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.”
Results – All Run Format:
Thunder 400 Championship Points: