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.