Grudge Kings Crowned At Australia’s Sydney Dragway

In Australia, high-dollar events were not that common, at least until the Grudge Kings event came along. Last year saw a $50,000 prize that was won by Jet Martin. He used his prize purse to run his wicked VB Commodore at tracks in America. This year, after the original date of July 6th was rained out, the Grudge Kings event was run two weeks later and again was a rousing success. While a number of original entrants could not return for the rain date, a large number of cars, from genuine streeters to 5.5-second Pro Mod race cars, put on a great show with many competitors posting personal bests.

This year’s event saw not one, but two $50,000 purses on offer: one for Pro Mod and one for Pro Street. The Pro Mod field might have been short on quantity but not quality, as five cars faced the starter in round one. The first pairing saw Greg Tsakiridis take on Paul Mouhayet in a turbo Pro Line 481X versus blown Hemi 511-powered Ford Mustang matchup. In short, this was the best 1/4-mile doorslammer race this author has ever witnessed, as Tsakiridis took a half a tenth advantage off the line and held that lead until the finish line. A winning 5.636 at 272.34 outdid Mouhayet’s 5.619 at 254.38. While Mouhayet’s Moits team didn’t make it to the final of the bracket, they more than made up for it in round three, where Mouhayet ran a 5.587 in defeating Tristan Ockers.

On the day, Tsakiridis’ 511 Hemi-powered Mustang was running like a bracket car, scoring 5.629- and 5.630-second victories to face Steve Ham’s NRE 514 cube-powered Chevrolet Camaro in the final. Similar to his final round opponent, Ham had used 5.663, 5.709 and 5.662 winning runs to put him into the final frame. There Ham took a slight lead off the line (a .023 to a .044 reaction time) but lost the lead at the 1000 foot mark where Tsakiridis’ turboed Mustang passed him and went on to record a 5.630 to 5.669 victory.

Tsakiridis said after the race that “the first round race was Australia’s fastest door-car pairing in history and we smashed out yet another speed record of 272 mph in beating Paul Mouhayet. We had our hands full with a couple of challenges through the rounds and went on to the final to go up against yet another badass blown Australian doorslammer, in Steve Ham. The result was another ever-so-close run and we came home with the Crown,” a jubilant Tsakiridis added.

Pro Mod winner Greg Tsakiridis

The second big-buck bracket was Pro Street eliminator, and this saw a field of 10 cars taking on the 1/8-mile. Entrants used all types of engines, from large displacement naturally-aspirated motors to turbocharged, blown, and rotary combinations. By the semi-finals the field was whittled down to three drivers: Paul Todarello in a big-block Chevy-powered Holden Torana who faced Jeremy Callaghan’s twin turbo PLR 481X Stage 4-powered Camaro in the first pairing, while Craig Hewitt took a solo in his blown 521 Hemi-powered Holden Monaro.

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Callaghan had run low E.T. in round one and two with back-to-back 4.120- and 4.151-second times, and used a bracket-like 4.148 to more than cover Todarello’s 4.572. Hewitt then took a 4.359 solo after 4.378- and 4.313-second wins earlier in the day. The final saw a tight tussle as Todarello took over a tenth of a second off the line, however Callaghan soon pulled beside the Torana and then took the win by eighth-thousandths of a second, when a 4.116 at 186.74 was too good for a slightly slower 4.236 at 173.83 pass.

Pro Street winner, Jeremy Callaghan

“What a great day of racing,” Callaghan remarked. “I need to the thank Steve Erica and Walton Petty for the excellent racecar we have, and again Moits Racing for the setup. The car went perfectly all day and got us the win. I couldn’t be happier with the results. We will just keep on chipping away and see where we can go from here.”

As we saw above, the great thing about the Grudge Kings model is that a wide variation of engine types can be used, with both V8 and import engine combinations competing on equal terms. This was very evident in the Pro Elite bracket, where Toyota 2JZ and 13B and 20B Rotary engines took on a turbo V8 small-block Ford motor for a $10,000 prize. The bracket was run in a Chicago-style shootout format that saw Michael Haimandos and George Rehayem taking three wins each and thus earned their place in the final — Haimandos had run a best of 6.391 prior to the final while Rehayem had run a best of 6.370 along the way.

Pro Elite champ Michael Haimandos (left) and runner-up George Rehayem

As both pulled into stage, 5-foot flames exited the exhaust of Rehayem’s 20B rotary engine, while Haimandos’ turbo V8 spooled up as he came into stage. On the green, an .066 light for Rehayem and a .069 for his opponent ensured a tight race with both cars glued together for the entire 1/4mile. Haimandos’ BK Engines-powered Mustang eked out a win with an improving 6.349 at 224.21, with Rehayem’s Mazda 6SP running a bracket-like 6.379 at 219.69 in defeat.

After the race Haimandos said, “Well, what a day we had at Grudge Kings 2019. In the few weeks leading up to the race we had gremlin after gremlin — we didn’t think we even going to make it.”

Nine cars pulled into the staging lanes for the first round of the Pro Modified bracket (yes this is different to the Pro Mod bracket – Ed). Again, a Chicago-style shootout eliminator was run and this saw only two cars taking three wins – the Turbo Nissan RB30-powered Pontiac Firebird of Daniel Camilleri, and the turbocharged 520 cube big-block Chevy-powered Mustang of Steve Athans.

The Pro Modified final (not to be confused with Pro Mod): Daniel Camilleri (near lane) defeated Steve Athens.

On paper, Athans had nearly two-tenths on his opponent, running a 6.837 in the first round, while Camilleri had run a 7.015 best in his third round win. The final saw a pretty even leave (.100 for Camilleri to a .124 for his opponent) but after that things went awry for Athans when he lost traction, got up on two wheels, crossed the centerline and ended up in the opposite lane — albeit without hitting anything and ending up with all four wheels on the ground.

Camilleri, however, had high-tailed it to a winning 7.052 while Athans slowed to a 13.77 loss. After the event Camilleri said, “What a weekend — a personal best of 7.01 at 193.5 and we took the win in Pro Modified. We set out for the weekend to try and run a 6-second pass but unfortunately we suffered with tire shake on many of the runs. With the help of Paul Turner, we were able to overcome this. Hopefully next time we will be able to see the first 6-second RB30 single cam run.”

Outlaw winner Adam Attard

Of all the cars on the property, there was only one that I was really looking forward to seeing – the Russell Taylor 521 cubic-inch Brad Anderson Hemi-powered Holden Torana, that was featured in Dragzine earlier this month. The car came out for the first round of competition and after a solid burnout had troubles behind the line trying to find a gear and was shut down. On its second pass the car turned almost 90-degrees to the tree on a crossed-up burnout but was shut down shortly after by officials for a fuel leak while going into stage.

Grudge Kings full results are below:

Greg Tsakiridis

Jeremy Callaghan

1st Michael Haimandos
2nd George Rehayem

1st Daniel Camilleri
2nd Steve Athens

1st Adam Attard
2nd Josh Ploeger

1st Craig Lewis
2nd Danko Knezevic

1st Moose Salina
2nd Luke Purdie

1st David Muscat
2nd Cameron Sleeper

Darren Foley
Ian Smith

Steve Athens

George Rehayem

About the author

Jon Van Daal

Jon is arguably Australia’s most experienced drag racing photo-journalist. On a borrowed Nikon F2 camera from a friend Jon snapped a photo of a fuel funny car imploding on his very first roll of film - 45 years later the rest is history.
Read My Articles

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