John Zappia had a very eventful meeting at the ANDRA Pro Series Top Alcohol Championships over the weekend, and ended up on National television all over Australia for the wrong reasons. After reaching the finals of the Top Doorslammer class to face off against rival Maurice Fabietti, Zap ended up putting the Striker Monaro into the concrete wall in a spectacular crash.
“I am counting my blessings at the moment” said a relieved John Zappia, still at the Willowbank track packing up. “I thought it was going to be worse than what happened when I was facing the wall ahead at 100 miles per hour. Fortunately the car was at an angle and on two wheels, so it was a glancing blow and rode the wall without going over. My body is ok with no damage apart from some minor pain, and that is the main thing – I will be back next meeting ready to fight back”.
Teams struggled with the very high traction of the Willowbank track all weekend in the class, with numerous cars suffering tyre shake and having traction issues. Zap “rattled the tyres” at launch in the finals – a term racers use when the tyre shakes severely – and moved out of the well worn “groove” formed from hundreds of racer’s tyres over two days of racing, and into a super sticky part of the track.
“The rear wheels on the Striker Monaro have one axle connecting both rear Mickey Thompson tyres, so when they have different traction left to right the car wants to turn violently in a right angle direction. I caught it quickly, but the car had the momentum up and ended up on two wheels. The rest happened so quickly, and I was relieved when the Willowbank Track Crew got me out of the car”.
The meeting started on Saturday with three rounds of qualifying where 16 teams were aiming to get one of the 8 spots in the field.
“Our first two qualifying passes resulted in tyre smoke on the hit, as our crew had difficulty in matching the new higher horsepower engine to our clutch baseline settings”.
In a high drama end to qualifying, Zap had yet to qualify into the eight car field. It was make or break run for the defending Champion. But never one to play his drag racing at half pace, Zap had his crew back the clutch off just enough for him to run the quickest time in qualifying and go to the top of the ladder with a 5.894 @ 238.51mph.
“The last run really hurt – the tyre shake in these cars is severe and I suffered a headache after that one. The Rat was back into the five eights on that run though – where it should be based on our prior form. I was glad to pick up the extra five points for low ET, and show the rest of the field I meant business. We now had a baseline for elimination racing and confidence in the team was high”.
The field had been quick, with Fabietti, Ben Bray, Judd, Kapiris and Able all managing five second passes. Phillips suffered a horrific double tyre blowout after the finish line in the second qualifier that permanently damaged his race car for the event.
First eliminator on the Sunday was up against veteran Steve Stanic in the Camaro, who was a little off the pace with a best qualifying time of 6.111. Zap was able to put him away with a 5.863 @ 244.78 mph, to Steve’s improved 6.102 @ 239.19 mph. Other first round winners were Judd over Kapiris, Fabietti over Bishop, and Bray over Able.
Second round saw Zap face his closest competitor from last season Robin Judd in a re-match of the Winternations Finals. It was Zap the victor again this time around with a brain rattling 5.834 @ 246.71 mph defeating Judd who had to back off after experiencing shake. Fabietti disposed of Ben Bray in the other match up. So it was the two quickest racers facing each other in the final – Zap and Fabietti.
“The data logger showed the front wheels were off the ground for all of first and second gears on that run with the new power, and I wrestled the torque through the steering wheel down the track”.
“I hotted up the Rat for the final, expecting Fabietti to do well after his 5.960 and 5.953 runs, and tried to get the power to the track to get some wheel speed off the line. But it still rattled on launch, so I pedalled it quickly as it went out to the left. Then the left rear tyre hooked up hard on the super sticky section of the track and turned the car hard right – then “whack”!
“Look, we are sad the car has been damaged – but we got 85 points to slot into second in the Championship and we have five weeks to repair the car. We rolled the car first meeting last year and still won the championship, so this setback, even though it’s worse than last year is not too great for me and the team to overcome. The car will be taken back to our workshop in Perth, where it will go on a jig for symmetry and crack checks. We will know then what our plan is after we have fully assessed the damage. We have a contingency plan up our sleeves with the second Striker Monaro nearly finished.”
“Many thanks to all the team members, sponsors, friends and fans that have rang to check up on how things are. A special thanks to the track and medical staff at Willowbank Raceway for their professional actions and treatment”.
Blown Alcohol Champs
ANDRA Pro Series drag racing kicks off the new 2009/2010 season this weekend the 8th and 9th August at Willowbank International Raceway with Round 1 of the Top Doorslammer Championship. Fresh off back-to-back Championship wins, legend John Zappia and his team are ready to take on all comers in his killer Striker Monaro.
“ANDRA drag racing only gets better and better” said veteran John Zappia this week, “The Pro Series is an evolution and step up for all Group 1 Teams, where we can perform on the national stage both at the track and on television. The One HD coverage has really made a difference to how drag racing is viewed on television, and the feedback from our fan base is excellent. There are many people who were not drag racing fans commenting on how good the coverage is and how exciting the sport of drag racing is. This is giving our sponsors enormous exposure and hopefully will expand to more sponsors getting involved in the best value for money motorsport”.
“The Top Doorslammer Championship will be tougher for us this year. We dominated last year because of a performance and consistency advantage, but many teams are stepping up their performance this year and may come closer. But in true West Aussie fashion we do not stand still in our drag racing – we move forward to set more benchmarks and set new records. It’s a tradition here in Blown Alcohol”.
The Striker Monaro sports new livery, with Fuchs and United Industries taking bigger stakes in their Major Sponsorship with larger stickers on the HQ. Striker Crushing and Screening are still the force behind the team, with Craig Pedley’s awesome new Top Doorslammer set for testing this season, and in full support of Zap’s journey towards a third championship win.
“We have refurbished Zap’s Rat over the winter break and fitted a brand new engine, so we expect a little more performance and much of the same super consistent runs from the car this season. I still have plenty to go in my tune up on this engine combo with a few new ideas brewing, and I think the new benchmark this season will be a 5.7 second pass”. For us to achieve three in a row, we need to be on our game as there will be stiff opposition from the likes of Robin Judd, Maurice Fabietti, Ben Bray and Gary Phillips. Each year the bump spot is lowered and we expect to have several bump spots in the 6.0’s this season. This doesn’t leave much room for error and could come down to reaction times or consistency of runs.
Competition for qualifying on the Saturday will be tough, with sixteen cars all trying to fit into eight spots for eliminations with runs at 1.00pm EST, 3.00pm and 5.00pm.
Overnight teams will be able to lick their wounds, repair damage or put the final touches for Sunday eliminations at 12.30pm EST, 2.15pm and 3.45pm onwards for the finals.
The Zappia Racing Team is focused on winning another Championship this year, with top level consistency being their strength, as John Zappia enters his 26th year in drag racing in 2010.
“John really is a big factor in the wins we have” said nitro guru Graham Jones from Southside Engine Center, “Going to Willowbank really is a tough assignment for any driver in these big events, and Zap is just so cool under pressure, and can produce the results when it counts. He really is as good a driver as you could get in this category, with the feedback he gives after each pass, and his tuning ability. It’s a formidable combination really – heading up this very seasoned team”.
“This crew we have now are the best” said Zap, “A lot of work goes into the car well before we even get to the track and they should be applauded. But it’s when something goes wrong that they really shine – those quick thrashes to do an engine change between races and still get on the start line are awesome. Gives me confidence to win”.
“A new range of T-shirts will be available at the Zappia Racing Merchandise Trailer. So make your way down to our pits and join in the buzz of Australia’s Top Doorslammer team going about their crew duties, massaging more horsepower out of the hemi blown alcohol engines to heat up those Mickey Thompson slicks”.