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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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Few predictions from Zappia for wild Winternationals

An unusually cautious John Zappia is approaching the 50th annual Winternationals at Willowbank Raceway, with one eye on his Fuchs Monaro Pro Slammer and the other on the Queensland sky ahead of the event.

With some wet weather possible, Zappia said goal number one is to make a clean pass to get into the field and follow it up with consistency, as all out performance takes a back seat.

“Every time I say I will go real fast our runs turn to a mess, so for us the Winternationals will be all about consistency and we will let the performance come,” he said.

“We don’t want to be the ones to go too hard in the first qualifying session and miss making what is likely to be an extremely tough field. I think weather will be a factor, but it is only Tuesday so hopefully that forecast will change. At the moment it is a survival strategy: get qualified and get into the eight car field.”

The Fuchs Pro Slammer team has an amazing amount of data from thousands of runs down the quarter mile and it is this knowledge resource they will draw upon at the Winternationals.

“We will read the engine, read the data and track and creep it up accordingly,” Zappia said.

Seventeen high quality entries from across the country will make up the Pro Slammer bracket, turning out in force for the final round of the 400 Thunder Series.

Many of those drivers have recently found new pace, with Ben Bray, Gary Phillips, Scott MacLean and Stuart Bishop among those to recently descend into the 5.7 second zone.

“Sometimes you’ve got to run as fast as you can just to stay where you are and that is what we are seeing in Pro Slammer right now,” Zappia said.

“A 5.7 would have been a guaranteed top qualifying award in the past, but it’s a very likely scenario that someone might run a 5.7 second time in qualifying this weekend and not even get lane choice for round one – that is how much the pace has stepped up in recent months.”

“We know we have what it takes to be at the pointy end, we just need to not overdo it and get ourselves into the show where we can then put on a great showing for Fuchs and all our other sponsors.”

But ultimately, Zappia admits that drag racers make poor fortune tellers and the only statements worth anything will be those made on the day at the famed Willowbank Raceway surface.

“I didn’t predict the numbers we ran in Sydney and I don’t think anyone else thought they would be setting personal bests either. This is one tough field and not to be taken lightly – who knows what we will see? You’ll just have to be there to see the Fuchs Monaro and over 500 other awesome drag racing teams.”

The Winternationals begins from Thursday, with the first Pro Slammer qualifying session being held on Friday, followed by two more qualifying sessions on Saturday and eliminations on Sunday.

“We would like to see as many of our sponsors, supporters and fans come out and visit our pit area and get the latest merchandise celebrating our 10 straight championships,” Zappia said.

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Zappia resets national record at Sydney Dragway

On a record breaking weekend for Pro Slammers in Australia, John Zappia has shown he is still the king of performance in the Fuchs Monaro.

Nitro Thunder at Sydney Dragway was a feast of incredible numbers, with a revamped track surface proving it could hold anything thrown at it by the best doorslammers in the country. Personal bests came thick and fast but there was one run that stood out.

Zappia’s 5.635 second pass, coming in Saturday’s qualifying session, was the quickest class legal doorslammer pass in the country by half a tenth, an incredible margin in the tightly contested bracket.

“We put more into the tune up as the track measured up better than before and with excellent air conditions off it went,” Zappia said. “The car launched hard carrying the front wheels, I punched the next gear and it moved out of the groove a little bit but I got it back. It really revved up to just before the finish line where it started to misfire and I pushed the clutch in and pulled the chute a little bit early.

“When they told me over the radio it was a 5.63, I had to ask them to repeat. They said, ‘FIVE-SIX-THREE.’ I was dumbfounded.

“The Crusher was misfiring at the top end and never got the proper speed, but the time card had really good increments early. Our half track time of 3.72 at 205.98mph was our best by a long way. It should have gone 258 or 259mph at the top end, but the misfire knocked 400 rpm off the motor.

“We tried to fix the misfire and thought it might be hitting the rev limiter, so we raised the limit to try to avoid a repeat of the problem.”

The pace was on Zappia’s side come the race rounds, but the electrical gremlin would be back to haunt the team.

Matched up against Mark Belleri in the tough ACDelco Holden Monaro for the first round, Zappia needed every bit of performance but the Fuchs Monaro started to misfire really badly as soon as it launched. I pedalled it and it went clean back on eight cylinders and zoomed out the back end going 254mph, but a 5.84 would not be enough to take down Belleri’s 5.82.

For the second round Zappia was matched against Rob Taylor. “We thought we would throw more at it on the start line, but the track was hotter and the air got a little worse. We launched with a 0.958 sixty foot and carried the front wheels but veered right towards the wall which required a peddle to straighten the car and continue and run a 5.75 at 252mph which was enough to take the win.

