EASTER drag racing will return to Willowbank next year with a "Twenty20" style racing format.
The new format, dubbed Santo's Cranes Super 3 Extreme Drag Race, will see two championship rounds raced in one event with winners crowned on Friday and Saturday, March 29-30.
Willowbank Raceway managing director Steve Bettes said the event will begin with a qualifying pass for all cars, followed by an elimination round.
From this round, the two quickest winners will go into an A final and the third and fourth quickest winners will proceed to a B final, as per the three- round format introduced this season. Once the winner is crowned on Friday, the full field for each bracket will get ready to do it all over again on Saturday.
"It really is a radical shift from the tournament-style format the spectators and the racers are used to, providing the chance for all entrants to the appropriate brackets to run at least twice each day, and three times each day for the finalists, rather than first having to qualify one day only to perhaps be eliminated in the first round the next day," Bettes said.
"After more than three years of development by Willowbank Raceway and many months working closely with ANDRA's new CEO Malcolm Bulley, I am so excited to be able to say everything is in place for this exciting new concept in Australian drag racing.
"Answering the calls of the fans for more on-track passes from their favourite professional race categories, and rewarding the competitors for their efforts by giving them more chances to get their prized rides into the finals, I really feel this new format is an exciting experiment for the sport of drag racing, much like the Twenty20 format was for cricket."
The Santo's Cranes Super 3 Extreme Drag Race will feature the Louie Rapisarda Trophy Race honouring the Top Fuel driver Louie Rapisarda who passed away in 1990. A partnership between Louie's father Santo Rapisarda and Willowbank Raceway will see a commemorative trophy for the winner of the Top Fuel bracket on offer.
Rapisarda - a stalwart in the Australian drag racing scene and an active member of the United States' NHRA tour - is expected to field two cars in the event amongst his busy American race program.
"When Willowbank Raceway came to me about this event in Louie's honour, I was so pleased to be able to support it," said Rapisarda.
"I am continually taken aback by the support for my family and of Louie's memory shown by the Australian drag racing community, and this is no exception.
"I sincerely hope we can see a full field of Top Fuel racers from across the country in the race for the Louie Rapisarda Trophy this coming Easter, a field amongst which we hope to enter two dragsters.
"No matter how our race campaign goes during this very special event, I know my family and I look forward to celebrating Louie's life with our wider drag racing family once again and to presenting the trophy to the deserving winner."
Bettes said the Louie Rapisarda Trophy Race would be a special event for all involved and that the specially-built trophy will go to the highest point-scorer in Top Fuel over the weekend.
In the event of a tie, the trophy will go to the driver in the tie with the lowest elapsed time of the event. "Willowbank Raceway and the Rapisarda family have always had a strong connection and for us to be able to once again show our support for Santo is something we are very proud of," Bettes said.
ANDRA CEO Malcolm Bulley said that he was excited about this concept and was delighted ANDRA, Willowbank Raceway and the competitors will be able to make it happen in 2013.
Racers of the two feature brackets have been consulted and are keen to trial the new format.