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First round frustration for Zappia at Goldenstates

First round frustration for Zappia at Goldenstates

A promising start to the 47th annual Goldenstates Championship finished with a heartbreaking first round exit for John Zappia and the Dananni Hotshots/Tony’s Auto Wreckers Monaro Top Doorslammer.

Beginning with Friday night’s qualifying, a 5.821 pass in the first session would hold as Zappia’s quickest and place him second out of the eight cars on the property — earning the ever-vital lane choice for race day.

“We had a lot of tyre shake through qualifying, and every run needed a pedal,” he said. “On our final run the car looked set for a number but then I went to punch third and the car wouldn’t shift.  The only thing we could put that down to was an air supply issue, so we installed a larger line from the air tank to the shift buttons overnight.”

Zappia would face Pino Priolo’s 37 Chevy in the first round, with Priolo back for his first event in 18 months at the Motorplex. Unlike the freezing opening round of the Direct Mining & Industrial Summer Slam season a few weeks previous, this particular Saturday was marked by warm conditions in the mid-30s, with the track condition still in the high 40s for eliminations.The Dananni Hotshots/Tony’s Auto Wreckers Monaro came out flying with a 0.997 60 foot time, but then it all came unstuck for Zappia as the car swerved into the opposite lane.

“We felt like we needed to back the car off for the first run of Saturday, so we had a tune-up in there that was similar to the first qualifying pass we made on Friday. We noticed everyone ahead of us was all over the track, so that seemed like the right call. “I got the early jump on Pino but then the tyre shake began and I stayed on the throttle just a fraction of a second too long. My vision got blurred and I got off the throttle, and I could see I was heading for the other lane. I took evasive action to try and get it back to my side and avoid Pino, but there was no question that I was across the centre line and out of the race.”

It was a disappointingly early exit for Zappia, with Daniel Gregorini taking over the lead of the Australian Drag Racing Championship. On the positive side, he was happy to see another Dananni Hotshots racer earn their first ANDRA Top Doorslammer win.

“Of course it is frustrating and you feel like you have let everyone down,” Zappia said. “That said, we always seem to do better when we are chasing down somebody in the points. Congratulations go to Stuart Moresby in his Dananni Hotshots Studebaker, we know it will be a special memory for that team and a great boost for all of them. We were also happy to see Pino Priolo make it to the final on his return to the Motorplex.”

Joining Zappia on track at the Motorplex this weekend was his fiancé Rae Lockwood, who qualified her Zappia Racing-built Super Sedan with a 9.89 and raced to a third round finish.

Zappia will be back for Nitro Max on December 11, with Zappia entering Top Comp for some testing.“We need to try and find out why the tyre shake is back and solve that so that we can come back strongly for the Nitro Slam in January. I have faith in our whole team that we will work it out and return to the winner’s circle.”

Photos: Phil Blondel; Phil Reeve;  Paul Carey and Ian Moore

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Zappia wins frosty final in Summer Slam

John Zappia’s Dananni Hotshots/Tony’s Auto Wreckers Monaro claimed the opening round of the Summer Slam season in chilly conditions at Perth Motorplex on Saturday night.

Mild daytime conditions allowed Zappia to turn in a top qualifying performance early in the day, as he led the field with a 5.799 at 407kmh in the second session.“We had great air during the day but I was getting a bit aggressive with my launch revs,” said Zappia, who still uses a traditional clutch setup that requires the driver to moderate the throttle while staging.

“On our first run the Dananni Hotshots/Tony’s Auto Wreckers Monaro Top Doorslammer rattled hard, so I pedalled it and punched second gear for a 5.82.“The second run was quite similar, though we had pulled some timing out of the tune up to settle it down. It rattled a bit further out on that run but we recovered and managed to top qualify by a tenth of a second.”

An uneven field resulted in Zappia earning a bye run for the elimination round, giving the team an opportunity to try a new ratio in the B&J transmission. The change appeared to work, as Zappia carded low ET of the event with a 5.751.“We still had some tyre shake, but it was a lot easier to manage. I shifted to second and lifted just slightly off the throttle but was back in quickly for what would be our quickest run of the day.

