Lamattina Top Fuel Racing’s final round of the inaugural Burson Auto Parts Australian Top Fuel Championship concluded with Darwin’s Nitro Up North event at Hidden Valley Dragstrip.
Whilst the team results saw Phil Lamattina fall just short of the championship title, the marquee event was fantastic for the teams and fans, running in combination with the Supercars and Australian Superbikes championships as the Merlin Darwin Triple Crown.
The FUCHS Lubricants Top Fuel dragster and driver Lamattina went into the final with 450 points, just 10 points behind championship leader Peter Xiberras.
In his rookie season, LTFR teammate, Shane Olive arrived at the event with 260 points and sixth position in the championship chase aboard his Burson Auto Parts machine.
The Darwin track provided some challenges for the car’s tune-ups. Along with the heat and humidity, track conditions were challenging with no racing on the dragstrip during the day, and limited racing on the surface in the lead-up to the event.
The first qualifying session saw both LTFR cars smoke the tyres with Lamattina recording a 6.477-second pass and Olive a 7.813-second run for fourth and fifth respectively. The second qualifying saw more tyre-shake for most teams but it was Phil Read who top qualified with a strong 3.974 second pass at 294mph.
That meant Lamattina would race Peter Xiberras in round one in a championship crucial race. Olive would take on Damien Harris.
Xiberras red lit against Lamattina (-.189RT), handing the win to the FUCHS machine. Despite the red light, Lamattina would have still won the race with a great .034 reaction, even though he had to pedal the dragster out of tyre smoke at halftrack though for a 4.399 at 203MPH to Xiberras’ 5.301 at 132MPH. Olive and the Burson Auto Parts team struggled to adapt to the tricky track, losing out to Harris after smoking the tyres near half-track.
That meant Lamattina now lead the championship by 10 points but would have to race LTFR teammate Olive in round two. A win to Lamattina would all but secure the championship. Despite what many people thought might happen, the team boss was very clear: “No team orders, we will race for it!”
Olive holeshot Phil with a terrific .029 to .044 at the tree, The FUCHS dragster broke the blower belt at half-track, the Burson Auto Parts dragster smoked the tyres moments later but crossed the stripe first for the win – 4.257 at 192 to 4.655 at166MPH.
It was a bittersweet win for Olive and a heartbreaking loss for Lamattina. Peter Xiberras was able to score a win in the next race and run quick enough to reach the A-Final. As a result, Xiberras had a 30-point lead in the championship, a margin which will be impossible for Lamattina to overcome in the next round – Xiberras was the inaugural championship winner.
This also meant the LTFR would have to race each other a second time, this time for the B-Final, the winner of which would earn third spot on the podium.
It was Olive who took a second win over Lamattina to claim victory in the event’s B-Final, with LTFR delivering on their promise to put on a show to finish off the event with a great side-by-side race. Lamattina turned the tables on the start line reaction time advantage – .078 to .089 – but from there on, Olive was quicker to all the increments, taking the stripe first with a 4.048 to 4.230, and to stand on the final podium of the season in third.
Lamattina finished the championship in second on 500 points – 40 behind Xiberras. Olive finished in sixth on 330 points in his rookie season. Team boss Lamattina explained, “Of course we are disappointed, but that’s racing, you win some, you lose some.”
“Congratulations to Peter and his team, they have done a great job and deserve the rewards. We have nothing to complain about, we had a good season. I was the first driver to win two events and my teammate Shane won his first event in a rookie year, plus a stack of podiums.
“None of this would be possible without the support of Burson Auto Parts and FUCHS Lubricants, we are lucky to have such awesome support from them as well as Dayco, Rocky Lamattina and Sons and everyone else who has helped along the way.”
Lamattina concluded, “We will be in Alice Springs starting the next season in just two months, so now we prepare for that. Whether it myself or Shane, it’s time for some gold for the trophy cabinet.”
Burson Top Fuel Championship Sept 1 – 2, Alice Springs Inland Dragway for the Red Centre Nats