Zappia takes over Top Doorslammer points lead with Desert Nationals win

John Zappia has fired back in the Australian Drag Racing Championship with a Desert Nationals win at Alice Springs Inland Dragway on Sunday.

Western Australia’s Zappia defeated the Northern Territory’s Matt Abel in the final round, 5.853 to 5.960, and took over the lead of the Top Doorslammer points.

The day began well for Zappia as he improved on his Saturday times in Sunday’s compulsory qualifying session. He used a 5.847 in the Dananni Hotshots/Tony’s Auto Wreckers Monaro to not only claim the number one position but to also win the Crow Cams Top Qualifier Award presented by Decoglaze Glass Splashbacks.

“We just crept up on it and put a bit more in for the last qualifying run and it all worked,” Zappia said.

“It did everything it was supposed to do and we managed to get that 5.84 that we knew the track could hold.”

The pass set Zappia up for a first round confrontation against his arch rival Daniel Gregorini, in the Scratch & Match Motorsport Camaro.

Gregorini’s 0.121 to 0.280 reaction time holeshot put him in strong contention but Zappia’s 5.886 was able to sneak around Gregorini’s 6.097 for the win light.

On the opposite side of the ladder, Abel also survived a spirited challenge as his 5.99 came home over a 6.163 from Kelvin Lyle.

“We put a little bit more in it for the race against Daniel,” Zappia said.

“I ended up having too many revs on the start line and was dragging the clutch and it left with our best 60 foot time of the weekend but I had to pedal and punch second gear early.”

That left only the final against Abel, whose consistent form had Zappia looking over his shoulder.

Abel’s black ’57 Chevy got the jump on Zappia early in the run with a 0.113 to 0.170 holeshot, with Abel stretching his lead at the 60 foot timers.

But from there Zappia clawed back for a 5.853 to 5.960 victory, taking the finish line stripe by just over five hundredths of a second in a thrilling final race for the Alice Springs crowd.

“We had a tiny bit more on the tune-up to keep up with the track and I managed to get it down there without needing to pedal,” Zappia said.

“Matt was right there and it was side by side. It was close enough to where any mistake would have seen Matt take it.”

Zappia was able to celebrate his latest win with nephew Brodie Zappia, who won the Summit Racing Equipment Sportsman Series Junior Dragster class on the same day.

“We have doubled up a few times with Brodie now and it is always a great feeling through the pit area when we can both bring a win home,” he said.

In the B Final, Gregorini salvaged some points with a 6.038 to 6.086 win against Lyle. Gregorini’s speed of 255.36mph also proved helpful, granting him some extra bonus points.

The Top Doorslammer teams of the Australian Drag Racing Championship will navigate their ways back home, before heading to Adelaide International Raceway for the third round of the series on October 2 and 3.

Content:  ANDRA

Photos:  Amber Simms Photography






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Zappia’s Top Doorslammer quickest in Darwin before engine drama

Zappia’s Top Doorslammer quickest in Darwin before engine drama

The first round of the new Australian Drag Racing Championship will go down in the what-could-have-been category for John Zappia and his Dananni Hotshots/Tony’s Auto Wreckers Monaro Top Doorslammer.

Zappia’s Top End Nationals weekend began in strong fashion, as he belted out the top qualifying pass in the very first session, a 5.781. The quick run was followed by two more 5.78s to show Zappia had a handle on the changing Hidden Valley Drag Strip track conditions.

“We tried different things and it still came up with a 5.78 every time,” he said.

The only hiccup for the night was when Zappia just barely nudged the Dananni Hotshots/Tony’s Auto Wreckers Monaro into the braking area gravel trap in the final qualifying session.

“At the top end it kept going left towards the wall and I had a quarter of a turn on the steering wheel to keep it off. My left hand was glued to the wheel and I didn’t get the chutes early enough. It was hopping and bouncing through the braking area and I barely put it in the gravel. But there was no maintenance or repairs needed.”

Saturday began with a compulsory qualifying session, where Zappia slowed slightly to a 5.84 – which was still quicker than the competition.

“It was an honour to win the first Crow Cams Top Qualifier Award presented by Decoglaze Glass Splashbacks ever presented in the ADRC,” he said.

The elimination round saw Zappia take on Victoria’s Robin Taylor. Zappia took the lead early and was never halted, but there were problems at the top end with a speed of only 242mph.

“The car launched with a 0.999 60 foot time but it started to rattle further out and needed a pedal. Then at the top end it started to lay over.

“At first I thought there was something going on with the gearbox. Then we looked at the data and realised something was wrong with the number five cylinder. We took a look and saw it had dropped a valve. That meant we had to start changing engines. We were short on crew and weren’t really in a position to do a full change in the time frame we had, but we went for it anyway as much as we could. They waited as long as they could to run the final but in the end it had to go ahead and that was it for us.”

Zappia was disappointed to miss the opportunity to catch an early lead in the ADRC, as fellow finalist Daniel Gregorini claimed the victory.

“We gave it away, we had the quickest car there. But on the upside, it is only the start of the championship and it was a runner-up, so there are plenty more rounds to come.”

The Dananni Hotshots/Tony’s Auto Wreckers team have put a new Noonan motor into the car ahead of the second round of the championship this weekend at Alice Springs Inland Dragway. Zappia holds the track record of 5.79, which lines up perfectly with what the team have been running in Darwin.

A big thank you to Adrian from Pedders Darwin and Peter Coles for the loan cars and Matt Abel for allowing us to store the transporter on his property for the last month.

“I think Alice Springs will be better than it ever has been this time. It is a different elevation, different humidity, and a different surface. It’s about just reading the track and backing the car down the right amount to get from A to B instead of trying to run a 5.6 there. That said, it’s a flat, smooth track, and there is no reason why we can’t run a 5.6 there depending on how it is prepped and the weather.”

The new ADRC Top Doorslammer series has Zappia excited for what is to come, especially once Australia has COVID back under control.

“We had really good performances by a lot of cars at Darwin, and it can only get better,” he said. “To get a whole team of people and race cars around the country is difficult right now and you have to take it week by week. We will keep moving as best we can to keep the championship alive and as time goes by it will get bigger and bigger.”



ANDRA Points