Sam Fenech won his first ever Pro Slammer event at Santo’s Summer Thunder on January 19, 2019 but a parachute mishap resulted in an horrific end to the night’s proceedings.
Fenech crossed the finish line with a 5.66 pass at 255mph to defeat Paul Mouhayet but then went on a wild ride through the braking area as the chutes did not blossom. It took Fenech just six seconds to cover the 600 metres of bitumen left (that’s an average of 223mph in case you are wondering) before he went into the gravel trap and then the safety net, which the Camaro went through or under before hitting a tyre bundle.
Fenech ‘walked away’, emerging from the car under his own power and heading to the ambulance in what was a relief for everyone at the scene.
It was a devastating end for what had been a nearly perfect event for Fenech and the JSS Racing team’s Lloyds Classic Car Auction Camaro. He was on a consistency mission, with times of 5.66, 5.65 and the final round 5.66.
“I’ve had a lot of phone calls and a lot of messages and a lot of words of encouragement (since the accident),” Fenech said.
“Thankfully I am feeling really good today. I have no injuries that I know of, all the safety gear did its job. The track staff, the ambulance crew, everybody did an unreal job.
“Unfortunately the car is gone, but we had a really good win. As far as the team goes we are strong and everything is good, so thanks for all the well wishes.”
Points leader Mouhayet was able to extend his margin in the 400 Thunder Pro Slammer series with the runner up place. John Zappia, who was second in the points coming into Santo’s Summer Thunder, did not have his night go as planned when the team had to withdraw following mechanical dramas in round two.
Steve Ham was unlucky to miss the final with runs of 5.70, 5.70 and 5.68 and is no doubt the most highly favoured driver to score a first win now that Fenech has a Christmas tree.
Emilio Spinozzi finally ran his first five second time slip with a 5.99 in round two, but only earned one win light from three rounds.
With Fenech’s accident disabling the catch net, no more racing was able to take place for the night, leaving the remaining pro brackets undecided. A rain delay earlier in the evening meant a late night for teams.
Top Fuel turned on some exciting racing. The six car field featured four past Australian national champions and two American drivers. Kelly Bettes defeated Damien Harris 3.83/311 to 3.88/312 in a big first round match, while Phil Read used a 3.85/307 to narrowly oust Ashley Sanford’s 3.91/306. Wayne Newby dropped low ET of the event with a 3.80/315 to beat Cameron Ferre’s 4.23.
In round two Read racked his second win with a personal best 3.81/316 to beat Harris. Bettes also went two up with a 3.86/277 to defeat Sanford’s 3.90/306, the American perhaps unlucky not to get more win lights on the night given her consistency. Newby needed to go quicker than Bettes’ 3.86 to make the final but wasn’t able to make it happen with Ferre taking his first win light on Australian soil on a 3.93/299 run.
Bettes and Read were thus the finalists, but unfortunately what would have been a great match up was not to be.
Top Bike was a mixed bag. The field ended up at six bikes with John Zahra unable to complete licensing before racing started. The performances of Chris Matheson saved what was otherwise a tricky night for the two wheeled missiles. Matheson went 6.18 in the shakedown session and then a spectacular 6.08/210mph in the second round. With two win lights, Matheson was set to meet Gavin Spann in the final. Jay Upton also earned two win lights but did not have times quick enough to make it to the final.
Sportsman racing saw a number of brackets reach their conclusions while others would have to share the spoils.
In Pro Extreme Greg Tsakiridis was lucky to earn a holeshot 7.47 win against Gina Bullians’ 7.45 in a messy race. Tsakiridis earlier ran a 5.78/262mph, not too far off the Australian door car speed record of 266mph set by Paul Mouhayet in the same car.
Extreme Bike did not get to the final round but saw Leonard Azzopardi hit a big speed of 211.26mph in round one, which we think may be the fastest no bar bike speed recorded in Australia.
Super Stock did not get to run a final, which would have seen Daniel Camilleri taking on Fred Nicastri.
Competition Bike was a father and son battle between Chris Collin and Ken Collin. Despite Chris’ youthful .055 to .113 holeshot, his father and reigning national champ Ken had the performance with an 8.24 win to an 8.44, both on a 7.99 index.
Alf Sciacca Jr picked up the win in Supercharged Outlaws with his bright orange Lamborghini, while Top Sportsman went to Steve Fowler whose 6.92 on a 6.90 dial in defeated Paul Doeblien.
Peter Brown went .006 on the tree and 7.66 on a 7.59 to take victory in Modified from Chris Manks, while Enio Marrocco was .007 and 9.17 on a 9.11 for the Super Sedan win over Leo Georgis.
Brian Alvisio took out Modified Bike against Mick Mundey, as Andrew Stathis used a close 10.77 on a 10.76 to defeat a break out 10.36 on a 10.37 from Ray Ross in the Super Street final.
Graeme Spencer took advantage of a -.001 red light from Vince Panetta in Super Gas.
Finally in Junior Dragster, Zara Board and Claire Little were due to face off in the final but would have to share the podium as joint winners after the meeting was brought to its early end.