Challenging Darwin round does not phase Zappia

John Zappia and his Dananni Hotshots/Tony’s Auto Wreckers Monaro Top Doorslammer have continued their exploration of new driveline technology in a mixed opening round of the Australian Top Doorslammer Championship.

Zappia headed to Darwin’s Hidden Valley Drag Strip following a full week of testing at Queensland’s Willowbank Raceway with a Ty-Drive Converter Drive. Alongside Supercars and Australian Superbikes, plus the Australian Top Fuel Championship, for the Merlin Darwin Triple Crown, there was positivity mixed with the realisation that the combination was still completely new and a big learning curve.

“We used a backed down tune for the first qualifying run as we thought the track surface would take some time to come around, and we hit a 5.87 at 245mph,” Zappia said. “It was a pretty straight and easy run, though the Dananni Hotshots/Tony’s Auto Wreckers Monaro did fishtail a little through the top end.

“For the next qualifying session, we put more in it, but I had some of my old muscle memory come back and I forgot to push the transbrake, so the car just drove right off into a big wheelstand. The good news was we were still qualified number one as everyone else had their struggles with the track.”

Race day arrived with tens of thousands of fans keen to see what the Top Doorslammers had to deliver for Hidden Valley. Zappia’s first round race would take place against local favourite Matt Abel. Zappia left with the holeshot, but silence came over his car at half track, leaving Abel to scoot around the outside for the win light.

“At 3.6 seconds the power just cut out and Matt got around me. We got back to the pits and found the engine had broken the idler pulley, which took out a brand-new blower belt and damaged the top and bottom supercharger pulleys. Everything was a bit of a mess.”

The team got to work in the Darwin heat to replace the mangled parts and returned for the next round against Kelvin Lyle.

“The second round was a tough one. I got flustered on the line and took off with a 0.320 reaction time. That’s way too slow at this level of competition and despite a 5.82 we were beaten by Kelvin’s 5.96. I was pretty disappointed in myself, and I’ve got no real explanation. It doesn’t take much of a distraction to get a bad light.”

That left just the B Final against Daniel Gregorini. Hoping for redemption, Zappia would have to settle for leaving Darwin without a win light after a wild pass.

“We stepped it up for the final and the Dananni Hotshots/Tony’s Auto Wreckers Monaro Top Doorslammer took off like a rocket. The only problem was it was carrying the front wheels, and it just got higher and higher. I put the front down and tried to keep it in my lane, but I put half a rear tyre into Daniel’s lane. So, I guess we found three new ways to lose and hopefully got them out the way and can concentrate on improving our performance and consistency over the ADRC season!”

Despite the lack of results on the time sheets, Zappia was still satisfied that the team had learned more about the new combination and what the car wants.

“It was a risk making this change just as we start the new season and championship, and we are still not 100% comfortable with the procedure, but we are making good ground. We still had the quickest car in Darwin even with the dramas and our incremental times are within 2.5% of our PBs.” That’s not bad considering we are comparing 1200+ runs in a clutch manual car to 14 runs in the current setup with the Ty-Drive.

The Top Doorslammer teams next head to Alice Springs for the Red Centre Nats in September 1 and 2 alongside the Top Fuel cars and all the burnout and cruise action.

“We have some improvements to make before Red Centre Nats and we are hoping the car will run some quick times there as part of another awesome show.”














Photos: Brad Stotty Media


Huge testing effort for Zappia ahead of new Top Doorslammer era

The Winternationals is one of Australia’s most prestigious drag racing events, but for John Zappia it was a chance to dial-in a new auto transmission across almost two weeks of testing.

Weather and ambulance shortages in Perth saw Zappia unable to test at the Motorplex throughout May, so he made the decision to drive to Queensland early to get some much-needed runs on the board with the fresh combo.

“We have a Ty-Drive Converter Drive in the car now along with the B&J three-speed,” he said. “We were running out of time in Perth and realised the chances of us being able to test were slim. With so many test days before the Winternationals, I decided to get over there and do the lot – all up we would get to do about seven days of testing racing across almost two weeks of being at Willowbank Raceway.”

