Mariani hungry for back-to-back titles

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Mark Mariani is looking to be the first multiple Australian Top Fuel championship series event winner this season at this weekend’s Castrol EDGE Winternationals at Willowbank Raceway, Ipswich, after winning the recent Nitro Champs.

With five different winners from five Australian National Drag Racing Association (ANDRA) Pro Series Top Fuel championship events, Mariani believes he and the Sydney-based Rapisarda Racing/Titan Cranes team have the form to win back-to-back events. 

Mariani, who is in his first full-season driving for the highly respected two-car Rapisarda team, won his first Top Fuel championship event at last month’s Nitro Champs at the Sydney Dragway (SD).

Currently fourth in the championship series, Mariani, who has never raced at the Winternationals, cannot win the 2009/2010 Top Fuel championship series, but he can win the three-round $25,000 Shannons Top Fuel Shootout.    

Mariani leads Martin Stamatis by 36 points and Phil Read by 38pts in the Shannons shootout.

However, Mariani said while his Nitro Champs win had given him and Team Rapisarda a huge confident boost going into the season-ending Winternationals, the second-generation Top Fuel racer conceded he is in unchartered waters.  

“There have been five different winners from five events this season, I want to win another event and be the only driver to win two rounds this season and the Rapisarda team is also eager for another win.

“I definitely feel more confident now that I have won a championship round. I feel comfortable in the Titan Cranes’ car, my driving has improved and I am cutting consistent reaction times,” Mariani said.  

“We (Team Rapisarda) really want to try and win the Shannon’s shootout; that would top the whole year off. It would certainly make the season worthwhile and would be something to take into the new season in September.” 

Mariani said the gremlins that saw the car’s engine on fire during several passes at the Nitro Champs appear to have been sorted out.   

“(Crew chief) Glenn (Mikres) and the crew have done a lot of work with the fuel system on the Titan Cranes’ car, which they think could have been the cause of the engine issues we had at the Nitro Champs.

“They found a couple of things that were not 100 percent right and that has also given the team a confidence boost going into the event.” 

Mariani is also keen to better his personal best time of 4.806-seconds and 296.63mph (477.27km/h) speed recorded at SD in May at Willowbank this weekend.

“I would really like to run 300mph (482km/h) and into the 4.7sec or 4.6sec zone. If we have the engine sorted and tune-up right, we can run some good numbers and go (elimination) rounds as well, hopefully to another final, which would also mean winning the Shannons shootout.

“It would be nice to be able to tick-off those boxes as we go through the event,” Mariani said.

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