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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

Qualifying Times:

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Results – All Run Format:

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Thunder 400 Championship Points:

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