The final round would see Zappia take on Ben Bray. Some changes were made to the suspension and the team loaded a killer set up into the Fuchs Monaro before heading to the staging lanes. The weather would then factor itself into the equation with a brief rain shower making Zappia nervous.

“I decided to back the Crusher off as the track was cooling. It launched with a 0.961 sixty foot, I shifted second, drifted left a little bit and I made a hard turn to get it back into the groove. I short shifted top gear which lost a little bit of momentum and I could see Ben’s car alongside me, but by the finish line I could see he had just got me.

“We both drove it out the back door and the motor was screaming, I had never revved it that hard before. Ben won on a holeshot and went 5.70/256 to my 5.65/255 backing up my earlier run of 5.635 and setting a new national record.”

Despite being one from three in race rounds, Zappia was pleased with his progress at the Nitro Thunder event.

The new CP-Carrillo pistons and rods and the Total Seal rings came out like brand new after five runs.

“It was a good weekend and we learned a lot. The Hoosier tires in combination with a great track preparation worked really well and this suited a lot of cars.”

With other teams figuring out how to go quick and closing the performance gap, Zappia said the Fuchs team still has some Noonan Ultimate Race Engineering horsepower improvements to fine tune.

“It will be an intense competition at the Winternationals in June 8 to 11 and we can’t wait to race at the biggest drag meeting in the southern hemisphere.”

Zappia Racing wishes to thank Naming Rights Sponsors Fuchs, Major Sponsors Striker Crushing and Screening, Dananni Hotshots, Speedmaster 79, Southside Engine Centre, Noonan Race Engineering, Hoosier, and Appealing Signs, as well as Supporting Sponsors PPG, K Craft Bullbars, Santhuff, B & J Racing Transmissions, Engel, Crow Cams, 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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Photo credits: Drag News and Cackling Pipes

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John Zappia adds Top Comp title to awesome 2017

John Zappia and the Fuchs Monaro’s successful start to 2017 has continued with the team earning the WA Top Comp Championship at Perth Motorplex on Saturday night.

In a field containing some of the toughest blown alcohol racers in the country, the feat was never going to be easy and while some hurdles were thrown at the team they eventually proved good enough in a critical race against chief rival Adam Marchant. It was Zappia’s first Top Comp championship since 2010.

The best air conditions of the season greeted teams at the Motorplex, but a cooling track would prove challenging throughout the night.

Zappia’s first qualifying pass was a pedalling 5.84, with the car doing a spectacular wheelstand, owing to the extra horsepower from the conditions and the tight track.

Running late in the compulsory qualifying session after some oildown delays, Zappia was able to improve to a 5.78 to qualify second but some sparks from underneath the car indicated all was not well.

“We didn’t know where the sparks were from initially but we figured the clutch would be a good start,” he said. “We started changing the gearbox ratio when we got back and we missed inspecting the inside of the clutch can properly. We then realised late that the clutch had broken a lever and we had a race against Adam Marchant coming that was going to decide the championship.”

With the clock counting down, the team made the decision to run the clutch with just five levers and hope it would be enough to take out Marchant’s tough Top Alcohol dragster.

“We watched Pino Priolo take out another of our rivals, Steve Aldridge, ahead of us, so then I knew it was up to me,” Zappia said. “It shook the tyres because it needed more clutch but we got the job done with a 5.91, which secured us the Top Comp championship and a place in the B Final.”

Arriving back in the pits and with turnaround time limited following more delays, Zappia and the team made a rare decision to withdraw from racing.

“Had we been in an A Final we might have given it a shot, but we knew we had won the championship and we didn’t want to risk running the car with the clutch below its best,” he said.

“The good news was that by us withdrawing, our almost-team mate Kelvin Lyle got to race in the B Final and run another five second pass, adding on to his earlier 5.92 personal best which was great to see.”

While Zappia expected some record times might have be available, the margins were thin for quick performances.

“The car performed well engine wise, but we didn’t get a full clean pass – we were making horsepower, we just couldn’t use it. The cold air combined with stoppages meant the track was colder and trickier than we are used to here in Perth.”

As always, Zappia was looking at the positives of his mechanical troubles.

“It was good to find the problem. You run valve springs and con rods for so long, but you run clutch levers forever and they do a lot of work. Everything has a life and the consistency this team has involves working out what the safe life is for a part.”

The Fuchs team will now run their maintenance on the car and do some close checks before loading up for Sydney’s Nitro Thunder event in May and the Winternationals in June.

“Thanks to all our local supporters and sponsors, to add a Top Comp championship to ten ANDRA championships, it doesn’t get much better than that.”

John Zappia was also the 2016/2017 Summer Slam Series winner on 482.5 points, ahead of Steve Aldridge on 357.5 points and Priolo on 352.5 points. The series ran five specialised Top Doorslammer meetings, with twenty teams involved – with twelve local WA teams proudly presenting for the series.

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