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John Zappia rallied to a historic Top Doorslammer win at the 50th annual Westernationals, celebrating a family double-up and a new national record in a highly successful night for the Dananni Hotshots /Tony’s Auto Wreckers Monaro.
Zappia came into the event quietly confident, with some positive results in testing giving the team a solid foundation as they entered qualifying.
“The track preparation at the Motorplex has been very consistent lately, and with the sticky Hoosier tyres we rolled off the trailer with a 5.71,” Zappia said. “We had the same settings as we ran in the final of the Super Sportsman Showdown where we ran 5.70, so considering we had different weather it was good to see that kind of repeatability.”
The second qualifying session saw Zappia short shift through some tyre shake for a 5.73, before a troubled 6.25 in the final session.
“When we started up for the run we had a low air warning for our CO2 bottle, but I thought it would be enough to make it through. When I hit the button for top gear it didn’t shift, so I pushed the clutch in and coasted to the line, while Mark Chapman charged by.
“It was maybe a sign, because one year ago at the Westernationals I lost to Mark in the first round and had to watch him drive by. So we didn’t take any chances and decided to change the gearbox and make sure the air bottle was completely full so it wasn’t happening again on race day!”
Zappia expected the slightly different gearbox ratios to tame the car down a bit for a first round battle against Frank Taylor.
“We figured the gearbox would be close enough, and we had run 5.77 with it before. We got a little more aggressive with the tune-up and the Dananni Hotshots / Tony’s Auto Wreckers Monaro goes a 5.69! It carried the front wheels to 160 foot and I could feel the difference in acceleration. The car felt beautiful. There must have been something good in the air because Frank ran a PB 6.03 next to us, so there were lots of happy faces on the start line.”
The semi-finals beckoned, where Zappia would take on Kelvin Lyle’s Ford Mustang – which also runs a potent Zappia Racing engine.
“Even though we carried the front end in the first round I thought the initial reaction of the car was a little lazy, so we threw more clutch in for the semis. I really had to get my head into gear against Kelvin because we knew he could step it up. I hit a .040 reaction, my best of the weekend, and the car went .966 to 60 feet. It rattled and I had to pedal, with a short shift on third gear, but we got through with a 5.76 to 5.97 win. We definitely dodged a bullet there.”
The final round would see Zappia face Steve Aldridge in the Crown Security Cuda, who was on a streak of five-second runs. Incidentally both cars in the final running Fuchs Lubricants and proving the quality and reliability of their lubricants.
“We realised what we had for the semis was a bit too much so we pulled the clutch back, but otherwise left the car alone for the final. I had another good light with an .065 which got us the holeshot on Steve. Then everything went almost perfectly, even though I still wasn’t quite hitting the shift points, and we went 5.681 at 255mph to Steves’ 5.800.
“There wasn’t much room for error in the final round. Steve ran his quickest pass of the season, so any slip from us and he would have got past.”
The 5.681 second time was also enough for Zappia to reset the ANDRA national record, which hasn’t been touched since 2015.
“When we got back to scrutineering to go through the weighbridge I asked about the ANDRA record, as it hadn’t crossed my mind at any time until then. One of the ladies from ANDRA said it was a 5.693, and I suddenly remembered making that pass at Willowbank. So all of a sudden we needed to get paperwork sorted out and ANDRA were checking over the car. It was an unbelievable way to end the weekend.”
The win was Zappia’s first Westernationals title since 2017. More importantly, it was also the first time he has joined a family member in the Westernationals winner’s circle, with nephew Brodie Zappia winning in Junior Dragster.
“When Brodie got the job done with an awesome 8.000 on an 8.00 dial in I said this has to be a double, I can’t let Brodie be the only one with a gold Christmas tree! Congratulations to Brodie and crew Richard, Lia and Adam on their gold Christmas tree, the first of many I am sure.”
“This was a weekend where it all came together. And to do it at the 50th running of the event, well, what can you say? Maintenance wise we changed one valve spring after the first run and everything else was smooth sailing. The car is in the zone now with its new Noonan cylinder heads, the super-efficient Crow Cam, the reliable CP-Carrilo pistons and rods, Victory Valves and Reid Rockers.”
“To all of my crew, sponsors and fans, thank you for your dedication and your support. We hope we can reward you with some more wins before the season is finished!”
The next round of the Direct Mining & Industrial Summer Slam Series takes place on April 10, with Zappia having built a healthy points lead as he aims to defend his championship title.
Photos: Phil Blondell Phil Luyer High Octane Photos
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