Perfect double win for LTFR at Heathcote

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The Burson Auto Parts Australian Top Fuel Championship (ATFC) headed to Heathcote Park Raceway for the first time in 30 years, and a rare set of circumstances saw Lamattina Top Fuel Racing contest, and come up trumps in two championship round finals at the one event.

Shane Olive for Burson Auto Parts won the delayed ATFC round four Nitro Champs final from Sydney, and Phil Lamattina for FUCHS Lubricants won the inaugural Summer Slam ATFC round 5 final, both against championship rival, PremiAir Racing’s Peter Xiberras.

With the postponed Nitro Champs final round races still to be run during Q2 at the Heathcote Summer Slam ATFC round five event, Lamattina in the FUCHS Lubricants dragster is battling for the championship, needing a vital win light against B-Final opponent Rapisarda Autosport International’s Damien Harris after slipping slightly behind Xiberras in the points.

First though, both team crew chiefs had the tough task of finding a tune up to tackle a brand new, and untested racing surface for Q1.

Olive was in the first pairing, unfortunately the Burson Auto Parts dragster smoked the tyres on the hit, while Lamattina fared better on the green track, the FUCHS Lubricants car was looking good until the track transition where it then went into tyre smoke, leaving Phil no choice but to lift off the throttle.

Going into Q2 and potentially championship deciding postponed Sydney finals was tense. The result was a dramatic ATFC round four A-Final, with Olive winning his first ever Top Fuel final in spectacular style against Xiberras. It came down to a real driver’s race, with both cars going up into instant tyre smoke before the 60ft markers on the ice cold track, it was an old school ‘pedalfest’. Olive was able to recover first and pedal the Burson Auto Parts Top Fuel dragster to the finish line, scoring an emotional first Top Fuel win.

“I’ve had a long two weeks to think about this final, and a lot of things have gone through my head,” said Shane after the win. “So, for it to be a ‘pedalfest’, it was pretty cool, it was the first time I’ve ever had to pedal the car, thanks to everyone, it’s a dream come true for me.” The result also reduced Xiberras’ points haul, aiding Phil’s championship chase.

“I am really really pumped for him, he has put in a lot of hard work back at the shop, and has a whole new crew,” added Team Principal Phil Lamattina.

“I am really happy, and he was able to just peg those points back from Pete for me.”

It wasn’t to be in the ATFC round four B-Final with Phil losing out to Harris. A few on-track delays before Phil’s matchup saw the track temperature rapidly deteriorate, catching out the team’s tune up sending the FUCHS Lubricant dragster straight into tyre spin.

“With that oil down, the track was just too cold, and we were just sitting ducks,” Phil said, “I smoked it on the hit, I seen Damo was too far out in front and gone, and it wasn’t worth pedalling it.

It was a much earlier start for race day, with the morning air still crisp, and teams needing to adapt to running at a time different from the previous day’s qualifying sessions. For LTFR, in front of another big HPR crowd. the first racing round produced mixed results, Lamattina kept his championship aspirations alive with a strong win over Harris, setting low ET of the round for potential bonus points with a 4.009 second pass.

Unfortunately, Olive fell just short in his match up against Phil Read. A mid race pedal for tyre shake was the difference, and the Burson Auto Parts dragster stopped the timers with a 4.226, against a nice 4.080 comeback race from the Jim Read Racing team.

Round two was not the ideal circumstance for LTFR with Lamattina and Olive having to race each other. Both teams in the all LTFR duel were committed in going for the win, Lamattina picked up the start line advantage, and the FUCHS Lubricants dragster was looking strong before dropping a cylinder and pushing a head gasket on the top end of the track. Olive was on a solid clean pass in the other lane, but it was Lamattina who hit the stripe first with a 4.068, hanging on for his second round win of the day over Olive’s 4.138.

The win saw Lamattina through to the A-Final against championship leader Xiberras, while Olive would contest the C-Final against Harris.

In the A-Final a spectacular drive job secured Lamattina his second 2022 Burson Auto Parts Australian Top Fuel Championship event win – the first driver to do so this season. The Heathcote Park Raceway track conditions dramatically improved for the final, catching out both teams tune ups and drivers. In a wild pass, Lamattina fought tyre shake having to pedal the FUCHS Lubricants Top Fuel dragster several times to save the run, snaking to the finish line for a 4.43, the ET quick enough to hold up against Xiberras’ own tyre shake affected 4.91.

“We had a couple little minor issues with the car before the final, and they were playing on my mind,” said Lamattina. “But I cleared my mind, and just did my job, don’t think too much, just drive, and I just drove the wheels off it. It got out there, shook, I pedalled it and it hooked back up, and I was just on it.”

The win sends the championship down to the wire at Darwin’s Triple Crown event in June against Xiberras. “Going into the championship up in Darwin, with Pete, it’s going to make a brilliant final round,” said Lamattina.

The Rapisarda team pinched the Low ET bonus points by just a couple of thousandths leaving Xiberras a 10 point advantage going into the final event of the season.

For Olive, the C-Final ended with disappointment. Also caught out by the much better than expected track conditions, the Burson Auto Parts dragster succumbed quickly to hard tyre shake that he couldn’t recover from.

It was essentially a perfect weekend overall for LTFR, Olive winning the postponed Nitro Champs final, and Lamattina capping of an amazing event at Heathcote Park Raceway winning the penultimate round of the championship.

“A lot of effort goes into what we do, and it is great to reward Aaron (Hambridge – Crew Chief) and the whole crew, especially Shane, who does a lot of work back at the shop full time, and the family – it is a whole team effort. Thanks to FUCHS, we had the Managing Director Wayne Hoiles out here yesterday, Burson Auto Parts, we can’t do it without them, and it’s absolutely fantastic,” said Lamattina.

“And this series, to be a part of it, it is really overwhelming, it is something that has been needed for a long time, and it is delivering on all the promises. Andy Lopez, Nathan Prendergast, doing an absolute fantastic job.”

The final round of the Burson Auto Parts Australian Top Fuel Championship will be held at the Darwin Triple Crown event at Hidden Valley Raceway June 17-18.

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