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Zappia race fit for MacTrack Westernationals after Nitro Night runner up

John Zappia’s preparation for the next round of the 400 Thunder Pro Slammer Series at the MacTrack Westernationals has begun with a runner up at Perth Motorplex’s Nitro Night.

Zappia entered Nitro Night to test some ideas in the Fuchs/Dananni Hotshots Monaro and bed in new Hoosier tyres.

“The first pass saw some driver error where I did a first gear burnout instead of a third gear burnout on new tyres that needed a good scrubbing,” he said. “It still launched well, one of the best of the day actually, but then I missed the shift button to second gear.

“I came out for the compulsory qualifier and it left well for a 5.77, though I used up a bit of the lane when it went left and got out of the groove.

“The third run I think there had been an oildown in front and they had just sprayed the track so it was way stickier than all the other runs. The car rattled and I had to pedal it and carry on for a 5.98 but luckily that was good enough to get into the A Final.”

That final round would see Zappia take on the Dananni Hotshots Ford Falcon of Ryan Moresby, which earlier ran its first five second pass.

“We had another set of new tyres which I thought could work, but they could also cost us the race. It launched good but went to the right and at the edge of the groove it rattled, front wheels in the air, I was steering and nothing was happening. Nine times out of ten it puts the front wheels down but this time it kept the front wheels in the air. I could have pedalled it to try and drop the front but it was a case of could’ve, would’ve, should’ve.

“But still it was an all Dananni Hotshots final round and Stuart Moresby won for Dananni Hotshots in Top Comp too – congratulations to the team on their victories.”

The MacTrack Westernationals is next on the agenda for Zappia, who will be aiming to take back the 400 Thunder Pro Slammer points lead.

Typically a hot and humid event that does not lend itself to record setting runs, Zappia believes a set up that could find consistent 5.7s with the occasional 5.6 would be in a good position to take the win.

“I’m not sure the weather will be kind, but at this stage it doesn’t look ridiculous either,” he said. “The air was really good in Sydney when we ran our 5.601 second pass, but we have also done a 5.65 there with warm and humid conditions so it is possible. At last year’s Westernationals we ran a 5.72 best – it all depends on the air on the day.”

A classy field of 17 cars has entered so far including Paul Mouhayet and the USA’s Frankie Taylor making their first appearances in Pro Slammer at Perth Motorplex.

Zappia said in drag racing predictions can go out the window, because anything can happen and it often does.

“I need to make sure everything is 100% right for this meeting and do my best to try and have a consistent race car,” he said. “The entire field is tough, and most of the cars entered are five second runners, so we could see a low 5.9 second bump spot..

“I’d love all of my fans come to the Motorplex and see the Fuchs/Dananni Hotshots Monaro at what is going to be one of the all time great Pro Slammer events. Whether you come on qualifying day and see the battle to make the field or race day where there will only be one winner, you’re going to be in for some of the best drag racing in the world.”

Photos courtesy Luke Nieuwhof: Dragnews

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CHAMPIONSHIP STILL THE FOCUS FOR ZAPPIA AFTER SANTO’S SUMMER THUNDER

The 400 Thunder Pro Slammer championship continues the battle between John Zappia and Paul Mouhayet as they went toe-to-toe at Santo’s Summer Thunder in Sydney on Saturday.

After recording two wins and the quickest two elapsed times of the opening two rounds, Zappia earned his final round place against Mouhayet where a big wheelstand in the Fuchs/Dananni Hotshots Monaro cost him the race and saw the points lead return to Mouhayet.

“We ran a 5.65 in testing the night before race day using our set up from Willowbank and that was what we used for the final,” Zappia said.

“Unfortunately the track was a little different, more slippery early and then really grippy after 60 feet, so we took off with a lot of wheel speed and then it was able to carry the wheels and get out of the groove.

“When I punched second gear it rattled the tyres out of control and turned into a blur. I had to pedal it way too much and I almost gave up on the run entirely but I decided to carry on just in case something happened to Paul.”

While he left Sydney without the win, Zappia was happy overall with this eastern swing which included a win in Willowbank.

“All in all it was an excellent couple of events. We started 28 points behind Mouhayet, we were three points in front and now only nine points behind.

“Moits Racing have shown we can be beaten, the pressure is on, we knew they were going to step it up and know they are capable of more.”

While Zappia was forced to give up the points lead on Mouhayet’s home track, the game will change for round five of the championship Zappia returns to his own home track of Perth Motorplex for the Westernationals on March 3 and 4.

“Paul and Moits Racing have a lot of experience at Sydney Dragway but they have only been to the Motorplex once and that was in their turbocharged Mustang,” Zappia said.

