John Zappia had the odds stacked against him coming into the 49th annual Westernationals at Perth Motorplex, with a huge rebuild needed following his excursion into the braking area sand trap at the last event.
Many days of toil saw the Tony’s Auto Wreckers/Dananni Hotshots Monaro readied with just hours to spare ahead of the Westernationals, Western Australia’s biggest drag racing event.
“There was a huge list of people involved in getting this car back to the track after our trip to the beach,” Zappia said. “Peter Matulovich must have done two to three weeks of solid work where we cut up the steel plug and remade the front end, and we also have big thanks to Johnny at Allpro Panel and Paint for painting the new and repaired front ends, Windrush Motorsport Composites for making a mould and repairing the existing front end and All Signs for getting all of the signwriting done.
“That’s not to mention the rest of my crew who were there for a big month of work to get this back to looking like a race car. We had to repair the back of the chassis and Matt from TLC made us a new tether for the parachutes which will act as a secondary line of defence if the chassis mount should ever break again.”
With the Tony’s Auto Wreckers/Dananni Hotshots Monaro looking brand new, Zappia was keen to make amends. With the Motorplex track surface in its best condition all season, Zappia admitted he was caught out early.
“We came out a bit soft and underestimated the track, it was way better than the meeting before,” Zappia said. “I pedalled and went 5.88 in the first session. We stepped it up for the second session and it still wasn’t enough, so it rattled again and I shut it off. This time we went back, changed the gearbox though we were still soft we got through without shake for a 5.75/253mph. As a driver it was good to notice the car was driving nice and straight so soon after a major rebuild – even though I think we were still finding sand in places!”
Eliminations saw Zappia taking on Mark Chapman’s Plymouth Fury in the first round, who has been knocking out consistent five second passes recently.
“In round one we felt like we were on the cusp of getting back into the 5.6s,” Zappia said. “We launched well and from the early incrementals it looked like we were going to run around a 5.63. But then as I hit top gear a lack of air in the shifting system saw it stay in second and I hit the rev limiter. I knew I was in front but I couldn’t risk blowing a motor, so I had to push the clutch in, and right on the stripe Mark came past me. Neither of us actually had any idea who had won because it was so tight and there was a big difference in closing speed.”
With the win light favouring Chapman, Zappia had to look on the upside.
“We know the car is driving straight and working as we want it to, and that is important. Daniel Gregorini is chasing us hard in the points, but Mark defeated him too, so that gives us a good buffer heading into the final Summer Slam round on March 21.
“We had six meetings undefeated and that is never easy. It’s time for us to hit the reset button and try to start a new roll.”