Championship glory claimed in dramatic fashion in Darwin

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Peter Xiberras, Chris Matheson crowned as 2022 Top Fuel and Top Fuel Bike champions; Damien Harris takes Top Fuel event victory; and Kelvin Lyle and Rob Cassar strike first blows for 2022/2023 ADRC season

Nitro Up North has concluded in spectacular fashion at the Hidden Valley Drag Strip this evening, with championship and event victors celebrated in front of a bumper crowd of race fans.

The event, which is co-located with the Supercars’ Merlin Darwin Triple Crown, hosted the final rounds of the 2022 Burson Auto Parts Australian Top Fuel Championship and TFRA Top Fuel Bike title, as well as the opening rounds of the 2022/2023 ADRC Top Doorslammer and 2022/2023 ADRC Top Fuel Motorcycle seasons.

Peter Xiberras and the PremiAir Racing crew were jubilant following a dramatic day of racing in Darwin which saw them secure their second consecutive Top Fuel title.

Xiberras had headed to Darwin 10 points in the lead over Phil Lamattina, but threw that advantage away with a round one red light against his championship rival.

Round two saw a reversal of fortunes however, with Lamattina losing on a holeshot to team-mate Shane Olive while Xiberras ran an all-candles blazing 4.094 second pass at 467.82 kilometres per hour for the win over Wayne Newby to secure not only a A-Finals berth, but the championship win.

Xiberras faced off against Damien Harris in the final, with Harris having earlier taken wins over Olive and Phil Read. It was the fifth A-Final showing for the season for Xiberras, and ended up being his fifth runner-up result when Harris beat him to the line by 25 thousandths of a second following a heart-stopping side-by-side 500+ km/h final.

Third pace went to Shane Olive after an all LTFR B-Final, with Olive beating his boss Lamattina for the second time of the night with a nice 4.048 second pass at 384.18kmh over the title runner-up’s 4.230/364.34kph effort.

The C-Final saw Newby take the win with what was the first 500kmh+ run of the weekend (507.97kmh/3.883s) while Read was forced off it early after hitting tyre shake off the launch.

“It is pretty amazing to do this – it is one of those childhood dreams to win a Top Fuel title and to back it up and go two in a row is even more special,” Xiberras said.

“Thank you to everyone who has supported us and played a part in getting us here. My crew work so hard and I am indebted to them for their continuing dedicated and efforts – I can’t do this on my own and I am so thankful for their hard work.

“Thank you to my family and especially my wife Carmen, and to all of our fans – we just love seeing the smiles on the faces of all those who love this sport, and we hope you all enjoyed the show here in Darwin this weekend!”

The drama continued in Top Doorslammer, with West Australian Kelvin Lyle breaking the hearts of the NT locals by defeating Territorian Mat Abel in the A-Final to lift the Nitro Up North trophy and ensure he is topping the points early for the 2022/2023 ADRC Top Doorslammer season.

Abel looked to have the advantage early, however soon struck tyre shake and was forced to lift while Lyle ran straight and true for the win.

Defending champion Daniel Gregorini took on eleven-time champion John Zappia in the B-Final following a testing weekend for both racers, with the challenges continuing for the pair in the B-Final.

Even so, the crowd were well-impressed with their final run, as although Gregorini had no time recorded he took the victory as Zappia carried the front wheels well past the 60 foot mark and slightly across the centre line in a wild run that had the crowd cheering and Zappia – who is coming to grips with a new automatic transmission and transbrake set-up – grinning upon exiting his car.

“It is always good to come away with a win for the first meeting of the season,” Lyle said.

“The final was actually not bad; we didn’t actually change the car at all from the run before as I probably don’t think my car can take much more – so we didn’t change hardly anything on that last run, and it ran very similar numbers.

“It is always great to come up to Darwin, I love racing here. This is our fifth time we have been here racing and the crew, and everyone looks forward to it so much as we get away from the cold down south and come up to sunny Darwin.

“My thanks goes to all the crew and to Stuart Rowland for coming on board and helping us get the car to go straight as we were struggling with that.

“It is good to have a win again, it has been a fair while since we had one, so it is real good to be back up there again. It is really good to have a national championship and hopefully this is the start of a great season for us.”

When it came to two-wheeled action, this weekend’s event doubled as both the TFRA Top Fuel Bike title final and the opening round of the new 2022/2023 ADRC Top Fuel Motorcycle season.

A nail-biting burndown preceded an intense A-Final with Rob Cassar ultimately taking out a close victory over defending champion Greg Durack to open the 2022/2023 ADRC Top Fuel Motorcycle title ledger in style.

Cassar clean-swept the weekend, with the Victorian claiming the Top Qualifier honours yesterday and his A-Final 7.084 second pass at 278.79kph being his third win of Saturday evening.

Mark Drew took out the B-Final over Danny Rickard with his most successful pass of the weekend, securing the win and third for the meeting with a 6.807 second pass at 265.85kph.

“That was just fantastic, well worth the 3,800km of travel!” Cassar enthused.

“I want to thank my sponsors and everyone who helps us, especially my wife Katie for putting up with me, and my crew that have come over from WA to help me and Dale and Kevin Gummow for helping us, and all my sponsors – including Ballistic Performance Parts, PowerPlus, Denso, Shinko Tyres, Force Wear, Cabinet Works, Andrew’s Automotive, Lucas Oils and everyone else who helps.

“It has been a fantastic weekend with ‘the little engine that could’ and I couldn’t have done it without my crew. We were struggling with the tune up a little bit, it should have run 7.0 on the first run but I just missed it, but it has been a fantastic weekend.”

Despite being unable to front for this weekend’s racing due to injury, Chris Matheson was officially anointed as the 2022 TFRA Top Fuel Bike series champion thanks to his dominant performance across the opening five rounds.

ADRC Top Doorslammer, ADRC Top Fuel Motorcycle and the Burson Auto Parts Australian Top Fuel Championship will all now turn their attentions to Alice Springs Inland Dragway as part of Red Centre Nats across September 1-2. For further information, visit www.topfuelchampionship.com.au or www.redcentrenats.com.au

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