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Zappia scores second Summer Slam championship

John Zappia has been declared the WA Summer Slam champion after the series was drawn to an end with one event remaining, following the early declaration of the Perth Motorplex season because of COVID-19.

Zappia’s Dananni Hotshots/Tony’s Auto Wreckers Monaro Top Doorslammer held a slim five point lead from second-placed Daniel Gregorini, but fans were unfortunately denied a chance to see one last epic showdown between the pair.

“We finished with two wins and a drawn final in the Summer Slam, plus a win when we raced in Top Comp, so we had a great season results wise,” Zappia said. “At the final event it was going to be all down to the wire, with whoever went furthest out of Daniel and I taking the championship. It would have been a thrilling way to wrap up what has been a season of growth for the Summer Slam. All of the Western Australian teams have stepped up in a big way, and we all drive each other to be better. We have consistently had fields of 10 Top Doorslammer cars at each event, which also produced the quickest and fastest side-by-side pass in Australia where we ran a 5.622/416kph (258.5mph) for the win to Daniel Gregorini’s 5.653/414.75kph (257.71mph).”

As well as securing a bundle of trophies, Zappia also reached new performance benchmarks including his first Top Doorslammer passes in the 5.5 second zone and his first time over 260mph.

“It’s no secret that we have been chasing that 5.5 run, ever since we came oh-so-close back in 2017 with a 5.601 at Sydney,” he said. “To run our new personal best of 5.585, and to be able to do it at our home track, was a very special moment.

“The power of our Noonan 4.8 Hemi has certainly been on show, and nothing proved that better than our highest ever speed of 260.35mph in legal Top Doorslammer/Pro Slammer trim.”

Zappia was looking forward to the remaining events of the season which included the Summer Slam final at Perth Motorplex, Santo’s Super Thunder at Willowbank, Nitro Thunder at Sydney Dragway and the 400 Thunder finals at the Winternationals, also at Willowbank.

“We were excited to see how quick we could go with some full passes in good conditions. We fixed some of the handling issues we were having with the car wanting to turn right and the car was running low 5.6s even with a pedal, which is pretty stout. It’s frustrating but it is what it is.”

While drag racing remains on hold, as do most live events around Australia, Zappia is intending on using the time to maximum effect by completing a series of long term projects for the team.

“It is a good time to service all of the equipment including our spares, update the truck and trailer and get everything right at the workshop. We are also going to put the old original Zap’s Rat together so that we will have two cars race ready. It was always a back up car for us and it would be good to get it going, run it at a meeting and put down a good time, and then possibly put it up for sale.”

The Winternationals have been postponed to September, and Zappia said he is contemplating the pros and cons of attending the event versus getting ready for the next season.

“Before COVID-19 we had three events to catch up to Steve Ham in the points, now there is only one. We are 56 points behind in the 400 Thunder series so while it’s mathematically possible, it would be a big task and would be Steve’s to lose.

“There’s a good bunch of guys and girls who have always stayed with us and I am grateful to them for that. For decades we’ve had one of the quickest blown doorslammers in the world and it is no easy achievement to stay at the front of the pack. These crew members and supporters, some of whom have been there from the start, make it all possible.”

Zappia wished to thank his sponsors and crew who made the achievements of the team possible this season. Without the long term support of many of our current and past sponsors we would not have been one of the top two Top Doorslammer teams every year for the last 16 years. Hopefully all our current sponsors will stay on board as we look to the next season to stay at the pinnacle of our sport and promote our sponsors’ services and goods.

Photo: Phil Luyer

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Zappia conquers the elements for Summer Thunder win

Water, earth, wind and fire were unable to stop John Zappia from claiming his fifth straight event win at Santo’s Summer Thunder at Sydney Dragway on Saturday.

The first battle was against earth and fire. Zappia had to cover the 4000 kilometres from his Perth base to Sydney, but the bushfire crisis threatened to halt his advance across the continent. Fortunately the fires in Western Australia were brought under control and the highway across the Nullarbor Plain was opened up.

“We left a day earlier to allow for time in case there were delays or detours from the fires. Once they opened the highway it was all clear driving,” Zappia said.

Once Zappia arrived in Sydney, it was water proving to be the next problem as rain forced the postponement of Santo’s Summer Thunder to the Australia Day long weekend.

“The event got cancelled on Thursday, unfortunately after most of my crew had flown in,” he said. “We had to reschedule airfares, send people back, and schedule others to come for the postponement. The upside was we got to stay with the team’s good friends Fred and Filomena in Sydney at their place, they were great hosts and took us sightseeing into Sydney once the weather came good.”

Last to overcome was air, as strong winds at the track threatened to blow away anything not tied down in the Zappia Racing pit area, and humid conditions made horsepower hard to find.

“It was 41 degrees of heat with strong winds at the track, trying its hardest to blow everyone’s marquees over, so we had to strap everything down to make sure they would still be there Friday!

“The weather that arrived for race day was so humid, with 120 water grains. I haven’t tuned in air like that for a long time.”

The Dananni Hotshots / Zappia Racing Monaro knocked out a 5.69 straight off the trailer in Friday testing, Zappia got down to business for Saturday’s race day. The first round saw him taking on Mark Hinchelwood’s ACDelco Monaro, which was coming off a personal best in testing.

“We had some tyre shake on our shakedown pass earlier in the day for the first round we needed to step it up a bit,” Zappia said. “The changes worked and we went 5.68/254mph for low ET and top speed of the event.”

In round two, Zappia faced another driver who was delivering new PBs – Michelle Davies.

“Michelle had been running very well with consistent 5.8s and we decided to leave our car alone so we could see if our first round pass was repeatable. We went 5.71 at 252mph, a little down on speed as the bumps in the track unloaded the tyres during the run.”

The performance was enough to put Zappia into the final against championship leader Steve Ham.

“For the final we looked to step the Zappia Racing Monaro up. The track had got better and so we got after it a bit more. I managed to cut a tiny holeshot on Steve’s automatic car, with our old clutch and swapping feet we still managed a .055 light against his .056!

“We got out well and then I believe Steve got loose and had to pedal, and we pulled away from there for a 5.69/254mph win.”

Crossing the finish line first turned out to be the easy part as things got wild for Zappia in the braking area.

“As I went through the top end the bumps unsettled the car so bad it went into a tank slapper. I was just holding the steering wheel straight praying it wasn’t going to hit the wall. I managed to pull it up and turn before the sand trap, that was a pretty scary ride in the braking area but at least there was relief with the win.”

Zappia has returned across the continent to Perth Motorplex where he will be racing in the Summer Slam Series at the Night of Fire on February 1.

“We arrived back Tuesday morning and started servicing the engine to get it ready for Saturday. We just want to keep going consistently and I am keen to work on my reaction times. I had a good reaction time in the final at Sydney but I want to do that more often. We are aiming for six wins in a row and look forward to seeing all of our fans again in Perth.”

There is still time for a joint-naming rights sponsor to come onboard for the remainder of the season and for the whole of next season. Any business that wants to get maximum exposure in many forms of media including TV and social media, please contact John on 0400 1971 71.

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