The Pro Series 1000 in Adelaide marks the return of championship drag racing to South Australia and so important is it to the NSW-based Rapisarda Racing team that they will be fielding nitro dragsters on two continents just to be there.
With the USA’s premier drag racing championship, the NHRA Full Throttle Series, also running on the weekend of the Adelaide Pro Series 1000 (April 13, 14 and 15), team owner Santo Rapisarda had already committed a dragster to race there with American gun Cory McClenathan at the wheel.
But with Australian driver Mark Mariani and much of his Australian pit crew still down under, the decision was made to send a Top Fuel dragster to race in Adelaide to be a part of what is going to be one of the most exciting events of the season.
Mariani said he thinks it may be the first time a Top Fuel team has competed on different continents on the same weekend.
“We had half of the team still here, so I put it into Santo that we could look after having a team on the track in Adelaide and his daughter Gianna can be a matriarch for the team while he is in the USA,” he said.
The Rapisarda Racing team is a very family based outfit, with Santo continuing the team in memory of his son Louie, who was sadly killed in a racing accident in 1990.
Another of Santo’s sons, Santo Jnr, will be flying back from the USA to help with the tuning of the car, keen to try out the new 1000 feet (304.8 metres) format brought in for Adelaide International Raceway.
“Santo Jnr has decided if he can come back and he knows how to make the car go,” Mariani said. “We’ll be using our ‘black’ car (pictured) which is a bit older as our new one is still a bit too temperamental and between Santo and crew chief Ray Ward we can go for it.
“The black car is easier to handle with the tune ups, I think that was the main reason Santo Jnr is coming back, to see how it goes over 1000 feet. We’re all real keen.”
Australian drag racing fans will be getting used to 1000 feet figures for the first time (though the majority of the series remains quarter mile) and it has introduced some interesting new targets for the teams such as the first three second pass and the first 300mph pass over the distance. Mariani says 4.1sec is going to be the aim for the team in Adelaide, a city which is hosting its first championship drag racing in over a decade.
“We want low fours but without looking at the track yet I can’t make close predictions,” he said. “I don’t think there will be a three but if someone gets in the 4.1s or 4.0s they will be cheering.”
Mariani last drove for the team in September but said the long break won’t affect his driving, except for perhaps around his waist, and he his heart is already pumping at the prospect of the large crowd expected.
“I’ve put on a bit of weight which is the only problem so I’m back on the regime again,” he said.
“It’s fun for all of us but one of the things I am looking forward to is the crowd there. Whenever we go to Perth it is like everyone is excited to see nitro there. I reckon Adelaide is going to be ten fold that.
“It’s sheer power and you have to be there to feel it. Get your butts down to the track, I can’t explain how earth shaking and ear shattering it is.”
Mariani will be joining fellow Top Fuel dragster pilots Damien Harris, Andrew Cowin, Darren Morgan and Phil Lamattina at the event.
The Pro Series 1000 (April 13, 14 and 15) at Adelaide International Raceway will feature ANDRA Pro Series rounds of Top Fuel, Top Alcohol, Top Bike and Pro Stock Motorcycle plus over 200 sportsman racers.
Racing starts from 10am Friday and Saturday and 9am Sunday and tickets are available at the gate for just $35.