“But that said, they have a lot of talent in their team and will find a way to adapt. We’re going to have to use our extensive knowledge of the Motorplex to get the upper hand.”

Zappia and team will test the Fuchs/Dananni Hotshots Monaro at the Nitro Night event on February 17 at Perth Motorplex as part of the Direct Mining and Industrial Summer Slam series.

“We will go into R&D mode and see if we can find anything else, then we will go into The Westernationals with our best combination,” he said.

“There’s some great competition in Perth to keep us on our toes, with Kelvin Lyle running 5.75 last weekend with a Zappia Racing engine and Daniel Gregorini getting back into the fives and starting to find his way again.”

And with the battle royal of 400 Thunder Pro Slammer coming for the Westernationals, Zappia urged drag racing fans to turn out in force and support what will be a world class event.

“I’d like anyone who considers themselves a fan of Zappia Racing and the Fuchs/Dananni Hotshots Monaro to get to Perth Motorplex on March 3 and 4 because this is going to be one of the great events of all time at Kwinana.

“We have to get that points lead back and we want every fan we’ve got out there cheering loudly.”

For more details on the Westernationals, head to www.motorplex.com.au.

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Zappia puts the heat on Pro Slammer championship with New Years Thunder win

John Zappia has returned to the top of the 400 Thunder Pro Slammer series with a textbook performance at Willowbank Raceway’s New Years Thunder event.

As hot temperatures scorched the track surface during the day, Zappia chose to keep the Fuchs/Dananni Hotshots Monaro and his hard working team under cover during the optional test session before emerging for a first round confrontation against Queensland local Russell Pavey.

“When you have a track temp that is around 150F, what you learn isn’t going to be relative to racing conditions,” Zappia said. “And we have a car that has been going down the track well first pass on nearly any track.”

Zappia clinched his first win of the night with a 5.78/251mph run to defeat Pavey’s solid 6.17/237mph in his 63 Corvette.

Sam Fenech’s App Shop Camaro would be the next target for Zappia as the second round loomed.

“We came back and looked at the data and then got after it a bit more by putting more on to the Boninfante clutch and adding some power back into the Noonan engine,” Zappia explained. “The Fuchs/Dananni Hotshots Monaro left well but it got real loose at the top end and close to the centre line so I pulled the chutes just before the finish. We still went 5.73 at just 248mph and with our two wins and solid numbers we were into the final.”

With the two quickest elapsed times of the night and two win lights, Zappia was perhaps a favourite on paper for the final round, but would face Queensland’s hometown hero Ben Bray for another epic match up.

“Ben put a good holeshot on me but we made up the difference between 330 feet and half track to come past him for our quickest run of the day at 5.70/251mph. Ben threw the blower belt off his Corvette, but even if it stayed on we had him covered.

“It was a flawless performance from my crew and everyone involved with our team. We got the win with three great runs and reclaimed the championship lead.The Noonan engine also performed flawlessly and thanks to the quality of the Fuchs Lubricants we had no maintenance and the engine looked brand new.

Zappia said he enjoyed the one day format, with spectators showing their support.

“I think the one day thing suits us. While it is a long way to travel for us for a single day, we generally can come out and run a low 5.7 or 5.6 off the trailer.

“The atmosphere was there, the crowd like it and whether the racers like it or not you can’t argue with the spectator numbers.”

The New Years Thunder win followed on from another victory by Zappia in the Direct Mining and Industrial Summer Slam at Perth Motorplex on December 2, where he defeated Kelvin Lyle – who runs a Zappia Racing engine combination – in a crowd pleasing 5.71 to 5.77 final round.

“We’ve had two very positive events in a row now. In Perth we not only won the event but we also ran our fastest ever speed at 258.64mph, in fact it was the fastest speed by any legal Top Doorslammer or Pro Slammer in the country.”

Zappia Racing are proud to announce they have welcomed a new sponsor to the fold with Boninfante Friction joining the many performance partners on the team.

“The clutch is the secret to getting a Pro Slammer power down the track so we are very happy to welcome a high quality partner like Boninfante Friction Inc. to our team.”

The Fuchs/Dananni Hotshots Monaro will next head to Sydney Dragway for Santo’s Summer Thunder on January 20 where Zappia will aim to extend his championship lead.

“We aren’t letting our guard down and we are going to keep the pressure on our championship rivals. Paul Mouhayet was a little unlucky not to be in the final against us at Willowbank and we know they are going to be testing at every opportunity to come back at us.”

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Zappia resets national record in Sydney

John Zappia reaffirmed his title as the quickest Pro Slammer driver in the country following the second event of the 400 Thunder Series at Sydney Dragway on Saturday.

Zappia’s scorching second round run of 5.601 seconds was the quickest official pass ever in Pro Slammer, eclipsing his own 5.635 at the same track earlier this year and setting a new national record.

