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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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Mixed fortunes for Zappia after class best of 5.64

A mixed weekend at Queensland’s Willowbank Raceway has seen John Zappia predicting a Pro Slammer championship that may well come down to the wire later this 400 Thunder season.

Zappia took two wins from three rounds as part of the New Years Thunder event on Saturday, but a wild run in round two saw the Fuchs/Dananni Hotshots Holden Monaro cross the centre line and give up a potential final round place against eventual winner Paul Mouhayet.

Changing track conditions proved a challenge for the team, who tested positively before the event before taking on race day.

“We started off a bit too stout in testing, taking some timing blocks out on out first run after going 3.76 to half track,” Zappia explained.

“We came back for another shot and blew the tyres off early, then backed off the clutch to get down for a 5.64/254mph late in the night. We were pretty happy with that, so we decided to sit out the hot 2.30pm sighting run on race day and come out ready for the first round.”

Zappia took on Paul Cannuli for round one and made it through for his first win light of the day.

“We backed it off a bit more for the first round of racing but not enough. I had to pedal and it shook, so I punched second and it kept shaking. We went 5.89/252mph and got the win fortunately.”

Zappia next took on relatively new Pro Slammer racer Emilio Spinozzi, whose consistency has been paying dividends. The track conditions were tricky as Zappia searched for the right path down the famous Willowbank Raceway quarter mile.

“We did all our testing in the left lane but on race day we found there were a lot of bald spots (areas of thin or no rubber) near the start line so lane choice for most teams seemed to be the right lane. We had to stage the car carefully to make sure we had the optimum path of rubber.

“We kept the car staged slightly left against Emilio and when we launched it ended up going more and more left and before I knew it I saw a timing block coming. I crossed the centreline and that was the end of the second round and our finals chances.”

Disappointed to give up the win, Zappia had to regroup for the third round against old nemesis Ben Bray.

“We didn’t touch the car’s set up and came back the next round against Ben Bray. As I went into stage I looked up and I had double bulbed myself (gone into full stage immediately). I had no startline revs up, so I tried to reverse and back up a little but that didn’t work. In fact it got worse because the car went forward a little and now I was in very deep stage. Ben’s staging lights came on and I got on the revs, I took a guess and dropped the clutch and got near to our launch RPM. The time card shows a 1.08 60 foot because of the deep stage but fortunately our 5.80 was enough to scrape by.”

With a 39 point deficit to Mouhayet, Zappia knows there is much work to do in the final three rounds of the 400 Thunder Pro Slammer Championship.

“Two of the meetings to come are all run formats where it is hard to claw back points. For us to chase down Paul we will need to be perfect and it may be one of those championships that all comes down to the final round at the Winternationals.”

The Fuchs/Dananni Hotshots team next head to Sydney Dragway for Santo’s Summer Thunder on January 18 and 19. Zappia commended Sydney Dragway’s track preparation at recent events and says even in the heat, the times will likely be quick.

“We would love nothing more than a race track where we can run a string of 5.60s. It’s only a matter of getting this car to go down the track without needing a pedal.

“We have to claw some points back so we need superior performance and consistency to be able to do that.”

Zappia also wished to pass on his best wishes to fellow Pro Slammer racer Kelvin Lyle, who had a nasty accident during racing.

“We’ve had a close relationship with Kelvin and his team over the years, supplying the ZR1 horsepower in his awesome Ford Mustang,” Zappia said. “It was a rough accident and we wish Kelvin all the best in his recovery and we know he will be back quicker than ever once he is up and about.”

Photo: dragphotos.com.au

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Summer Slam a power victory for Zappia

John Zappia more than made up for a forgettable Sydney trip as he blasted to the winner’s circle at Perth Motorplex during the WA Drag Racing Championships.

Zappia and his Fuchs/Dananni Hotshots Hotshots Monaro took out the first round of the Summer Slam, a local series for Top Doorslammers that has proved increasingly popular with competitors and attracted ten entries on the weekend.

With conditions cool and the track tight, Zappia qualified on top of the field with a pedalling 5.77 before belting out a 5.664 second pass in the elimination round against Ryan Moresby’s Dananni Hotshots Ford Falcon.

That set up a final round against Daniel Gregorini’s Camaro, where Zappia was able to clinch a 5.703 second win despite some tyre shake.

“We knew the performance was there from our recent runs in Sydney,” Zappia said. “We put the Noonan engine back in and it performed flawlessly. In the final round we ran one of our best speeds ever in Perth, at 256.88mph – into a head wind! We were pretty impressed with that, as was Parry from Muscle Car Warehouse who surprised us with a visit at the track.

