Way off the beaten tourist track and in the middle of rural New South Wales, Cootamundra Airport isn't the sort of place that appears in many Australian guidebooks. But for one weekend of the year, this quiet corner of the countryside is where legends are made.
Since '09, the Motive DVD Drag Battle and GT-R Challenge has brought most of Australia's best-known tuners and fastest street cars to this untreated stretch of concrete. It's a rough, low-grip surface, closer to on-road conditions than a prepped track. Sub-10-second quarter-mile times are hard fought and the leaderboard at "Coota" is seen as a better reflection of on-street performance than the sidewall-rippling start line grip of a dragstrip.
Boundaries are pushed here. It started as a film shoot for a group of lunatic GT-Rs, and viral demand for the DVD created enough hype for a follow-up. Though it's grown quickly, and there are now categories for four-, six-, and eight-cylinder cars, it's no free-for-all. The least power-hungry class demands at least 670 bhp just to be considered for an invitation. Aiming to muscle in on the GT-R class? Forget it unless you're packing at least 870 bhp - and even that doesn't guarantee you an entry.
Andrew Hawkins, the event's founder, says it's become an important part of the calendar. "In Australia, when you get to 10.9 seconds or better, you get booted out of most tracks. That's ridiculous—a GT-R can run a 10, then drive your daughter to daycare the next day. So I spotted a gap in the market. It's now considered the ultimate street car shootout, and the hype gets bigger every year. The GT-R scene in Australia, which was dying out 10 years ago, has exploded again."
He's not kidding; a fast time here has become an important selling point for tuners, and something Aussie import enthusiasts aspire to. Cars get built specifically to suit the track, teams usually bring several customers with them, and workshops close shutters for weeks beforehand getting that unique setup ready. For the fastest cars, that final prep work often takes place trackside.
It's not just about power, though. This is an unforgiving venue that'll show up weaknesses no other track will prepare you for, and an event where the only spectators are other teams and drivers. The best times take reliable engineering, strong nerves, and consistently quick runs—it's as unpredictable as on-street driving.
For Adam Neish, owner of Sydney-based Just Engine Management, it's always worth the hard work: "It's a good place to have some runs with our mates and other workshops. Everyone who comes here is serious about their street cars. We come here with about a dozen cars, and we do well every time. We don't set the records, but a lot of us drive here and most of us make the drive home. There's a lot of respect for that."
So who cares if Cootamundra lacks the tourist draw of some of Australia's best-known locations? When it comes to showing up the country's fastest street cars, there's nowhere quite like it.
Croydon Racing Developments
Experience helps at Coota, but that unique surface can trip up the front runners, too. Robert Marjan's R32 GT-R is one of Australia's fastest cars on a prepped track, but it struggled with grip in '15, which kept it from showing its full potential. It made Sydney-based Croydon Racing Developments, the team behind the build and regulars since the first event, even keener to push the limits this time.
That's been a two-part process; tweaks to the suspension kept the nose pointed at the finish line, and the new 3.2L motor has taken power to more than 1,000 bhp. Despite less-than-perfect weather, it took the record for Fastest GT-R, reaching 168.53 mph and finishing only a thousandth of a second behind the quickest-accelerating car. And there's more to come.
Listen carefully and you'll notice something unusual about Tim Papas's Evo 3; it's automatic! Tired of shredding manual 'boxes, Tim looked into what other options were available and found that the U.S.-spec Eclipse had a similar driveline. It wasn't a straight swap—he admits it took some "bending and bashing" of the firewall to make it fit—but the three-speed auto and transfer box have been ultra-reliable since.
It's not short of power, either. Fully rebuilt but still displacing the original 2.0L, it's making more than 650 bhp even without the large shot of nitrous—enough to put down a 12.69-second quarter at 126.4 mph. Good going for a daily driver.
The start of something new
The fourth-fastest car overall, and the only R35 taking part, was Precision Automotive's 1,158-bhp GT-R. Built as a "race car trying to be a street car," according to owner Aron McGranahan, it's packing a pair of GTX3582 turbos with the company's own fuel system, a Sheptrans transmission, and Hypertune cooling pack—good for a 9.4-second run at 154.6 mph.
"People don't want to see drag cars, they want to see a car that can be driven to and from a track, something they can aspire to own. They don't want a car on a trailer, they want something they can drive on the weekends," Aron says.
Anthony Maatouk is a hard guy to pin down. His Sydney-based workshop, Maatouks Racing, has a history of building the fastest cars at the event, so he's usually found working through data logs and tweaking multiple customer cars between runs to shed those all-important fractions of a second.
It's hardly surprising he's sought after. Nick Klitsas's R32—Godzilla—took the Quickest GT-R title with a 8.872-second run at 167 mph, while Anthony's own Street King R32 GT-R was third fastest overall, at 9.0 seconds and 158 mph. "Staying on top of the data logging takes a lot out of me, but it's worth it when customers appreciate the cars going faster," he says.
Ignore the near-stock looks—Stephen Arrow's two-door WRX is a genuine sleeper. Looking to shed weight, Advance Motor Mechanics transplanted the full running gear from his old '05 STI into this first-gen Impreza shell, including the five-stud hubs and Brembo brakes. It's an installation so neat it could almost be factory-fit.
A regular at Coota, it's now putting out 700 bhp thanks to a new exhaust and re-tuned engine since last year, and Stephen swapped the gearbox for a longer-ratio one from a '13 WRX STI. The important numbers? 10.4 seconds at 138.03 mph. "A sleeper is what you want," he explains. "The boys in blue don't harass you."
3 More Standouts
Charles Warland's Datsun 260Z is three years in the making. The ground-up restoration build features a fully built RB26 running MoTeC standalone and makes 678 whp.
Not too many four-bangers at Cootamundra, but this Evo 8 can hang with the big boys thanks to its 1,150-whp built 2.2L and sequential gearbox.
Ray Loulach's '94 Honda Civic runs a B18C that's been built in the States with a ported head and sleeved block and is boosted via a Precision 6466 turbo. He tells us it destroys tires like no other with 638 hp to the front wheels.