Zappia’s performance earned him a place in the final against Matt Abel, with the rapidly cooling conditions creating an unpredictable racing surface.“Unfortunately by the time we got to the final it was really cold, I think everyone was shivering!” Zappia said.

“The air was excellent and the track was cold, but not dewy.

Matt and I left with similar reaction times but then suddenly I was pointing right and almost heading into Matt’s lane. I had to get off the throttle big time and straighten back up. As I got back into the throttle I could see Matt ahead, and he was wheelstanding away on every gear change. I didn’t think I had a chance of catching him, but then right before the finish line he got close to the wall and backed off. I shot past but I honestly didn’t know if I had beaten him to the line. I waited to hear from my crew on the radio and they said I got the win.

I really thought I had given the win to Matt, but then Matt gave it back. It was one of those thrilling races where the lead changes and  it keeps fans on the edge of their seats.”

Zappia’s victory was matched by his nephew Brodie in Junior Dragster, who defeated Zara Board in the final. “I think this might be the eighth time we have both won at the same event, and hopefully we can add many more as Brodie is in his second last season in Junior Dragster,” the senior Zap said.

Despite the success, the event did end on a sad note, with the news that one of Zappia Racing’s biggest fans passed away during the night. Frank Earnshaw, also known as ‘The Man With The Sign’, could regularly be seen on the terraces of Perth Motorplex, holding a variety of signs that commended racers on their performances.“Frank was actually the uncle of a former crew member of ours, so we were very sad to hear of his passing,” Zappia said.

“Our sympathies go out to all of his family and friends.”

Zappia Racing will next be on track for the 47th Goldenstate Championships on November 26-27, a round of both the Summer Slam and the Australian Drag Racing Championship for Top Doorslammer and Top Bike, as well as the Summit Racing Equipment Sportsman Series.

Photos: Phil Luyer High Octane Photos www.highoctanephotos.com and Ian Moore

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Doorslammer king John Zappia ready to defend the crown

There is no accolade John Zappia has not earned in drag racing, from championships to world records. But the Spearwood-based driver doesn’t see any reason to slow down yet as a new season beckons at Perth Motorplex.

The Dananni Hotshots/Tony’s Auto Wreckers Monaro Top Doorslammer has been freshened up for the Summer Slam season, which begins this Saturday, November 6, following several events in the Northern Territory.

“After coming back from a great road trip to Hidden Valley Drag Strip and Alice Springs Inland Dragway, we gave the whole car some love so we could be as prepared as possible for the Summer Slam,” Zappia said. “Given the uncertain interstate travelling situation right now, Summer Slam is going to be our primary focus for the season ahead.”

Seven cars have entered for the first event of the season, with Zappia set to contend with Mathew Abel, Steve Aldridge, Daniel Gregorini, Kelvin Lyle, Stuart Moresby and Frank Taylor at the opening event.

Zappia had the opportunity to do some testing at the Shannons Powerpalooza, where he scrubbed in some new Hoosier tyres and clocked a pair of five-second runs.

“We changed tyres between runs, so each pass had a fresh set of rubber,” he explained. “We shook the tyres on our first run and pedalled for a 5.94, while the second pass got out of the groove, so that was also a pedal job on a 5.87.

“We find that our tune up works best with tyres that have been scrubbed in, and the best way to do that is with big burnouts and full runs! So that’s what Powerpalooza was all about for us.”

We would also welcome back our long time Sponsors, Fuchs Lubricants, WA Suspensions, Crow Cams, Noonan Race Engineering, Hoosier Tyres, Muscle Car Warehouse, Shacks Automotive Paints, Motec, Speedflow, Taylor Tyres, Striker Crushing and Screening, K Craft Bullbars, CP-Carrillo, Applied Automotive, B&J Racing Transmissions, Avtrac, Total Seal Piston Rings, and Final Drive Engineering.

As well as giving the Dananni Hotshots/Tony’s Auto Wreckers Monaro Top Doorslammer a shakedown, Zappia Racing also had Rae Lockwood driving Zap’s Holden VP ute on track at Powerpalooza,.

