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Zappia back in winner’s circle at Sydney Dragway

A ray of hope remains for John Zappia in the 2018/19 400 Thunder Pro Slammer championship after he won Nitro Thunder at Sydney Dragway on Saturday.

Zappia defeated Paul Mouhayet in a crowd-pleasing final, running a 5.65 to not only take the victory but also set low ET of the event.

While the pace of the Fuchs/Dananni Hotshots Monaro was on point for the final, the strongest performance came from the Zappia Racing crew, who needed to thrash in the pits after some minor damage in the second round.

“Our first test pass and our first round pass were both a bit messy, but we got the first round win and even a low ET for the round with a 5.83 as everyone else struggled with the conditions,” Zappia said.

“For the second round we changed some ratios in the B&J gearbox to maximise on the conditions and we went 5.74/250mph. That speed seemed down and sure enough when we checked the Noonan engine in the pits we found a burnt spark plug and a burnt piston due to a lean condition in the tune up.

“We needed to thrash to get the cylinder head off and put another CP Carrillo piston in. The crew had already worked their butts off through the day but they were like clockwork in getting us ready for the final.

“Time was against us and we didn’t even have the chance to set the tappets on one side and warm up the motor before we had to be in the staging lanes for the final. We got into the lanes in time for the final and thank Paul and his crew for giving us the time to be ready for start-up before starting their car!

“I had to just rev it up and go for it. My reaction time was a little slow, with our thrash just a few minutes earlier still on my mind. But the Fuchs/Dananni Hotshots Monaro made it through first gear clean and we were able to get the win.”

The run did get a little wild in the braking area for Zappia.

“I hit a few bumps and then realised I was in Paul’s lane after the finish line! I drove back into my lane to get out of his way and could finally calm down to absorb what had just happened.

“Paul came over and congratulated me and I got the good news about our 5.65. We had all been so busy just trying to turn the car around and once it all happened there was just as much relief as excitement.”

After taking the Fuchs/Dananni Hotshots Monaro to a photo shoot at Muscle Car Warehouse, the team loaded up to return to Perth. With just one round remaining in the championship – the Winternationals at Willowbank Raceway – Zappia said the focus was on bringing home the event win and using the cool winter conditions to improve on recent performances and get better consistency.

“The gap has closed up a little bit in the points (-61) and while it would still take a miracle to win the championship we are going to give it our best shot,” he said.

“We will go to the Winternationals hoping to win and end the season on a high for our sponsors and supporters. We need to win the meeting and get low ET and hope that Paul either doesn’t qualify or goes out first round. It’s a tall order, with so many top Pro Slammers entered, but not impossible.”

Top photo: cacklingpipes.com

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