“We didn’t go looking for three hundredths,” Zappia said. “But we knew there was a bit left after the 63.”

With the East Coast Thunder event marking the first time Zappia has raced in Australia since his successful PDRA tour of the USA with Noonan Racing, the Fuchs/Dananni Hotshots Holden Monaro driver was keen to make a good impression.

The team qualified second with a 5.70 second run, despite being far from a clean pass.

“On my first run the car wheelstood pretty high and went too far to the right so I had to get off the throttle and come back for the next run,” Zappia said.

“Second qualifying session and the car still went right, hugging the centre line and hitting the rev limiter in second gear, but I was able to steer it back after quarter track for a 5.70 at 251mph. We lost about 5mph of speed from hitting the limiter.

“We did some adjustments for the third session and the car went straight but then we had an ignition fault cut the motor out.”

The Zappia team returned to the pit area to go over the electrical system with a fine tooth comb, eventually deciding on putting their old ignition system back on for the first round of racing, where Zappia took on fellow Western Australian Marty Dack.

There Zappia fired the first salvo of his day, with a 5.624 second run to drop his all time best Pro Slammer pass.

“I thought to myself, ‘that was pretty cool,’” a casual Zappia said. “It was running 206mph at half track, so it was making some power.”

Taking on tough Queenslander Ben Bray next, Zappia and the team went looking at the data to see if there were any more hundredths of a second they could discover.

“The 5.62 looked a bit weak in part of the run so we adjusted the clutch and aimed the car a bit better off the line. I had a great .038 light and it stayed in the groove for a 5.601, even losing the blower belt at the finish line so it only went 255mph.”

But in the semi finals, Zappia was again left to rue what might have been following an unlucky moment as a broken blower belt stopped the Fuchs/Dananni Hotshots Holden Monaro in its tracks against Paul Mouhayet.

“The blower belt didn’t even make it 30 feet before it broke off the engine,” a disappointed Zappia said. “The car launched the hardest it had launched all weekend, the data looked great – but that’s no good when your blower belt is under your wheelie bars.”

In fact, it was the third blower belt ruined in three runs for Zappia and he said the team will be looking for answers before they are next on track.

“In the first round it frayed an 11 run-old belt, we changed it for a new one, didn’t make it to the finish line the next round, and then didn’t even make it to the Christmas tree.

“We’re not sure what is behind the belt issue, maybe something is bent or a misalignment; we need to go through it all and find out why it started happening. Belts normally last 20 runs and then all of a sudden we can’t make one run.

“It was pretty frustrating, I can’t repeat what was said inside the cab! But that is the way it goes, you think you are on top of it, reliable and consistent, then have something like that goes wrong.”

Despite the semi final loss, the championship damage was minimised for Zappia, with incoming leader Gary Phillips missing East Coast Thunder, while Mouhayet lost to the USA’s Frankie Taylor in the final round.

Zappia wanted to sincerely thank his Perth crew members who rebuilt and maintained the race car in his absence during the recent tour of the US – Wilson, Frank, James, Lumpy, Kade, Jason, Ricky and anyone else who popped in to help the boys out.

The Fuchs/Dananni Hotshots team now return home to Perth Motorplex where they will test at the Prestige Lock Services Goldenstates this weekend.

“We are going into test mode to try and rectify the blower belt problem and we will be making some different adjustments to improve performance that we weren’t game to make during a championship round,” Zappia said.

“We will get our reliability sorted and then head to Willowbank for the next round of the championship on January 6.

“We haven’t let the lead get too far from our grasp, there is a long road to go in this championship yet.

“We are hoping to see lots of sponsors and supporters at the Goldenstates for the start of the Direct Mining and Industrial Summer Slam Series and the ANDRA Summit Racing Equipment Sportsman Series Round 5.”

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Zap’s 80 Day Around the World Tour Nets a World Record

A whirlwind ‘80 day’ USA Tour resulted in excellent results, but John Zappia is not finished yet.  He is about to jump on a plane back to Perth, Australia to climb into his transporter to drive to Sydney so that he can compete at the second round of Pro Slammer at Sydney Dragway.

“We’ve had an amazing time and It’s been a dream come true” said Zappia, “To race the quickest Pro Extreme Doorslammers in the world, to compete amongst the best and to come away with a World Record is pretty remarkable”.

“We put a total of 20 runs on the Jerry Bickel built Noonan 1969 Camaro, and in that time I had to adjust to a left hand drive, adapt to an auto combination (first up), then convert to a Boninfante clutch and B&J 3 speed gearbox.  We had to make a call on the setup for an unknown car. To be in the top half of the field was a big effort from the whole team”.

