The recent visit of Australia’s Mark Mariani to the North American NHRA drag racing scene was pretty much a perfect fit. While the U.S. economy continues its struggle forward towards a recovery, and NHRA drag racing overall wanes as a direct consequence, the fresh presence and enthusiasm brought in by some new international drag racers, including Mariani, may be exactly the injection that the Full Throttle Drag Racing Series has been looking for.
Just this week Mariani, the skilled driver for team owner Santo Rapisarda wrapped up his inaugural two race stint in North America. After a very strong effort during the NHRA Las Vegas Nationals two weeks before, the team also raced last weekend at fabled Pomona California. Although they did not qualify for the season-ending NHRA AAA Auto Club Finals, the experience was however a very positive one. The Rapisarda Racing team where quick to capture the imagination and acceptance of North American drag racing fans.
“It has been a dream of Santo for a long time to come over to North America to race,” said Mark Mariani. “We managed to tick off some boxes during our first ever meets with NHRA and I think when we look back what we accomplished was really unbelievable.”
“The decision to come over here was also partly to help honor the memory of Santo’s son Louie who passed away 20 years ago,” he continued. “He brought his two young sons (Santino and Santo Jr.) along for that – and that’s been pretty special for them.”
The Rapisarda team ran at Las Vegas and Pomona with a portion of a Top Fuel operation they acquired from California’s David Baca about a year and a half ago.
“We first brought everything back to Australia and ran this car one year there,” Mark confirmed. “Then we shipped this car back to the USA for these two races to see what we could do over here. Our future plans are to keep this in North America for the time being to see what goes. We are looking for some sponsorship and if that happens there may be more of an incentive for us racing in the future here. We would really like to come back for another hit.”
Mariani did concede that one of the sacrifices the team was forced to make was to forgo a serious challenge for the ANDRA Top Fuel Championship title this year. The team did not qualify for round one and because of the dates conflict, missed round two in ANDRA.
“We felt that the opportunity for us to come and race against the world’s best was a good tradeoff,” added Mark. “In the end the experience we gather racing in North America will allow everyone on our team to learn and improve. We fell that will ultimately give us an advantage.”
Mark Mariani is the General Manager of Translock Industries who are located only a short distance from Western Sydney International Dragway.
(Bruce Biegler Photos and report)