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While he won’t be taking home another Australian championship this season, John Zappia has successfully moved his Dananni Hotshots / Fuchs Lubricants Monaro to the next generation of transmission technology, with near best-ever numbers recorded at the Nitro Champs at Sydney Dragway.

Zappia approached the Sydney round with an open mind, recognising that championship leader Kelvin Lyle would need a disaster of an event to alter the points chase. That would not happen, but for Zappia that would be okay.

“You look at the Nitro Champs from the outside and you might think we’d be disappointed, but it’s important to recognise where this season started,” he said. “For the many decades of racing we have done, we’ve always had a clutch pedal. We made the shift to the auto because we could see the generational change that had occurred. That’s huge, both in terms of car setup and my driving.

“There wasn’t a big trophy at the end of the Nitro Champs and sure, we would have liked more win lights, but the event was successful in other ways.”

Zappia started qualifying at the Nitro Champs with the same tune from his recent 5.61 run in Perth, but the cool May air at Sydney Dragway saw the Dananni Hotshots / Fuchs Lubricants Monaro overpower the track for a 5.90/255mph.

“We knew the power was there with that speed,” Zappia said.

For the second qualifying session, the car dead-hooked early in the run and needed a quick pedal to get through tyre shake, but the result was an impressive 5.642/257mph to earn the Crow Cams Top Qualifier Award — putting a fresh $1000 into the team’s budget.

From there racing beckoned, with Zappia up against rookie Lisa Gregorini in the first round. With Lisa having made her first five-second pass in qualifying, this would be no easy contest.

“When I came into stage, I stopped a little further back from the line and it took me a while to find the staging beams,” Zappia explained. “I got distracted and missed the tree, with a 0.313 light. Lisa had a big lead early and the chase was on. At mid-track I felt my car cough and splutter a bit, cutting out the motor and coming back on. We went 5.67 to Lisa’s 5.82 but her holeshot got her the win. Congratulations to Lisa and we are sure we will have many tough battles in the future.”

Back in the pits, Zappia and his team went looking for the cause of the mystery electrical gremlin. Three electric boxes were changed for the second round, but the problem remained.

“We went 5.66 in the second round, but we had the same thing happening, so we changed even more electrical components for the B Final in the hopes of finding something.”

Zappia took on Matt Abel for the final race. The conditions were ripe for quick runs, and the Dananni Hotshots / Fuchs Lubricants Monaro delivered with its quickest ever 60-foot time at 0.940. The car carried the front wheels before the electrical problem occurred once again, though this time it was helpful in assisting Zappia to steer back into the groove. He took it to the finish line for a 5.607/254mph win. A huge thank you to Todd Tutterow for his Ty-Drive and all his advice along the Auto journey.

“That was a great run, but we also wonder what could have been,” he said. “We went 3.67 to the eighth mile. On our 5.58 run three years ago we only went 3.69. So, it was definitely a 5.57, 5.56 type of run without the electrical problem.”

Zappia believes the issue may be related to the ignition kill switch, which will hopefully be an easy fix before the final round of the 2022/23 season, Nitro Up North at Darwin’s Hidden Valley Dragway in June 16-17.

“I’ll be doing some practice tree work before Darwin to see if I can re-train my muscle memory — I’ve been leaving with a clutch pedal for over 30 years! I’d love to get a clean finish to the season, and we will then be preparing for the next era of Australian drag racing with the National Drag Racing Championship’s launch at Tailem Bend later in the year.”

A big thank you to all our sponsors who make possible and the entire crew who work tirelessly to get the car to perform at it’s best. Also a thank you to all our friends and fans who always support us wherever we race.

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