The Professional Drag Racers Association (PDRA) World Finals were held at Virginia Motorsports Park last weekend, and Zap was one of 9 race teams (3 Swedish, 1 Aussie and 5 American) to enter the event.

“We made some modifications since running at the last PDRA Drag Warz event in Benson, North Carolina where Zappia ducked out in the semi-finals but ran a PB of 3.62 @ 216.90mph.

After a couple of test passes in Virginia, Zappia made strong qualifying runs with a string of 3.68 ET’s and finishing with a final qualifier of 3.64 @ 214.31 mph, proving he had a consistent race car.

Zappia Racing team members from Australia including John’s partner Rae (who has been with him for the whole time), Freddy, Filomena, Sam, Tracey, Gerry and Diz made the trip from Australia to support Zap, and together with Noonan’s Racing team members Jamie, Renee, Darrell, Lee and Hank the team overcame obstacles involved with a new combination to perform well.

“We won round one easily with a straight and steady 3.651 @ 212.73 mph. The Noonan “Brains Trust” studied the data and to come up with a tune to try to run quicker than the No 1 qualifier opponent in Round 2 – Terry Leggett in his ’71 Mustang, which ultimately we did run quicker and faster than Leggett with a 3.54 @ 218mph but I lost on a holeshot to Terry’s 3.58 @ 216.51 mph.”

The Noonan Racing team watched as Leggett went on to win the final.  Meanwhile the Noonan / Zappia team vowed to come back the following day to have a crack at running the quarter mile. A plan had already been in place for the team to run the full quarter after the finals to demonstrate the full potential of the car, so a time was set for the next day and the team got ready overnight.

The ‘Brains Trust’ hit a hole in one as Zappia set a new Blown Door Car record for ET and MPH in the Noonan Camaro to set an unofficial Supercharged World Record time of 5.424 @ 265.33mph.

“It was amazing pass from the Noonan Camaro – the car really pulled hard in each gear to reset my PB in a big way! The Camaro weighed in at 2405 pounds after the run, and running a C blower at 127% overdrive compared to the Monaro weighing in at 2734 pounds with a D blower and 108% overdrive.”

“We have purchased the Camaro roller from Jamie and Renee Noonan and we will leave it here in the USA for the next season of PDRA racing, providing we can pick up sponsors for the 2018 USA Tour. We will be back to try and go one better. We are in discussions with several parties, but we are open to talking to new sponsors who would like to come on board and help us to take the No.1 Door Car record.”

John currently has the second fastest doored car in the world to Jose Gonzalez’s Turbo Charged Pro Extreme Corvette that run a 5.403 @ 259mph, earlier this year.

Zappia Racing will compete at Sydney Dragway in Australia for the AC Delco East Coast Thunder – The Nationals on 3 – 4 November 2017 where Round 2 of the Thunder 400 Pro Slammer 2018 Championship continues.

“Sixteen cars have entered for the event, which is a strong turnout with some hard hitters amongst those. We will have to be on top of our game to do well – we don’t take anything for granted despite our previous years’ success. Each season is a new one and we currently sit third behind Gary Philips and Paul Mouhayet – with new technology and US tuners appearing regularly, the game has changed in Doorslammer in Australia and that will make it an even better spectacle than it already is.

Zappia Racing once again thanks our sponsors for making the 2017 USA Tour a possibility: Noonan Race Engineering, Fuchs Lubricants, Dananni Hotshots,  Boninfanti Friction Inc, SDS Fuel Systems, B & J Racing Transmissions, and Hoosier Tires and along with our other local sponsors, hope to give them all as much exposure as we can in this Australian season.

Looking forward to catching up with Sponsors and supporters at Sydney Dragway and will also have our merchandise and some new tees from our American tour available.

Qualifying

Psn—Num-Driver, Home Town, Car Type            Qual-ET–Qual-Spd-Top Spd

1 277     Terry Leggett, Pinetown NC, ’71 Mustang            3.549     215.41   215.41

2   6       Mike Recchia, Roselle IL, ’69 Camaro                  3.603     210.50   211.83

3   71      Mattias Wulcan, Linkoping SW,’69 Camaro       3.608     212.69   212.69

4 846     John Zappia, Bibra Lake AU, ’69 Camaro           3.647     214.31   214.31

5 574     Monte Grace, Muscatine IA, ’68 Camaro             3.702     208.36   208.36

6 1130    John Stanley, Hagerstown MD, ’15 CTS-V          3.715     204.42   206.54

7 111     Mikael Lindahl, Vargon SW, ’63 Corvette             3.752     206.13   206.13

8 128     Stefan Holmberg, BillesSW, ’70 Camaro              4.583     128.13   128.13

———— Not Qualified ————

9 F301    Scott Farley, Sellersburg IN,’70 Camaro             4.806     159.34   159.34

 

