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Winternationals weather hampers Zappia’s chances

John Zappia’s 2018/19 400 Thunder season did not finish in the fashion he would have preferred, bowing out in the first round of the Winternationals at Willowbank Raceway.

The event was badly weather affected and the Pro Slammer teams only had one qualifying shot. Fortunately Zappia’s Fuchs/Dananni Hotshots Monaro made it into the eight-car field, but only just.

“The first qualifying session was cancelled, and the third session looked like it was going to be impacted by weather as well, so we figured we would only have one chance,” Zappia said. “Everyone was in the same boat and we all had to figure out how to get down the track. I made it more difficult on myself though when I backed up too far after the burnout and put my rear tyres back into the water tracks.”

Zappia spun the tyres on the hit of the throttle, but managed to recover for a 6.26 at 250mph, enough to put him into sixth place.

“It was cold and the water carried further than normal, it blew the tyres straight off. At least we got into the field, but with Paul Mouhayet qualifying in fourth he had enough points to get into race day and took out the championship – congratulations to Moits Racing.”

While the pressure of the championship was off, Zappia still wanted another Winternationals trophy to add to his collection. Zappia took on Scott MacLean in the first round but again the Fuchs/Dananni Hotshots Monaro spun the tyres early in the pass.

“We were waiting for a while for some delays and it was a nice, sunny day so we figured the track would be good,” Zappia said. “Once again the tyres were spinning right as we launched and Scott was long gone. We had the same tune up as when we went 5.65 in Sydney, but in hindsight we needed a lot less. The track felt sticky on top but was soft underneath from all the rain and it just didn’t come back.

“It was great to see Parry Bitsikas from Muscle Car Warehouse at Willowbank on the weekend and unfortunately we didn’t perform up to our best for him. We wish to express a big thank you to our naming rights sponsor Fuchs Lubricants and Dananni Hotshots, our major sponsors Muscle Car Warehouse, Crow Cams, Hoosier Race Tires, Noonan Race Engineering and all our supporting sponsors who give us the opportunity to race and compete at the highest level. Without their continued support we could not achieve what we have been able to achieve so far.

“Our form guide currently reads like a great race horse with a finishing record of 2, 2, 1, 1, 1, 1, 1, 1, 1, 1, 1, 1, 1, 2, 2 since we entered the Top Doorslammer/Pro Slammer championships.”

Though Zappia was disappointed to end the season on a low, he is already looking to the future, beginning with the Grudge Kings event on July 6 at Sydney Dragway. Zappia will be racing both his current Pro Slammer, nicknamed ‘Crusher’, in the Pro Mod class, as well as bringing Zap’s Rat back to the track for the first time in over a decade to compete in the Pro Street class.

“We will go back to Perth now and prepare the steel body ‘Zap’s Rat’ and get ready for Grudge Kings with two cars,” Zappia said. “We want to do some R&D with ‘Crusher’ to see what we can find out that will help us next season and with both classes having $50,000 winner cheques there’s a lot of money on the line.

“’Zap’s Rat’ won two championships and ran 5.8s on the quarter mile back in the day. Grudge Kings is eighth mile for Pro Street and with what we know now we should be looking at 3.9s or 3.8s over that distance.”

Photo: cacklingpipes.com

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Winternationals always memorable for Zappia

John Zappia has been a part of drag racing culture in Australia for well over three decades, a time where Willowbank Raceway has also grown to be part of the bedrock of the sport.

Ahead of the annual running of Australia’s biggest drag racing event, the Winternationals, the driver of the Fuchs/Dananni Hotshots Monaro recalled fond memories from the early days of the venue, where he competed at ‘Wild Bunch’ events.

“Willowbank has always been good, with big crowds and great traction,” he said. “We’ve got lots of positive memories, a few bad ones, but mostly we remember the highlights.”

Most vivid in Zappia’s memory is the 2010 Winternationals, where he faced Robin Judd in a winner-takes-all final for the ANDRA Top Doorslammer Championship.

“That final round really stands out,” he said. “We were second in the points and it all came down to the last run. The points are a lot further apart this time so we can’t have that scenario again, we will just have to see how the cards fall.

“We’ve had lots of different experiences at the Winternationals. Some times we have doubled up with a Winternationals win and a championship, sometimes we have been biting our nails in the stands after going out in the early rounds, waiting for someone to win or lose.”

With unpredictable weather a standard part of the Winternationals, Zappia said he will first aim to qualify into the eight car eliminations field.

“We need to get in the show on the first pass to take the pressure off. I have been caught out with that before, where we didn’t qualify on the first pass and we missed out on the elimination rounds.

“After that we can creep up on it and find some improvements. We are coming with a good proven package and we are pretty confident we have found all our bugs and fixed any issues.”

Zappia is in the running for the 400 Thunder Pro Slammer Championship but is approaching the event with an aim to control only his own destiny.

“Although the Fuchs/Dananni Hotshots Monaro ran well in Sydney we have made some improvements since, and we have our eyes on winning the Winternationals once again. Whatever happens with the championship is up to Paul.”

The Winternationals is Australia’s biggest drag racing festival and Zappia is looking forward to meeting up with his legions of east coast fans once more.

“We’ve always prided ourselves on being accessible to fans, so please come and see us in the pits, check out our merchandise and have a chat,” he said. “Unless we are about to head out to the staging lanes or turning the car around between rounds, we love to talk to people about the Fuchs/Dananni Hotshots Monaro and make sure they have an awesome race track experience.”

Qualifying for Pro Slammer begins on Friday with a single session, before two sessions on Saturday and eliminations on Sunday. Fans can also watch the race live on ovoplay.com.au.

Photo: cacklingpipes.com

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WINTERNATIONALS ZAPPIA RACING HISTORY

2018

2018 – Zap qualified third and finished runner up.

2016

2016 – Zap Top Qualifies and wins the event.

2015

2015 – Zap Top Qualifies and wins the event.

2014

2014 – Zap Top Qualifies and wins the event

2013

2013 – Zap Top Qualifies but the meeting was rained out.

2012

2012 – Zap Top Qualifies but was knocked out in Round 1 by Ben Bray

2011

2011 – Rained out

2010

2010 – Zap Top Qualified and won the event over Robin Judd

2009

2009 – Zap Top Qualifies and wins the event

2008

2008 – Zap qualifies third and wins the event.

2007

2007 – Zap Top Qualifies and wins the event.