John Zappia’s decades of drag racing experience helped prevent a major incident during round four of the WA Summer Slam Series when his Dananni Hotshots/Zappia Racing Monaro lost its parachutes at over 250mph.
Zappia had just completed his final round run when a chassis bar at the back of the car was ripped out, leaving the Top Doorslammer without its most critical braking aid.
“The car went through for a pedalling 5.70 at 258mph, and I pulled the chutes and felt them hit but then I felt them rip off and I was still motoring.”
Zappia first got on to the carbon brakes, managing to keep any bouncing to a minimum in the smooth Perth Motorplex braking area, and then let the clutch out to allow the motor turn over and provide engine braking. At the end of the braking area is a sand trap, which Zappia aimed straight for.
“The engine turning over helped wash off more speed but before I knew it I was out of bitumen and into the sand at approximately 80mph. I tried to keep it as straight as I could. It got into the dust and it broke the front clip off and hooked around; as it turned, I was thinking, ‘No, don’t go sideways!’ I didn’t want to roll it.
“The car turned about 130 degrees around and was actually pointing the other way. As it stopped, I looked up and I was about 20 metres away from the catch net. The Kwinana ‘beach’ pulled me up exactly how it was supposed to; it washed off speed so fast. I didn’t have a scratch or bruise on me. I got on to the radio and explained to the crew what had happened and that I was okay.
“The Motorplex emergency crew were there very quickly, and we were lucky all they had to do was help us tow out!”
Damage to the car was kept mainly cosmetic. The sand tore apart the front clip while the parachutes were found with their chassis mount still attached.
“It looks like it was a fresh break on the chassis. We are going faster lately, and it is hitting harder on the chutes, especially driving into a head wind, so perhaps that was the cause.
“I thought I was having a month off where I only had to do minor servicing on the Noonan engine and B&J transmission but now, we have to fix the front end, fix the back of the chassis and reattach the parachute system.”
It was a dramatic end for what had otherwise been a successful event for Zappia. He top qualified with a 5.64/256mph pass and then backed it up with a 5.63/259mph win against Ryan Moresby in the elimination round.
Zappia was ready to go for another entertaining final up against Daniel Gregorini, but there was an interruption to proceedings when Mark Chapman had a diff failure in the B Final, resulting in an oil down shortly before the race curfew. The only option left was to run the A Final as two solo passes, with Zappia electing to get on track first for the unexpected end to the night. Unfortunately, the time to get the car out of the sand trap saw the event reach curfew and the final ended up with split prizemoney and points.
“The performance of the car has been unbelievable, to run a 5.63 and a 5.64 with a pedal is amazing. Even on our last run where it rattled hard it still went 5.70.
“We are excited to get the car fixed and tuned up to suit the conditions for the Westernationals. We are still undefeated after six events; we might not have got a win this time but at least we didn’t lose!”
“We hope to see as many sponsors and supporters at the Westernationals on 29th Feb and 1st March to witness the Top Doorslammer action and the return of Top Fuel headed by Phil Lamattina and Peter Xiberras as well as all the Summit Racing Equipment Sportsman Series racers from all over Australia.”
In-car video thanks to Phil Blondell – Drag Videos
External video thanks to Phil Blondell – Drag Videos