The first days of testing saw the team battle through some setbacks, with the skeleton crew performing well to keep the Dananni Hotshots/Tony’s Auto Wreckers Monaro on the track.

“We blew the tyres off on the only run we made on day one, then came back out and banged the blower off the motor on day two. We got back to the pits and realised it had kicked a rod out of a brand new motor also. We also had ignition problems to fix from the blow up. The team worked until midnight to change the motor.

“We got back out there and launched well on day three and then sheared a keyway on the magneto. Again, we got everything all fixed up and then finally we were able to make a full hit with a 5.82/249mph.”

Zappia and his full-time crew member Curtis Spadaro spent a few days between testing and the Winternationals going over small details on the car to make sure everything would be perfect for the start of the event on Friday.

A compulsory sighting run would be the first pass to make, where Zappia improved to a 5.78/251mph. “We felt like we were going in the right direction,” he said. “This was a brand-new setup, but it seemed like we could make changes and see the effect of those changes straight away.”

With two separate championship rounds on Saturday and Sunday, Zappia would have two chances to emerge with victory from the weekend. Saturday began positively with a 5.720/252mph, followed up by a 5.76. The seeding breakdown, based on times from the second round, saw Zappia miss a place in the final by just one hundredth of a second. He made a solo run in the third and final round of the day, with a wild wheels up run that had the crowd cheering.

“The Dananni Hotshots/Tony’s Auto Wreckers Monaro carried the front wheels for about 550 feet (3.45seconds), and we still went through for a 5.73/250mph. It was a bit scary but a lot of fun as well!”

Sunday saw an unusual set of circumstances as Zappia faced off against Sam Fenech three times during racing. Both racers had their fair share of bugs during a mixed final day.

“On our first run the MSD Grid was unplugged, which meant we had all the power delivered to the rear wheels instantaneously. Needless to say, we blew the tyres off, and that blew our chances of making the final for the day.

“For our second run Sam had problems with oil pressure so we had a solo. Our car launched well for a 5.74 pass.

“We hoped the third run would be a good side-by-side race for the crowd. I’m still getting used to the new auto setup, which requires me to use a button and full throttle in stage instead of balancing the clutch with the revs. I got on to the two-step too early and then off it again, then back on again, and I ended up red lighting. But still we went through for a 5.71/255mph, our best run of the week.”

While Zappia’s name was not to be etched on another Winternationals trophy, he still saw the Queensland trip as an extremely positive one.

“We had no idea what we would be in for with this new transmission setup, so to come away with a 5.71 is impressive. I’d like to thank Todd Tutterow for all his help getting us going with the Ty Drive. My crew worked their butts off, they did a hell of a lot of work. We had a really good start with this automatic deal.”

Zappia had little time to spare after racing was finished at Willowbank Raceway, packing up the transporter and beginning the drive to the Northern Territory for the opening round of the Australian Top Doorslammer Championship as part of the Darwin Triple Crown, which will also feature the Australian Top Fuel Championship, Supercars and Superbikes.

“This was a perfect test session for us in advance of a new era for Top Doorslammer racing. We’ve got a strong field of Australia’s best Top Doorslammers heading to Darwin and we can’t wait to return there for all of our NT fans. Let’s hope we can kick off the new ADRC Top Doorslammer Championship with a good result and get the season started on a positive note!”

Photo: Drag News www.dragnews.com.au



Day 1









Zappia fights for Championship in exciting end to season

A dream finish to the season proved elusive for John Zappia and his Dananni Hotshots/Tony’s Auto Wreckers Monaro Top Doorslammer after a first round loss at the ANDRA Grand Finals.

With a championship in his sights, the first goal for Zappia was to qualify well. After a pedalling 5.81 in the Friday night qualifying session, Zappia returned for Saturday’s second session and clocked a 5.761, missing the top spot by just two hundredths of a second.

“Our first run left okay but we had tyre shake and a 5.81 was definitely not where we wanted to be,” Zappia explained. “We only had one more shot to get it right. We stepped the car up to our 5.64 tune-up and took a swing to try and go to number one. The car left hard, but we again had the tyres rattling, and then we smoked a piston which took down our top speed.”

The Zappia Racing team got to work replacing the engine, and then softened the tune-up in an effort to make an A-to-B run.