“The handling has been a lot straighter, making the Fuchs/Dananni Hotshots Monaro a lot easier to drive, and we keep it away from the centre line or the walls.

“Our three qualifying runs all had tyre shake but the 5.66 was perfectly smooth. We put more power in for the final but it rattled at the top of first gear and lost some time, though the car performed really well in the back half of the track.”

Though pleased with the times on the readout boards, Zappia said his home track still holds some secrets.

“It appeared to get better with more laps on it and we were probably a little soft with the clutch for the final,” he said.

“We’ve still got a bit more to work out with the Perth track. The track is only going to get better with more events and given we were able to run 5.66 at the first event of the season, there is a lot of potential for quick passes during the season.

“My next meeting will be December 15 and I believe the surface will be primed by then.”

Photos: Luke Nieuwhof from Dragnews

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Zappia top qualifies but battery failure causes rare first round loss

John Zappia was left to rue what might have been at the second round of the 400 Thunder Pro Slammer Championship in Sydney on Saturday.

Zappia top qualified with a strong 5.66 pass in tricky conditions, earning himself a first round match with New Zealand’s Trevor Smith. After a normal burnout, Zappia noticed the Fuchs/Dananni Hotshots Monaro showing some odd behaviour.

“I started backing up from the burnout and the Motec dash went black,” he explained. “I thought to myself, ‘Ooh, that is not good.’ But I could drive without it, I didn’t need the shift light and would just listen to the motor.

“But the dash going black was a sign that the voltage in the battery that runs the systems in the car was low. As I went into pre-stage the engine stopped.”

With a reputation for reliability, it was an unusual event for Zappia Racing. Zappia believes that a few factors snowballed into the failure.

“We didn’t have our full crew here this weekend and we changed an engine between qualifying and racing, working until 2.30am. We finished off the rest before racing and we did a lot of warm ups to get the timing right, all of which wears down the battery. We had a spare one fully charged sitting in the tow vehicle and it is one of those things we should have checked, but it is what it is.”

The silver lining for Zappia was that the championship points damage was limited, with rival Paul Mouhayet going out in the second round.

“It would have been the perfect opportunity to pull away and get some more points, especially with Kelvin Lyle taking Paul Mouhayet out in the second round.

“Congratulations to Kelvin on his first win – I’d rather it was Kelvin than anyone else. I’ve been working with him for three years and helping him with his set up.

“There were a lot of upsets and all four teams that made the semi finals had never won an event before. That’s great for the class and shows how exciting the racing is right now.”

New sponsor Parry Bitsikas from Muscle Car Warehouse was unable to attend the meeting due to ill health and we hope he has a full recovery and is able to catch up with the team in the new year when returning to Sydney.

The Fuchs/Dananni Hotshots Monaro will be rested for only a few short days before returning to action at Perth Motorplex as part of the Summer Slam at the WA Drag Racing Championships. Ten teams have entered for the Summer Slam, which provides a domestic series for WA racers.

Zappia is hopeful that the sea level air and some recent knowledge gains will help produce a new Pro Slammer track record.

“We are going to Perth Motorplex to give it a real good shot with the local championship and see what we can learn over the next three meetings before we head to our next 400 Thunder round at Willowbank.

“We have always struggled to go real fast in Perth, our best is a 5.66 I think. But with what we have learned and the way the car is handling right now we have a good chance of getting into some low sixties in Perth in the sea level air. If it is not too hot it is possible to crack into the 5.5s, but we will see.

“We will have new ’11x’ merchandise available, and we look forward to seeing our fans and sponsors at our home track for the first time this season.”

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Zappia ready for sweet sixteen at East Coast Thunder

Two days of testing have prepared 400 Thunder Pro Slammer points leader John Zappia and the Fuchs/Dananni Hotshots Monaro for competition at East Coast Thunder, taking place this Friday and Saturday.

Zappia carded the quickest time of any Pro Slammer during testing, recording a 5.64 second pass on Monday after a 5.68 in tricky conditions on Saturday.

“We were originally just testing on Saturday, but when we realised that (crew member) Wilson was flying out Monday night we decided to do more testing on the Monday,” he said. “That’s when we went 5.64 off the trailer.

“We attacked harder on the next run and found some more time to 60 feet, but then rattled the tyres further out.”

Zappia has reason to be confident coming into East Coast Thunder. Last year’s event saw Zappia’s quickest ever run, a 5.601 that remains the quickest Pro Slammer pass in official competition.

While heatwave conditions will make early qualifying sessions tough on teams, Zappia predicts the third and final qualifying session on Friday night will be a great show for fans, before an intense four rounds of competition on Saturday thanks to a 16 car field.

