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Zappia Top Qualifies Under The National Record

When you’ve had a drag racing career as long as John Zappia’s, it’s fair to say there will be events you would rather forget. The 52nd annual MacTrack Westernationals fits firmly into that category for the many-times Top Doorslammer champion.

After some positive results at the last round of the Australian Top Doorslammer Championship in Sydney, Zappia came to Perth Motorplex hopeful of improvements at his home track.

“On our first run out we had a similar tune-up to what we ran in Sydney and we pulled a 5.69 right away,” he said. “Considering the weather was getting better, we tried a different blower on there and the next session saw an improving 5.67, with a big 257mph. I was happy we had some power back in our Noonan Hemi!”

The third and final session saw the Zappia Racing brains trust decide to turn up the Dananni Hotshots/Fuchs Lubricants Monaro in the hopes of a pass at the national record and that was exactly what they got with a stunning 5.614 @ 256.88 mph receiving the Crow Cams Top Qualifier award.

“We gave it a little bit more off the line, as we stuck the Hoosier tyres on the launch in the second session. This time it was on a mission with a 0.956 to 60 feet and then a 2.49 at 330 feet, which was our quickest ever. We were really happy with that, especially finding pace in the first part of the track rather than trying to make it all on the top end.”

Everything looked great to the team in servicing, with the B&J Transmission and Ty-Drive Converter in top shape, and preparations were made for the first round of racing against veteran Peter Kapiris, who was back at the Motorplex for the first time in many years.

“The first round was where our luck changed,” Zappia said. “I tried to cut a light when I didn’t need to, and came up red with a -0.016. Then to add insult to injury, at 4.8 seconds into the run we had a rod break in the motor, which pressurised the other seven cylinders and we banged the blower. I rolled through for a 5.72 at just 223mph.”

Now the Zappia Racing crew had an engine change to perform with just a short amount of time until the second round against newly licensed racer Lisa Gregorini.

“We had a major thrash on our hands and we rushed the car out to the staging lanes as Lisa was given the fire-up order. We attempted to start our car and I looked over and saw that a couple of airlines inside the firewall were burnt from the backfire in the previous round. It was a 30-second job, but we were simply out of time.”

A big thank you to all the crew and friends who worked non-stop for over an hour to get the engine change done. Also thanks to our eastern states friends (Daniel, Mick and Kelly) who chipped in to help where they could. Thanks also to all the ladies that help with merchandise, preparing food and looking after the crew in general.

With just a single round remaining to salvage his event, Zappia hoped for the best in the third and final race against Matt Abel — but it wasn’t to be.

“In the final we had a malfunction with the transbrake. We replaced the band of the transbrake on Sunday morning, but then there was an issue and I couldn’t get it into gear. I ground the gears until the car crept into stage, but all I could do was light the beams and turn the car off. It was a hard luck night.”

Kelvin Lyle extended his points lead in the national championship with two events remaining, but Zappia has much experience when it comes to chasing down the opposition. “In hindsight, we should have had a more conservative strategy, but with running back-to-back 5.6s we didn’t want to change much,” he said.

The team will next be on track on April 15 for the Summer Slam Grand Final in their last appearance of the Perth Motorplex season.

While the Westernationals didn’t go to plan, it wasn’t the only racing the team has done in Perth lately, with the steel body of Zap’s Rat getting dragged out from the workshop and put together to compete as part of Street Outlaws No Prep Kings Australia.

“It was great to be invited to be on the show,” Zappia said. “We had some great races against Jeff Lutz even though they hustled us on the first one. Those Americans sure stick together as a team to take the money while all the Aussies just wanted to race! I wanted to race Jeff Lutz three times so the audience got to see two well-matched cars racing their hardest but the whole TV show nature of it is hard to break.”

“On a brighter note we ended the Westernationals with a win with my nephew Brodie in the Super Sedan class in only his fourth meeting in the class with his 97 Camaro. He now has two wins from four meetings and is showing he can compete against seasoned racers.”



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