Corey Buttigieg and his Fastamoto team arrived at Sydney Dragway on Thursday night having driven 8 ½ hours from Melbourne for the Santo’s Summer Thunder, and they were ready for a huge weekend.
12 months earlier Corey’s new top fuel motorcycle had arrived, after inspecting and updating a few things on the bike Corey was getting ready to begin the licencing process with IHRA Australia ahead of the 2020/21 400 Thunder Australian Professional Drag Racing Series, so I was eager to help him as much as I could.
While all of us had drag racing experience, none of us had worked on a top fuel motorcycle. These nitro fuelled machines are capable of 5 second passes, exploding to life with over 1,000 horsepower. Corey’s fastest ever pass on his Pro Stock motorcycle is 7.088 seconds. It was going to be a big step up and all new territory for me, and this weekend proved it was going to be a great challenge.
Corey and the Fastamoto team spent Friday getting setup in the pits and getting the bike ready to race. I arrived at the track at about 6pm, just after the first time slot that evening during which Corey could test on the track amongst the other 400 Thunder Australian Professional Drag Racing Series brackets. However, when I arrived the rear cylinder head, cylinder and piston had been removed, so it was clear there wouldn’t be any track time that night.
The engine was blowing oil out of the exhaust and after we had the engine striped down, we found that there were a few clearances that were out of spec. So, the cylinders needed to be re-bored and honed and the piston ring lands had to be machined to give the rings the correct clearance. There’s no room for error with these machines. Everything has to be perfect or the consequences of an engine failure could be catastrophic. Corey managed to get the engine rebuilt by 2am with the help of his team, other drag racing mates and competitors who wanted to see Corey succeed.
There was still plenty to do on Saturday morning to get the bike ready. I threw myself headfirst into helping Corey. We worked for hours reassembling, adjusting, testing and problem solving. By about 5pm the bike was ready and there were two time slots left in the day to start the licencing process with IHRA Australia. First step in the process is to execute a successful burnout, followed by a successful launch, demonstrating Corey can handle the bike, then he can complete a pass.
After 12 months of preparation and 2 solid days of work in the pits Corey and the team started the bike and rolled it forward to the burnout pad. The Sydney Dragway crowd in anticipation seeing Corey on a top fuel bike for the first time. He twisted the throttle and smoke erupted from the rear wheel.
Unfortunately, following that first test the team discovered a safety issue which needed repair so Corey didn’t get back to the starting line for the final session. Well, that’s racing.
Corey plans to be back at Sydney Dragway for the Gulf Western Oil Nitro Thunder in May and you can be sure I’ll be there to help out once again. If you haven’t experienced Top Fuel racing yet then Corey’s progression to the Top Bike bracket of the 400 Thunder Australian Professional Drag Racing Series is just another reason why you should.