BACK-TO-BACK success greeted Mount Gambier drag racer Jason Arbery at the Perth Motorplex on Sunday, as he defended his 2017-18 Top Sportsman title.
But there was more to the story than just the championship victory, with Arbery also crowned the John Storm Memorial Trophy winner – another back-to-back achievement.
That capped off a string of strong performances in the Australian National Drag Racing Association (ANDRA) season.
Arbery was rightly pleased with the two results, especially the John Storm trophy.
It was merely weeks ago he was still coming to terms with last season’s honours and repeated the result against tough opposition.
Not only does the John Storm take into account the Top Sportsman class, but every other category in the ANDRA season.
The top points scorer from all classes is crowned the winner, a feat hard to achieve once, let alone twice in a row.
“I had a fairly good heads up we had the John Storm trophy before the weekend, but until it is confirmed you do not think too much about it,” Arbery said.
“I had accumulated that many points, even if I went out in the first round at the grand final no one else could catch me.”
Arbery said the magnitude of the award had finally sunk in this time around.
“There is nearly 50 years of drag racing history in that trophy,” he said.
“That is pretty incredible.
“It sits really close to the heart.
“We have won some very cool things, but the Storm takes the cake.
“There are some very big names on that memorial and now we are on there twice.
“It is very special.”
As for the Top Sportsman title, heading into the final round Arbery led Darren Saliba by 30 points, with a 60-point break from eventual runner-up Vlado Turic.
That meant he needed to win the first two rounds to claim the overall title.
In a sport decided by thousandths of seconds, nothing was set in stone.
A loss in either of the first two rounds would see Arbery heading back to Mount Gambier with no championship to show for his hard work throughout the season.
However, after two rounds the title was his, then it was a matter of settling in to see how far he could go, trying to concentrate in an adrenaline-fuelled sport where precision wins the day.
“To have the title in the bag, it almost takes the pressure off,” Arbery said.
“We had the Storm, so the title was the big one.
“Once we had that I said to the boys it was time to tighten things up and throw everything at it.
“We had all the data from a day-and-a-half of racing and the weather was not changing much, so we did tighten it up.
“We had a bye run in the semi-final and did a .003 on the tree and a 8.250 run.
“We showed everybody else we were there and not giving them much.”
Those speeds equated to somewhere in the vicinity of 160 miles-per-hour, or 260km-per-hour over the quarter-mile run.
As it panned out Turic had knocked Saliba out of the running in the first round, with him and Arbery set to go head-to-head in the final run.
Somewhere around the half-track Turic blew an engine, with Arbery out in front and on his way to back-to-back titles.
“That is not the way you want to win, but it was not meant to be for him,” Arbery said.
“But we had a very good package.
“To get my car to Perth, to keep it in good shape, to do what we had to do between rounds is totally reliant on the crew.
“Without them there is no point leaving home.
“Phil Busbridge and Ken Moore were there this weekend and I owe so much to all the guys who helped this season and to my employer for giving me the time off work.”
Arbery said approaching the season as defending champion meant every other driver was out to beat him at every round, which made for a tough year, with every race like a final.
He said that made the back-to-back achievement even more special.
But from the opening round there was only one thing on Arbery’s mind.
“I just wanted to prove we had earned what we achieved last year,” he said.
“At some point during the season I wanted to show we were there and could do it.
“I was pretty fortunate we did that most of the season.
“We were on a dream run and I did not want it to end.”