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.”