Zappia said his fiancé, “Rae did really well, and after a tyre spinning 10.00 @ 136mph, on the first pass, we pulled some timing off the line and she won the B Final with a 9.89 on her 9.89 dial-in.

“This is a 92 ute that we were getting ready for Street Machine Drag Challenge in Victoria, but with that event being postponed we are going to have some fun at the Motorplex too,” Zappia said, That’s pretty good in a naturally aspirated street car!”

This weekend’s season opener features not just the Summer Slam, but also Jet Dragsters and a full round of the WA Drag Racing Championship. The feature program begins at 5.30pm.

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Zappia takes over Top Doorslammer points lead with Desert Nationals win

John Zappia has fired back in the Australian Drag Racing Championship with a Desert Nationals win at Alice Springs Inland Dragway on Sunday.

Western Australia’s Zappia defeated the Northern Territory’s Matt Abel in the final round, 5.853 to 5.960, and took over the lead of the Top Doorslammer points.

The day began well for Zappia as he improved on his Saturday times in Sunday’s compulsory qualifying session. He used a 5.847 in the Dananni Hotshots/Tony’s Auto Wreckers Monaro to not only claim the number one position but to also win the Crow Cams Top Qualifier Award presented by Decoglaze Glass Splashbacks.

“We just crept up on it and put a bit more in for the last qualifying run and it all worked,” Zappia said.

“It did everything it was supposed to do and we managed to get that 5.84 that we knew the track could hold.”

The pass set Zappia up for a first round confrontation against his arch rival Daniel Gregorini, in the Scratch & Match Motorsport Camaro.

Gregorini’s 0.121 to 0.280 reaction time holeshot put him in strong contention but Zappia’s 5.886 was able to sneak around Gregorini’s 6.097 for the win light.

On the opposite side of the ladder, Abel also survived a spirited challenge as his 5.99 came home over a 6.163 from Kelvin Lyle.

“We put a little bit more in it for the race against Daniel,” Zappia said.

“I ended up having too many revs on the start line and was dragging the clutch and it left with our best 60 foot time of the weekend but I had to pedal and punch second gear early.”

That left only the final against Abel, whose consistent form had Zappia looking over his shoulder.

Abel’s black ’57 Chevy got the jump on Zappia early in the run with a 0.113 to 0.170 holeshot, with Abel stretching his lead at the 60 foot timers.

But from there Zappia clawed back for a 5.853 to 5.960 victory, taking the finish line stripe by just over five hundredths of a second in a thrilling final race for the Alice Springs crowd.

“We had a tiny bit more on the tune-up to keep up with the track and I managed to get it down there without needing to pedal,” Zappia said.

“Matt was right there and it was side by side. It was close enough to where any mistake would have seen Matt take it.”

Zappia was able to celebrate his latest win with nephew Brodie Zappia, who won the Summit Racing Equipment Sportsman Series Junior Dragster class on the same day.

“We have doubled up a few times with Brodie now and it is always a great feeling through the pit area when we can both bring a win home,” he said.

In the B Final, Gregorini salvaged some points with a 6.038 to 6.086 win against Lyle. Gregorini’s speed of 255.36mph also proved helpful, granting him some extra bonus points.

The Top Doorslammer teams of the Australian Drag Racing Championship will navigate their ways back home, before heading to Adelaide International Raceway for the third round of the series on October 2 and 3.

Content:  ANDRA

Photos:  Amber Simms Photography

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Zappia’s Top Doorslammer quickest in Darwin before engine drama

Zappia’s Top Doorslammer quickest in Darwin before engine drama

The first round of the new Australian Drag Racing Championship will go down in the what-could-have-been category for John Zappia and his Dananni Hotshots/Tony’s Auto Wreckers Monaro Top Doorslammer.

Zappia’s Top End Nationals weekend began in strong fashion, as he belted out the top qualifying pass in the very first session, a 5.781. The quick run was followed by two more 5.78s to show Zappia had a handle on the changing Hidden Valley Drag Strip track conditions.

“We tried different things and it still came up with a 5.78 every time,” he said.

