REPORT – Dramatic day three at the Fuchs Winternationals

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The drama that the Fuchs Winternationals is so well known for was at fever pitch on Saturday as the pros wrapped up qualifying and early eliminations got underway in sportsman racing.

Overshadowing the day’s proceedings was a dramatic moment involving Phil Lamattina. At the site of his previous high-speed accident in 2007, Lamattina experienced a copycat incident when his new McKinney chassis broke apart, sending the Fuchs Top Fuel dragster skyward.

Medical staff transported the reigning ANDRA Top Fuel Champion to Princess Alexandra Hospital for tests and observation.

“At this time, he is alive and well with some serious back pain,” confirmed brother Angelo Lamattina. “He has been taken to the hospital for further scans to find out what is causing the pain. He was talking to medical personnel at the time.”

The family provided an update on Lamattina’s condition by issuing a statement on the team Facebook page later in the day.

“The Lamattina family would like to advise that Phil is currently in hospital after suffering a shattered vertebrae in today’s racing incident. Surgeons have advised that a full recovery is expected and the team will keep everyone up to date with his progress over the coming days. The family thanks all for the well wishes and support.”

When all was said and done Steve ‘The Pom’ Read shot to the top of qualifying on the final pass of the day when he posted a 4.755 at 306.12 mph, from Anthony Begley who had earlier run 4.772 at 295.20 mph.

That last chance saloon of a pass was a vast improvement from earlier in the day when a rebuilt supercharger generated far too much boost and blew out the burst panels.

“To say I was under pressure was a bit of an understatement,” said Read. “We didn’t come out last night because it was that cold there was no point. We haven’t got enough parts to waste on a cold track like that.

“We knew with Lamattina’s accident we’d be out later still tonight but it didn’t get as cold as last night. We started up, I let my foot off the clutch and nothing happened. I revved it up and the car started to move so I thought at least it will move and do something.

“When I backed up it was tugging on the motor and I thought this won’t be too bad. And it just fell down the track.” American Cory McClenathan qualified third from Mark Mariani, Peter Xiberras, Mark Sheehan, Damien Harris and Wayne Newby. Understandably the Lamattina team will take no further part in the weekend.

Following Gary Phillips’ accident on Friday there was speculation he may step into a spare car to keep his title hopes alive. Unfortunately that did not eventuate, opening the door for John Cannuli to win his first title provided he can go rounds on Sunday.

Cannuli made a statement by running a 5.422 at 265.80 mph in Q3 to move into first place by a long way with Steven Reed and Jon Sting both recording identical 5.541 second passes in second and third.

“We feel really good going into race day, that’s what we wanted, that’s what we’ve been planning on the last few weeks in testing,” said Cannuli.

“The car has been good, it took us three qualifying rounds to get it back to where we were last week. We’ll take it one run at time tomorrow and see what happens.”

Robert Ambruosi is under a cloud to take his place on raceday when his Chevy Monte Carlo Funny Car did the misty mountain hop before a big fireball erupted when the engine popped wildly. Ambruosi brought the car to a halt down track and fire crews were quick to the scene.

inside shot of the explosion, shows it in slow motion at the end

Posted by Robert Ambruosi on Saturday, June 6, 2015

John Zappia’s 5.730 from Q1 on Friday was unbeatable in Top Doorslammer with his closest competitor Grant O’Rourke running a personal best 5.881 ET at 246.53 mph for second place. Ben Bray ran his father Victor Bray’s 57 Chev as quick as it has ever gone with a 5.911 at 235.02 mph for third.

Mark Belleri, Marty Dack, Peter Kapiris, Paul Cannuli and Russ Pavey completed the field leaving Stuart Bishop, Pino Priolo, Daniel Gregorini and Bill Goonan among those on the outside looking in.

Defending champion Mark Drew proved his class in Top Fuel Motorcycle once again with a 6.380 at 194.80 mph in Q2 securing another top qualifying position for the West Aussie followed by Gavin Spann with a 6.991 in second.

Pro Stock produced some numbers with Emilio Spinozzi and Lee Bektash producing the eliminator’s quickest side-by-side pass in Q2 leaving the fans on their feet. Spinozzi recorded a 6.922 ET at 196.70 mph alongside Bektash on a 6.917 ET at 198.58 mph in the other lane.

In the same session Nino Cavallo laid down a 6.931 ET at 190.43 mph to move into third but Lee Bektash went quicker yet again in his final qualifier with a 6.896 at a 190.46 mph to claim the number one.

“We probably won’t see quicker than 6.89 because we had to swap the motors and put the old girl back in,” said Bektash. “We don’t want to risk damaging that motor, it’s such a good piece.

“But it ran well today, the tail wagged towards the end so we lost a couple of hundredths in the back half. I reckon today should have been an 6.86. I don’t know what’s going on with that mile an hour trap, I didn’t shut it off coming up to 190 mph so that’s definitely not right. It’s been happening to Nino (Cavallo) as well. All in all we’re happy.

“It’s exciting, the Tremaynes ran well. Spinozzi ran well and Cavallo. It’s still tight, we’ll put it on kill tomorrow and they’ll know that obviously – that motor’s probably four hundredths slower than the good one. Last year we ran a 6.95 with that engine so it’s no slouch. Ran a 6.99 with it last Sunday so it’s good enough to run with them, we just gotta make sure that we got our ‘A game’ on.”

Rookie Brad Lemberg caused a boilover taking the top position in Pro Stock Motorcycle in his first competitive event from Maurice Allen after he came out all guns blazing in Q2 recording a 7.197 ET at 183.64 mph.

That pass looked unbeatable but Lemberg returned for Q3 to throw down the challenge on a 7.173 ET at 182.55 mph. Scott White qualified in third with a 7.272 followed by Lock Ireland, Ryan Learmonth, Glenn Wooster and Luke Crowley.