Eliminations

Round 1

846         John Zappia           0.105 3.651 212.73 Def       574         Monte Grace          No Time

71           Mattias Wulcan      0.169 3.566 213.16 Def       1130       John Stanley          0.066 3.711 208.49

6             Mike Recchia         0.056 3.596 212.19 Def       111         Mikael Lindahl       0.023 3.662 209.95

277         Terry Leggett         0.222 3.541 217.49 Def       128         Stefan Holmberg    0.291 4.540 126.46

Round 2

71           Mattias Wulcan      0.059 3.562 213.64 Def       6             Mike Recchia         0.041 3.789 203.22

277         Terry Leggett         0.074 3.580 216.51 Def       846         John Zappia          0.129 3.549 218.12

Final

277         Terry Leggett         0.129 3.542 214.45 Def       71           Mattias Wulcan      0.062 4.672 91.92


 

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First round win keeps Zappia happy as Noonan Camaro shows it’s competitive

John Zappia earned his first win light in the USA at the penultimate event of the PDRA season in Benson, North Carolina.

After rain ended his race before it began in Tulsa, Oklahoma several weeks previous, Zappia and the Noonan Race Engineering team took the opportunity to make a series of upgrades to their Camaro.

“We came back from the rained out event and put the new Noonan 4.9 engine in along with the Boninfante clutch and a B&J three speed transmission,” Zappia said. “There was a lot of work to do making the headers fit and we basically went out to GALOT Motorsports Park with everything different once again.”

Arriving into the recently renovated venue, Zappia and the Noonan brains trust put their minds together for some calculated guesses on clutch set up, gearing and how much fuel to put into the new motor. Fortunately, a day of testing before the event provided the perfect opportunity to get the tune up into the ballpark.

“The first run it came out and blew the tyres off, we were a bit too fast on the wheel speed,” Zappia explained. “The second one it was a similar thing. We backed the clutch right off and it went 3.81, even though I bumped straight from first to top gear.

“Afterwards we did some modifications to the shift buttons and we tried to set everything up similar to the Fuchs/Dananni Hotshots Monaro and how I shift it. We moved the B&J transmission shift buttons further into the steering wheel so they weren’t as easy to bump.”

Growing more comfortable with the layout of the cockpit with each run, it was tyre shake, rather than tyre spin, that would afflict the team as qualifying for the PDRA Drag Wars began.

“On our first qualifying run the Noonan Camaro rattled the tyres, went left and gave the wall a bit of a rub,” Zappia said. “It just touched the headers and the quarter panel but we were able to tape it up, put some more stickers on it and come back for session two.”

“We made an adjustment to the tune up but it did virtually the same thing, but this time it turned right in the right lane and I just missed the right wall.”

But like drag racing’s version of the Goldilocks and the Three Bears, the third run was just right.

“Third session we went straight down the middle for a 3.66/212mph which put us into the field at fourth position and took a lot of pressure off.”

With one more qualifying session to come the next day, Zappia again considered the controls.

“I wasn’t happy with the feel of the brake lever so we bled the brakes and got all the air out of the system. When we came out for Q4 I felt much more in control of the car. The brakes were where they needed to be and I could stage properly. We just wanted the car to repeat and that is what it did, a 3.70/212 that was only four hundredths slower in the heat of the day.”

Before long the call went around the pits for the Pro Extreme class to head to their staging lanes for the first round of racing, where Zappia would take on a half-international eight car field that also included three Swedish drivers.

“This was my first eliminations race in America so we gave it a bit of a tune up for some more power in the back half,” he said. “I said to myself that I can do this, this is what I do.”

“I cut a .065 light and the car made it through first gear, I was seeing the shift light, second gear, shift light, top gear, win light. A 3.68/214mph for my first-round win in the USA. That was a pretty awesome moment.”

Things would get tougher for the semi-finals with Zappia to face Swedish top qualifier Mattias Wulcan.

“That car had been running 3.50s, we were running 3.60s, so we needed to step it up big time,” Zappia said. “We threw a fair bit at the Boninfante clutch and the Noonan boys trimmed up the fuel and put some more timing in it.”

“I got a hole shot, but unfortunately it wasn’t a great light. We went 3.62/216.90 to his 3.56/211. I flew past him at the finish line and I didn’t know who got it, it worked out to three hundredths of a second – so close to our first final against the number one qualifier, an awesome achievement.”

Zappia said an entourage of Australians and Americans from across the Zappia Racing and Noonan Race Engineering enterprises made for a great team.

“Everyone worked well together and even though we started with some negatives they turned it into a positive. We are looking forward to going rounds at the PDRA Grand Final in Richmond, Virginia.”