As night fell, the conditions became tricky for every team to manage. On one hand there was excellent air, allowing the supercharged engines to produce enormous amounts of horsepower, but on the other hand was the cold, which meant traction was on a knife-edge.

“We were up against Stu Moresby, who has shown consistent five-second pace lately. I launched well, my reaction time was a 0.056 which is pretty good for this car, and then we had tyre shake again! My vision was blurred and when I could see again I realised I was way out of the groove and heading for the wall. I tried to recover the run but we ended up grazing the wall and putting us out of the race — and the championship”.

“I did everything I could to save the run, as even with a couple of pedals we can still potentially run fives. The data logger showed I was on and off the throttle four times. I knew I’d let both championships go at that point; there was a lot of pressure on my shoulders.”

Moresby’s Dananni Hotshots Studebaker went on to win the event, and overtake Zappia for the Direct Mining & Industrial Summer Slam championship too.

“Congratulations to both Stu and Daniel on their performances this season. Western Australian Top Doorslammer racing is as competitive as it has ever been, with more cars coming in. I know the fans got a great show, and while we’d always love to come away with the ANDRA gold Christmas trees, seeing the class at such strength is awesome.

“I’d also like to wish Steve Aldridge all the best in recovering from his big crash. We never like to see that in drag racing and we hope we can see him back.”

Zappia now turns his focus to interstate events, including Darwin’s Nitro Up North and potentially the Winternationals at Willowbank Raceway.

“We’ve got some R&D to do over the next month and we’re going to shift our focus to a new season, with some exciting developments to come for Australian Top Doorslammers very soon,” Zappia said. “A big thank you to all our Sponsors, crew and volunteers, supporters and fans for your invaluable support throughout the year. We finished Runner up in both the ANDRA Top Doorslammer Championship and the Direct Mining & Industrial Summer Slam Championship and will set our sights on an even better year in 2022/2023 and give our sponsors the best exposure possible”.

Photos: Phil Reeve and Ian Moore


Qual Runs




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Zappia in thrilling Westernationals final

Zappia in thrilling Westernationals final

A runner-up result at the Westernationals has set up a classic championship fight for John Zappia and the Dananni Hotshots/Tony’s Auto Wreckers Monaro Top Doorslammer.

Zappia had intended to begin his Westernationals campaign with several runs on a Friday test session, but some signs of engine damage on the first pass saw the team press pause.

“We had our number one engine in, and we made a planned half-track shut off,” Zappia said. “When we were turning the car around in the pits, we noticed there was metal in the oil filter. We took a look and we had snapped several main studs in the bottom end. That was the end of testing and instead we had to change to our spare motor overnight.”

Qualifying brought a 5.837 for Zappia, which was enough to qualify second, but he was left to rue what might have been in the final session.

“We had tyre shake on the first two laps and so we got angry with it, and gave it some more power for the last run of the night. Coming into stage my opponent put both stage lights on and then I couldn’t get the revs up quickly and was timed out. The run looked perfect going by the data and it would have been a low 5.7. Daniel Gregorini was top qualifier with a 5.71, so I guess we’ll never know if it would have been enough to pass him!”

Sunday’s first round saw Zappia against Pino Priolo, where a 5.778 did the job against a 6.366. “We thought that was a pretty cool run. It had some room for improvement, but it was a great way to start eliminations,” Zappia said.

The semi finals lined up Zappia with Steve Aldridge. As the track cooled and the traction increased, tyre shake was again a threat to the tune-up. “The Dananni Hotshots/Tony’s Auto Wreckers Monaro left harder but then we hit tyre shake at the end of first gear. I shifted into second and it was still shaking so it needed a big pedal. Steve and I were side by side and our 5.916 just beat his 5.983. We were lucky Steve had some shake as well because we were sitting ducks on that run.”

Zappia had earned his place in the final to race against Daniel Gregorini in what was to be a thrilling showdown. Gregorini’s auto-equipped Camaro got the jump on the start line against Zappia’s clutch transmission and from there the race was on. Gregorini’s 5.730 held on for victory against Zappia’s 5.728, with both drivers hitting impressive 409kmh speeds.

