Zappia in thrilling Westernationals final
A runner-up result at the Westernationals has set up a classic championship fight for John Zappia and the Dananni Hotshots/Tony’s Auto Wreckers Monaro Top Doorslammer.
Zappia had intended to begin his Westernationals campaign with several runs on a Friday test session, but some signs of engine damage on the first pass saw the team press pause.
“We had our number one engine in, and we made a planned half-track shut off,” Zappia said. “When we were turning the car around in the pits, we noticed there was metal in the oil filter. We took a look and we had snapped several main studs in the bottom end. That was the end of testing and instead we had to change to our spare motor overnight.”
Qualifying brought a 5.837 for Zappia, which was enough to qualify second, but he was left to rue what might have been in the final session.
“We had tyre shake on the first two laps and so we got angry with it, and gave it some more power for the last run of the night. Coming into stage my opponent put both stage lights on and then I couldn’t get the revs up quickly and was timed out. The run looked perfect going by the data and it would have been a low 5.7. Daniel Gregorini was top qualifier with a 5.71, so I guess we’ll never know if it would have been enough to pass him!”
Sunday’s first round saw Zappia against Pino Priolo, where a 5.778 did the job against a 6.366. “We thought that was a pretty cool run. It had some room for improvement, but it was a great way to start eliminations,” Zappia said.
The semi finals lined up Zappia with Steve Aldridge. As the track cooled and the traction increased, tyre shake was again a threat to the tune-up. “The Dananni Hotshots/Tony’s Auto Wreckers Monaro left harder but then we hit tyre shake at the end of first gear. I shifted into second and it was still shaking so it needed a big pedal. Steve and I were side by side and our 5.916 just beat his 5.983. We were lucky Steve had some shake as well because we were sitting ducks on that run.”
Zappia had earned his place in the final to race against Daniel Gregorini in what was to be a thrilling showdown. Gregorini’s auto-equipped Camaro got the jump on the start line against Zappia’s clutch transmission and from there the race was on. Gregorini’s 5.730 held on for victory against Zappia’s 5.728, with both drivers hitting impressive 409kmh speeds.
“We backed off the clutch a little for the final to calm our car down and that cost us a few hundredths on the launch for sure,” Zappia said. “That said, the run was super smooth the whole way and the race was amazing. Daniel got us this time.”
Just one round remains for both the Australian Drag Racing Championship and the Direct Mining & Industrial Summer Slam, which will take place simultaneously at the Grand Final on April 8 and 9.
“Daniel is 48 points ahead right now, so scoring every bonus point is going to be critical. If he goes out in the first round (40 points) we would either need to win the event (100 points) or get a runner up (80 points) with low ET and top speed (up to 10 points). If he goes out in the semi final round (60 points), then we will need to win the event and earn the bonus points. It’s not an impossible scenario but I’d certainly rather be in Daniel’s position.”
The Grand Final will be an event not to miss with the Top Doorslammer and Top Bike final as well as the finals for all the Summit Racing Equipment Sportsman Series brackets.
A big thank you to all our sponsors and supporters and hope to see them in the last two meetings of the current season. It was great to have Craig and Nicole from Striker Crushing and Screening / MAX Plant there to give us their support. Unfortunately we weren’t able to deliver a win on the day.
Photos and Videos: Credits and thanks to Phil Reeve and ANDRA, Phil Blondell, Ian Moore, Paul Carey.