With what the team learned in North Carolina, hopes are high that they can find their way into the 3.5 second zone, especially if the launch can be refined.

“The car went .962 to 60 feet on the last run which is still a bit slow, it was still burning the clutch off and the gearing was on the safe side. The car in Australia is 320 pounds heavier and I have gone .958, and when the opposition are doing .908 60 foots we are giving away lots of time right there so we know where it needs to be.”

“The Noonan Camaro has been as quick as .88 to 60 foot before so we know the setup is there to do it, we just need to fine tune the combination we are running at the moment and get after the tune on on the new 4.9 Noonan engine that has only a few runs on it.”

Zappia is particularly excited by the potential shown in the 4.9 as the team venture into new territory.

“When we first started we had the 4.8 pretty safe and it produced 205 mph, now we are doing 217mph on the 4.9 and we are still not leaning on the engine yet, it is showing a lot of promise. We just don’t know where it will settle out.”

“The top speed of the GALOT event was 218mph, we’ve got the power to run that kind of speed. It would be nice to see a 220mph eighth mile pass at our next event at Virginia on the 20th and 21st of October.”

“I don’t have many shots left so it’s time to throw everything at the setup and tune and get the most out of the car.”

You can keep up to date with all the action via the Noonan Racing and Zappia Racing facebook pages and watch live via SpeedVideo.com http://www.speedvideo.com/live-event/pdra-world-finals-2017/

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Zappia reflects on first USA experience

John Zappia has developed a reputation as one of the most experienced Doorslammer team owner and drivers’ in Australia, but his first race in the USA has seen him coming to grips with a very different experience.

Earlier in the year Noonan Race Engineering purchased a new state of the art facility in Spartanburg, South Carolina USA.  Shortly after, and in order to support their 4.9 borespace engine program, Noonan Racing announced that 10-times Australian Top Doorslammer champion John Zappia would drive the Noonan-owned ’69 Camaro, Jerry Bickel Pro Mod.

The car is the newest of the three Jerry Bickel ’69 Camaro Pro Mods in existence, and Zappia will compete in the last three races of the PDRA for Noonan Racing using the all-new Noonan 4.9 borespace engine. The car and team will be fully serviced and maintained from the Noonan stable, with Noonan CEO, tuner and engine builder Jamie Noonan stating it was an exciting time for the company.

For the 55 year old legend of the sport Zappia, racing in the United States has been a long held dream, one that was realised as he rolled through the waterbox of Tulsa Raceway Park in Oklahoma.

A few things were a little different for the champion. Like most Australian tourists, Zappia had to adapt from right hand to left hand drive – only he had to do it in Noonan Racing’s 3500 horsepower 1969 Pro Mod Camaro.

“There was a lot going through my head at the time,” he said. “I was sitting on the other side of the car, the brake was on the other side, it had a transbrake, and an auto transmission – there was too much going through my head.

“I also couldn’t see that well while staging, so running in the left lane on solo passes for the first few was hard. The tree was coming down and I wasn’t even ready.”

The Noonan team worked on wheel alignment and steering on the Pro Extreme Camaro, working closely to perfect the combination. They were able to finish testing with a 3.69 (eighth mile) run at 204mph, before heading into qualifying for the PDRA event the next day.

“We came out for our first qualifying pass and as I hit the throttle in the burnout, it banged the burst panel, so unfortunately we lost that run. The next run I went a bit easier in the burnout and it hooked up, so the tires were colder than they should be.

“Finally we got after it and it pulled another 3.69 ET to qualify third in the final session. Of course, it being early days, the tune was on the softer side but we had to make it go down the track. Then unfortunately the rain came in and killed the event.”

The team returned back to the Noonan headquarters disappointed with not being able to finish the event, but ready to regroup for the next round of the PDRA series at Galot Motorsport Park in Benson, North Carolina in September.

“The car ran with the 4.8 Noonan engine and we were happy with it and the performance of a brand new team. Now though, we are going to put the new 4.9 borespace engine in the racecar and get ready for the next two PDRA events at Galot and Virginia.

“We will also be putting a B&J three speed transmission in with a Boninfante lock up clutch, getting the car a lot closer to what the (Zappia) team runs in Australia.

“Once I got used to the auto it was okay, but we think there is potential to do as good if not better with the manual and clutch. It’s just something we know and have a lot of data for. We would like to eventually run the quarter mile at some stage and this combination (run at Tulsa) was only geared for eighth mile.

“We have had a massive response to our social media and live coverage of the event and we’re excited to offer advertising and branding opportunities to companies and individuals who want to live the ‘dream’ with us, supporting the dream to potentially expand our program further. Our digital presence will be further ‘turned’ up for fans in both countries, so stay tuned.