The only hiccup for the night was when Zappia just barely nudged the Dananni Hotshots/Tony’s Auto Wreckers Monaro into the braking area gravel trap in the final qualifying session.

“At the top end it kept going left towards the wall and I had a quarter of a turn on the steering wheel to keep it off. My left hand was glued to the wheel and I didn’t get the chutes early enough. It was hopping and bouncing through the braking area and I barely put it in the gravel. But there was no maintenance or repairs needed.”

Saturday began with a compulsory qualifying session, where Zappia slowed slightly to a 5.84 – which was still quicker than the competition.

“It was an honour to win the first Crow Cams Top Qualifier Award presented by Decoglaze Glass Splashbacks ever presented in the ADRC,” he said.

The elimination round saw Zappia take on Victoria’s Robin Taylor. Zappia took the lead early and was never halted, but there were problems at the top end with a speed of only 242mph.

“The car launched with a 0.999 60 foot time but it started to rattle further out and needed a pedal. Then at the top end it started to lay over.

“At first I thought there was something going on with the gearbox. Then we looked at the data and realised something was wrong with the number five cylinder. We took a look and saw it had dropped a valve. That meant we had to start changing engines. We were short on crew and weren’t really in a position to do a full change in the time frame we had, but we went for it anyway as much as we could. They waited as long as they could to run the final but in the end it had to go ahead and that was it for us.”

Zappia was disappointed to miss the opportunity to catch an early lead in the ADRC, as fellow finalist Daniel Gregorini claimed the victory.

“We gave it away, we had the quickest car there. But on the upside, it is only the start of the championship and it was a runner-up, so there are plenty more rounds to come.”

The Dananni Hotshots/Tony’s Auto Wreckers team have put a new Noonan motor into the car ahead of the second round of the championship this weekend at Alice Springs Inland Dragway. Zappia holds the track record of 5.79, which lines up perfectly with what the team have been running in Darwin.

A big thank you to Adrian from Pedders Darwin and Peter Coles for the loan cars and Matt Abel for allowing us to store the transporter on his property for the last month.

“I think Alice Springs will be better than it ever has been this time. It is a different elevation, different humidity, and a different surface. It’s about just reading the track and backing the car down the right amount to get from A to B instead of trying to run a 5.6 there. That said, it’s a flat, smooth track, and there is no reason why we can’t run a 5.6 there depending on how it is prepped and the weather.”

The new ADRC Top Doorslammer series has Zappia excited for what is to come, especially once Australia has COVID back under control.

“We had really good performances by a lot of cars at Darwin, and it can only get better,” he said. “To get a whole team of people and race cars around the country is difficult right now and you have to take it week by week. We will keep moving as best we can to keep the championship alive and as time goes by it will get bigger and bigger.”

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Zappia win receives huge exposure at Nitro Up North

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

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Zappia celebrates championship win and quick times, despite red light

John Zappia has successfully defended his Direct Mining & Industrial Summer Slam championship after wrapping up the title on Saturday at Perth Motorplex.

Zappia’s Dananni Hotshots/Tony’s Auto Wreckers Monaro Top Doorslammer was in near flawless form, clocking the quickest time of the 2020/21 Summer Slam in what was acclaimed as the season’s best event.

“We came out for the first run, and the car left hard with a 0.975 60 foot and rattled the tyres, so I pedalled and short shifted second and we still came up with a 5.72 at 256mph,” he said.

“We were pretty happy with that as we got our speed back, and we had our tune up closer to where I thought we needed to be. We figured the track would get better and come to the tune up, so we left it the same for the compulsory qualifier and our 60 foot was down, due to the Dananni Hotshots/Tony’s Auto Wreckers Monaro with its fresh Hoosier Tyres sticking to the track and we still went through for a 5.64 at 259mph.
“It seems like the car responded to a few tweaks on the fuel system and it ran four or five mph faster than last time we raced it.”

The top qualifying run was Zappia’s second fastest ever, and one of his quickest, setting up an elimination round encounter with Frank Taylor. After some slow reaction times in qualifying, Zappia was conscious of getting a good light.

