Kelvin Lyle is aiming to knock John Zappia off the top of the Direct Mining & Industrial Summer Slam points today at Perth Motorplex, with the Busselton Top Doorslammer driver confident his Ford Mustang is on the verge of great things.
Last season, Lyle had US crew chief Jon Salemi out to Australia for several events. COVID-19 prevented Salemi from travelling across the world this season, meaning Lyle and his crew have been functioning independently on race days.
“I actually enjoy tuning the car, it is something new,” Lyle said. “I have Darren White on my team who raced in Supercharged Outlaws like me for many years, and he has some input as well. Greg Ducker is on my team too and he is good with the rear end of the car. It has made us a stronger team, as we are all talking more about what we think we should do instead of relying on Jon to do it for us all the time.”
The team still communicates with Salemi between events, getting his input on their ideas.
“I don’t know when Jon will be coming back, but we know it’s a fair way off,” Lyle said. “We have been getting more confident on tuning the car just to get down the track. We ran a 5.80sec. time in testing in hot conditions, and last meeting we went 5.90sec. during the heat of the day too. I think we are doing alright tuning it.”
Lyle, who won the Summer Slam championship in the 2017/18 season, qualified number one at the season opener. Racing proved frustrating however, when a broken blower belt cost him a place in the A Final. The team is also still in the early stages of setting up an automatic transmission, which places extra demands on Lyle’s driving.
“With a (manual) car I could always get on and off the throttle pedal if I needed to settle the car, but with an auto you just can’t do that once it is locked up or it will wheelstand or get more loose. I was on the highlight video at the last Westernationals having a big moment, and that was the last time I pedalled the car.”
Lyle’s Ford Mustang has otherwise been well behaved, especially given it produces around 3500 horsepower from its eight-litre, supercharged motor.
“This is a really good car, it is predictable and nice to drive,” he said.
The second round of the Summer Slam sees a return to strength for the field with Pino Priolo and Frank Taylor racing for the first time this season, alongside John Zappia, Mark Chapman, Stuart Moresby and Ryan Moresby. Missing is championship hopeful Daniel Gregorini, with the damage to his Camaro from the season opener proving too much to repair in time.
The Summer Slam will be joined by the WA Nitro Bike Series, Top Comp, Supercharged Outlaws, Outlaw Radial and more. Sportsman qualifying begins from 11am with the feature program commencing at 5.30pm.