“Big thanks to Fuchs Lubricants and Dananni Hotshots for their never-ending support for Zappia Racing.”

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Zappia crowned king of the desert

HQ Monaros and the Australian outback make for an iconic combination and John Zappia only further spread the legend with a dominating performance at the Desert Nationals in Alice Springs on the weekend.

The Fuchs/Dananni Hotshots Monaro set a new track elapsed time record of 5.79 seconds, a new track speed record of 249mph and won the event over runner up Matt Abel.

The week leading up to the Desert Nationals was a busy one, with John and brother Richard returning to Perth to attend their mother’s funeral after the previous weekend’s Nitro Up North event. Back to Darwin on Wednesday, the Zappias hotfooted to Alice Springs Inland Dragway to set up at what could be regarded as Australia’s only high altitude race track.

“Alice Springs has very similar conditions to Las Vegas, very dry air at a high altitude, or at least high by Australian standards,” John said.

“We checked out the track and it was pretty good, we knew the concrete launch pad would have a lot of grip and then we would just have to control the transition to the asphalt.”

The Top Doorslammers in attendance included not just Zappia, but also fellow Western Australians Kelvin Lyle, Pino Priolo and Mark Chapman, Queenslander Grant O’Rourke, Victorian Rob Taylor and the Northern Territory’s own Matt Abel. The field would get two qualifying sessions on Saturday before a shootout-style race on Sunday.

“Our first pass rattled a bit and still went 5.97 with a pedal, the first ‘five’ by any vehicle in Alice Springs,” Zappia said.

It was Saturday’s second pass that would bring the house down.

“For the second run we knew the track had heaps of bite early so we threw more at it (the startline) than we probably have anywhere else in the country. I punched second gear and it held, going through full throttle for a 5.79 and almost cracking 250mph.”

Expectations were high for Sunday’s racing and the Fuchs/Dananni Hotshots team expected the quality of the track surface to get even better.

“We hit the tune up even harder again and it rattled the tyres and went a bit to the left, so it required a bigger pedal to straighten the car up and resulted in a 6.06 in the first round solo,” Zappia said.

“We tried the left lane for the second round and the car went out a bit straighter, we got through for a 5.94/245 which would be enough for us to make the final round.”

Keen to set another track record for the passionate Alice Springs drag racing fans, Zappia backed down the clutch a little and found the sweet spot for the launch with a .988 60 foot time, but the Fuchs/Dananni Hotshots Monaro had other ideas and made a move to the right, requiring a big correction by Zappia. With opponent Matt Abel having problems and Zappia having eyes only for the finish line, the team was surprised to hear the familiar pop of a supercharger burst panel.

“It looks like the fuel shut off rattled partly closed, enough to lean out the motor and bang the burst panel,” Zappia said. “That’s not the ideal way to end a run but a win is a win.

“The track came up in leaps and bounds this year compared to last year by using the special tyre machine to prepare the surface and a few racers donated some tyres so they could make it happen.

“The Fuchs/Dananni Hotshots Monaro now owns another track record, so we have every ET track record in Australia where we have raced.”

The northern swing was a memorable tour for Zappia and team, as they enjoyed the best of the local cultures and plenty of great support. Special thanks went to Chris Kershaw from Northern Van Repairs for his hospitality in Darwin and the 30 dozen oysters he organised for the team in Alice Springs.

“The weather was perfect and I can see both the Desert Nationals and Nitro Up North as growing events. Hopefully next year it is a full on points round again in Alice Springs; I am sure the track will step up to the next level and we will see some really good numbers.

“A huge thanks to my crew for their tireless efforts in maintaining the race car and getting the transporter repaired in my absence.”

Zappia Racing’s next event will be at ACDelco East Coast Thunder at Sydney Dragway on November 3-4, 2017.

Zappia Racing wishes to thank co-naming rights sponsors, Fuchs and Dananni Hotshots, major sponsors Striker Crushing and Screening, Speedmaster 79, Southside Engine Centre, Noonan Race Engineering, Hoosier, Appealing Signs, and Crow Cams as well as supporting sponsors PPG, K Craft Bullbars, Santhuff, B & J Racing Transmissions, Engel, Avtrac Maintenance Tracking, SDS Billet, Legend Boatbuilders, Advantage Tyres, Kounis Metal Industries, Bravo Resources, CIC High Performance Coatings, Reid Machine, Final Drive, Motec, CP Carillo, Speed Flow, Biante, Aurora Bearings and Aeromotive.

Photo credits: Drag News

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Track record a highlight up north for Zappia

A new look for a new season welcomed fans of John Zappia at the opening round of the 400 Thunder Professional Drag Racing Series in Darwin last weekend – Nitro Up North.

