The word “amazement” came to mind quickly as I was privileged enough to attend the recent 50th Anniversary Gulf Western Oil Winternationals in Australia. That marquee celebration event, which was presented by 400 Thunder and sanctioned by the IHRA, was held at scenic Willowbank Raceway in Queensland. This event is that country’s equivalent in stature and reputation to North America’s NHRA Chevrolet Performance U.S. Nationals.
And much like it is at Indy, the remarkable number of Chevrolet-bodied and Chevrolet-powered drag racing vehicles in attendance was clearly pronounced. When you include the Holden-branded cars into the equation (Holden is Chevrolet’s Australian product equivalent) it was proof positive that the passion for Bowtie cars is worldwide and most certainly prominent in the far Southern Hemisphere.
A snapshot of Chevrolet-brand drag racing in Australia provides both similarities and differences to the scene in North America. Both big- and small-block applications of pretty much all configurations you can image are employed throughout their wide variety of classes, both at the professional and sportsman levels.
Australian drag racers are a creative and innovative group that at times (due to a pronounced global shipping cost disadvantage and import tariffs) must make do with what they have access to. It was so cool walking through the pit area where you can view both vintage and late-model Holdens and imported Chevrolet cars well-equipped with meticulously maintained engine programs. The bottom line is—and I’ve been around a lot—that I saw stuff there that I’ve never seen before. It reeked with innovation.
From Australia’s immensely popular and fan favorite Pro Doorslammer class and right down and through all their Group B Sportsman classes, including Supercharged Outlaws, Pro Radial, Top Sportsman, Super Stock, Super Sedan, and Super Street, it really was a banquet for the senses for any fan of Chevrolet racing.
The 2017 Gulf Western Oil Winternationals at Willowbank Raceway was the final event of the season for Australia’s 400 Thunder sanctioning body.
Here is a photo essay that captures only part of that remarkable race at a remarkable facility.
Photos: Bruce Biegler