John Zappia is continuing his charge towards a tenth ANDRA Top Doorslammer Championship on the back of a challenging but rewarding Goldenstates at Perth Motorplex.
Zappia and the Fuchs Monaro won the event from the Northern Territory’s Scott MacLean, but it followed problems that began right from the first qualifying session on Friday.
All seemed well until around half track when a lean condition in one cylinder caused a chain reaction of events leading to a supercharger backfire.
“The lean cylinder melted the spark plug, so the spark plug was glowing and that caused the backfire, which broke the blower studs and the burst panel,” Zappia explained. “The motor seemed okay but on further inspection we found a bent rod in that cylinder.”
By the time the problem was discovered, the Fuchs team were left with no time to make it out for the second qualifying session which would mean a do-or-die pass in the final qualifying session to make it into the eight-car race day field.
“Being on the outside looking in for the final session is never a nice feeling but we put more fuel into that cylinder and more fuel across the motor generally, went back out and hit a 5.70 at 255mph,” Zappia said.
That pass was Zappia’s second fastest speed ever and the quick elapsed time put the Fuchs Monaro to the front of the field, destined for a match up against Pino Priolo in round one.
Servicing the engine overnight, the team discovered a slightly bent exhaust valve, but were able to have the motor ready for action by the next day.
The first round race against Priolo appeared to be decided early when the Budget Forklifts Chev spun the tyres early in the run, but Zappia had his own problems when he lifted the supercharger in another backfire.
“That run had by far the fastest half track speed we have had at 204mph but then shortly past half track it banged the blower off and we rolled through with the chutes out for a 6.01,” he said. “Needless to say this time we got straight into the motor and sure enough the rod was bent again, so we went for a new rod and piston and we only just got the work finished in time to make it back for the semi finals.”
There Zappia would face Mark Belleri in the ACDelco Monaro, the two top contenders in the points going head to head. Belleri took the holeshot but Zappia fought back quickly for a 5.74 win to a 5.94.
“The crew worked their butts off just to make that run happen and we were surprised by how quick it went given how much more fuel we put into the tune up,” he said.
“In the mean time we watched Scott MacLean run a personal best 5.78 with a .000 reaction time and it was like ‘woah’. We needed to find something extra.”
The Fuchs team returned to the pits and leaned the tune up off a touch, careful not to move back into the supercharger-busting zone, while making the clutch a little more aggressive. Zappia was cautious not to push too far.
“We knew they (the MacLean Motorsport team) were going to throw a tune up at it and go somewhere they hadn’t been before so we had to go where we were confident,” he said.
MacLean was again strong on the reaction times with a .014 to Zappia’s .088 and the early advantage was with MacLean until he got out of the groove and the Fuchs Monaro was able to take the lead.
“From the crowd’s point of view it looked like it was neck and neck, I probably went past about mid track,” Zappia said of the final run.
“The final was great for the fans and everyone was pretty excited. Scott is getting on to it and cutting exceptional lights that we haven’t seen anyone else cut. To go .000 and then .014 is pretty scary, normally times like that are reserved for automatics but he is doing it with a clutch. That is something we need to be aware of and I need to improve my reaction times. It’s half me and it’s half in the car set up, I just need to get a bit more aggressive in the car off the line and hopefully that will end those holeshots.”
Zappia, who is looking for a co-naming rights sponsor to join Fuchs on the side of his record setting Holden Monaro Top Doorslammer, is now eyeing the Westernationals where he could potentially win his tenth championship if results go his way. The team will focus on making sure every cylinder in the motor is happy on the track.
“We were pushing the engine harder and we were close to the edge of not being happy,” he said. “We need to find out why all the cylinders aren’t happy and adjust things to make it reliable for next meeting. We learned a lot on the weekend and we think that will convert to quick times in the future.”
The Westernationals will take place at Perth Motorplex on March 4 and 5. Zappia Racing looks forward to seeing their fans at the track for the long weekend, where they will have a surprise waiting in the pits!
1. J. ZAPPIA 5.708
2. S. MACLEAN 5.825
3. G. O’ROURKE 5.871
4. M. BELLERI 5.909
5. D. GREGORINI 5.942
6. S. FENECH 5.979
7. S. ALDRIDGE 6.089
8. P. PRIOLO 6.143
9. K. LYLE 6.164
10. R. MORESBY 6.252
11. F. TAYLOR 6.475
12. P. CAREY 10.625
J. ZAPPIA 6.013 DEF P. PRIOLO 11.473
J. ZAPPIA 5.744 DEF M. BELLERI 5.944
J. ZAPPIA 5.713 DEF S. MACLEAN 5.918