Sydney-based Mark Mariani will be looking to reach his first event final and consolidate a top three spot in the Australian Top Fuel Championship series at this weekend’s (Saturday and Sunday, April 17-18) Enzed Top Fuel Championship at Queensland’s Willowbank Raceway, Ipswich.
The Top Fuel drag race rookie is currently in fourth place in the championship, 50 points behind third-placed multiple champion Phil Read.
But first, Mariani, who is in his first full season driving for the leading Santo Rapisarda Racing two-car Top Fuel team, must come to terms with racing at Willowbank for the first time.
So far this season, Mariani has reached the semi final at the Australian Nationals and the first Perth Motorplex (December) Top Fuel event. He lost in round one at the second Perth (January) event.
Mariani competed in only three events in both the 2008-09 and 2007-08 seasons, qualifying for three of the six events, reaching the 2007 East Coast Nationals semi final at Sydney Dragway and losing in round one at the other two events.
While Mariani is enjoying his full-time drive with the successful Rapisarda team, he is mindful of the task facing him at Willowbank.
“This is my first full season in Top Fuel and I am really keen to do well. I have never raced at Willowbank and I am really looking forward to it. I did the Ken Lowe Drag Race School at Willowbank some time ago, but I have never driven a race car down the Willowbank track in anger at an event,” Mariani said.
Mariani drove the former Kalitta Motorsports car, in which the late US racer, Scott Kalitta recorded Australia’s quickest-ever pass to date, a 4.517-second at Sydney Dragway in December 2006, at the first four events this season and which was driven by Rapisarda team-mate Allan Dobson last season.
However, Mariani could drive the second of two cars Team Rapisarda bought from David Baca Motorsport last year.
“I tested the new red car in Sydney several weeks ago. We did not even scuff a piston. I am comfortable in the black car and the new red car felt good, so it will not faze me which car Santo (Rapisarda) decides to take to Willowbank.
“I am just looking forward to racing at Willowbank for the first time, hopefully get a good result and come away with a haul of valuable points,” Mariani said.
Mark Mariani quick facts
Quickest-ever pass: 4.849sec at Perth Motorplex, December 4, 2009.
Fastest pass: 292.08mph (469.95km/h) at Sydney Dragway, July 22, 2007
Has recorded three four-second Top Fuel passes.
The 27th member of the Australian four-second club: 4.967sec at Sydney Dragway, May 3, 2009.