“I got all revved up and I needed to get in the zone,” he said. “Frank and I are both clutch cars, so we got the revs up, I moved in, maybe I was a little deeper than normal but not much. I saw the fourth stage light come on, saw the amber lights, released the clutch and bang, I was red by two thousandths.

“Some people might say, well you didn’t need a killer light against the number eight qualifiers. But then Frank runs 5.89 and if you do the maths, if I had either of my reaction times from qualifying I still would have lost the race.

“It goes to show how good the Summer Slam field is right now. Frank had a personal best and appears to have turned his car around, Steve Aldridge was dropping 5.7s back to back. There’s going to be a lot of people chasing this championship next season.”

“We wouldn’t be able to stay at the pointy end of the Championship without the support of our great sponsors. Co-naming rights sponsors Dananni Hotshots and Tony’s Auto Wreckers. Major sponsors Fuchs Lubricants, Crow Cams, Noonan Race Engineering, Striker Crushing and Screening, Shacks Automotive Paints, Motec and Muscle Car Warehouse. Associate sponsors Alky Pro, B&J Racing Transmissions, All Signs, Applied Automotive Performance Engines, Santhuff Struts and Shocks, Reid Rockers, Aurora Bearings, Boninfante Friction Inc, Total Seal Piston Rings, Victory Valves, SDS Fuel Systems, KCraft Bullbars, Taylor Tyres, Avtrac Maintenance Tracking, CIC Competition and Industrial Coatings, Final Drive, Kounis Metal Industries. A big thank you to all our sponsors.

All of the success we share is a credit to the crew that work tirelessly during the weeks leading up to a race meeting and on race day. Thank you to all the crew members that have contributed throughout the year.

There were double championship celebrations for the Zappia family as John’s nephew Brodie secured the Junior Dragster title – as well as the Grand Final event win.

“Congratulations to Brodie on an amazing season, he finished with a huge lead in the points and has impressed us all with his talents at the wheel,” John said.

Photos courtesy of Phil Blondell and Ian Moore

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ZAPPIA AVOIDS FUNNY CAR CHAOS ON HIS WAY TO RUNNER UP

John Zappia and his Dananni Hotshots/Tony’s Auto Wreckers Monaro emerged unscathed from a close call on their way to a runner up finish at the WA Nitro Championship on Saturday night at Perth Motorplex.

Zappia was in the Top Comp elimination round against Ian Brown’s Funny Car, when Brown came across the centre line and almost into the side of Zappia’s Top Doorslammer.

“I saw the car come across and I thought, ‘Ooh, that’s getting a bit close,’” he said. “I thought it was better to keep it straight than to steer radically away, though I might have shifted away from him just slightly. I figured if he was across the centre line then he should already be slowing down so my best bet was to shift the gears and get out of there!”

Fortunately Zappia and Brown avoided rubbing paint, and Zappia recorded his quickest run of the night – a 5.700 – to earn a place in the Top Comp A Final. To take a win, Zappia would need to get past Top Comp points leader Wayne Keys, who had a 0.28 handicap advantage based on his AA/AP classification.

“We tweaked it a bit for the final to try and get the car to 60 foot a bit better,” Zappia said. “We knew we would have to be on the money for Keys in the final.

“It took me a little while to get my car to come into stage, I didn’t have quite enough revs to pull the car in the way I wanted to. That got me distracted, and then I started thinking about getting timed out and all that took my mind off looking at the tree. Wayne cut an .039 reaction time and I had a .139 light so we were down another tenth right away. Then I hung on to second gear too long and hit the limiter, it dropped a cylinder in third gear and it never recovered. We still went 5.71 which was amazing, so it was on an easy 5.6 if I hadn’t mucked up.

“It would have been a tough final to win with Wayne running 5.93. We needed a 5.64 and an equal light to be in front. We go into Top Comp in test mode, and this is Wayne’s playground. We’d love to race against him heads up in the Direct Mining & Industrial Summer Slam!”

Apart from the heart-stopping race against Brown, the rest of the day was business as usual for Zappia and his team. Heat and humidity during the day saw the team spin and rattle the tyres in the first qualifying session, but recover for a 5.85 in the compulsory qualifying session.

