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ZAPPIA’S NORTHERN SWING A HIT WITH FANS

John Zappia went back to his match racing roots on a tour of central and northern Australia over the past few weeks in the Fuchs Monaro.

With the Grudge Kings event at Sydney Dragway rained out, Zappia instead focused on the ‘northern swing’ that accompanies the opening two rounds of the ANDRA Summit Sportsman Series.

The Desert Nationals at Alice Springs Inland Dragway was first on the list, a unique track that is one the few venues at altitude in Australia, coming in at 1788 feet above sea level.

While Zappia holds the current track record for Pro Slammers at Alice Springs, this event proved tricky as the team tried to find a tune up that would work on the unique surface.

“Alice Springs is a track where you have to walk a razor’s edge, it can definitely hold good times as we have seen in the past but the window for an ideal run is very small,” Zappia said. “Along with the adjustments to the tune up to run at altitude, it makes for a challenge for crew chiefs. This time we weren’t able to master it to reset our track record, but we hope the fans enjoyed the big burnouts and wheelstands because we were trying our hardest out there.”

It wasn’t all bad news for Zappia, with a 3-1 match race victory against the Northern Territory’s Matt Abel, who joined Zappia for the northern swing.

The Fuchs team next moved on to Darwin’s Hidden Valley Drag Strip for the NT Nationals, again taking on Abel but still struggling to get back to the five second zone the team is known for.

“The track looked great at Darwin and the conditions weren’t too hot or humid, but again we were blowing the tyres off on the line and had some massive tyre shake,” Zappia said. “We got down to a 6.39 at 248mph, which showed the power was there but we just couldn’t get it to the ground.

“Matt had the local knowledge to get down with a 6.28 and we tied two all for the match racing.”

While there were no record runs or championship wins, Zappia said events such as the Desert Nationals and the NT Nationals were invaluable for the team to stay at the forefront of the Australian Pro Slammer scene.

“We learned stuff and we were developing the tune on the engine, we just didn’t get the clutch right,” he said. “It would have been nice to have some other cars to benchmark against, because sometimes it is hard to tell if there is something wrong with us or the track is just tricky. We had two great weekends though, meeting lots of fans and making sure that the Fuchs Monaro is Australia’s most well travelled Pro Slammer.

“Now it’s time to go right through the Fuchs Monaro and we will get ready for the Perth test and tunes in October and then we head off to Sydney for the East Coast Nationals in November.

“As well as our naming partner Fuchs, we’d like to thank Dananni Hotshots, Crow Cams and Muscle Car Warehouse for being right behind us.”

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Winternationals weather hampers Zappia’s chances

John Zappia’s 2018/19 400 Thunder season did not finish in the fashion he would have preferred, bowing out in the first round of the Winternationals at Willowbank Raceway.

The event was badly weather affected and the Pro Slammer teams only had one qualifying shot. Fortunately Zappia’s Fuchs/Dananni Hotshots Monaro made it into the eight-car field, but only just.

“The first qualifying session was cancelled, and the third session looked like it was going to be impacted by weather as well, so we figured we would only have one chance,” Zappia said. “Everyone was in the same boat and we all had to figure out how to get down the track. I made it more difficult on myself though when I backed up too far after the burnout and put my rear tyres back into the water tracks.”

Zappia spun the tyres on the hit of the throttle, but managed to recover for a 6.26 at 250mph, enough to put him into sixth place.

“It was cold and the water carried further than normal, it blew the tyres straight off. At least we got into the field, but with Paul Mouhayet qualifying in fourth he had enough points to get into race day and took out the championship – congratulations to Moits Racing.”

While the pressure of the championship was off, Zappia still wanted another Winternationals trophy to add to his collection. Zappia took on Scott MacLean in the first round but again the Fuchs/Dananni Hotshots Monaro spun the tyres early in the pass.

“We were waiting for a while for some delays and it was a nice, sunny day so we figured the track would be good,” Zappia said. “Once again the tyres were spinning right as we launched and Scott was long gone. We had the same tune up as when we went 5.65 in Sydney, but in hindsight we needed a lot less. The track felt sticky on top but was soft underneath from all the rain and it just didn’t come back.

