The event Sydney needed – Nitro Champs event report

This article brought to you by:

It was an event that needed to be run, and thankfully for everyone at Sydney Dragway and the Nitro Champs – it did.


The efforts of a track crew who relentlessly dried the racing surface after the many showers, the racers who were flexible in their running times, the spectators who hung around through the gloom, everyone did their bit to make sure that this ANDRA Pro Series and Rocket Allstars Racing Series round went into the bag.


It was an event that saw some brilliant racing, so relive it all, here on Drag News!


Top Fuel


Sydney is traditionally a Top Fuel stronghold and it ensured that reputation continued with an eight car field for this penultimate round of the championship. Thanks for that deserve to go to Santo Rapisarda who fielded three cars over the weekend.



But this was a weekend that became all about Phil Read. Though the former champion struggled in qualifying, like much of the field for that matter in their one and only session, he found his form in eliminations. He carded low ET with a very quick 4.61 on a track many others were nervous about…



There was a bit of a hiccup as he burnt up some componentry in the semi finals (left lane) though Allan Dobson (right lane) was having bigger troubles…



The final was against Damien Harris but when Harris had a throttle cable come loose, Read was able to run away for victory. Technically he has a chance at the championship, but only if Darren Morgan does not show up for the Winternationals.



Coming to the fore at this event was Damien Harris. The Best Tractor Parts dragster top qualified with a 4.81 on a track no one else could get down and was on a march with consistent times until the final where the aforementioned throttle cable halted his progress.



Allan Dobson had an enjoyable return to Top Fuel driving, taking an upset first round win against championship leader Darren Morgan.



There was plenty of his usual personality on show.



Bob Shepherd had a qualifying session he would rather forget when he dropped a valve on the hit and blew the motor.



Things got a little better on Sunday when he drew the top spot in the Shannon’s promotion.



Darren Morgan was all ready to claim his championship, but frustratingly he will need to wait until the Winternationals to say he has it in the bag.



The “new” red car, as opposed to the red “rattler”, was driven by Mark Mariani. He carded his first 300mph pass in Australia and made an appearance in the semi finals.



Phil Lamattina was running his first event with new crew chief Aaron Hambridge. It was a case of a learning process for this team as they find a new tune up. US fuel system whiz Spike Gorr was assisting and while they no doubt found out a lot about the car, it didn’t translate into any full passes.



After some time racing for Santo Rapisarda in the USA, Terry Sainty was back on home turf and still racing for this team, despite his own dragster being just up the road. A first round exit wasn’t on the agenda though.


Top Alcohol



John Cannuli took home his second event win, but first Christmas tree, in Top Alcohol following an interesting weekend out. He qualified well and ran low ET and top speed with a 5.59/256 in round one but in the semi finals he did some damage in spectacular fashion (see below). Deno Brijeski came to the rescue with another motor for Cannuli, it was installed and he was able to take the win in the final.



Wayne Newby enjoyed a good weekend out in Top Alcohol and has almost wrapped up the championship. He top qualified with a 5.64 and went to runner up.



Wayne Price got a lucky break in round one when Paul Madill was disqualified for having the crew touch the car while it was in stage. But he couldn’t cure the excessive tyre shake in his Pontiac Firebird.



Gary Phillips couldn’t get his Lucas Oils Mustang off the startline all weekend and paid the price with a DNQ for the first time in a while.



Paul Madill qualified third with a 5.79 but the aforementioned touch up in round one wasted a 5.83.



Steve Ham had a painful -.005 light in the first round, wasting a 5.75 and the opportunity to knock out Newby who was vulnerable with a .065 light and a 5.72.



Debbie Reed had reverse gear duties for husband Steve, with news coming through recently that she has decided to retire from the sport following her big crash.



Here Reed demonstrates his new segway-powered Funny Car.


Top Doorslammer



John Zappia showed why he is Top Doorslammer champion with a weekend of up and down moments. He top qualified with a 5.91 in the cold Saturday session, but then blew a motor in a big way in Q2 (below). He came back with the spare and blasted out a 5.83 in the first round to defeat Daniel Gregorini, advancing all the way to the final where a 5.88 defeated a valiant 5.92 from Peter Kapiris.




Peter Kapiris finally got some results from his Saratoga with a bunch of five second runs, top speed at 248mph and a runner up. And no one was happier than he was!



Brett Gillespie gave the wall a big hit in Saturday qualifying, his second crash in as many passes in a devastating setback for the team.



Daniel Gregorini was on the outside looking in on Saturday after a wild pass that crossed the centreline and got close to opponent Deno Brijeski, but on Sunday morning he belted out a 6.28 to make it into the field at number eight spot. Gregorini has qualified in his last three events now for Doorslammer with this AA/AP legal, Rootes-supercharged Camaro.



Mark Belleri suffered a blow to his championship hopes when John Zappia knocked him out in the semi finals. Belleri did well to again qualify however with a last chance 6.05 following a Saturday pass that veered across the centreline at 1000 feet. A 5.99 in round one defeated Maurice Fabietti but a 6.01 couldn’t quite defeat a 5.91 from Zappia in the semis. He still has a shot at the title at the Winternationals.