“I think our first run had a 118deg F track temp,” Zappia said. “We backed the clutch off a little bit and it didn’t go down. We backed it off a bit more and got that 5.85, so we were going in the right direction. They prepped the track a bit better after it cooled down and we were pretty happy with our performances under the conditions.”

Zappia now looks to the Summer Slam Grand Final on 10th April, where he hopes to take the championship.

“I would rather not win this one and save my luck for the Grand Final,” Zappia laughed. “We’ve got a good lead in the Summer Slam, so we are going there to try and win the meeting and then whatever happens with the championship happens. We know the car is very consistent right now and especially when the track cools down the conditions seem to come to us.”

Photos: Phil Reeve Photography and Ian Moore Facebook

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ZAPPIA FAMILY DOUBLES UP WESTERNATIONALS WINS

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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50th Annual Westernationals at the Perth Motorplex

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WA Drag Racing Championships -  Super Sportsman Showdown

Zappia out of lockdown and into winner’s circle

John Zappia stormed to the Top Comp victory at the Super Sportsman Showdown at Perth Motorplex on Sunday.

Zappia used the event as a testing opportunity, but treated every race just like he was racing in the Direct Mining & Industrial Summer Slam, which resumes in two weeks at the Westernationals.

“Top Comp is a handicapped class that allows competitors from Top Doorslammer, Top Alcohol and Competition cars to race on an even playing field,” he said. “It’s every bit as tough as the Summer Slam to win.”

Western Australia spent one week in a COVID-19 lockdown, which delayed the Super Sportsman Showdown by one day. That proved helpful for Zappia, who was assembling a brand new Noonan engine to test.

“We worked all week putting the fresh engine together, and after losing a week to lockdown we had limited time,” he said. “We put the new Noonan heads on and we had to do lots of checks during the week, like our piston to valve clearance and getting everything set up with the pushrods. We didn’t finish until Saturday afternoon so we really needed the extra day!”

The Dananni Hotshots/Tony’s Auto Wreckers Monaro responded well to its new power plant, dropping a 5.77sec. pass on its first run.

“We were pretty happy with that in hot and humid conditions,” Zappia said. “It rattled a bit at the top of first gear and I punched second. It kept rattling but I made it through without having to pedal.”

The run top qualified Zappia and gave him a solo for the first round, where a 5.79 would earn him a place in the final.

“We took a bit of fuel away in the tune up and it launched hard, but there was something spraying on the screen as I got to the finish line, which turned out to be a loose fuel line,” he said. “We looked at the data for the final and we decided to throw some more clutch at it.”

Zappia would give up almost three tenths of a second to his opponent, Wayne Keys, in the final. With Keys having not lost a Top Comp race all season, Zappia expected Keys to be a tough racer to overcome.

“As the lights went orange I thought I had a bad reaction time, but I actually had a .073 to his .080,” Zappia explained. “Wayne then got into trouble and started to rattle the tyres and we were able to get by smoothly for a 5.701/254.86mph win.”

Zappia was left impressed by the Noonan horsepower available, even with a safe tune up in place.

“We came here to test and tune and make sure we had a good tune up on the new heads, and it ran perfect all day,” he said. “We have a good baseline for the Westernationals. Both of our motors are within hundredths of each other in hot conditions.”

Perth Motorplex will be undergoing some management changes in coming weeks, with Evolve Facility Management to begin operating the venue. Zappia said he looked forward to continuing improvements at the Motorplex, and the impending 50th Annual Westernationals.

“Chris, the outgoing general manager, has done a great job and we wish him all the best for the future,” he said. “The Westernationals is coming up really fast and we are looking forward to being there with our new merchandise range, including some retro t-shirts I think people will love. Everyone should also keep an eye out for a promotion we are doing with Dananni’s Hotshots – there’s going to be some really cool showbags and even some special extras for some lucky people.”

Looking forward to seeing a huge crowd turning up to show the new management our passion for drag racing and to also support all the race teams including the many racers coming over from the East Coast.

Photos courtesy Phil Luyer www.highoctanephotos.com                      Ian Moore Facebook

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