“It was great to see Parry Bitsikas from Muscle Car Warehouse at Willowbank on the weekend and unfortunately we didn’t perform up to our best for him. We wish to express a big thank you to our naming rights sponsor Fuchs Lubricants and Dananni Hotshots, our major sponsors Muscle Car Warehouse, Crow Cams, Hoosier Race Tires, Noonan Race Engineering and all our supporting sponsors who give us the opportunity to race and compete at the highest level. Without their continued support we could not achieve what we have been able to achieve so far.

“Our form guide currently reads like a great race horse with a finishing record of 2, 2, 1, 1, 1, 1, 1, 1, 1, 1, 1, 1, 1, 2, 2 since we entered the Top Doorslammer/Pro Slammer championships.”

Though Zappia was disappointed to end the season on a low, he is already looking to the future, beginning with the Grudge Kings event on July 6 at Sydney Dragway. Zappia will be racing both his current Pro Slammer, nicknamed ‘Crusher’, in the Pro Mod class, as well as bringing Zap’s Rat back to the track for the first time in over a decade to compete in the Pro Street class.

“We will go back to Perth now and prepare the steel body ‘Zap’s Rat’ and get ready for Grudge Kings with two cars,” Zappia said. “We want to do some R&D with ‘Crusher’ to see what we can find out that will help us next season and with both classes having $50,000 winner cheques there’s a lot of money on the line.

“’Zap’s Rat’ won two championships and ran 5.8s on the quarter mile back in the day. Grudge Kings is eighth mile for Pro Street and with what we know now we should be looking at 3.9s or 3.8s over that distance.”

Photo: cacklingpipes.com

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Winternationals always memorable for Zappia

John Zappia has been a part of drag racing culture in Australia for well over three decades, a time where Willowbank Raceway has also grown to be part of the bedrock of the sport.

Ahead of the annual running of Australia’s biggest drag racing event, the Winternationals, the driver of the Fuchs/Dananni Hotshots Monaro recalled fond memories from the early days of the venue, where he competed at ‘Wild Bunch’ events.

“Willowbank has always been good, with big crowds and great traction,” he said. “We’ve got lots of positive memories, a few bad ones, but mostly we remember the highlights.”

Most vivid in Zappia’s memory is the 2010 Winternationals, where he faced Robin Judd in a winner-takes-all final for the ANDRA Top Doorslammer Championship.

“That final round really stands out,” he said. “We were second in the points and it all came down to the last run. The points are a lot further apart this time so we can’t have that scenario again, we will just have to see how the cards fall.

“We’ve had lots of different experiences at the Winternationals. Some times we have doubled up with a Winternationals win and a championship, sometimes we have been biting our nails in the stands after going out in the early rounds, waiting for someone to win or lose.”

With unpredictable weather a standard part of the Winternationals, Zappia said he will first aim to qualify into the eight car eliminations field.

“We need to get in the show on the first pass to take the pressure off. I have been caught out with that before, where we didn’t qualify on the first pass and we missed out on the elimination rounds.

“After that we can creep up on it and find some improvements. We are coming with a good proven package and we are pretty confident we have found all our bugs and fixed any issues.”

Zappia is in the running for the 400 Thunder Pro Slammer Championship but is approaching the event with an aim to control only his own destiny.

“Although the Fuchs/Dananni Hotshots Monaro ran well in Sydney we have made some improvements since, and we have our eyes on winning the Winternationals once again. Whatever happens with the championship is up to Paul.”

The Winternationals is Australia’s biggest drag racing festival and Zappia is looking forward to meeting up with his legions of east coast fans once more.

“We’ve always prided ourselves on being accessible to fans, so please come and see us in the pits, check out our merchandise and have a chat,” he said. “Unless we are about to head out to the staging lanes or turning the car around between rounds, we love to talk to people about the Fuchs/Dananni Hotshots Monaro and make sure they have an awesome race track experience.”

Qualifying for Pro Slammer begins on Friday with a single session, before two sessions on Saturday and eliminations on Sunday. Fans can also watch the race live on ovoplay.com.au.

