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Why the population of a small city will descend on Willowbank this weekend

More than 3000 competitors registered in the event's 52nd year

It’s big, it’s loud and it’s fast.

Up to 40,000 disciples of motorsport make the pilgrimage to Ipswich from across the country and from overseas at this time each year.

Generations of families take the journey drawn by the sights, sounds and smells of adrenaline pumping fire-breathing action on and off the track.

The annual Winternationals, the largest drag racing event held outside North America, returns to Willowbank Raceway this weekend.

The official prelude took place last weekend when almost 200 teams participated in pre-event testing.

Fans were given a preview of what is to come at Australia’s biggest drag racing event with a range of stunning performances.

The largest manufacturer of lubricants in Australia, Gulf and Western Oils, is the major sponsor of the four day event which attracts competitors from all over Australia, the USA and New Zealand.

Accommodation in the Ipswich region is expected to be at a premium from June 6 to 9.

Willowbank Raceway president Tony Wedlock described the Winternationals as the drag racing equivalent of Bathurst, State of Origin and Melbourne Cup all rolled into one.

“It’s the weekend where the whole sport comes together in one place, at one time for one purpose in the race to decide the 400 Thunder Australian Drag Racing Champions in every category.

“This 52nd running of the historic event will see four days of competition with racers from eight year old children in the Junior Dragster class right up to the fire breathing Top Fuel Dragsters.

“It’s an unbelievable spectacle for spectators.

“In particular the Top Fuel cars are something that everyone should experience at least once in their life,” he said.

Willowbank Raceway’s marketing and communications manager Rob Oberg said the amazing flame-throwing 500 km/h Top Fuelers were consistently a crowd favourite.

“The Top Fuel category brings us the fastest accelerating vehicles in the world achieving zero to 160 km/h in just point eight of a second and reaching over 520 km/h in less than four seconds.

“We witnessed a thrilling 2018 event when Queensland’s Kelly Bettes became the first ever female Australian Top Fuel champion by virtue of a semi-final win against Wayne Newby.

“In 2019 we have the same two competitors as the primary rivals for this year’s title.

“Newby leads the series by a meagre 14 points over Bettes, while American, Ashley Sanford is also in contention a further 40 points back setting the scene for another epic title battle.”

Other popular categories included Pro Slammer which has attracted a strong entry list of 16 drivers headed by defending champion and current points leader Paul Mouhayet from Sydney.

“He has been in great form with his Mustang and will face facing strong challengers from 11 times champion John Zappia of Perth along with local favourites Ben Bray and Scott McLean to name just a few,” Mr Oberg said.

The Winternationals event caters for all the family with a large number of free activities for children.

Tickets are available at the gate or online from www.willowbankraceway.com.au. Children 13 and under are free.

IPSWICH FIRST

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