Calling motorsport fans: Raceway’s high-powered revival plan
AS borders reopen following months of uncertainty, Willowbank Raceway CEO Blair Conaghan has rolled out the welcome mat for 2021.
He hopes drag racing fans can return to enjoy the high-powered excitement Ipswich's motorsport mecca can provide.
An evening New Year Shootout spectacle on January 9 is being organised to help offset a lack of top level racing due to COVID restrictions.
With eight categories racing into the night, Conaghan said the one-off event was ideal for racegoers eager to help the sport get back on track.
"We are basically just finalising some of the key categories and then going to market for it,'' Conaghan said.
"We are really keen to get out there and we've got to restore a bit of a campaign to get people out to see some high-quality drag racing at Willowbank.
"The 9th of January gives us the opportunity for us to do so.''
Raceway officials earlier cancelled the 400 Thunder Championship planned for a similar time.
However, the match race format scheduled for next month is expected to feature championship brackets including Top Fuel, Pro Alcohol and Top Bike and a Pro Slammer v Pro Mod match race.
"The feel is that by cancelling the 400 Thunder, which has been traditionally a good event about the holiday time, that we needed to put something on just to keep the punters happy,'' the CEO said.
"No-one's burnt Top Fuel for nine months, 10 months.''
Phil Read and Peter Xiberras plan to headline the show in their 10,000 horsepower, 300 miles per hour Nitro-burning, flame throwing Top Fuel dragsters.
"I know we haven't got a full range of Top Fuel but seeing these guys in a match . . . I think that's something people want to see,'' Conaghan said.
Australia's best Pro Alcohol cars are also expected to battle each other in a grudge race to see who deserves the title of the New Year Shootout champion.
They include Gary Phillips and Steven Reed, who are ranked one and two in the national championship.
Steven Ham and Ben Bray head a quality field of Pro Slammers.
Chris Matheson and John Zara are preparing for a duel to battle each other along with other Top Bike racers.
The New Year Shootout program will be supported by other regular Willowbank brackets, including sportsman racers.
Conaghan said fans needed to purchase their tickets online, as part of COVID-safe requirements.
Gates open at 5pm for the New Year Shootout to provide more comfortable evening viewing conditions.
Conaghan hoped to exceed crowd numbers at recent events like the Kenda Radial Redemption series, Queensland Drag Racing Championships rounds and the latest Street Machine Drag Challenge.
The Street Machine event was staged on Friday and Sunday nights at Willowbank, separated by a round at Warwick on the Saturday.
"They went very well,'' he said of the recent events slowly coming back on line.
"The Kenda guys got about 3000 to the event, which is very, very good and we had some good competitor numbers.
"There's still that need for a few more people to come along.''
Appointed CEO earlier this year, Conaghan said the Raceway track would be closed for two weeks from December 18 before officials and volunteers ramp up the new year excitement.
He praised his Raceway team for doing an exceptional job battling the COVID challenges this year.
"I fully appreciate everything that has been done by fans and the volunteers but we just need a bit of a time-out,'' he said.
"We'll start with the 9th January and then try to move again to the new events.''
That includes a "Flick The Switch'' program in February "and hopefully back to some sort of normal after that''.