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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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Zappia crushes Perth Motorplex track record in family double-up

John Zappia racked up a new track record of 5.585 seconds, his first 260mph pass in Australia, an event win and got to watch nephew Brodie Zappia take out the Junior Dragster bracket in a massive day for the Zappia family at Perth Motorplex on Saturday, January 4 2020.

The attack began early when Zappia stunned onlookers with his first 5.5 second clocking during the first qualifying session for the Summer Slam, in warm and sunny conditions. The pass was on a ragged edge of traction which proved just perfect for the Zappia Racing Monaro.

“We changed the B&J gearbox to a safer gear so we could get the car down the track, but we left the tune up and clutch pretty much the same as our 5.63 run recently,” Zappia explained. “We had tried to settle it down for the hotter track conditions and a few cars before us were overpowering the track. When I took off it headed a little left and was spinning the wheels but not by much. As I shifted second we still had lots of wheel speed and it did a bit of a fishtail, but then I got it back into the groove.

“After I got the parachutes out my crew member Gerry got on the two-way radio and said it was a 5.58 at 419kph! I was doing the maths in my head and thought that was probably 260mph and it was, at 260.35.

“The pass blew me away because it didn’t feel that fast. The car was loose, the track was loose and it just hung on enough to keep going.”

Zappia backed up the 5.58 with a 5.615 in the compulsory qualifying session, earning him an elimination round race against Stu Moresby’s Studebaker. Zappia took the race in 5.617 seconds but there was a wild finish when Moresby’s parachutes failed to open, seeing him fly past Zappia and then lock up the brakes before hitting the wall at the end of the braking area.

“As the track was getting tighter we were trying to keep up, we had more clutch in it but it wasn’t enough, but running 5.61s is a good problem to have,” Zappia said.

“I crossed the line ahead of Stuart but he came flying past and I could see he was in trouble. It was a real shame for their team and I hope they can rebuild and be back out for the rest of the Summer Slam season.”

The final round saw Zappia set to race Daniel Gregorini, whose Camaro was in career-best form.

“In the final we went back to the right lane where we ran the 5.58, after our two 5.61s in the left lane, and we changed the first and second gear ratio in the B&J gearbox to try and get the 60 foot time back again.

“Daniel and I left pretty evenly, neither of us had great reaction times.

Our 60 foot came back but we had a lot of wheel speed in second gear and I shifted third early. That probably robbed us of a couple of hundredths but we still went 5.622 to Daniel’s 5.653 in a great race for the fans and one we were very happy to win.”

The victory marked Zappia’s fourth event win in a row at Perth Motorplex and was the quickest side by side Top Doorslammer race ever in Australia.

“The Zappia Racing Monaro was a good car to drive, and once I knew the car would go down the track and I could really concentrate on driving well. The Noonan power in combination with our precision Crow Cam, Reid Rockers, Cp-Carrillo pistons and conrods, Total Seal Rings, Victory Valves and all lubricated with Fuchs top quality lubricants gives us a very reliable combination and were lucky enough to not hurt any components. We also got to try a couple of different B&J ratios and we did minimal adjustment to the Boninfante clutch; the car ran like clockwork.

“We have done a lot of R&D and found a lot of stuff that doesn’t work. We could have sat still and been happy with more 5.6s but we have pushed and pushed. We have made mistakes, learned some stuff and we now have the car consistently fast.”

It was great to have Danni and Ross from Dannani Hotshots to support us and witness our record breaking runs. Also for supplying Dannani Hotshots merchandise to help with the fund raising coordinated by Michelle and Liz for the fire victims.

Adding to the celebrations on the day was a win from Zappia’s nephew Brodie in Junior Dragsters. With John’s brother Richard doing double duty on both the Top Doorslammer and the Junior, it was a great reward for the effort.

“Richard keeps busy at the track and he managed to excel in both departments,” John said. “They just switched to a new car and are learning what it wants but they got the job done. Brodie is just 14, so who knows how good he will be when he is 18!”

Zappia now heads to Summer Thunder at Sydney Dragway, though his route will depend on what roads are open as the bushfire crisis continues to grip Australia.

“If the roads aren’t open the normal way we may have to go through Katherine and Townsville, and instead of 4100km it ends up at 8000kms. But one way or another we have to get there, maybe we need a supercharged big block boat to go by water!”

John will have his merchandise and new Biante model car for sale at Western Sydney Dragway, so head down and check out what’s available. Looking forward to catching up with East Coast sponsor Parry Bitsikas from Muscle Car Warehouse and any other sponsors who can make the meeting.

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ELIMINATIONS

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