Photo: cacklingpipes.com

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WINTERNATIONALS ZAPPIA RACING HISTORY

2018

2018 – Zap qualified third and finished runner up.

2016

2016 – Zap Top Qualifies and wins the event.

2015

2015 – Zap Top Qualifies and wins the event.

2014

2014 – Zap Top Qualifies and wins the event

2013

2013 – Zap Top Qualifies but the meeting was rained out.

2012

2012 – Zap Top Qualifies but was knocked out in Round 1 by Ben Bray

2011

2011 – Rained out

2010

2010 – Zap Top Qualified and won the event over Robin Judd

2009

2009 – Zap Top Qualifies and wins the event

2008

2008 – Zap qualifies third and wins the event.

2007

2007 – Zap Top Qualifies and wins the event.

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Zappia back in winner’s circle at Sydney Dragway

A ray of hope remains for John Zappia in the 2018/19 400 Thunder Pro Slammer championship after he won Nitro Thunder at Sydney Dragway on Saturday.

Zappia defeated Paul Mouhayet in a crowd-pleasing final, running a 5.65 to not only take the victory but also set low ET of the event.

While the pace of the Fuchs/Dananni Hotshots Monaro was on point for the final, the strongest performance came from the Zappia Racing crew, who needed to thrash in the pits after some minor damage in the second round.

“Our first test pass and our first round pass were both a bit messy, but we got the first round win and even a low ET for the round with a 5.83 as everyone else struggled with the conditions,” Zappia said.

“For the second round we changed some ratios in the B&J gearbox to maximise on the conditions and we went 5.74/250mph. That speed seemed down and sure enough when we checked the Noonan engine in the pits we found a burnt spark plug and a burnt piston due to a lean condition in the tune up.

“We needed to thrash to get the cylinder head off and put another CP Carrillo piston in. The crew had already worked their butts off through the day but they were like clockwork in getting us ready for the final.

“Time was against us and we didn’t even have the chance to set the tappets on one side and warm up the motor before we had to be in the staging lanes for the final. We got into the lanes in time for the final and thank Paul and his crew for giving us the time to be ready for start-up before starting their car!

“I had to just rev it up and go for it. My reaction time was a little slow, with our thrash just a few minutes earlier still on my mind. But the Fuchs/Dananni Hotshots Monaro made it through first gear clean and we were able to get the win.”

The run did get a little wild in the braking area for Zappia.

“I hit a few bumps and then realised I was in Paul’s lane after the finish line! I drove back into my lane to get out of his way and could finally calm down to absorb what had just happened.

“Paul came over and congratulated me and I got the good news about our 5.65. We had all been so busy just trying to turn the car around and once it all happened there was just as much relief as excitement.”

After taking the Fuchs/Dananni Hotshots Monaro to a photo shoot at Muscle Car Warehouse, the team loaded up to return to Perth. With just one round remaining in the championship – the Winternationals at Willowbank Raceway – Zappia said the focus was on bringing home the event win and using the cool winter conditions to improve on recent performances and get better consistency.

“The gap has closed up a little bit in the points (-61) and while it would still take a miracle to win the championship we are going to give it our best shot,” he said.

“We will go to the Winternationals hoping to win and end the season on a high for our sponsors and supporters. We need to win the meeting and get low ET and hope that Paul either doesn’t qualify or goes out first round. It’s a tall order, with so many top Pro Slammers entered, but not impossible.”

Top photo: cacklingpipes.com

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Winning the only option for Zappia

John Zappia is approaching the penultimate round of the 2018/19 400 Thunder Pro Slammer Championship with an understanding that nothing short of winning every round will give him the chance of a 12th national title.

Sydney Dragway’s Nitro Thunder will be a make-or-break event for the veteran driver, whose Fuchs/Dananni Hotshots Monaro currently sits second in the points behind New South Welshman Paul Mouhayet.

With just two events left in the series to claw back the 85 point difference, Zappia is leaving nothing on the table.

“I think the car is fresher than it has been for a while,” he said.

“The summer testing we did in Perth showed a few weak links we had and we have basically replaced everything that needed replacing on the car from front to back.

