John Zappia reaffirmed his title as the quickest Pro Slammer driver in the country following the second event of the 400 Thunder Series at Sydney Dragway on Saturday.
Zappia's scorching second round run of 5.601 seconds was the quickest official pass ever in Pro Slammer, eclipsing his own 5.635 at the same track earlier this year and setting a new national record.
“We didn't go looking for three hundredths,” Zappia said. “But we knew there was a bit left after the 63.”
With the East Coast Thunder event marking the first time Zappia has raced in Australia since his successful PDRA tour of the USA with Noonan Racing, the Fuchs/Dananni Hotshots Holden Monaro driver was keen to make a good impression.
The team qualified second with a 5.70 second run, despite being far from a clean pass.
“On my first run the car wheelstood pretty high and went too far to the right so I had to get off the throttle and come back for the next run,” Zappia said.
“Second qualifying session and the car still went right, hugging the centre line and hitting the rev limiter in second gear, but I was able to steer it back after quarter track for a 5.70 at 251mph. We lost about 5mph of speed from hitting the limiter.
“We did some adjustments for the third session and the car went straight but then we had an ignition fault cut the motor out.”
The Zappia team returned to the pit area to go over the electrical system with a fine tooth comb, eventually deciding on putting their old ignition system back on for the first round of racing, where Zappia took on fellow Western Australian Marty Dack.
There Zappia fired the first salvo of his day, with a 5.624 second run to drop his all time best Pro Slammer pass.
“I thought to myself, 'that was pretty cool,'” a casual Zappia said. “It was running 206mph at half track, so it was making some power.”
Taking on tough Queenslander Ben Bray next, Zappia and the team went looking at the data to see if there were any more hundredths of a second they could discover.
“The 5.62 looked a bit weak in part of the run so we adjusted the clutch and aimed the car a bit better off the line. I had a great .038 light and it stayed in the groove for a 5.601, even losing the blower belt at the finish line so it only went 255mph.”
But in the semi finals, Zappia was again left to rue what might have been following an unlucky moment as a broken blower belt stopped the Fuchs/Dananni Hotshots Holden Monaro in its tracks against Paul Mouhayet.
“The blower belt didn't even make it 30 feet before it broke off the engine,” a disappointed Zappia said. “The car launched the hardest it had launched all weekend, the data looked great – but that's no good when your blower belt is under your wheelie bars.”
In fact, it was the third blower belt ruined in three runs for Zappia and he said the team will be looking for answers before they are next on track.
“In the first round it frayed an 11 run-old belt, we changed it for a new one, didn't make it to the finish line the next round, and then didn't even make it to the Christmas tree.
“We're not sure what is behind the belt issue, maybe something is bent or a misalignment; we need to go through it all and find out why it started happening. Belts normally last 20 runs and then all of a sudden we can't make one run.
“It was pretty frustrating, I can’t repeat what was said inside the cab! But that is the way it goes, you think you are on top of it, reliable and consistent, then have something like that goes wrong.”
Despite the semi final loss, the championship damage was minimised for Zappia, with incoming leader Gary Phillips missing East Coast Thunder, while Mouhayet lost to the USA's Frankie Taylor in the final round.
Zappia wanted to sincerely thank his Perth crew members who rebuilt and maintained the race car in his absence during the recent tour of the US - Wilson, Frank, James, Lumpy, Kade, Jason, Ricky and anyone else who popped in to help the boys out.
The Fuchs/Dananni Hotshots team now return home to Perth Motorplex where they will test at the Prestige Lock Services Goldenstates this weekend.
“We are going into test mode to try and rectify the blower belt problem and we will be making some different adjustments to improve performance that we weren't game to make during a championship round,” Zappia said.
“We will get our reliability sorted and then head to Willowbank for the next round of the championship on January 6.
“We haven't let the lead get too far from our grasp, there is a long road to go in this championship yet.
"We are hoping to see lots of sponsors and supporters at the Goldenstates for the start of the Direct Mining and Industrial Summer Slam Series and the ANDRA Summit Racing Equipment Sportsman Series Round 5."