John Zappia has returned to the lead of the 2017/18 400 Thunder Pro Slammer Championship with victory at the penultimate round of the series in Sydney.
Zappia and the Fuchs/Dananni Hotshots Monaro took out the Nitro Thunder event in a thrilling final round against Sam Fenech, 5.751 to a 5.823.
“That was a really close and exciting race as a driver and for the fans,” Zappia said. “Sam and the App Shop team have been going really well lately with consistent 5.7s on different race tracks, so we couldn't leave anything to chance.
“Sam got a small holeshot on me but we made up the difference by 60 feet. Then the tyres started to shake on the Fuchs/Dananni Hotshots Monaro so I needed to pedal and I saw Sam's nose pop out in front. We had to drive past him again in the middle with our Noonan horsepower and I didn't know where he was – it wasn't until I watched the video later I saw how close that Camaro was.”
Conditions at Nitro Thunder proved challenging, as 'mineshaft' air conditions combined with cold temperatures to leave only a small tuning window to run quick passes.
“Testing on Friday night got too cold for almost everyone, but with the sun on the track for race day it was nearly perfect,” Zappia said. “We left our tune up the same from Friday night to Saturday morning and let the track come to us, which worked out perfectly as we ran a 5.633 at 255.92mph in the practice session before racing.
“Once the track started to cool off again on Saturday our tyre shake was getting worse on every run and I was having to pedal each time to get through first gear.
“I think we saw lots of teams have one good run and then a couple of bad ones. We weren't the quickest in racing but it was one of those right place, right time events.
“By the time we got to the final the air was 78 feet beneath sea level but the cold temperatures meant it was extremely difficult to put that horsepower down to the ground.”
Following his win, Zappia gave credit to the local smarts involved in the Fuchs/Dananni Hotshots Monaro team for creating a doorslammer that can compete with the world's best.
“There's a lot of Australian innovation in this car,” he explained. “We use an Australian-built SCF Race Cars chassis powered by a complete Noonan Engineering motor. There's an Australian camshaft thanks to Crow Cams, Australian data logging courtesy of Motec/SDS Fuel Systems, Australian hoses and fittings from Speedflow – the list goes on.
“It's an all Australian crew, plus we run an Australian HQ Monaro body and we're even right hand drive. The local development of this car is something we are very proud of.”
With the points lead now in hand, Zappia is looking forward to the final event of the 400 Thunder season, the Winternationals at Willowbank Raceway on June 7 to 10. The Fuchs/Dananni Hotshots team will attempt to earn a 12th straight national title.
“Nitro Thunder was smooth sailing for us in the pits, the Noonan engine ran like clockwork, the Boninfante clutch stayed in the car all weekend with minor adjustments and the B&J Transmission was super reliable as always and complimented by the world class oil and lubricants from Fuchs Lubricants we were virtually maintenance free. The support of co-naming rights sponsor Dananni Hotshots makes our travels to all states in Australia possible.
“We returned to our 5.60 baseline tune and the car responded. We are looking forward to Willowbank Raceway where our car works really well to see if we can create history with a 12th championship.
"We are keen to see as many of our sponsors, supporters and fans at Willowbank to see the titanic battle for the championship, in what is sure to be a race to the wire."
- Media release courtesy Zappia Racing