Winning feeling returns with fans back, new CEO arriving
IT wasn't only the quality racing that lifted the spirits of Willowbank Raceway officials and fans at the latest Queensland Drag Racing Championships.
After having this year's Winternationals called off late last week, dedicated officials like Harry Rowsell welcomed news that highly regarded administrator Blair Conaghan had been appointed CEO.
Conaghan brings years of knowledge in a range of sports to the Ipswich Motorsport Precinct.
"I am pleased to be joining Willowbank Raceway given the opportunity of working at a renowned facility with such a great history, and an exciting sport in drag racing,'' Conaghan said. "The venue and sport have got strong growth potential.''
Conaghan has held managerial positions at the Gabba, Diary Farmers Stadium in Townsville and with the Sydney Cricket and Sports Ground Trust.
He will work alongside operations manager Rowsell in guiding drag racing through the COVID challenges.
"He comes with a very, very long list of big stadium event management,'' Rowsell said.
"It's a good thing for us here. It brings a fresh set of eyes.''
Conaghan's appointment fittingly came as Raceway officials ran the first major competition open to spectators.
More than 120 racers blasted up the quarter-mile strip on Saturday with fans welcomed back under the COVID safe plan.
"The uptake on that was whilst it was down on numbers, it was good from our point of view to see what was happening out there with the spectator base,'' Rowsell said.
About 500 people were on site, close to what Raceway officials expected and planned for.
"The refreshing thing coming off the back of it was we had other people asking about further spectating opportunities, so that's good,'' Rowsell said.
The operations manager said the furtherest visitor was from Townsville.
While Raceway officials and volunteers have to retain tight controls working with West Moreton Health, Rowsell said it was positive having spectators able to return in stages.
The next competition planned is another round of the Queensland Drag Racing Championships on September 5.
Radial test sessions are also scheduled for September 24-26 as Raceway officials work a month ahead at a time, governed by current circumstances and government decisions.
The Winternationals were officially cancelled after gallant attempts by Raceway officials to press ahead.
The border closures made it too difficult to proceed given the national status of the Ipswich-hosted Winternats, usually run in June.
At Saturday's championships, the Supercharged Outlaws field included Cheyne Phillips, the son of multiple National Doorslammer and Pro Alcohol champion Gary.
With only a few runs under his belt, Cheyne pushed through the field to secure the win.
Series veteran Bill Fletcher was runner-up.
Doeblien Family Racing had a memorable day out with Nicole and brother Shaun winning in the Top Sportsman and Super Street brackets.
Nicole was competing for only her second event in Top Sportsman. She took the win over Patrick Barron.
Shaun Doeblien smashed through the solid Super Street field winning against Mitchell Bauer in his Torana.
Ex-track champions Kellie Kidd and Stephan Gouws came head-to-head in the Modified finals.
Kidd reigned supreme on the night, securing victory in her TRBE Dragster.
Ipswich's "Fastest Postie" Tammy Goldthorpe isn't new to fast lane being one of the few people to win back-to-back track championships.
Goldthorpe is on track for more success after taking the gold from Matty Wilson on his Hayabusa.
In the hotly contested and biggest super sedan field, Phil Youlten emerged from the 16 challengers to produce a over Kevin Langridge in a battle of the Toranas.
The future of drag racing is in great hands with the massive plethora of talented junior dragsters taking to the lanes at each meet.
Saturday's meeting showcased the first win in Will Porter's drag racing career with Deklan McConnell runner up.
Both young racers are worth watching in the months ahead, with plenty of quality in their stables.
Additional information from Dave Reid and Willowbank Raceway