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John Zappia's 2018/19 400 Thunder season did not finish in the fashion he would have preferred, bowing out in the first round of the Winternationals at Willowbank Raceway.

The event was badly weather affected and the Pro Slammer teams only had one qualifying shot. Fortunately Zappia's Fuchs/Dananni Hotshots Monaro made it into the eight-car field, but only just.

“The first qualifying session was cancelled, and the third session looked like it was going to be impacted by weather as well, so we figured we would only have one chance,” Zappia said. “Everyone was in the same boat and we all had to figure out how to get down the track. I made it more difficult on myself though when I backed up too far after the burnout and put my rear tyres back into the water tracks.”

Zappia spun the tyres on the hit of the throttle, but managed to recover for a 6.26 at 250mph, enough to put him into sixth place.

“It was cold and the water carried further than normal, it blew the tyres straight off. At least we got into the field, but with Paul Mouhayet qualifying in fourth he had enough points to get into race day and took out the championship – congratulations to Moits Racing.”

While the pressure of the championship was off, Zappia still wanted another Winternationals trophy to add to his collection. Zappia took on Scott MacLean in the first round but again the Fuchs/Dananni Hotshots Monaro spun the tyres early in the pass.

“We were waiting for a while for some delays and it was a nice, sunny day so we figured the track would be good,” Zappia said. “Once again the tyres were spinning right as we launched and Scott was long gone. We had the same tune up as when we went 5.65 in Sydney, but in hindsight we needed a lot less. The track felt sticky on top but was soft underneath from all the rain and it just didn't come back.

“It was great to see Parry Bitsikas from Muscle Car Warehouse at Willowbank on the weekend and unfortunately we didn’t perform up to our best for him. We wish to express a big thank you to our naming rights sponsor Fuchs Lubricants and Dananni Hotshots, our major sponsors Muscle Car Warehouse, Crow Cams, Hoosier Race Tires, Noonan Race Engineering and all our supporting sponsors who give us the opportunity to race and compete at the highest level. Without their continued support we could not achieve what we have been able to achieve so far.

"Our form guide currently reads like a great race horse with a finishing record of 2, 2, 1, 1, 1, 1, 1, 1, 1, 1, 1, 1, 1, 2, 2 since we entered the Top Doorslammer/Pro Slammer championships.”

Though Zappia was disappointed to end the season on a low, he is already looking to the future, beginning with the Grudge Kings event on July 6 at Sydney Dragway. Zappia will be racing both his current Pro Slammer, nicknamed 'Crusher', in the Pro Mod class, as well as bringing Zap's Rat back to the track for the first time in over a decade to compete in the Pro Street class.

“We will go back to Perth now and prepare the steel body 'Zap's Rat' and get ready for Grudge Kings with two cars,” Zappia said. “We want to do some R&D with 'Crusher' to see what we can find out that will help us next season and with both classes having $50,000 winner cheques there's a lot of money on the line.

“'Zap's Rat' won two championships and ran 5.8s on the quarter mile back in the day. Grudge Kings is eighth mile for Pro Street and with what we know now we should be looking at 3.9s or 3.8s over that distance.”