John Zappia’s rollercoaster season in the Dananni Hotshots/Tony’s Auto Wreckers Monaro Top Doorslammer continued on Saturday at Perth Motorplex, after a gear shifting gremlin cost the team a chance at making the final of Summer Slam round two.
Zappia’s day began well with a 5.886 pass in the first qualifying session, which came despite two pedals of the throttle.
“The car launched reasonably well, even though we had it set to what we thought was a bit soft,” he said. “At the top of low gear it started to shake, it auto shifted into second and continued to shake so I gave it a big pedal. It was really strong in the back half of the run as the air was good and the car was making good power.”
The twilight compulsory qualifying session followed, where Zappia echoed his earlier run’s time with a 5.883 to top qualify for the event. But this time there were greater issues than tyre shake to battle.
“We backed the clutch off a bit and thought the track would be better later in the day. The car left harder and rattled the top of low gear, so I pedalled it and got back on it and it carried on in low gear. It kept revving and then I realised the Dananni Hotshots/Tony’s Auto Wreckers Monaro wasn’t shifting. I got off the throttle again then it shifted 2nd so I floored it, and it shifted 3rd and finished the run.
“We got back to the pits and looked at the data and saw that it reached 11800RPM proving that the rev limiter also failed. We inspected the engine and found all the push rods were damaged and the lash caps had flown off, along with damaging the tips of the valves. It was the highest revs I’ve ever done on an engine.”
There was a lot of damage for the team to fix, but amazingly everything else in the Noonan 4.8 Hemi survived, including the Reid rockers, Carillo Rods and Pistons and the Crow Cam.
“We decided to try and fix the motor as it was going to be quicker and the clock was ticking down to the elimination round,” Zappia said. “We changed the heads and put the blower back on, but by the time we got it all done we were about three minutes short. We watched the field going through pair-by-pair and once our scheduled opponent Ryan Moresby was given the fire-up signal we knew it was over.”
The team were obviously disappointed to not get a chance to race Moresby, but Zappia is already looking to adapt his strategy to return to the winner’s circle.
“We are going to put the manual shift buttons back in, because I can’t guarantee this issue won’t happen again. I think I was driving better when I was shifting manually, where I also had the option to shift earlier if I needed, and I have never over-revved it that bad in my life. We know we can be consistent with manual shifting.”
Zappia currently sits third in the Summer Slam points, just five points shy of the tied leaders Stuart and Ryan Moresby.
“It’s an all-Dananni Hotshots top three right now which is really cool, and with two events down and four to come it’s a close championship. We have Muscle Car Warehouse joining us again this season so the car looks great with the fresh paint supplied by Shacks Automotive Paints – keep an eye out for some glamour photos soon thanks to Richard Hathaway.”
The next appearance for Zappia Racing will be at the December 12 Outlaw Nitro Challenge where he will be competing in Top Comp, while the next round of the Summer Slam will take place on January 2.
Photos thanks to Phil Blondell