“We are coming to Nitro Thunder with two new Noonan engines and two older engines for spares, along with a four-speed B&J Transmission plus two older three-speeds.”

It was approximately 18 months ago that Zappia ran his personal best time at Sydney Dragway of 5.601 seconds and he would love to be able to return to those performances.

“We probably should have been able to improve from that number since then, but we have been trying lots of different ways to go faster, plus you are always at the mercy of the weather and track conditions,” Zappia said.

“I’d say the track will be pretty good this weekend and we’ve found that the Sydney surface suits the Fuchs/Dananni Hotshots Monaro better than Perth so we are looking forward to seeing what numbers we can put on the readout boards.”

The Pro Slammer championship is very much on the line this weekend, with Zappia aware that only wins will do.

“Paul needs to make some mistakes and we need to not make any,” he said.

“Paul is in the box seat for the championship right now and it is his to lose. We can win both events but we still need other results to fall our way.”

There will be nine entries in total for the Pro Slammer field including not just championship rivals Zappia and Mouhayet, but also Victor Bray, Ben Bray, Michelle Davies, Geoff Gradden, Steven Ham, Mark Hinchelwood and Emilio Spinozzi.

Teams will compete using the ‘all run format’ which means all nine teams will be on track three times on Saturday.

Fans can find full event information at www.sydneydragway.com.au.

Photo: cacklingpipes.com

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ZAPPIA’S SUMMER SLAM DOMINANCE CONTINUES

John Zappia’s new Noonan engine combination paid off immediately at Perth Motorplex on Sunday as he wrapped up the win in the Summer Slam bracket as part of the ANDRA Grand Finals.

Zappia’s Fuchs/Dananni Hotshots Monaro qualified second with a safe 5.770, before stepping up for a 5.724 win against Frank Taylor in the elimination round and then a 5.760 pass to win the final, after opponent Daniel Gregorini left before the green light with a mechanical issue.

Zappia finished second for the Summer Slam championship overall, despite missing two events of the seven round series. He made the final of every event he attended and won three of those five finals. In fact, Zappia has made the final round of every single Summer Slam event he has attended since the series begin in 2016 – thirteen in total.

“The national series was our priority if there was a clash of dates with the Summer Slam series we opted for the national series. The Summer Slam series has been a great initiative in Perth thanks to Kelvin Lyle and his company Direct Mining and Industrial for sponsoring the series and hopefully it will be bigger and better next season” he said.

“You only have to look at the numbers the field are running. The opportunity to go racing so much is giving everyone the data they need to go fast.”

After a 1000 feet shut off pass to perform a systems check on his first qualifying run, Zappia returned for a 5.77, where he battled tyre shake in what has been a constant theme for the team at Perth Motorplex this season.

“We worked our butts off for two weeks to put together two new Noonan motors,” Zappia said. “We were still finishing them off on Saturday morning before leaving for the track to setup.”

“With the ANDRA Grand Finals being a two day event, we did our maintenance overnight and were able to go over everything closely for race day where we were due to take on Frank Taylor.

“Unfortunately Frank had some problems after his burnout and we had to take the solo. The car got through first gear without rattling the tyres which was fantastic, though I short shifted at 8900rpm. The Noonan horsepower took over from there and we were able to take the Fuchs/Dananni Hotshots Monaro to a 5.72 win light, which was low ET of the event.”

The impressive run secured a finals spot for Zappia, where he would take on Daniel Gregorini.

“The final against Daniel was a strange one. As all the stage beams came on, Daniel rolled the beams with a mechanical issue. I was distracted to the sound of the early launch or the red light. Not sure, but it messed up my own staging routine. I was carrying about 1300 revs more than normal and the car crept forward, so as I went to launch the Fuchs/Dananni Hotshots Monaro it moved further forward and had too many revs for our normal launch. The additional revs created too much wheel speed so I had to pedal it to drop the front end and punched second gear for a 5.76/255mph, which was our best speed of the weekend.”

Zappia said the team was taking a conservative approach with a new engine, though the track and air conditions were outstanding.

