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Defending champions Rapisarda Autosport International have been the ones to beat in the NDRC Top Fuel Championship of late, but a horror Westernationals Sunday now sees the team racing against time to get both of its drivers back on-track for the upcoming Riverbend Nationals at Dragway at The Bend (April 6-7).

Their Sunday in Perth started off with the defending champ Damien Harris blazing through to the top qualifier spot in Q2 early in the afternoon with a 3.870 second pass at a mammoth 511.89kph. The celebrations were to be short-lived, however.

“For Damien at the end of that Q2 run the car had an A – arm failure which resulted in the front right wheel tearing from the chassis at about 500kph which wrecked the front end of the car,” Rapisarda Autosport International’s Santo Rapisarda Jnr explained.

“He made slight contact with the wall with the rear slick also, but in a courageous driving effort managed to keep the front end off the wall and from turning the car into a banana, limiting damage and coming to a stop on the track.

“Thankfully Damien was unhurt; it was an incident that could have been much worse if he was in the right lane, but that car will not be returning to competition in the near future.”

While Harris was out for the rest of the weekend, his team-mate Wayne Newby continued on, taking the team to the B-Final against Kyle Putland following a round one win over eventual event winner Phil Read and a round two loss to Phil Lamattina where he went nowhere off the start line.

The 2019 Champion was on an absolute barnstormer of a run in his B-Final, crossing the line in 3.868 seconds at 510.57kph. However, like with Harris earlier in the day, it then all came undone.

“For Wayne, a parachute failure and a brake failure created almost a perfect storm of problems,” Santo Jnr said.

“This saw him through the sand and into both safety nets which did their job stopping the car, thankfully as a result of Wayne’s experience the dragster stayed upright.

“While Wayne was a bit sore afterwards, he seems to be all good now, busy helping us with the repairs.”

With the transporters getting back to the RAI Sydney workshop late last week, the team is now working full pelt on making sure both drivers are back on-track and ready to continue their championship pursuits at Dragway at The Bend in just 24 days’ time.

“For the short term, Damien will move into our team C car which was last driven by Larry Dixon at the Sydney Nationals in January, and which Larry drove to the victory at last year’s Nitro Champs. It is a good car, and it has a very similar chassis configuration to the damaged car,” Santo Jnr explained.

“We are also busy stripping the damaged car down so that we can assess our options of repairing that chassis in due time.

“With Wayne’s car the team have had the car up on our chassis jig and have made some great progress with the repairs and it is looking like it is going to be okay.

“The team will keep servicing the car and parts, remove the sand from all components and then hopefully find an opportunity to test before heading to The Bend to make sure everything is fine. The goal certainly is to have him there in his primary car, which has been performing great this season.”

Without doubt, for the team to stay in the championship hunt, getting to the Riverbend Nationals is crucial.

Newby now leads the title standings on 350 points ahead of Phil Lamattina on 266 points, while Harris fell to third place on 258 points. Phil Read is not far behind on 228 points in fourth, with Peter Xiberras – who missed the Perth event – rounding out the top five.

“We are definitely disappointed to have fallen back in the points with Damien, but we are also excited about having a pretty decent lead with Wayne’s car,” Jnr said.

“We want to continue that momentum, and that means being at the Riverbend Nationals. It is full steam ahead to make sure we are there with both drivers with cars that are ready to compete at the front of the field.

“In the meantime, we have to say thank you to Uplift Cranes for always being there for us, and also to Atlantic Oil – we have a lot of work ahead, but the whole team is committed to making it happen.”

The Riverbend Nationals will feature Top Fuel, Top Doorslammer and Pro Stock as well as the Aeroflow National Sportsman Series across April 6 and 7 at Dragway at The Bend. For event info and tickets, go to ndrc.tv

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