Australia’s winningest doorslammer is now known as the Fuchs/Dananni Hotshots Monaro with the WA-based trucking firm joining Fuchs Lubricants who been supporting Zappia Racing for over 10 years. The rear wing also reflected an upgraded partner, with Crow Cams stepping up as a major sponsor after many years of support.

The Zappia racing team were racing with a heavy heart over the weekend after the passing of John and Richard’s mother and a severe accident involving long time crew member Mal Wilhelm, who is fighting for life in intensive care.

Able to focus on the task at hand, it was the same Zappia in the hot seat as he hit a new track record in qualifying of 5.69 seconds to lead the field, just ahead of Gary Phillips’ 5.72.

“The first run left really well but then it started to shake from about 60 feet onward,” Zappia said. “I pedaled it to calm it down then muscled it back into the groove for a 5.81.”

“We looked at the data and with Gary having run his 5.72 in the left lane which we had for the second session, we went in with confidence.”

The second qualifying session proved unusual for Zappia, with a Christmas tree malfunction seeing him shut down after the burnout.

“I was nearly going to walk away from the run as the time went on and the tyres cooled down. But we came back again and it was worth making the pass as we netted a 5.69 at 254mph for the track record ET and speed.”

“We almost decided to sit out the last session, but we had enough time to turn around for the third one. Again it rattled to the right and I got it back in. We didn’t improve but we were staying pretty consistent running a 5.74 at 253mph.”

Overnight the team went about their routine maintenance, putting in a new set of CP-Carrillo rods ready for racing and onwards to Alice Springs. The first round saw Zappia facing Mark Chapman.

“For the first round we adjusted the suspension and the car went dead straight this time for a 5.72 against Mark,” he said. “We never take Mark lightly, they are innovators and their Plymouth Fury is definitely capable of some big numbers.”

The next round saw a crowd pleasing face off between Pro Slammer newcomer Paul Mouhayet and Zappia Racing. While he might be a rookie in the 400 Thunder series, Mouhayet and Moits Racing are far from rookies in drag racing.

“Moits Racing have the best of everything and we knew they would go for it against us,” Zappia said. “I needed to make sure I was on the ball with the lights. I got psyched up and left on them with a .048 to a 0.141 light, my best in a while, but as soon as the car launched it was vibrating.

“The Fuchs/Dananni Hotshots Holden Monaro had dropped a cylinder because of a dead spark plug. The lack of power caused the car to shake and I punched second gear, but I was dead in the water.

“We still managed a 6.23, it might have gone a 6.0 if I hadn’t pedalled, but it wouldn’t have quite been enough regardless. We need these things to be running on eight cylinders, not seven.”

There were many positives for Zappia to take away from the event, with stablemate Kelvin Lyle running a personal best time of 5.81 seconds at 253mph to set him up as a genuine contender in the class.

“That Mustang is definitely a weapon and is starting to go down the track more and more,” Zappia said.

Zappia’s nephew Brodie Zappia scored a runner up in Junior Dragster which left the family with a smile on their face ahead of Alice Springs, where John will be exhibition racing against a bunch of other doorslammer drivers.

The pressure of Darwin didn’t surprise the veteran champion.

“There were a few people who didn’t qualify this meeting you would normally expect and some of those guys might struggle to get back to the top of the field this year with all these new guys coming up.

“Everyone is bringing Americans over to try and knock us off and it is getting more and more intense. People are throwing more money, more knowledge, more talent and more laps at it, but at the same time so are we, we never stop.

“We are off to America next month, racing with Noonan Race Engineering, to have a race in Pro Extreme and maybe I can learn something there to help me back here – plus it’s just one of those bucket list type things.

“As far as Alice Springs goes, I am looking forward to trying to get that track record. We will basically be going as fast as possible – we don’t want to slow the car down.
“If they can bring the condition of the track up a level then we won’t be surprised to see 5.7s there. The conditions are looking good, warmer than last year which felt like ice! I think this year we will see respectable times down the track and we are really looking forward to it.”

Zappia Racing wishes to thank co-naming rights sponsors, Fuchs and Dananni Hotshots, major sponsors Striker Crushing and Screening, Speedmaster 79, Southside Engine Centre, Noonan Race Engineering, Hoosier, Appealing Signs, and Crow Cams as well as supporting sponsors PPG, K Craft Bullbars, Santhuff, B & J Racing Transmissions, Engel, Avtrac Maintenance Tracking, SDS Billet, Legend Boatbuilders, Advantage Tyres, Kounis Metal Industries, Bravo Resources, CIC High Performance Coatings, Reid Machine, Final Drive, Motec, CP Carillo, Speed Flow, Biante, Aurora Bearings and Aeromotive.

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Photos below courtesy Michelle Porobic from Bright Design

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