“We backed off the clutch a little for the final to calm our car down and that cost us a few hundredths on the launch for sure,” Zappia said. “That said, the run was super smooth the whole way and the race was amazing. Daniel got us this time.”

Just one round remains for both the Australian Drag Racing Championship and the Direct Mining & Industrial Summer Slam, which will take place simultaneously at the Grand Final on April 8 and 9.

“Daniel is 48 points ahead right now, so scoring every bonus point is going to be critical. If he goes out in the first round (40 points) we would either need to win the event (100 points) or get a runner up (80 points) with low ET and top speed (up to 10 points). If he goes out in the semi final round (60 points), then we will need to win the event and earn the bonus points. It’s not an impossible scenario but I’d certainly rather be in Daniel’s position.”

The Grand Final will be an event not to miss with the Top Doorslammer and Top Bike final as well as the finals for all the Summit Racing Equipment Sportsman Series brackets.

A big thank you to all our sponsors and supporters and hope to see them in the last two meetings of the current season. It was great to have Craig and Nicole from Striker Crushing and Screening / MAX Plant there to give us their support. Unfortunately we weren’t able to deliver a win on the day.

Photos and Videos: Credits and thanks to Phil Reeve and ANDRA, Phil Blondell, Ian Moore, Paul Carey.


























Close race decides Nitro Slam as Zappia eyes Australian Nationals in Sydney

A brilliant side-by-side race decided the House and Land Expert Nitro Slam at Perth Motorplex on Saturday night, with John Zappia having to settle for a runner-up following a photo finish with Marty Dack.

Zappia chose to skip the first qualifying session with his Dananni Hotshots/Tony’s Auto Wreckers Monaro, but emerged for the second session to make a 5.778 top qualifying run. “The weather was incredibly hot, and the reality is there wasn’t much we were going to learn by running on a 140F-temp race track,” Zappia said. “Things cooled down by the second session and we were able to get down the track dead straight.”

While the number one position normally offers some benefits, this time it resulted in a tough opponent as Daniel Gregorini’s Camaro was seeded against Zappia for eliminations.

“Daniel is a tough competitor, who can make some of the quickest runs in the field. This time it wasn’t to be for him as he had a red light and then over powered the track, so we were able to get through to the final with a 5.774.”

Zappia would this time be staging up with Dack’s Ford Mustang, which has made an impressive return to competition this season. “Marty got away from the start line lightning quick with his 0.034 reaction to my 0.106. It wasn’t a bad reaction time on my behalf, but certainly not the best either. He really got moving well early whereas we found our 60 foot time was down; I think we underestimated the improving traction. I was chasing Marty down but we ran out of race track and his 5.890 beat our 5.867.”

Though he was disappointed with the loss, Zappia was happy to see some very tight racing in the Direct Mining and Industrial Summer Slam.“So far this season we have had three different winners from three events. That really keeps things tight in the points and it’s going to be a great show for the rest of the season going forward.”

Meanwhile, in exciting news for Zappia’s east coast fans, he will be attending the Australian Nationals at Sydney Dragway on February 11 and 12, where he will be keen to race on the new racing surface. It might mean a couple of weeks in quarantine on return, but Zappia said the effort will be worth it.

“One of my crew guys said to me, why aren’t we going to Sydney?” Zappia explained. “I said that having to isolate wouldn’t be good for any of the crew. But he said he was in, and so I started to ring around with some of our crew in Sydney and we found we could have enough people. This will be the first time we have been back to Sydney Dragway since the start of 2020. We have missed all of our fans there and we can’t wait to be back there to put on a show, alongside the awesome new Burson Auto Parts Australian Top Fuel Championship. It’s great for our national partners Fuchs Lubricants, Crow Cams, Hoosier Tires, Motec and Muscle Car Warehouse, and hopefully we can leave Sydney with a gold Christmas tree to keep me company in isolation.”

Photos: Phil Luyer High Octane Photos,  Phil Reeve;  Paul Carey and Ian Moore















First round frustration for Zappia at Goldenstates

First round frustration for Zappia at Goldenstates

A promising start to the 47th annual Goldenstates Championship finished with a heartbreaking first round exit for John Zappia and the Dananni Hotshots/Tony’s Auto Wreckers Monaro Top Doorslammer.

