The year of 2018 is another for the memory books for Team Bray Racing, with a long list of highlights coming from what was a busy year of racing for the Gulf Western Oil-supported outfit.
As all at TBR put the final touches on their preparation for 2019, which will kick off for the team with the New Years Thunder event at Willowbank Raceway on January 5, team principal and drag racing legend Victor Bray has taken a moment to reflect on the year that was 2018.
With Victor continuing his recovery from cancer in the opening months of the year, initially it was Ben Bray and US racing star Frankie Taylor flying the TBR and Gulf Western Oil flags on-track while Victor called the shots from the sideline.
“Like it will in 2019, our 2018 kicked off at our beloved home track of Willowbank Raceway where we were pleased to put on a show for our local fans before heading to Sydney Dragway for Santo’s Summer Thunder Event in late January,” Bray explained.
“There we notched up our first ‘high note’ for the year with both Ben and Frankie running 5.70 second passes in Sydney, which we left brimming with ideas of what to develop for what was shaping up to be a pretty mad March for us!”
March hosted no less than four events for TBR: Perth’s MacTrack Westernationals (March 3-4), the Sydney Jamboree (March 17), Adelaide’s Southern Thunder (March 23-24) and Willowbank Raceway’s Santo’s Super Thunder (March 30).
“At the Westernationals we were part of the greatest Pro Slammer field of all time with a bump spot of just 5.877s which was pretty cool, and then at the Sydney Jamboree Ben took it all the way to the final with three PBs along the way in what was an exceptionally competitive event,” Bray said.
“From there it was off to Adelaide where crazy wind made things difficult for everyone but Ben impressed as part of the closest round of racing for the night. Willowbank Raceway then beckoned the next weekend and rounded out what was a full-on March of racing with a great Easter weekend of fun at our home track.”
From there, the run to the end of the 2017/2018 400 Thunder Pro Slammer season was well and truly on, with only the Gulf Western Oil Nitro Thunder event at Sydney in May and the Gulf Western Oil Winternationals at Willowbank Raceway in June yet to run.
“These two events were particularly special to us as they were supported by our naming rights partner Gulf Western Oil and were leading up to what I had particularly been waiting for – my return to the track!” Bray explained.
“In Sydney it was all up to Ben and Frankie, with the Texan mad man punching out a new personal best while Ben had the fans absolutely losing their minds with a great display on the burnout pad.
“Then it was time to go back to Willowbank Raceway for what is the largest championship drag racing event held outside of the US and the perfect place to make my comeback to the drag strip!”
While Victor’s first track pass may not have been anything for the record books, it was truly special with the fans getting on their feet for a standing ovation following his first half-track burnout.
“That was really special I tell you, it was something that I won’t forget for a very long time,” Bray admitted.
The Gulf Western Oil Winternationals was a banner-event for the team for another reason also, with Ben bringing home a coveted event trophy for the Factory Xtreme bracket. With the event marking the close of the 17/18 400 Thunder Pro Slammer championship, Ben and Frankie found themselves fourth and fifth on the title standings respectively.
While the 17/18 season was done, there was barely any down time for the team with the ‘northern swing’ of Nitro Up North and the Desert Nationals beckoning the very next month.
“Although I was now back racing, we just had to get Frankie back for the Darwin and Alice Springs events,” Victor said.
“He did not disappoint either, winning what was his final event in Australia – Alice Springs’ Desert Nationals – with a fantastic display.”
From there, the team was off to the Brisbane Jamboree, where Ben well and truly impressed.
“The Jamboree is a real highlight of our racing program and I love seeing what Ben can do in this arena,” Bray said.
“This one was a record-breaking outing for us, with Ben turning the wick up on the turbo of his Gulf Western Oil Toyota Solara to come away with the Australian ET record and the fastest run of its kind outside of North America. His efforts also saw him included amongst the Top 50 Sport Compact runs in the world!”
Soon after, round two of the 400 Thunder Pro Slammer series rounded out the 2018 racing commitments for the team in Sydney.
“Sydney didn’t really go our way with early exits for Ben and myself, but we took advantage of the free time to put on some great shows for the fans with the TBR Burnout Car and it was really great to be able to do that for our fans,” Bray said.
“It sure has been a very busy year for us, with all of our racing commitments taking place alongside a lot of great events with our sponsors and supporters, including appearances for Gulf Western Oil and helping celebrate Century Batteries’ 90th anniversary in Australia.
“We can’t wait to see what 2019 brings, but in the meantime, we thank all of our fans, supporters and sponsors for their support during 2018 and wish them all a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.”
The 2019 season for Team Bray Racing will kick-off at Willowbank Raceway on January 5 with the New Years Thunder event.