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John Zappia adds Top Comp title to awesome 2017

John Zappia and the Fuchs Monaro’s successful start to 2017 has continued with the team earning the WA Top Comp Championship at Perth Motorplex on Saturday night.

In a field containing some of the toughest blown alcohol racers in the country, the feat was never going to be easy and while some hurdles were thrown at the team they eventually proved good enough in a critical race against chief rival Adam Marchant. It was Zappia’s first Top Comp championship since 2010.

The best air conditions of the season greeted teams at the Motorplex, but a cooling track would prove challenging throughout the night.

Zappia’s first qualifying pass was a pedalling 5.84, with the car doing a spectacular wheelstand, owing to the extra horsepower from the conditions and the tight track.

Running late in the compulsory qualifying session after some oildown delays, Zappia was able to improve to a 5.78 to qualify second but some sparks from underneath the car indicated all was not well.

“We didn’t know where the sparks were from initially but we figured the clutch would be a good start,” he said. “We started changing the gearbox ratio when we got back and we missed inspecting the inside of the clutch can properly. We then realised late that the clutch had broken a lever and we had a race against Adam Marchant coming that was going to decide the championship.”

With the clock counting down, the team made the decision to run the clutch with just five levers and hope it would be enough to take out Marchant’s tough Top Alcohol dragster.

“We watched Pino Priolo take out another of our rivals, Steve Aldridge, ahead of us, so then I knew it was up to me,” Zappia said. “It shook the tyres because it needed more clutch but we got the job done with a 5.91, which secured us the Top Comp championship and a place in the B Final.”

Arriving back in the pits and with turnaround time limited following more delays, Zappia and the team made a rare decision to withdraw from racing.

“Had we been in an A Final we might have given it a shot, but we knew we had won the championship and we didn’t want to risk running the car with the clutch below its best,” he said.

“The good news was that by us withdrawing, our almost-team mate Kelvin Lyle got to race in the B Final and run another five second pass, adding on to his earlier 5.92 personal best which was great to see.”

While Zappia expected some record times might have be available, the margins were thin for quick performances.

“The car performed well engine wise, but we didn’t get a full clean pass – we were making horsepower, we just couldn’t use it. The cold air combined with stoppages meant the track was colder and trickier than we are used to here in Perth.”

As always, Zappia was looking at the positives of his mechanical troubles.

“It was good to find the problem. You run valve springs and con rods for so long, but you run clutch levers forever and they do a lot of work. Everything has a life and the consistency this team has involves working out what the safe life is for a part.”

The Fuchs team will now run their maintenance on the car and do some close checks before loading up for Sydney’s Nitro Thunder event in May and the Winternationals in June.

“Thanks to all our local supporters and sponsors, to add a Top Comp championship to ten ANDRA championships, it doesn’t get much better than that.”

John Zappia was also the 2016/2017 Summer Slam Series winner on 482.5 points, ahead of Steve Aldridge on 357.5 points and Priolo on 352.5 points. The series ran five specialised Top Doorslammer meetings, with twenty teams involved – with twelve local WA teams proudly presenting for the series.

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Winning Streak Intact, Zappia looks for records

John Zappia wrapped up the ANDRA Top Doorslammer season in fine style at Adelaide International Raceway on Saturday with another victory for the Fuchs Monaro.

The performance took Zappia’s ANDRA Top Doorslammer winning streak to five events and 15 rounds, putting him within sight of Ben Bray’s 24-race streak.

“This was a nearly perfect season for the Fuchs team with our last race loss being way back at Darwin in July 2016,” Zappia said.

“Since Alice Springs we have been pushed really hard by our opponents but each time my crew has found the extra performance we need to stay in front.

“Fifteen round wins in a row is really something. We have gone to 21 rounds in a row before we crashed the car at Willowbank so we are excited to try and better that mark, along with Ben Bray’s long standing 24-round streak.”

The event began well with Zappia recording a strong 4.89 in the opening qualifying session on Friday despite a pedal being required. The time would stand as his quickest for the day as the team threw more power at the car for the second session.

“We tried a bit harder and it rattled hard and got really sideways (in the second session),” he said. “It was getting cold towards the third session and we thought we would sit it out and save the car for the next day.”

Zappia had the luxury of a solo run in the first round, an opportunity to back off the tune up and find a setting that would produce some consistency. A pedalling 4.94 wasn’t quite the number being chased.

“We needed to throw more clutch at it. The track was getting better throughout the event.”

A semi final match up against Rob Taylor’s new Camaro saw Zappia returning to pace with another 4.89 enough to get past the tough Victorian team. That set up a final round confrontation that had the crowd on their feet as Zappia faced Victor Bray.

Staying with his favoured left lane, Zappia ran his quickest pass of the weekend, a 4.86, to claim the ANDRA Gold Christmas Tree and also win the battle of the oils.

“We left the tune up alone for the final but the air was incredibly good, getting to 198 feet below sea level. Thankfully the humidity didn’t come in so there was no dew on the track and the Fuchs Monaro was making a lot of power and ran the fastest run of the weekend.

“We had an eighth mile time of 3.80 at 200mph and if the pass was on a quarter mile track it would have been a mid 5.7 second run.”

New rods supplied by CP-Carrillo proved to be a winner with the Fuchs Monaro singing sweetly throughout the event in South Australia.

“The Noonan Engineering engine combo ran very well and coupled with the superior lubrication qualities of the Fuchs oil, we didn’t hurt any parts apart from a couple of valve springs,” Zappia said.

Zappia was also presented with the ANDRA Australian National Championship Gold Christmas Tree and a Number 10 cake (thanks to ANDRA) to celebrate 10 back-to-back national championships. One of the greatest achievements in drag racing, the streak equals the record for major drag racing championships held by John Force in the NHRA.

Congratulations to all the winners and finalists from the team and special thanks to Mark Hunt, Paul Topping and Frank Intini for their assistance over the weekend.

Currently in transit across the Nullarbor with his two Christmas Trees, Zappia will be back racing in just a few days at the Perth Motorplex season Grand Final.

Competing in the Top Comp bracket, Zappia has shifted his focus from round wins to outright performance for a night that shouldn’t be missed for fans of the team.

“We will be chasing an Australian best time. We have a track record of 5.683 and 256.7mph and we will be trying to push those boundaries,” he said.

“To be honest, we are looking to go really fast. Everything is running really well lately and we are keen to see how far we can push it on the quarter mile with the good air that is traditional for this time of year.

“Top Comp has 20 entrants in it so it should be a really good event to finish off the Perth season and see how quick we can go before we head east again for Nitro Thunder at Sydney Dragway and the Winternationals at Willowbank.”

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