Beginning with Friday night’s qualifying, a 5.821 pass in the first session would hold as Zappia’s quickest and place him second out of the eight cars on the property — earning the ever-vital lane choice for race day.

“We had a lot of tyre shake through qualifying, and every run needed a pedal,” he said. “On our final run the car looked set for a number but then I went to punch third and the car wouldn’t shift.  The only thing we could put that down to was an air supply issue, so we installed a larger line from the air tank to the shift buttons overnight.”

Zappia would face Pino Priolo’s 37 Chevy in the first round, with Priolo back for his first event in 18 months at the Motorplex. Unlike the freezing opening round of the Direct Mining & Industrial Summer Slam season a few weeks previous, this particular Saturday was marked by warm conditions in the mid-30s, with the track condition still in the high 40s for eliminations.The Dananni Hotshots/Tony’s Auto Wreckers Monaro came out flying with a 0.997 60 foot time, but then it all came unstuck for Zappia as the car swerved into the opposite lane.

“We felt like we needed to back the car off for the first run of Saturday, so we had a tune-up in there that was similar to the first qualifying pass we made on Friday. We noticed everyone ahead of us was all over the track, so that seemed like the right call. “I got the early jump on Pino but then the tyre shake began and I stayed on the throttle just a fraction of a second too long. My vision got blurred and I got off the throttle, and I could see I was heading for the other lane. I took evasive action to try and get it back to my side and avoid Pino, but there was no question that I was across the centre line and out of the race.”

It was a disappointingly early exit for Zappia, with Daniel Gregorini taking over the lead of the Australian Drag Racing Championship. On the positive side, he was happy to see another Dananni Hotshots racer earn their first ANDRA Top Doorslammer win.

“Of course it is frustrating and you feel like you have let everyone down,” Zappia said. “That said, we always seem to do better when we are chasing down somebody in the points. Congratulations go to Stuart Moresby in his Dananni Hotshots Studebaker, we know it will be a special memory for that team and a great boost for all of them. We were also happy to see Pino Priolo make it to the final on his return to the Motorplex.”

Joining Zappia on track at the Motorplex this weekend was his fiancé Rae Lockwood, who qualified her Zappia Racing-built Super Sedan with a 9.89 and raced to a third round finish.

Zappia will be back for Nitro Max on December 11, with Zappia entering Top Comp for some testing.“We need to try and find out why the tyre shake is back and solve that so that we can come back strongly for the Nitro Slam in January. I have faith in our whole team that we will work it out and return to the winner’s circle.”

Photos: Phil Blondel; Phil Reeve;  Paul Carey and Ian Moore

Q Ladder

Q Runs

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Elin Runs




































Zappia takes over Top Doorslammer points lead with Desert Nationals win

John Zappia has fired back in the Australian Drag Racing Championship with a Desert Nationals win at Alice Springs Inland Dragway on Sunday.

Western Australia’s Zappia defeated the Northern Territory’s Matt Abel in the final round, 5.853 to 5.960, and took over the lead of the Top Doorslammer points.

The day began well for Zappia as he improved on his Saturday times in Sunday’s compulsory qualifying session. He used a 5.847 in the Dananni Hotshots/Tony’s Auto Wreckers Monaro to not only claim the number one position but to also win the Crow Cams Top Qualifier Award presented by Decoglaze Glass Splashbacks.

“We just crept up on it and put a bit more in for the last qualifying run and it all worked,” Zappia said.

“It did everything it was supposed to do and we managed to get that 5.84 that we knew the track could hold.”

The pass set Zappia up for a first round confrontation against his arch rival Daniel Gregorini, in the Scratch & Match Motorsport Camaro.

Gregorini’s 0.121 to 0.280 reaction time holeshot put him in strong contention but Zappia’s 5.886 was able to sneak around Gregorini’s 6.097 for the win light.

On the opposite side of the ladder, Abel also survived a spirited challenge as his 5.99 came home over a 6.163 from Kelvin Lyle.

“We put a little bit more in it for the race against Daniel,” Zappia said.