“There was 5.60 potential in that air and we are starting to figure out how to make it go through without shaking. We’ve struggled at Kwinana with tyre shake but showed a lot of improvement in eliminating the tyre shake issue we have had,” he said.

“The air was killer. I didn’t do the air justice because we were just taking small steps with the engine to bring the performance back in.”

With the Perth season now at a close, Zappia Racing will focus on the 400 Thunder Professional Drag Racing Series, where Pro Slammers will next compete at Sydney Dragway for Nitro Thunder on the 3 – 4th of May.

“It will be a great opportunity to catch up with our East Coast Sponsors, fans and supporters and hopefully achieve finals success in what will be a hotly contested event.”

Photos thanks to Haley Turns

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ZAPPIA TESTS NEW IDEAS IN SUMMER SLAM

John Zappia has turned mad scientist recently with his Fuchs/Dananni Hotshots Monaro, testing a variety of theories in the Summer Slam Series at Perth Motorplex on Saturday.

Using his third-in-line spare engine, Zappia reached the final of the Summer Slam before a lean condition in one cylinder resulted in a blown burst panel, allowing Mark Chapman to come around the outside for victory.

Zappia said the third spare engine was one that hadn’t been used for three years and there was a learning curve to update its tune to new components. The team also decided to test a four speed B&J Transmission.

“There was definitely a learning curve at this event,” he explained.

“On our first qualifying run we had a major air leak and we ran out of air before it got to the finish line, slowing to a 5.86.

“We fixed that, came out for the second run and it had quicker increments to the eighth mile going 3.79, but then it burned a spark plug and banged the burst panel. I pushed the clutch in and rolled through and we settled for qualifying second with our first pass.”

The elimination round saw Zappia take on Frank Taylor. This time the troubles seemed to be over with just a quick pedal needed to get through slight tyre shake and a 5.72/254mph appearing on the timing boards.

“The previous best we had done with this engine was a 5.75 at 250mph. We were pretty impressed and knew we were heading in the right direction,” Zappia said.

“We had put more fuel into cylinder one to solve the lean issue and we got a great pass in for the win.”

The performance came at the right time, granting Zappia a spot in the A Final against Chapman. There the Fuchs/Dananni Hotshots Monaro left well before the number one cylinder came back to haunt the team.

“For the final we left with a very quick 0.962 60 foot time and the car went dead straight. It only just rattled and I pedalled to shift early. All was going good until it melted the number one spark plug again and popped the burst panel. I tried to hang on to the finish line but Mark got around me with a slightly quicker 5.94 to our 5.97.”

With the team able to test many different setups on the car at the last few events, Zappia will return at the ANDRA Grand Finals in just over a week with a brand new Noonan engine to combine horsepower with the four speed B&J Transmission.

“We are quite excited to come out with the new Noonan motor for the Grand Final,” he said. “We are starting to get a handle on the four speed as well, so hopefully we can take the next step and aim for consistency and added performance.

“More gears seems to be the way to go but we need to put more laps on it. When we were running for a championship we didn’t want to risk trying the four speed as we hadn’t done enough passes in testing. As we are in R&D mode we want to test as many different things as possible and hopefully we will find something better to take with us to Sydney for Nitro Thunder in May.

“We are really building our parts depth so both our number one and number two engines will be Noonan engines with Noonan cylinder heads. We can also service the motor we ran on the weekend and have it go back to being our third spare, knowing what it needs to be happy.”

Zappia Racing is looking forward to seeing as many sponsors, supporters and fans as possible come out to the Perth Motorplex on April 6 and 7 for the Grand Final event, featuring the finals of the Summit Sportsman Series with many of the top eastern states sportsman racers competing against local racers for the championship.

Photo: Jay Treasure

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ZAPPIA RUNNER UPS IN THRILLING FINAL AT WESTERNATIONALS

John Zappia will remember the 2019 Westernationals at Perth Motorplex as ‘the one that got away’ after a close fought final round.

The Fuchs/Dananni Hotshots Monaro qualified in the number one position with a 5.72 second time, but the performance was throttled by tyre shake, which Zappia was trying to fend off both in the tune up and from the driver’s seat.

