol dragster in the country not once but twice, Lodge would succumb to Chris Johnston who was back to his consistent ways. Johnston would reign supreme with an elapsed time of 5.693 seconds at 250.23 mph (403.60 kmh) crossing the Finish Line ahead of new record-holder, Lodge, whose dragster suffered mechanical problems.

Always popular with the crowds, the P&I Pascoe Ltd sponsored Top Doorslammer class saw an eight-car field of ground-pounding machines. Ultimately, it was Upper Hutt’s Rod Benjes, driving his supercharged 1992 Chevrolet Beretta coupe to victory over the ’57 Chevy of Ross Taylor, Benjes clocking 6.638 seconds against the Pukekohe driver’s 6.651 to take home the trophy while Ross Taylor consolidates his number 1 position in the NZ National Series points championship.

In the Competition Class battles, sponsored by NZ Hot Rod Magazine, NZ’s flying female drag racer, Karen Hay, set a blistering 6.465 second pass in Evil II to beat veteran racer, Phil Hirst, who ran a credible 9.166 clocking in his Fontana speedway powered rear engine dragster. Hirst reported that he couldn’t hear Hay’s car approaching in the handicap start race until she went past and should therefore change her name to Whispering Death!

New record holder, Bill Hamilton took out the Auckland Harley Davidson Competition Bike final, when he beat the Suzuki GSAX 1200 of West Harbour’s Jim Wells. Hamilton’s quicker reaction time and blistering 8.09 second pass in the Auckland Harley Davidson-sponsored class, saw him beat Wells’ quicker 7.845.

The Segedin’s Auto Spares sponsored Modified Class final was an interesting match up between Cambridge’s Bomber Jamieson in his A/MA Model T roadster and the veteran competitor, Trevor Watson, in his unusual, supercharged 2.1 litre Peugeot Rear Engine dragster.  The season’s hard and consistent work paid off when it counted for Jamieson and crew, his quicker reaction at the start handed him the win over the Rotorua-based Watson, with a 9.481 elapsed time against Watson’s quicker 9.129 in this dial-your-own bracket.

The final round of Franklin Long Roofing Supercharged Outlaws saw Motueka-based Craig Griffith take the class trophy back to the Mainland when he took his Big Block Chev-powered Rear Engine dragster to victory against Auckland’s Michael Franklin’s immaculately prepared 1966 Pontiac GTO, when the black coupe broke before the start of the race.

Problems for record-holder, Ben Cox in the Datsun 1200, handed the V Energy Sport Compact final to the Mistubishi Lancer of Jason Horn, who ran a strong personal best of 8.954 seconds at 156.05 mph (251.13 kmh) for his first Nationals title.

In  VHT Top Street action, sponsored by VHT, New Plymouth’s Adam Prestney in their immaculately prepared 1986 Camaro got the win in the final, when record holder, Mahon Brothers Racing had a red-light foul in their Camaro. The Prestney/Dobson machine ran a 7.821 pass at 165.25 mph (265.94 kmh) in its final pass.

Brian Roberts Panel and Towing Super Street division, was won by rookie Competition meeting racer Dave Wigg who incidentally is in the running for the Night Speed Drag Wars DYO Class championship.  Super Street started the day with a poignant minute-silence tribute (observed by all at Meremere Dragway on the day) to their fallen comrade Dean Logan and continued to provide a spectacle of strong street machine racing for the rest of the day.  Wigg in his Holden ute claimed victory over the Holden Commodore of track volunteer, James Prujean. Wigg’s very quick reaction time helping seal the win over Projean with a 13.37 time slip over the Manurewa driver’s quicker 12.606, in this handicap-start class.

A double break out in the final Auckland Harley Davidson Screaming Eagle motorcycle class meant that the winner was the one who was closest to their dial-in time. Pukekohe’s Geoff Bond was declared the winner, as his 10.990 time was closest to his dial-in of 11.00, compared with runner-up, Jim Wells, who ran a 11.930 versus his 12.00 dial in.

Christchurch’s Mark Shuker took out the final of the Scrap Palace Modified Bike division on his heavyweight Triumph Rocket III, when he beat Ross Donaldson’s Kawasaki ZX12R, when the Te Atatu South-based rider rolled through the starting lights.

The Funtime Foods-sponsored Junior Dragsters attracted a massive field, but it was Woodhill’s Alyvea Watson who took home the trophy and the prizes, when she beat Jack Wenzlick, when the New Plymouth competitor red-light fouled in the final. 

This event completed the 2014/2015 IHRA NZ National series, which had seen a number of records broken and retaken and many personal bests by competitors. The team is already looking forward to the 2015/2016 season.  Full results from the 2015 NZ Nationals can be found here.  

The next event at Meremere Dragway is the final round of Night Speed Drag Wars, which will be held on Friday evening, 27 March.