“I ended up having too many revs on the start line and was dragging the clutch and it left with our best 60 foot time of the weekend but I had to pedal and punch second gear early.”

That left only the final against Abel, whose consistent form had Zappia looking over his shoulder.

Abel’s black ’57 Chevy got the jump on Zappia early in the run with a 0.113 to 0.170 holeshot, with Abel stretching his lead at the 60 foot timers.

But from there Zappia clawed back for a 5.853 to 5.960 victory, taking the finish line stripe by just over five hundredths of a second in a thrilling final race for the Alice Springs crowd.

“We had a tiny bit more on the tune-up to keep up with the track and I managed to get it down there without needing to pedal,” Zappia said.

“Matt was right there and it was side by side. It was close enough to where any mistake would have seen Matt take it.”

Zappia was able to celebrate his latest win with nephew Brodie Zappia, who won the Summit Racing Equipment Sportsman Series Junior Dragster class on the same day.

“We have doubled up a few times with Brodie now and it is always a great feeling through the pit area when we can both bring a win home,” he said.

In the B Final, Gregorini salvaged some points with a 6.038 to 6.086 win against Lyle. Gregorini’s speed of 255.36mph also proved helpful, granting him some extra bonus points.

The Top Doorslammer teams of the Australian Drag Racing Championship will navigate their ways back home, before heading to Adelaide International Raceway for the third round of the series on October 2 and 3.

Content:  ANDRA

Photos:  Amber Simms Photography






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Zappia celebrates championship win and quick times, despite red light

John Zappia has successfully defended his Direct Mining & Industrial Summer Slam championship after wrapping up the title on Saturday at Perth Motorplex.

Zappia’s Dananni Hotshots/Tony’s Auto Wreckers Monaro Top Doorslammer was in near flawless form, clocking the quickest time of the 2020/21 Summer Slam in what was acclaimed as the season’s best event.

“We came out for the first run, and the car left hard with a 0.975 60 foot and rattled the tyres, so I pedalled and short shifted second and we still came up with a 5.72 at 256mph,” he said.

“We were pretty happy with that as we got our speed back, and we had our tune up closer to where I thought we needed to be. We figured the track would get better and come to the tune up, so we left it the same for the compulsory qualifier and our 60 foot was down, due to the Dananni Hotshots/Tony’s Auto Wreckers Monaro with its fresh Hoosier Tyres sticking to the track and we still went through for a 5.64 at 259mph.
“It seems like the car responded to a few tweaks on the fuel system and it ran four or five mph faster than last time we raced it.”

The top qualifying run was Zappia’s second fastest ever, and one of his quickest, setting up an elimination round encounter with Frank Taylor. After some slow reaction times in qualifying, Zappia was conscious of getting a good light.

“I got all revved up and I needed to get in the zone,” he said. “Frank and I are both clutch cars, so we got the revs up, I moved in, maybe I was a little deeper than normal but not much. I saw the fourth stage light come on, saw the amber lights, released the clutch and bang, I was red by two thousandths.

“Some people might say, well you didn’t need a killer light against the number eight qualifiers. But then Frank runs 5.89 and if you do the maths, if I had either of my reaction times from qualifying I still would have lost the race.

“It goes to show how good the Summer Slam field is right now. Frank had a personal best and appears to have turned his car around, Steve Aldridge was dropping 5.7s back to back. There’s going to be a lot of people chasing this championship next season.”

“We wouldn’t be able to stay at the pointy end of the Championship without the support of our great sponsors. Co-naming rights sponsors Dananni Hotshots and Tony’s Auto Wreckers. Major sponsors Fuchs Lubricants, Crow Cams, Noonan Race Engineering, Striker Crushing and Screening, Shacks Automotive Paints, Motec and Muscle Car Warehouse. Associate sponsors Alky Pro, B&J Racing Transmissions, All Signs, Applied Automotive Performance Engines, Santhuff Struts and Shocks, Reid Rockers, Aurora Bearings, Boninfante Friction Inc, Total Seal Piston Rings, Victory Valves, SDS Fuel Systems, KCraft Bullbars, Taylor Tyres, Avtrac Maintenance Tracking, CIC Competition and Industrial Coatings, Final Drive, Kounis Metal Industries. A big thank you to all our sponsors.