“The Noonan engine was making plenty of power but we had this dreaded rattle of the tyres at the top of first gear on every run,” he said.

“Pedalling the car isn’t the end of the world because it only costs somewhere between five hundredths and a tenth of a second, but we weren’t seeing the true potential of the Fuchs/Dananni Hotshots Monaro.”

Zappia’s path through eliminations saw him take on Marty Dack in round one, taking a 5.75 to 6.07 victory. That was followed up by a 5.72 win over Steve Aldridge’s 5.96, setting up a final against Daniel Gregorini’s Camaro.

“Daniel was running career-best times and we were only three hundredths of a second apart, so if we left the tune where it was and pedalled it, it was going to be very close,” Zappia explained.

“With that in mind, we decided we had to try and fix the shake and so we make changes to the tune up to smooth out first gear. The change actually worked, but then I made a driver error and anticipated tyre shake instead of feeling it, and pedalled the car. If I had held my foot flat we would have been fine!

“That was all Daniel needed. He had the better reaction time and that gave him the edge, even though our runs had nearly identical ETs.

“Congratulations to Daniel and his team. They had a consistent car and we came up 0.028 seconds short. We had Parry Bitsikas from Muscle Car Warehouse over from Sydney and unfortunately couldn’t take out the gold Christmas tree for him.

“We had a dream weekend mechanically. The Noonan engine in combination with the Crow Cam, Reid rockers, CP Carrillo rods, B&J transmission and the Boninfante clutch and plates was running strong with a best speed of 257.48mph. We had a fresh set of Hoosier tyres on and we haven’t had an issue.”

The runner up result was still good news for Zappia, who moved into equal fifth position for the Summer Slam Series overall, despite missing two events.

“The Summer Slam Series is becoming ultra competitive, everyone in the field has run a five second pass now,” he said.

“We will see if we can’t get rid of this tyre shake and be back in the 5.6s.”

Zappia will now compete in the final two rounds of the WA Summer Slam Series, taking place at Perth Motorplex on March 23 and April 6-7.

Photos: Jay Treasure

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Perth offers redemption for Zappia with Summer Slam win

John Zappia has taken out his second Summer Slam event of the season at Perth Motorplex, striking back from a horror Sydney trip.

Zappia had his spare motor in the Fuchs/Dananni Hotshots Monaro for his home track after breaking the crankshaft of his main engine at the Santo’s Summer Thunder event last month. With virtually identical parts there was no shortage of Noonan horsepower on board.

“The Sydney deal saw a broken crankshaft do a fair bit of damage,” Zappia said. “The vibrations broke and shook loose a lot of parts around the engine area. The Zappia Racing crew did a great job of rebuilding the car and getting it into tip top shape.

“We had a new Aeromotive fuel pump aboard, a fresh Boninfante clutch from the USA Noonan Camaro, our spare motor and spare blower.”

The first step during Nitro Night was qualifying and the team approached the first session with a safe tune up with so many forced changes to their normal setup.

“We had a lot of stuff that was different in the car so we started off safe and rich,” Zappia said. “It was a bit weak on the first one and it rattled the tyres. We pedalled for a 5.87 with an early shut off, because it was really windy and we were gun shy about releasing the chutes into the headwind.”

Zappia and his expert team fine tuned the motor for the second qualifying session and found improvement.

“We trimmed it up a bit and it went a 5.83 in the compulsory qualifier, which qualified us second behind Daniel Gregorini’s 5.78 personal best,” he said.

Eliminations beckoned, where Zappia took on Frank Taylor’s Chevelle.

“We stepped it up and found some more performance after finding some things in the pits that were slightly out from where we would normally run them,” Zappia said.

“Frank got a little jump on me at the start line but we clawed it back and ran a 5.73 at 255mph into a stiff headwind – we were very happy with that speed given the conditions. But again, like every pass before, it was rattling the tyres and needed a small pedal.”

The win saw Zappia into the final of his second Summer Slam event of the season, where he would face top qualifier Gregorini.

