Challenging Darwin round does not phase Zappia

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John Zappia and his Dananni Hotshots/Tony’s Auto Wreckers Monaro Top Doorslammer have continued their exploration of new driveline technology in a mixed opening round of the Australian Top Doorslammer Championship.

Zappia headed to Darwin’s Hidden Valley Drag Strip following a full week of testing at Queensland’s Willowbank Raceway with a Ty-Drive Converter Drive. Alongside Supercars and Australian Superbikes, plus the Australian Top Fuel Championship, for the Merlin Darwin Triple Crown, there was positivity mixed with the realisation that the combination was still completely new and a big learning curve.

“We used a backed down tune for the first qualifying run as we thought the track surface would take some time to come around, and we hit a 5.87 at 245mph,” Zappia said. “It was a pretty straight and easy run, though the Dananni Hotshots/Tony’s Auto Wreckers Monaro did fishtail a little through the top end”.

“For the next qualifying session, we put more in it, but I had some of my old muscle memory come back and I forgot to push the transbrake, so the car just drove right off into a big wheelstand. The good news was we were still qualified number one as everyone else had their struggles with the track.”

Race day arrived with tens of thousands of fans keen to see what the Top Doorslammers had to deliver for Hidden Valley. Zappia’s first round race would take place against local favourite Matt Abel. Zappia left with the holeshot, but silence came over his car at half track, leaving Abel to scoot around the outside for the win light.

“At 3.6 seconds the power just cut out and Matt got around me. We got back to the pits and found the engine had broken the idler pulley, which took out a brand-new blower belt and damaged the top and bottom supercharger pulleys. Everything was a bit of a mess.”

The team got to work in the Darwin heat to replace the mangled parts and returned for the next round against Kelvin Lyle.

“The second round was a tough one. I got flustered on the line and took off with a 0.320 reaction time. That’s way too slow at this level of competition and despite a 5.82 we were beaten by Kelvin’s 5.96. I was pretty disappointed in myself, and I’ve got no real explanation. It doesn’t take much of a distraction to get a bad light.”

That left just the B Final against Daniel Gregorini. Hoping for redemption, Zappia would have to settle for leaving Darwin without a win light after a wild pass.

“We stepped it up for the final and the Dananni Hotshots/Tony’s Auto Wreckers Monaro Top Doorslammer took off like a rocket. The only problem was it was carrying the front wheels, and it just got higher and higher. I put the front down and tried to keep it in my lane, but I put half a rear tyre into Daniel’s lane. So, I guess we found three new ways to lose and hopefully got them out the way and can concentrate on improving our performance and consistency over the ADRC season!”

Despite the lack of results on the time sheets, Zappia was still satisfied that the team had learned more about the new combination and what the car wants.

“It was a risk making this change just as we start the new season and championship, and we are still not 100% comfortable with the procedure, but we are making good ground. We still had the quickest car in Darwin even with the dramas and our incremental times are within 2.5% of our PBs.” That’s not bad considering we are comparing 1200+ runs in a clutch manual car to 14 runs in the current setup with the Ty-Drive.

The Top Doorslammer teams next head to Alice Springs for the Red Centre Nats in September 1 and 2 alongside the Top Fuel cars and all the burnout and cruise action.

“We have some improvements to make before Red Centre Nats and we are hoping the car will run some quick times there as part of another awesome show.”

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