All of the success we share is a credit to the crew that work tirelessly during the weeks leading up to a race meeting and on race day. Thank you to all the crew members that have contributed throughout the year.

There were double championship celebrations for the Zappia family as John’s nephew Brodie secured the Junior Dragster title – as well as the Grand Final event win.

“Congratulations to Brodie on an amazing season, he finished with a huge lead in the points and has impressed us all with his talents at the wheel,” John said.

Photos courtesy of Phil Blondell and Ian Moore
















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John Zappia rallied to a historic Top Doorslammer win at the 50th annual Westernationals, celebrating a family double-up and a new national record in a highly successful night for the Dananni Hotshots /Tony’s Auto Wreckers Monaro.

Zappia came into the event quietly confident, with some positive results in testing giving the team a solid foundation as they entered qualifying.

“The track preparation at the Motorplex has been very consistent lately, and with the sticky Hoosier tyres we rolled off the trailer with a 5.71,” Zappia said. “We had the same settings as we ran in the final of the Super Sportsman Showdown where we ran 5.70, so considering we had different weather it was good to see that kind of repeatability.”

The second qualifying session saw Zappia short shift through some tyre shake for a 5.73, before a troubled 6.25 in the final session.

“When we started up for the run we had a low air warning for our CO2 bottle, but I thought it would be enough to make it through. When I hit the button for top gear it didn’t shift, so I pushed the clutch in and coasted to the line, while Mark Chapman charged by.

“It was maybe a sign, because one year ago at the Westernationals I lost to Mark in the first round and had to watch him drive by. So we didn’t take any chances and decided to change the gearbox and make sure the air bottle was completely full so it wasn’t happening again on race day!”

Zappia expected the slightly different gearbox ratios to tame the car down a bit for a first round battle against Frank Taylor.

“We figured the gearbox would be close enough, and we had run 5.77 with it before. We got a little more aggressive with the tune-up and the Dananni Hotshots / Tony’s Auto Wreckers Monaro goes a 5.69! It carried the front wheels to 160 foot and I could feel the difference in acceleration. The car felt beautiful. There must have been something good in the air because Frank ran a PB 6.03 next to us, so there were lots of happy faces on the start line.”

The semi-finals beckoned, where Zappia would take on Kelvin Lyle’s Ford Mustang – which also runs a potent Zappia Racing engine.

“Even though we carried the front end in the first round I thought the initial reaction of the car was a little lazy, so we threw more clutch in for the semis. I really had to get my head into gear against Kelvin because we knew he could step it up. I hit a .040 reaction, my best of the weekend, and the car went .966 to 60 feet. It rattled and I had to pedal, with a short shift on third gear, but we got through with a 5.76 to 5.97 win. We definitely dodged a bullet there.”

The final round would see Zappia face Steve Aldridge in the Crown Security Cuda, who was on a streak of five-second runs. Incidentally both cars in the final running Fuchs Lubricants and proving the quality and reliability of their lubricants.

“We realised what we had for the semis was a bit too much so we pulled the clutch back, but otherwise left the car alone for the final. I had another good light with an .065 which got us the holeshot on Steve. Then everything went almost perfectly, even though I still wasn’t quite hitting the shift points, and we went 5.681 at 255mph to Steves’ 5.800.

“There wasn’t much room for error in the final round. Steve ran his quickest pass of the season, so any slip from us and he would have got past.”

The 5.681 second time was also enough for Zappia to reset the ANDRA national record, which hasn’t been touched since 2015.

“When we got back to scrutineering to go through the weighbridge I asked about the ANDRA record, as it hadn’t crossed my mind at any time until then. One of the ladies from ANDRA said it was a 5.693, and I suddenly remembered making that pass at Willowbank. So all of a sudden we needed to get paperwork sorted out and ANDRA were checking over the car. It was an unbelievable way to end the weekend.”

The win was Zappia’s first Westernationals title since 2017. More importantly, it was also the first time he has joined a family member in the Westernationals winner’s circle, with nephew Brodie Zappia winning in Junior Dragster.