“We had lane choice by five hundredths of a second and in our preferred left lane we were hoping to be back in the five sixties,” Zappia said.

“The car left hard with the wheels up and it barely went into tyre shake. I still gave it a small pedal and we went through for a 5.70/256mph, which is the quickest we have run while pedalling. Considering our quickest pass at Perth Motorplex is a 5.66 it goes to show the Noonan power we have on board right now.”

Unfortunately Gregorini received a red light on the start line, denying what would have been an entertaining final round.

Zappia will be back at Perth Motorplex in just over a week for round six of the WA Drag Racing Championships where he will compete in Top Comp.

“We have good speed at the moment so hopefully we have an event without a headwind and we can really see what the Fuchs/Dananni Hotshots Monaro will do,” he said.

“It was a relief that the motor was in excellent condition at the end of the Nitro Night on the weekend. We will see if we can tune the last of the tyre shake out of this thing and make some full runs in the 5.6s.”

Photo: Jay Treasure

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Right runs but not the right rounds for Zappia

John Zappia was left to rue what might have been for the Fuchs/Dananni Hotshots team at Sydney Dragway on Saturday.

The team’s event began on Friday where they took part in two test sessions in difficult conditions but mustered the quickest times of the category.

“There was a heatwave in Sydney and with 4000 feet of air density and 100 water grains the conditions were about as bad as it gets,” Zappia explained. “But we managed to come out with a 5.76/251mph which was two tenths ahead of anyone else.

“We stepped it up for the next one and went 5.73/252mph.”

Another test session was held on Saturday before racing began and Zappia made another full pass, albeit having to put some work in on the steering wheel.

“We put a bit more in it for the Saturday but we staged crooked, The car went left and got out of the groove but I got it back for a 5.76/254. That showed there was some pretty stout horsepower in the Noonan Hemi.”

The team prepared for the first round of racing where they took on Michelle Davies, who recently became Australia’s quickest woman in a Pro Slammer.

“Michelle’s Mustang has been running regular five second passes lately, so we needed another clean run,” Zappia said. “We got out well but then the car seemed to have a misfire and we only put a 5.79/250mph down. I knew we had an issue.”

The Fuchs/Dananni Hotshots crew replaced all the electronics before round two where Zappia faced Ben Bray. But the problem reared its head once more.

“As soon as I dropped the clutch the car had a shudder in it and it didn’t have power. I got to 900 feet and it started vibrating and I knew we had kicked rods or something.”

When the team opened the motor in the pits they discovered a broken crankshaft, four broken valves and a host of other damage caused by the intense vibrations.

“The crankshaft only had 24 runs on it, so we have no idea why it broke,” Zappia said. “That in turn damaged the clutch, shook the fuel pump loose, shook the blower off the manifold and even broke the injector hat.”

The injector hat proved the fatal blow for the team.

“We changed the engine and the rain gave us more time, but it only takes one part you haven’t got to put you out and for us that was a spare injector hat. Ours is unique and needed welding.

“With so much damage we really wanted to check the whole car out and find the problem. We needed to make sure the transmission was okay as well, because when you break a crankshaft it can cause damage throughout the drive train.

“There were no holes in the block thankfully, just a big dent in the oil pan. It looked alright from the outside, but it didn’t look pretty when we pulled it apart.

“It’s not good for our points chase but at the end of the day we couldn’t risk any more damage with such a catastrophic failure. We need to go over everything at home, then come back out at the Motorplex and continue with our R&D program.

“It was great to have Parry Bitsikas from Muscle Car Warehouse join us at the event and unfortunately we weren’t able to produce our best for him.

“Also a big congratulations to Sam Fenech and the JSS Racing team for an outstanding performance all weekend and we were glad to see that Sam was okay after his horrific accident in the final.”

Zappia will next be on track for Perth Motorplex’s Nitro Night on February 2.

There has also been some exciting news on the model car front recently with a second version of the Biante diecast set to become available.

“We are taking orders now. You don’t have to pay the money up front, we just want to know how many Biante should make as they create them to order,” Zappia said.

Interested fans can email zappiaracing@ozemail.com.au to place an order.

Photo: Drag News Magazine

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