McClenathan emerges victorious for RAI at East Coast Nationals

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Last weekend NHRA star Cory McClenathan defeated Darren Morgan on a holeshot to win the 2015 East Coast Nationals. Rapisarda Autosport International (RAI) also made history as they became the first Top Fuel team in the world to field four cars at the one event. 

Team owner Santo Rapisarda has come away extremely impressed with the way that the RAI team handled the challenge.

“Credit is due to the entire RAI team for the time that they have put into making the four car assault possible. The fact that there was minimal parts damage sustained across the four cars over the weekend is a testament to the team. We knew it was going to be tough, but it was much tougher than what we first though. Nonetheless, the entire team deserve a well-earned rest and can walk away from the event as the first team to successfully field four cars at one event in the world,” he said.

Current Australian Champion Damian Harris walked away with pole position (4.787/296.37) after the three sessions of qualifying had been completed – the final session having to be completed on Sunday morning after rain ended qualifying activities on Saturday night. McClenathan qualified second (4.837/246.30), Lagana third with a (4.863/280.84) and Newby seventh with a (5.460/176.01). This meant that Cory McClenathan and Wayne Newby would have to face off against each other in the opening round.

“One of the things we were hoping for is to not have to race any of our team cars in the first round of eliminations, however things didn’t work out that way. Despite this, we feel we gave the fans a good show which is important when we fronted against McClenathan in the opening round of eliminations,” said Newby.

The semi-finals saw Lagana face off with team mate and fellow countrymen McClenathan, who took the win with a 4.880/273.61 bringing an end to Lagana’s first race in Australia – McClenathan’s elapsed time of 4.65 seconds went on to stand as low elapsed time of the event.

“Once again, I want to take this opportunity to thank the Rapisarda family for allowing me the opportunity to race in Australia. Thanks also to Aaron Hambridge for serving as co-crew chief on my car for the weekend. It’s been a great experience. I would have liked to have raced Cory in the final, making it an all RAI/USA final, but the cards just didn’t fall that way,” said Lagana.

The second semi-final was a battle of the champions with current champion Harris and former four-time champ Darren Morgan. Both teams produced side-by-side four second performances, unfortunately Harris’ run at the event was ended with Morgan’s 4.745/302.96 to Harris’ 4.812/302.69.

“We know from prior experience that Darren is always a tough customer and today was no different. My guys, led by Santo Junior have done a fantastic job this weekend despite the ignition problem. Our performance this weekend, gives us confidence in knowing that we’re starting things off on the right foot as far as championship defence goes,” said Harris.

For the fans, the final was arguably one of the best final rounds seen in Australian Top Fuel history with McClenathanc taking the win on a hole-shot, 4.685/314.17 to Morgan’s 4.675/317.87 – with the win, it marks the third Australian event in a row the NHRA star has won.

“I don’t know whether I’m more excited about the race win this weekend and go three-in-a-row, or the fact that I’ve been a part of history in RAI being the only team in the world to field four Top Fuel Dragsters at the one event. I always love coming down-under and interacting with the awesome fans – it’s an honour to be a part of a great team like RAI and I hope that it’s not too long before I return,” said McClenathan.

Lee Beard, crew chief and long-time friend of McClenathan enjoyed his time once again with the Rapisarda team.

“It’s incredible to be able to come to Australia again and serve as Cory’s crew chief and stand here in the winners circle. Cory and I have won numerous races back in the USA during the 1990s and winning here this weekend brings back many fond memories during of those times – this wouldn’t be possible if it wasn’t for Santo and the Rapisarda family. Whilst it’s good to win races, one of the most rewarding experiences for me is the ability to transfer my knowledge to Santino and Santo (Junior) Rapisarda – they’re extremely passionate about the sport and the way that they handled the weekend’s challenges is a testament to them,” concluded Beard.

On Monday night, Damian Harris was officially crowned 2014/2015 Top Fuel Champion at the annual awards dinner.


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