Australian Nationals delivers qualifying drama

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The Australian Nationals at Sydney Dragway has produced plenty of drama and excitement with the second day of qualifying completed.

Queenslander Steve Read leads the Top Fuel field going into race day with a 4.693 pass in the final session snatching the number one spot from Phil Lamattina’s 4.743 and Allan Dobson’s 4.782 in a last gasp move.

“We came here expecting big things,” Read said. “I felt really good about the weekend and the car has got a lot of potential.

“Qualifying number one is the first part and all things considered I think we can win the deal tomorrow. That would be a dream come true because the last time I was here we won the 2009 Nationals and we also won the 2008 Nationals so it would be nice to win three in a row.”

Read explained that the run had potential to be even quicker as he lifted off the throttle slightly early, still running 466kph through the speed traps.

“Here we can really put the power to the ground so we can improve on it quite a bit,” he said. “We have the first round bye run tomorrow so we will more than likely just stage the car as we do not have many spare parts as we broke a camshaft and hurt a cylinder head in the first qualifying session.”

Current points leader Darren Morgan struggled with some serious engine damage restricting him to two runs, qualifying fourth with a 5.149, followed by Terry Sainty on a 5.370 and Martin Stamatis who returned to the Top Fuel category for the first time since his 2010 championship win, qualifying sixth with a 5.528 second run. Luke Shepherd holds the final spot in the field with a 5.716.

Top Doorslammer carried on the drama with top qualifier Peter Kapiris running a 5.860 time but then exploding a clutch in the second qualifying session.

The resulting fire and smoke blinded Kapiris and he crossed into opponent Victor Bray’s lane, rubbing doors with the Sidchrome Chev before coming into contact with the safety barriers.

Remnants of Peter Kapiris clutch after its untimely exit

Kapiris was taken to hospital for some smoke inhalation and minor burns but was back at the track later in the night helping ready the Dodge Saratoga for round one of competition where he will face Mark Belleri.

In one of the shocks of the night, reigning champion John Zappia failed to qualify, missing the field by just .013 of a second. Other notable names joining him were Victor Bray, Grant O’Rourke and Maurice Fabietti.

Stuart Bishop, Gary Phillips, Andrew Sutton, Ben Bray, Brett Gillespie and John Cannuli will be alongside Kapiris and Belleri as part of the race day show.

In another heartbreaking moment for the night, Top Doorslammer debutant Charlie Micali put his brand new Plymouth Duster into the safety barriers after getting out of shape early in the third qualifying session, causing significant damage.

Creating headlines meanwhile in Pro Stock was Jason Grima who put the PC Group Ford Mustang into number one spot with an astonishing 6.982 at 315.08kph, the quickest and fastest pass in the history of the category. Both the time and speed were national records.

There may yet be more to come from Grima with a bye run as his reward for qualifying first

“Tomorrow if the conditions come to us there is a 6.96 in it I would say,” he said. “Both improving the time and winning are important. I really want to win a national event so that will be my main objective. We can try something in the bye run and then see if we can go through to the end.”

Grima has Seattle, Washington-based Brandon Huhtala out from the USA for the event assisting the team and said it was a case of working on the basics.

“Brandon has just reassured us about what we have been doing,” he said. “We didn’t try anything out of left field, it is just the basic stuff. We have just got the fresh engine back and it seems to be working fine.”

Other top qualifiers for the night included Gary Phillips with a stunning 5.497 in Top Alcohol, Chris Matheson with a 6.092 charge in Top Bike and Fuchs Winternationals winner Luke Crowley with a 7.299 in Pro Stock Motorcycle.

Images by ANDRA Nationally accredited photographers Grant Stephen, Hayley Turns and Rob Sparkes

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