John Zappia’s northern swing began in the best way possible with a win at Nitro Up North at Darwin’s Hidden Valley Drag Strip.
In the first of three events that Zappia will contest in the Northern Territory, the Dananni Hotshots/Tony’s Auto Wreckers Monaro Top Doorslammer conquered some tricky track conditions at the huge event, which was telecast live nationally on 7 Plus, Fox Sports, Kayo and internationally on Superview live streaming.
“This was V8 Supercars, Australian Superbikes, Stadium Super Trucks, Graeme Cowan’s Outlaw Nitro Funny Cars and Top Doorslammer drag racing all being showcased on the same day, so we had the biggest Friday crowd Hidden Valley has ever seen,” he said. “The Hidden Valley track crew only had an hour to prepare the track, so it needed some runs on it to come good, which it did later in the night.”
The first round saw Zappia paired with race rival Daniel Gregorini, but problems with his Camaro meant the race became a solo.
“We began with a set up that was close to what we run in Perth. It carried the front wheels early before it started rattling and turning right. I had blurred vision from the shake, so I pedalled and steered to the left pretty hard and got it going again. I did a big drift up top and went through for a 6.38. It turned out to be low ET of the first round as everyone else was having trouble adjusting to the tricky track as well.”
The Zappia team made many changes to chase the conditions, including a different ratio in the B&J Transmission and some more downforce on the rear wing.
“We had a live onboard camera capturing everything I was saying before we started the car, giving some fans a behind the scenes look at how seriously we take every run!” Zappia said. “We made a few changes to make sure the car went down the track. We took on Bronte Henning and this time it got out clean and straight, with a 1.02 to 60 feet. I revved it out to the shift points, and was pretty happy when it turned out to be a 5.79/252mph. It was on rails, even though we had a lot of clutch dust coming out of it.”
The two wins were enough to put Zappia into the final against Kelvin Lyle. Zappia made some small adjustments to add power back in, cautious of the improving track surface.
“The track was getting better, we could see the Nitro Funny Cars were getting into the 5.7s and 5.6s. We were due to face Kelvin but unfortunately he broke a quill shaft and couldn’t make the run. We made our pass and we found we didn’t have enough clutch in the tune up but it was still quick with a 5.78/253mph, which was low ET of the event for the Top Doorslammers.”
Zappia was full of praise for the event, which showcased drag racing to a new audience and set new broadcast standards for the sport.
“To be involved in live TV put the pressure on, we had to turn around fast and get out there early, but it was absolutely worth it with massive exposure for our sponsors. The event had over 38,000 people through the gates across the weekend and the whole town was booked out, from hotels to hire cars. That’s what it is all about.”
Congratulations to the combined efforts of the NT Government, Supercars organisers, Graeme Cowin, Matt Abel from Hidden Valley Drag Strip, all the track staff and volunteers, ANDRA, Ray Treasure, Kevin Prendergast and all the media personnel for the effort in making this one of the best Motorsports event in Australia.
The Dananni Hotshots/Tony’s Auto Wreckers Monaro will remain in Darwin for the opening round of the ANDRA Top Doorslammer Championship on July 16-17, before heading to Alice Springs for the second round the following weekend on July 24-25.
“I’m excited for the championship to begin, with our new sponsor WA Suspensions joining us for the ride this season. I think we will be able to return to the 5.6s at Hidden Valley next time, and see if we can reset the track record.”
Photo credit: Craig Radcliffe