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Daniel Gregorini finished his east coast tour with a spot in the finals and some valuable points as he aims for a podium finish in the Australian Top Doorslammer Championship. The first destination was Willowbank Raceway, which hosted New Year Nitro early in January. It was Gregorini’s first time back at the Queensland venue in five years, but he qualified well with a 5.817 for third position.

“Considering the humid and hot conditions we were happy with our times,” Gregorini said. “We racked up two rounds wins and were getting amped up for the final round when Sam Fenech’s tragic accident took place. Obviously the tone of everything changed from there completely.”

Like the rest of the Top Doorslammer field, Gregorini spent the following weeks balancing between the grief of losing a fellow competitor and needing to return to the seat of his own Camaro Top Doorslammer. The Atlantic Oils Top Fuel Shootout would take place at Sydney Dragway just three weeks later, incorporating a memorial to Sam before racing began.

“It was a very sad and emotional day, but it was an honour to be a part of a well organised ‘Missing Man’ tribute we performed as a group of Top Doorslammer racers,” Gregorini said. “It was a meeting that didn’t matter how good you ran, if you won or finished last it was just a meeting that you wanted to be racing at for Sam.”

The first goal racing-wise for the Scratch & Match Motorsport team was to win the postponed B Final from Willowbank, which was run during the second qualifying session at Sydney Dragway. Like Willowbank, Gregorini had not seen the Sydney track surface in five years.

“The Sydney track surface was unbelievable, never have I seen such a race surface,” he said. “Again we had hot and humid conditions and we had to battle through. We didn’t have many spares as we were travelling with our great friend Matt Abel on the trip, so we were limited on space. We kept the tune up safe and tried what we could.

“We ran a 5.80 off the trailer in Q1 which set us up where we wanted to be, but unfortunately the rain set in before Q2. That meant the Willowbank final would take place in the heat of Saturday, but fortunately we were able to get down the track for a 5.89 win against Matt.”

Now it was time for Gregorini to shift focus to the points available for the Sydney event, in front of a capacity crowd that filled the complex.

“The first round saw us take on a returning Peter Kapiris. It was so great to see the team back in the series. We ran a pedalling 5.87 to get another win light, though we noticed on the pit maintenance that we broke the number four spark plug and threw the lead off the plug. That actually got us excited for what potential there was on all eight cylinders.”

A fresh set of plugs went into the Hemi, and Gregorini prepared for a match-up against Sydney’s own Craig Hewitt and his popular Holden Monaro.

“We improved again to a 5.79 and another win. Our team was tackling the high water grains without making any changes to the car from our normally great weather conditions in Perth, so that was a great outcome. I did have a hairy breaking area ride with only one parachute coming out, but I managed to get it pulled up with a bit of a slide job on the corner.”

The quick run would be enough to place Gregorini into the A Final, where fellow Western Australian Kelvin Lyle would be his opponent. In a scintillating race for the Sydney crowd, points leader Lyle took the win with a 5.72 to Gregorini’s 5.77.

“My car took off and made a move for the wall, so I kept trying to gently bring it back to the groove. It kept getting worse so I gave it one last reef of the steering wheel before I was going to lift and luckily it came back. Then it was a fight to the stripe. A big congratulations to Kelvin and his team on winning both east coast rounds back-to-back, that’s a huge achievement on the road.

“It was a great trip for us too, and it was great to be back at these tracks. Both meetings had record number attendances and the Top Doorslammer Association racers as a whole put on a great show with fast laps and close races. That’s what we and the crowd love.”

Gregorini and the Scratch & Match Motorsport team will next be on track at Perth Motorplex for the 52nd Westernationals in March.

“We are known for making our car consistent and we certainly achieved that on many of our runs on this trip. We will be looking to back up our 2022 Westernationals win and see if we can’t close the gap to some of the leaders in the Top Doorslammer points,” he said.

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