Frustratingly close to home territory win, Abel looks to the future

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Matt Abel was left to consider what might have been after a minor gremlin robbed him of valuable hundredths of a second in the Top Doorslammer final at the Desert Nationals on Sunday.

Abel’s ’57 Chevy was on a scorching run on Alice Springs Inland Dragway’s quarter-mile when a problem with his shift computer took the car from third to fifth gear. That was enough to allow his opponent John Zappia to fire past.

“We had the car loaded up for a big run in the final,” he said. “I have been doing this a long time, and most of the time when I have raced John he catches you by half track and puts car lengths on you. This time it was like, ‘Geez, I might have this.’ Then it went from third to fifth and that is when he went past us.”

The final result saw Zappia’s 5.853 defeat Abel’s 5.960. Abel had a better reaction time, 0.113 to 0.170, which meant a 5.900 or quicker could have taken out Zappia.

“It was set up for a 5.8 and I would have expected that on that lap given the early numbers,” Abel explained.

“We went 0.979 to 60 feet and we were doing 202mph at half track. Our first three five-second passes for the weekend had all been fairly conservative.”

Though he might not have come away with the ANDRA Christmas Tree, Abel managed to add a significant amount of points to his tally. He currently sits third in the Australian Drag Racing Championship with 162 points, behind leader Zappia (206) and second-placed Daniel Gregorini (192).

“We are going to chase the series from here, beginning with Adelaide in October and then heading to Perth, where we will base the car,” Abel said.

“Hopefully we can make the car consistent first. Other than a hiccup at Nitro Up North, the car has been running fives on pretty much every lap we have done. We are looking forward to getting it on to a sticky track later in the season and seeing what it can do.”

While 5.9s and 5.8s are nice, for Abel to mix it with the likes of Zappia and Gregorini he will have to find a way to dive into the 5.7 second zone and beyond. Car limitations have made that tricky for the Northern Territorian, despite plenty of horsepower.

“My car is overweight, so we will try and put it on a diet, but that is a little hard for us. The car is built super strong and we don’t have a lot of options on where we can take weight from.

“I think it is capable of 5.7s, we went 255mph in Darwin so it is making the power to do it. In the past it has been the chassis we needed to sort out, because every time we tried to dial in more power it would wheelstand or get loose. We are getting there now with the way the chassis is set up.”

The next round of the Australian Drag Racing Championship takes place at Adelaide International Raceway on October 2/3, 2021. For more information, head to

Photo credit: Amber Simms Photography

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