John Cannuli from wrecks to records

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Any champion will tell you that the road to number one is a mixture of highs, lows and plenty in between.

For Queensland Alcohol Funny Car racer John Cannuli, he knows all too well what it’s like to go from zero to hero. He cut his teeth in the Pro Street ranks for many years before going into Supercharged Outlaws after winning the first Supercharged Outlaw event at Sydney Dragway in 2004. After that Cannuli never looked back, stepping into the professional Group 1 ranks with the purchase of an ex-Jeff Burnett Top Alcohol Pontiac Funny Car in 2006.

“Initially we never had a lot of success in Top Alcohol,” said Cannuli. “We were with the big boys now and had a lot to learn – it’s always been a tough class with hard racers, but I never gave up. Back in the 2005/2006 ANDRA Championship, I finished 14th – then over the years we continued to climb the ladder until finally scoring a number one in 2016.

“The Winternationals has also been a tough race to win – I think we qualified ninth for the first five event. Last year in the semi finals, we had a shot at the championship, but unfortunately fireballed against Jamie Noonan.

“It’s the biggest drag race in Australia and it’s also the one every racer wants to win, both here and abroad. After we had wrapped up the ANDRA Championship we wanted to make it a double with the first 400 Thunder Pro Alcohol Championship,” said Cannuli.

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“We’d stepped up this season and started catching up with the front runners but it wasn’t all smooth sailing. At a few of the events we set Low ET and Top Speed, we did well at both Perth rounds with a runner-up, a win, and a 5.37 ET – but then we crashed at the Santo Super 3 event at Willowbank when the wheelie bar broke and the Crossroads Funny Car went into a wild and spectacular power wheelstand.

“We’d lost some pace at the Nitro Champs in Sydney so decided to go over the whole car from front to back. So proud of the team as they worked long hours, making sure we would be in the best shape possible for the Winters,” said Cannuli.

Well let the records show that not even Cannuli could have predicted what transpired on Friday night of the event. It was Q1 for the team and John was just looking to put a good number down – from the drivers view it felt strong and smooth, but Cannuli had absolutely no idea what numbers he had just run. Once he was told – 5.35 seconds at only 256.36 mph – Cannuli went off like the 4th of July. When his crew finally brought him back to earth Cannuli was able to bask in the limelight knowing that he had just run the quickest Alcohol Funny Car pass in the world, surpassing Australia’s previous record holder Gary Phillips.

It would seem that for the time being the monkey was off John’s back.

The following day the car unfortunately destroyed a motor when two rods let go in Q2. As such it was a big rebuild so the team sat out the third qualifier and worked well into the night to prepare for round one on Sunday.

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This turned out to be a good move when Cannuli ripped off another solid 5.369 at 255.34 mph over a red lighting Robert Ambruosi – this backed up Friday’s run for a new 400 Thunder IHRA record.

Going into the semi-finals Cannuli stayed on the pace defeating Jon Sting with a consistent 5.374 at 267.85 mph however for him to have a chance at the championship, point’s leader Gary Phillips needed to go out. Unfortunately Wayne Price’s 5.97 pass was well short of Phillip’s 5.361 at 270.43 mph.

Thus two of the biggest, quickest and fastest rivals would face off for the final, and while it was cold Sunday night, not one fan left their seat for what would be the showdown of the Winternationals.

The conditions had changed somewhat, but the surface still had plenty of teeth left. On the green Cannuli had the holeshot out the gate with a .055 to a .079 reaction, however struggled to keep his car in the groove. As a result the Crossroads funny car moved towards the centerline where Phillips was resulting in contact between the two funny cars, exploding Cannuli’s rear slick and destroying the body. Whilst spectacular, thankfully neither driver was hurt – Cannuli was disqualified for crossing the stripe handing Phillips the automatic win.

It was a bittersweet ending for the Crossroads team at the 49th running of the Winternationals.

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“It will take a lot more than what happened to keep us away,” smiled Cannuli. “It’s taken 10 years and a lot of hard work to get to where we are today. We still have unfinished business and will be back to continue the next chapter of the quickest alky funny car in Australia and the world.

“What more can I say about this season – two wins, two runner-ups, a semi final, low ET and Top Speed, one ANDRA Championship, a runner up in the 400 Thunder Championship, track records at four tracks and two National Records – and to cap it all off, a new World Record.

“I’d like to thank my wife Kirsten and kids for all their support and love, and letting me drive the quickest alcohol funny car in the world, my super crew for all the hard work they put in and the long nights away from there families, Paul Rooks my crew chief for giving me one bad ass hot rod, and to all my sponsors – all of whom I could not so this without their love, patience and support.

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Sponsors – Just Traffic Solutions, Powercruise, Royal Precison Lubricants, Profender, Gold coast Wraps, Eco Steel Frames, Brisbane Mini Excavators, Mackays Furniture Transport, Renegade Auto Cool, AuzmetArchitecural, Pro Systems Plumbing, Motor Fab, Blum, Thermal Edge Coatings, Noonan Race Engineering, and Hercules Loaders


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