Chappell makes mark at Australian car fest

ALAMOSA — While Early Iron Festival participants are in town, Alamosa resident Dave Chappell invites fellow auto enthusiasts to another unique event — “down under.”

Chappell has been involved with the Summernats Car Festival, billed as “Australia’s biggest horsepower party,” in Canberra, Australia for a number of years and has served as site manager for about 15 years. The festival, which draws about 2,500 entries and 130,000 spectators, is the largest event of its kind in the world. It has held the Guinness record for the most cars involved in a “burnout” at the same time and plans to recapture its record at the event this January after having lost it to a record-breaking “burnout” in Dubai.

Chappell promotes Alamosa to car fans in the world “down under” and likewise enjoys telling friends and strangers in the U.S. about the action in Australia.

As site manager for the Summernats Car Festival, Chappell heads down to Australia a couple of months before the January event in November to get everything set up. He obtains a work visa to work in the country and lives in a residence on the site of the festival, which will be held January 3-6 in 2019.

As January is Australia’s summertime, Chappell arrives in the spring.

“I am responsible for all the placement and setup for the activities at this event,” Chappell said. “I set up the track and am responsible for all the burnouts competitions.”

He directly oversees four employees, and the event employs another 300.

“I am lucky to have gotten the job,” Chappell said. “I like to set up things for people to have fun.”

He does not make a lot of money but enjoys his work, and he said the event promotes camaraderie, “like a big family.”

He first took a motorcycle to ride and has taken several cars over, and initially he volunteered at the event and then was offered a job as one of the main managers.

He said folks in Australia call him “Colorado Dave.” He always tells them he is not just from Colorado but is from Alamosa, Colorado.

He described the event, which takes vehicles with 1,000-plus horsepower from a dead stop to full throttle with tires spinning so hard they fill the air with smoke, and after all four tires pop, the vehicles continue on their rims, sparking up the arena, all the while trying to avoid the concrete walls that border the arena. Competitors are judged on their ability to control their vehicles while pushing them to their limits. They have to keep their feet on the throttle and they can’t hit the wall.

“More Americans are becoming aware of this event, and its popularity is growing,” Chappell said. “Americans are amazed at the level these extreme horsepower cars can do burnouts without hitting the wall.”

The first Guinness world record for the most cars doing burnout at the same time was set at this event, with 69 cars, and the second world record involved 103 cars, also at the Australian event. Dubai then broke the record with 119 cars, and Australia plans on staging 200 cars in January to regain the world burnout record.

Chappell said vehicular laws are stricter in Australia regarding these types of cars, so events that permit and capitalize on the extreme horsepower are very popular, giving owners a venue to show what they can do.

The event has not only gained popularity with participants and spectators but has also drawn media attention, with articles featured in such magazines as “Street Machine.” In addition, celebrities like the stars of “Street Outlaws” regularly attend the event.

AZN and Farmtruck from the hit TV series are good friends of Chappell’s.

“They have been coming over for the past few years and we built them a Chevy truck that they bring out on the pad and entertain the crowd,” Chappell said.

While Chappell invites his friends from the San Luis Valley and the U.S. to come down under to watch Summernats in person (he’ll give you a warm Australian welcome), those who can’t make it live can join the millions watching the event on television in January. See more information at www.

Captions: Dave Chappell, right, is shown with “Street Outlaws” stars Farmtruck, left, and AZN, center, at the Summernats Car Festival in Australia./Courtesy photos

A participant in the Summernats Car Festival spins up a cloud of smoke.