Australian Penthouse goes for a spin with Peter Grmusa, Burnout Master and two-time Summernats burnout champion
It was Easternats 2009 at Melbourne’s Sandown Raceway. We sat motionless at the start line of the burnout arena as the methanol-fed, 1500 horsepower V8 idled like a caged animal.
From the front passenger seat, my perspective of the event that was about to unfold was to be very different from my past experiences as a trackside photographer.
As I proceeded to double and triple check my camera settings, Burnout Master and two-time Summernats burnout champion, Peter Grmusa, calmly performed a ritual of flicking switches and monitoring gauges. Peter seemed oblivious to the multitude of cameramen jostling for a good shot of us through the XR Falcon’s windows.
Few words were spoken between us at first, and then Peter asked, “Getting nervous?” After a brief pause, I replied, “Just a bit.”
Grmusa’s purpose-built burnout car, appropriately named ‘ATRISK’, is renowned for bursting into flames midway through a routine, keeping fire crews on their toes and spray painters employed.
With the burnout pad cleared of the previous competitor’s vehicular remains, the flag was dropped and the full fury of Grmusa’s methanol-powered monster was unleashed like an angry demon.
Burnout competitions are no longer just about smoking up the tyres. It’s the showmanship and entertainment value that ensure grandstands are always packed at events across the nation, and the reason comp winners are now attracting major sponsors and big prize money.
With my camera strapped to my arm and protruding from the window, Peter threw the car violently into its first spin. The G-forces stretched my arm back to near breaking point, and almost immediately the cabin was filled with smoke and the smell of tortured rubber.
As the supercharger spun wildly just beyond the windscreen, the colossal amount of horsepower it was feeding vibrated through every bone in my body.
There was no question in my mind as to why these guys are so obsessed with what they do; it’s literally something that has to be experienced to be understood.
As Peter spun the car again, there was a loud explosion, followed shortly by another. Both back tyres had taken as much punishment as they could handle and had finally burst. I caught a glimpse of the overcrowded grandstand through the smoke-screen—the people were going nuts!
Within seconds, both rear tyres had shredded off the rims as the ever-growing cloud of smoke engulfed the arena. With
the crowd screaming for more, Peter kept it going on bare rims until they glowed red.
Without warning, the motor changed pitch dramatically. Out the window, I could see the exhaust system lying on the pad after being torn off at the outlet manifold. Despite the adrenalin surging through my veins, my thoughts turned to visions of the fiery eruptions this particular car is famous for.
We stopped abruptly as the fire crew rushed in with extinguishers, poking them into every crevasse of the car’s undercarriage. I could only imagine what was happening underneath, but the capacity crowd’s reaction signalled it was something pretty spectacular. What a ride!