Legendary team owner Santo Rapisarda has threatened to abandon racing Top Fuel in Australia unless the two major race tracks - Sydney Dragway and Willowbank Raceway - introduce 1000 foot racing for the 2017-18 400 Thunder season that commences at Sydney Dragway in November.
The impact of RAI quitting the sport would have major consequences for the premier drag racing class in Australia. In recent years the Sydney based team has field upwards of four cars at events, regularly making up at least half of the entries.
“I will not race quarter mile again,” declared Rapisarda.“The time has arrived for Australia to abandon the 1320 foot race distance on the grounds of safety. I have been giving this a lot of thought and my mind was made up at the 2017 Winternationals when both our cars ran over 330 mph. It was a historic moment for the team but when you run at those speeds the risks are too great."
"The NHRA made the decision to abandon quarter mile racing in 2008 when Scott Kalitta was killed. I consider both our current drivers Damien Harris and Wayne Newby to be part of the Rapisarda family, and could not live with myself if anything were to happen.”
The team has developed a cult following on the NHRA tour since making their debut in 2012 and has given Australian racers Terry Sainty, Damien Harris, Wayne Newby and Mark Mariani the once in the lifetime opportunity to ply their trade on the world stage.
Some of the biggest names in the NHRA including three-time champ Larry Dixon, Cory McClenathan, Tommy Johnson and Dom Lagana, have also driven for RAI in America and Australia.
The first salvo in the battle to introduce 1000 foot racing has been fired with Rapisarda’s lawyers sending a letter to both tracks outlining his concerns regarding safety, and draws heavily on the fact that track safety including braking braking distances have not kept up to date with race technology and escalating speeds.
“When Top Fuel dragsters raced in the 1990s it was estimated that with 3000 horsepower and speeds approaching 300 miles per hour that was about as fast as these cars would go over the 1320 feet distance. However today, 9000hp and speeds over 320 mph are common, and the distance cars have to stop in have not got any better,” said Rapisarda.
The spotlight will also be on the governing bodies for the sport, the IHRA and Top Fuel Australia, the peak body for the category to address the issues raised by Rapisarda.
RAI is competing at the biggest event on the NHRA calendar, the 63rd annual U.S. Nationals at Lucas Oil Raceway, Indianapolis this weekend.