“Everyone will have a baseline from the first two runs, good or bad, and then come out firing for the last qualifying session,” he said. “With the number of 5.7s being run during testing it makes for a huge challenge with at least eight of the big hitters capable of top qualifying. The scene is set for a huge battle expected to go to the wire in one of the quickest Pro Slammer fields in history.

“From there it is into 16 car eliminations – a rare event in Pro Slammer. The winner will have to make four winning passes in a row which isn’t easy in this bracket.

“We want to be in that winner’s circle for our fans and sponsors. This will be our first time at Sydney Dragway since Muscle Car Warehouse joined our team; they are based at Kogarah and will be coming to check out the action at East Coast Thunder.”

Since Zappia’s win in Darwin at the opening round of the 2018/19 400 Thunder Championship, the Fuchs/Dananni Hotshots Monaro has been freshened up with new CP Pistons and has received a few suspension adjustments.

The Zappia Racing transporter has also been getting a freshen up, with Zappia saying the new wrap is a ‘work in progress’ that will emulate the look of the Fuchs/Dananni Hotshots Monaro.

Pro Slammer qualifying sessions take place on Friday at 2.16pm, 4.51pm and 7.40pm. Eliminations begin with round one on Saturday at 12.25pm, with following rounds at 3.06pm, 5.19pm and 7.20pm. Fans can follow the Ovo Mobile live feed at www.ovo.com.au, or via the Ovo: Live streaming + mobile app.

Photos www.cacklingpipes.com and www.dragnews.com.au

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Zappia smokes the opposition at Darwin’s Hidden Valley

John Zappia and the Fuchs/Dananni Hotshots Pro Slammer team have begun the 2018/19 400 Thunder season in the strongest way possible, taking home the win from Nitro Up North at Darwin’s Hidden Valley Drag Strip.

Zappia overcame mixed results in testing to find consistency for race day, where he defeated Paul Mouhayet in the final round with a 5.73 pass, as the Moits Racing Mustang headed for the centre line and an early shut off.

“For the first couple of runs in testing the Fuchs/Dananni Hotshots Monaro blew the tyres off,” he said. “The first one I missed the burnout as there wasn’t enough water down but we left the settings the same and the track came to us for a 5.71. It was all over the track still, and I was on the verge of backing off, but I stayed on it and drove out of the slide much to my and the crew’s relief.”

Figuring the skating was down to a dew-covered race track, Zappia elected to keep his tune up the same for racing where he would first face Daniel Gregorini. A red light from the green Camaro saw Zappia’s 5.72 earn the win points and set up a match with rookie Emilio Spinozzi for round two. Another 5.72 did the job as Spinozzi spun the tyres, setting up a final round against Mouhayet, but smoke in the deep end had eyes on Zappia’s motor.

“After we went 5.72 in the first round I was too scared to touch the tune up as we had something consistent. Someone said the car looked smokey in the braking area. We did some leakdown tests and a couple of cylinders weren’t reading as well as they should have.

“We pulled the sump off to make sure there was no problem in the bottom of the motor, but it was clean, and even though the car smoked on the warm up for the second round we thought it would clear out for the run, which it did.

“Then before the third round we warmed up the motor and a cylinder on the other side of the motor started smoking! We knew we had an issue with some rings that needed replacing but with only an hour turn around for the final we had to leave it. It wouldn’t have been impossible to do but it would have been a lot of work and it was a big risk to take if we didn’t get the motor back together in time for the final.”

Zappia performed the burnout for the final round and the smoke from the exhaust resumed, creating quite the haze on track.

“I was backing up and I could see there was a heap of smoke from the engine mixed in with the smoke from the burnout, but all the gauges looked good and my brother Richard told the officials there was nothing leaking, and it was just a dodgy piston ring and it’s going to be fine, just like the last run.

“Maybe we looked like sitting ducks but as soon as we launched the smoke cleared up, it only seemed to smoke on vacuum. Through first gear I could see Paul outside but then in second gear I drove around him, I think he got really close to the centre line and got off it. My car moved around a little too, but we got to the finish line and got the job done with low ET of every round and the win.”

Darwin has had mixed results for Zappia in the past, with the unique weather and track conditions often throwing curve balls. But for now, Hidden Valley is back in Zappia’s good books.

“It turned out to be an awesome event, with new sponsor Muscle Car Warehouse welcomed aboard it must have bought us luck. We also had the owners of Crow Cams up here watching in the corporate box, they enjoyed the meeting and had a wonderful time seeing the Fuchs/Dananni Hotshots Monaro back at the top.”

The next 400 Thunder Pro Slammer round takes place at Sydney Dragway on November 2-3.

Photos thanks to Phil Blondell and Craig Radcliffe.

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