The Fitzroy River echoes the high-octane action of Rockynats 03 Day 2

Published on 08 April 2023

Rockynats 03 Drags Day 2.jpg

Saturday’s perfect CQ weather saw record-breaking crowds flocking to all three Rockynats precincts. Following the success of yesterday’s street parade, motorsport action with drags, drifting and displays lit up the CBD and spilled over to the burnout precinct. At the Showgrounds, the party carried on into the night as rock legends Dragon took to the stage.

From street drags to burnouts, the Show n Shine along Quay Street, drifting and the 4x4 Zone – there was truly something for everyone in the family-friendly atmosphere of Rockhampton.

Amongst the 443 Garrett Advancing Motion Street Drags entrants, there was a healthy amount of competition. Gunning for his third win in a row in the Pro Class, Shane Page and his 1988 VL Calais V8 spent the day eyeing off the field.

“There’s a lot of big cars out there at the moment,” he said. “I know the competition and I know they’re fast, so we just have to wait and see how the car goes down the track. We’ve completely changed the whole car from front to back. The motor, turbo, fuel systems, tuning – everything. It will be the car’s first run since Rockynats last year.”

A fan of Rockynats and the first to lay down a six-second pass in last year’s event, Shane is already committing to returning next year, no matter what happens out on the track. “Everything seems busier than last year,” he said. “We like coming here, it’s awesome and we’ll be back for next year for sure.”

Also returning for his third year, Rockhampton local Phil Wheatley was competing on the drag strip for bragging rights against his son Steve Wheatley and son-in-law Barry Clark. Phil was behind the wheel of his supercharged Commodore, while his son Steve was in his Monaro and son-in-law Barry on his Harley.

“There’s grudge runs on tomorrow afternoon, and we might be having a go,” he said with a laugh. “There’s a carton of beer up for grabs.”

With all the family in town to cheer them on, Steve is currently the reigning champion in the family, although Phil was hoping to come away with a win this weekend.

73-year-old Peter Murphy was also ready to hit the drag strip in his eye-catching Morris Minor, with a V8 rumbling away under the ‘Champion Yellow’ hood. “This used to be grandma’s car, but it’s absolutely not now,” he joked.

“I love Morris Minors, everyone does. So many people from my era learned to drive in these, that’s what is so attractive about them.”

Peter, who has been racing since he was 17, said he isn’t competing for the best time but rather for the enjoyment of the day and the thrill of lining up against younger competitors.

“Some of my grandkids are waiting to see me race so I’ll smoke the tires up off the line - that will lose me a second, but I don’t care, I’m just here for fun.”

Across the other side of the Fitzroy, over 100 burnout competitors were getting ready to send it, with a shot at the Burnout Masters comp wide open and the Rockynats title up for grabs.

Burnout Pro competitor Steve Robson in his black ‘Spotto57’ Chev had a memorable first qualifying heat this year. Steve had a special passenger on board, second-in-charge of the fire crew, Rick Matthews.

Today marked 25 years of Rick volunteering in the Summernats fire crew, so Steve’s wife Helen organised to have him on board for this morning’s heat.

“He had a grin from ear to ear,” Steve said. “The whole time he’s been helping out, he’s never had a chance to go in the cars, so he said it was mind-blowing for him.”

As for Steve, who travelled from Cairns for the weekend, he was looking forward to using coloured tires for his second qualifying heat under the lights tonight. “While green is my favourite colour, I think I’ll go with yellow tires cause my wife said they stand out the best.”

Summernats co-owner, Andy Lopez, was fresh from taking in the excitement of the burnout qualifying when he commented on the quality of entries at Rockynats 3.

“Burnout competition at this level is always a fierce battle, with big prize money on offer as well as invitations to compete at the Summernats festival in January. If today’s efforts are anything to go by, the fans are in for a massive treat when they get to the Buddy’s Fire burnout precinct for finals tomorrow.”

“The drag racing fired everyone up this morning, and with the drifting and cruising going on as well, it brought an incredible vibe and rumble to the CBD. When you add in the incredible vehicles on display at the Quay Street Showcase, central Rockhampton was converted into rev-head central. The huge crowds we’ve seen today had something awesome to take in no matter where they looked.”

Competition aside, it was hard to miss the buzz of activity across Rockhampton today. Rockhampton Regional Council Mayor, Tony Williams, said that the economic boost Rockynats brings to the region could not be overstated, in a time where many businesses are feeling the effects of rising prices.

“We expect that over $6 million will be generated in the region by Rockynats 03, and we know that this is a real boost to our small businesses this financial year. Major events help to promote a sustainable, vibrant local economy, and Council’s commitment to building an iconic motorsports event like Rockynats is proving to be a sound investment, which we will continue to build year-on-year.”

A jam-packed roster of off-track entertainment kept things pumping at the Showgrounds Precinct, with pro wrestling, the FMX KAOS Stunt Show, the Hot Wheels Show and the Hello Stranger tattoo competition, plus a well-attended Mulletfest.

Mulletfest organiser Laura Johnson was thrilled with the entries in tonight’s adult competition, with last year’s Ranga category winner defending his title. “There’s also new hair in the game, with new entrants growing mullets just for the Rockynats competition and heading for the Rookie title. And don’t forget the cuteness of tomorrow’s Junior competition, also held at the Buddys Fire Burnout Precinct,” said Ms Johnson.

Angus Sharp, pro wrestler, came on board as a Mulletfest celebrity judge and was impressed by the quality of mullets and the spirit of the crowd at the competition. Mulletfest raises money for the Mark Hughes Foundation, funding brain cancer research. Rockynats Mulletfest winners go on to the national grand final in Kurri Kurri, NSW, in December.

Day 2 at Rockynats ended with Aussie rock legends Dragon taking the crowd to the ‘April Sun in Rocky’. The band celebrated their first performance in Rockhampton as part of their 50th anniversary tour. Mark Williams, the band’s lead and guitarist, said they were keen to get on stage in front of the Rockynats crowd.

“Can’t wait to bring a good time to the Rockynats crowd - it’s certainly a lot hotter than we’re used to here!”

Rockynats 03 enters its final day tomorrow, with finals for the street drags, burnouts and grass driving kicking things into the next gear.