Marty Dack made his first appearance at Sydney Dragway in his Auto One Falcon but was a DNQ.



Matt Abel’s 6.17 qualified his black Chev into the field but he couldn’t match a round one 5.90 from Peter Kapiris.



Championship aspirant Maurice Fabietti went through this heart stopping moment in his high stakes round one clash against Mark Belleri. Some fluid came out of his Holden Trade Club Monaro and it hooked hard left, he corrected and the car went up on two wheels but he kept it off the walls in one of the best save jobs seen.




Robin Judd failed to qualify on Saturday but a tyre shaking, pedalling 6.11 got him into the show on Sunday. Ben Bray promptly knocked him out in round one and virtually put an end to his championship hopes. At least his new Aeroflow chutes looked flash.



Stephen Dupond was probably praying for a bit more rain than there was. He was in the top eight after session one but got pushed back to 11th with a 6.36 best.



Victor Bray remains a legend in drag racing, but he is still largely in the wilderness performance wise. A 6.43 was the best the veteran could muster as he faced yet another DNQ.


Top Bike



Chris Matheson surprised few with a win at the Nitro Champs. The Nitro Voodoo team never even had a decent pass in the other lane with Neville Smith’s bike dying in the burnout in round one, a solo in the semis and Mick Murray going out to the centreline in the final, where a tyre smoking 7.61 left Matheson vulnerable. Perhaps most surprising was Matheson not claiming low ET or top speed points. It was a disappointing outing for Top Bike, with just seven bikes qualifying and only five making it to the first round.



After a few DNQs, Mick Murray was glad to take a runner up. After 7.44 and 7.47 runs in eliminations that would have won him the final, an errant pass cost him.



With a 6.58/212, Craig Bonwick was the performance marker in Top Bike, top qualifying for the weekend. But when he failed to make it to the line for the semis his weekend was over.



Troy Maclean still has a shot at the championship but a first round loss to team mate Mick Murray hurt his chances. The team is still struggling to re-find the six second performances this bike is capable of.


Pro Stock



Dave Newcombe went from bump spot sitter after Q1 to eventual winner, cutting his way through eliminations. His path included eliminating Peter Ridgeway, Aaron Tremayne (with a perfect .000 light to Tremayne’s .009), Nick Xerakias where he was saved from a red light after Xerakias crossed the centreline and then a final against Lee Bektash who went -.002. With a best ET of 7.16 in eliminations, it certainly wasn’t the quickest car, but when luck and good lights are on your side it’s hard to be beaten!



Lee Bektash had his usual Mopar fan following out in force and qualified second with a 7.10. Bill Kotsias, Andrew Stavroulakis and Jason Hedges all fell victim to Bektash on his way to the final.



Aaron Tremayne’s championship chances are still in good shape despite a second round exit. Unfortunately the only person he defeated on the day was brother Tyronne in the first round (below)!




Local Joe Polito snuck his way into the 16 car field with a last gasp 7.22. There’s still life in this veteran driver yet!



Nick Xerakias was top qualifier with a 7.07 and also recorded top speed at a near record 194mph but then in the semi finals things came unstuck. He got loose and crossed the centreline then headed right, almost tagging the wall. A combination of good driving and luck kept the paint job in tact though and Xerakias is now a hot tip to run the first “six” at the Winternationals.



Shane Tucker had a heartbreaking five thousandths first round loss in the Monster Monaro. The solitude of the braking area was his only consolation.



Check out the trick carbon fibre wheelie bars on Wayne Daley’s Dodge.



Jason Grima didn’t take long to be in form with his new PC Group supported Mustang with a 7.14/190 in qualifying.


Pro Stock Motorcycle



Maurice Allen and his Milwaukee Tools Suzuki are giving the championship a good shake this season and a win at the Nitro Champs did no harm to his chances. He did survive a few shocking lights in eliminations and claimed top speed points too.



Bob Shaw may only be a few meetings experienced in Pro Bike but he reached his first final at this event. An off pace eight second run cost him in the final but he had the quickest bike of the weekend with a low ET 7.35 pass in the semi finals.



Glenn Wooster was the only non qualifier from the weekend when his 7.80 was pushed out in the last round of qualifying, Peter Cochrane’s 7.74 holding the bump.



Lachlan Ireland went to the semi finals in another good performance for the Lucas Oils team. Ireland has been showing some considerable pace in the second half of the season and will be a rider to watch out for next season.



Phil Howard’s weekend did not end in the fashion he wanted, the bike having to be shut down in round one.



Pete Cochrane is a Queensland rider who has competed for many years in Pro Stock Motorcycle, but reportedly this was the first race event he has flown to!

The sportsman report is coming soon.

All images are copyright, no image can be used or reproduced with out the expressed permission from Drag News Australia or the images respective photographer

Click through to see the photo gallery!


Aeroflow Performance Parts Catalogue

Drag News Magazine