“That was my seventh full track pass, so we’ve only tested two meetings prior to this,” said Lemberg. “Pretty happy at the moment. Good to knock Maurice (Allen) off number one, we’ve been fighting backwards and forwards. I’d go out and top qualify and then he’d beat me every qualifying except for that last one. So I’m stoked.

“We should have the bye first round, being seven bikes. That gives us a bit more data with a tune up during the day. We’re expecting tomorrow to have similar conditions throughout the day so we’re pretty confident with a tune up.

“We’re stoked, I give all the credit to Dad for letting me hop on this bike. He made the decision eight months ago to step aside and let me hop on it. And my other crew members Jase and Jeff and Ken. Tune up was awesome this weekend, couldn’t fault it.

“I would just like to thank Pauly and Johnny from VP Racing Fuels Australia, they’ve been helping us out for a number of years. And also R and H Transport Services back home in Mackay, they’ve come on board this year and been a tremendous help financially. And everything goes to them to get me here.”

Summit Racing Equipment Sportsman Series qualifying came to a close while Group Three eliminations began in front of a massive crowd and a carnival atmosphere at Willowbank Raceway on Saturday.

The early morning air proved favourable for many Group Two competitors still qualifying while some in the championship hunt in the seven Group Three categories were culled during round one eliminators.

Craig Geddes took Competition Eliminator qualifying by storm, running two-tenths under the national B/D record with a 7.111 elapsed time ensuring he is the man to beat on Sunday.

Q2 was a session full of big numbers as Robert Coleman went .05 under the BB/GA record on a 6.963 for second and defending champ Al McClure went .01 under the BB/FCA record with a 6.375 second pass to secure third. Tony Bellert matched the A/DA national record on a 6.848 ET solidifying fourth on the list.

But Geddes was the man and after just missing out on the Competition Eliminator championship last year and is feeling confident of going one better in 2015.

“We thought it would run 7.118 or 7.119, that was what we were really hoping for so it was a big surprise to see 7.111,” said Geddes.

“We came here with the goal of trying to top qualify, run the record and get the bonus points.

“The car is on song and we’ve got a pretty reasonable handle on it. It’s been a steep learning curve but we’re quietly confident we can go a few rounds and hopefully Al (McClure) goes out early and we can bump him off this year!” Super Stock title chaser Steve Norman had already run .1 under the national C/APA record going into Q3 but he managed to improve once again going .15 under the record with a 7.834 to claim top position for raceday.

Kim Fardella improved to second place going .07 under the D/G record followed by Fred Soleiman, Rob Nunn and Brett Glover who all ran record setting pace on day two.

“We didn’t want to go that far under the index but we’re in a really good position as far as the points and I’m just trying to stretch a gap between us and Brett Glover from Perth,” said Norman.

“He’s a good boy and they are all good crew over there but I just want to make that gap bigger. We’re more than happy to be where we are in the championship, we’ve been close before but not this close.

“The boys and the girls on the crew are outstanding.”

The top two qualifiers in Competition Bike remained unchanged from Friday as Ross Smith was confirmed number one followed by Blair Pennington. Rob Cassar dropped one place to sixth while Daryn Schuster moved up from 12th to ninth. Smith and Pennington will each have the chance to reset their respective B/AB and C/AB national records when eliminations begin tomorrow.

Scott Porter ran under the national AA/SC record by .03 seconds in the final qualifying session with a 6.312 to take pole in Super Compact. Chris Tait’s 6.683 held firm to hand him second position from Mark Jacobsen, Matt Lisle and newly crowned two-time champ Domenic Rigoli.

Earlier on Saturday morning, the opening round of eliminators were completed for Group Three of the Summit Racing Equipment Sportsman Series.

Defending Supercharged Outlaws champ Doina Day benefitted from the first or worst rule when Day red lit and watched on as Dave Wallace touched the centreline disqualifying him from a certain win.

That meant Day stayed in the hunt for a second title but she will have to get past fellow contender Donald Freind who advanced on a solo. Paul Stephen is also still alive and if he can advance past Jake Donnelly, he will meet the winner of Day and Freind in Round 3 for all the marbles.

Joint Top Sportsman leader Stuart McBain was ousted from the championship race in Round 1 as was 3rd placed Paul Russo leaving Steven Fowler on the verge of clinching the title in Round 2 on Sunday. Fowler advanced past David Roderick but should he lose in Round 2 that opens the door for Graeme Hargrave to steal an unlikely win from eighth in the standings.

Unexpectedly Modified championship leader Michelle Osborn was eliminated in round one by Rolinia Tremayne however Osborn can still win the title if Chris Farrell, Paul Stewart and outsider Jess Turner fail to advance through the points rounds tomorrow.

The Super Sedan championship remains a fatal four way as David Yanko, Stephen Griffin, George Tipouikidis and defending champ John Kapiris all advanced past Round 1.

Edgell Mallis was a surprise elimination in Modified Bike leaving Ian Read and Joe Khoury left to fight it out for the championship. Read and Khoury went through at the expense of Reegan Ward and Rowan Lind.

The Super Street championship is now a two horse race with two-time Super Sedan champion John Kapiris bowing out leaving Enzo Clemente and Harry Harris to fight it out after they negotiated safe passage to round two.

In Junior Dragster Eden Ward and defending champion Toby Austin, in his last appearance as a Junior, survived their opening matchups to keep their title hopes alive. Josh Baker and Jordan Spencer suffered defeat simultaneously eliminating both drivers from the running but Jake Cartledge maintained his chances with a first round victory.

Super Gas enjoyed the day off on Saturday and will kick off eliminations on Sunday.

Keep up with the live coverage on Drag News here.


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