The 2023/24 Australian Top Doorslammer Championship was launched in front of a sellout crowd at The Bend Motorsports Park in South Australia, with racing delivering near-record passes alongside plenty of the drama the 3500hp sedans have become known for.
Wild weather saw wind and dust play a role in track conditions and the top position in qualifying was anyone’s to claim. Paul Cannuli’s Ford Mustang mastered the brand new racing surface with a strong 5.71 pass, as several other teams entered the fives in the opening phase of the Dananni Hotshots-sponsored championship round.
By the time racing arrived on Sunday, there was plenty of data accrued and the teams were ready to deliver several outstanding rounds of competition. Pete Lovering’s ’55 Chevy used a strong 5.95 to drive by Russell Taylor’s Camaro and Lisa Gregorini unleashed a 5.88 to score the points over Adam Tassone’s Firebird, Ronnie Palumbo went 5.85 in Maurice Fabietti’s ACDelco Monaro, winning a wild match up that saw Pat Carbone wheelstand and get into the wall. Peter Kapiris produced a 5.794 to defeat a 5.866 from Matt Abel, while Daniel Gregorini ran low ET of the round with a 5.74 to better John Zappia, carrying the support of Fuchs and Dananni Hotshots once again this season. Paul Cannuli had the easiest path through the first round, taking a solo pass, but disaster struck when engine damage ruled him out of further competition.
With the qualifying leader out, the door was well and truly open for someone to step through. Zappia blasted to a 5.61 for low ET of the event Monaro (defeating Daniel Gregorini), but it came at the cost of engine damage and he would not take part in the final round of racing. Kapiris was off the throttle early on what ended up being a solo pass when Taylor had troubles, while Palumbo did no such thing against Tassone in a 5.81 win that earned the first A Final place. Lisa Gregorini’s ETs were continuing to drop and a 5.84 gave her the remaining A Final position over Pete Lovering. Abel closed out the round with a solo pass, clocking a 6.620.
The final round of racing featured seven remaining cars, with attrition having taken its toll on the field. Lovering closed his weekend with a 5.96 solo pass in the D Final. The C Final saw Daniel Gregorini get back on track with his quickest pass of the event, a 5.68 to defeat Tassone. Kapiris took the B Final victory thanks to a 5.87 win against Abel, leaving just the A Final to run.
Drag racing is normally an acceleration contest between two vehicles, but in the case of the A Final it would be survival of the fittest — or perhaps non-survival in this case. Palumbo had problems shortly after firing and received an order to shut down the Monaro, which looked to have given Lisa Gregorini a simple victory. However, Lisa’s car had problems of its own as it approached the stage beams, with the team telling her to shut the engine off. That left a curious situation, with no winner from the final.
“At the moment, we have no idea (what happened),” Palumbo said. “We just lost ignition. It could be the Electromotion playing up, or maybe the MSD Grid. The car fired up straight afterwards in the pits.”
Meanwhile, Lisa rued what might have been. “After I had shut the car down I realised I should have just rolled through to accept the tree, but it is what it is,” she said. “We have learned what to do if we ever experience this again.”
As the cars returned to the pits, the teams and the administrators of the National Drag Racing Championship got to talking and decided that the final could be re-run at the Goldenstates, taking place at Perth Motorplex. There, Lisa and Ronnie will complete the final during the second session of qualifying on Friday, November 24.
For more information about the Goldenstates and spectator tickets, fans can head to www.motorplex.com.au