“When Brodie got the job done with an awesome 8.000 on an 8.00 dial in I said this has to be a double, I can’t let Brodie be the only one with a gold Christmas tree! Congratulations to Brodie and crew Richard, Lia and Adam on their gold Christmas tree, the first of many I am sure.”

“This was a weekend where it all came together. And to do it at the 50th running of the event, well, what can you say? Maintenance wise we changed one valve spring after the first run and everything else was smooth sailing. The car is in the zone now with its new Noonan cylinder heads, the super-efficient Crow Cam, the reliable CP-Carrilo pistons and rods, Victory Valves and Reid Rockers.”

“To all of my crew, sponsors and fans, thank you for your dedication and your support. We hope we can reward you with some more wins before the season is finished!”

The next round of the Direct Mining & Industrial Summer Slam Series takes place on April 10, with Zappia having built a healthy points lead as he aims to defend his championship title.

Photos: Phil Blondell    Phil Luyer High Octane Photos









50th Annual Westernationals at the Perth Motorplex


WA Drag Racing Championships -  Super Sportsman Showdown

Zappia out of lockdown and into winner’s circle

John Zappia stormed to the Top Comp victory at the Super Sportsman Showdown at Perth Motorplex on Sunday.

Zappia used the event as a testing opportunity, but treated every race just like he was racing in the Direct Mining & Industrial Summer Slam, which resumes in two weeks at the Westernationals.

“Top Comp is a handicapped class that allows competitors from Top Doorslammer, Top Alcohol and Competition cars to race on an even playing field,” he said. “It’s every bit as tough as the Summer Slam to win.”

Western Australia spent one week in a COVID-19 lockdown, which delayed the Super Sportsman Showdown by one day. That proved helpful for Zappia, who was assembling a brand new Noonan engine to test.

“We worked all week putting the fresh engine together, and after losing a week to lockdown we had limited time,” he said. “We put the new Noonan heads on and we had to do lots of checks during the week, like our piston to valve clearance and getting everything set up with the pushrods. We didn’t finish until Saturday afternoon so we really needed the extra day!”

The Dananni Hotshots/Tony’s Auto Wreckers Monaro responded well to its new power plant, dropping a 5.77sec. pass on its first run.

“We were pretty happy with that in hot and humid conditions,” Zappia said. “It rattled a bit at the top of first gear and I punched second. It kept rattling but I made it through without having to pedal.”

The run top qualified Zappia and gave him a solo for the first round, where a 5.79 would earn him a place in the final.

“We took a bit of fuel away in the tune up and it launched hard, but there was something spraying on the screen as I got to the finish line, which turned out to be a loose fuel line,” he said. “We looked at the data for the final and we decided to throw some more clutch at it.”

Zappia would give up almost three tenths of a second to his opponent, Wayne Keys, in the final. With Keys having not lost a Top Comp race all season, Zappia expected Keys to be a tough racer to overcome.

“As the lights went orange I thought I had a bad reaction time, but I actually had a .073 to his .080,” Zappia explained. “Wayne then got into trouble and started to rattle the tyres and we were able to get by smoothly for a 5.701/254.86mph win.”

Zappia was left impressed by the Noonan horsepower available, even with a safe tune up in place.

“We came here to test and tune and make sure we had a good tune up on the new heads, and it ran perfect all day,” he said. “We have a good baseline for the Westernationals. Both of our motors are within hundredths of each other in hot conditions.”

Perth Motorplex will be undergoing some management changes in coming weeks, with Evolve Facility Management to begin operating the venue. Zappia said he looked forward to continuing improvements at the Motorplex, and the impending 50th Annual Westernationals.

“Chris, the outgoing general manager, has done a great job and we wish him all the best for the future,” he said. “The Westernationals is coming up really fast and we are looking forward to being there with our new merchandise range, including some retro t-shirts I think people will love. Everyone should also keep an eye out for a promotion we are doing with Dananni’s Hotshots – there’s going to be some really cool showbags and even some special extras for some lucky people.”

Looking forward to seeing a huge crowd turning up to show the new management our passion for drag racing and to also support all the race teams including the many racers coming over from the East Coast.

Photos courtesy Phil Luyer www.highoctanephotos.com                      Ian Moore Facebook