Following a big day of Desert Nationals racing for round two of the 2022/2023 Summit Racing Equipment Sportsman Series, there was no shortage of smiling faces at Alice Springs Inland Dragway.
When all was said and done, it was Brodie Zappia (Summit Racing Equipment Junior Dragster), Brian Alvisio (Modified Bike), Tommy Turic (Super Street), Craig Baker (Modified), Lance Larcombe (Super Sedan), Glenn Henley (Top Sportsman) and Andrew Sutton (Supercharged Outlaws) who held ANDRA Christmas Trees aloft at the end-of-day presentations.
Also heralded were event runners-up Mason Kuchel (Summit Racing Equipment Junior Dragster), Brian Hotker (Modified Bike), Allan Brooks (Super Street), Josie Hodgins (Modified), Tony Miskelly (Super Sedan), Greg Damiani (Top Sportsman) and Mark Kuhn (Supercharged Outlaws).
The event winner and runner-up trophies weren’t the only accolades handed out either. Earlier in the day, Zappia, Jake Hamilton-Moderate (Modified Bike), Bruce Howie (Super Street), Chris Moore (Modified), Miskelly (Super Sedan), Damiani (Top Sportsman) and Alan Mahnkoph (Supercharged Outlaws) were all presented with Decoglaze Glass Splashbacks Top Qualifier Medallions.
For Zappia, clean-sweeping the event in Alice Springs provides the perfect start to his title defence. The reigning champion faced off against Mason Kuchel in the final after having earlier emerged victorious from races against Ross Lamattina (round one) and Sarah Osborne. Kuchel meanwhile had taken on his sister Sophia Kuchel (round one) and brother Nathaniel Kuchel (round two) before enjoying a bye in the semi-final.
“It was a really good weekend. My lights were good all three days. We got to do some testing on Friday where we tuned the car into the different air conditions here versus what I am used to in Perth. We also had some base data to go off from running this car here last year, but it turns out the conditions were totally different, being a lot warmer than the previous colder years,” Zappia said.
“We were able to come out and qualify quite well. We only did three of the four passes on Saturday, going 8.002, and then on Sunday morning we came out and in again changed conditions we ran only one hundredth off our cut off – luckily, I had a bye in the first round so we were able to slow the car down into a safer zone before continuing the rest of the race day.
“It was a good race meeting overall. I had close races all day, first racing Ross Lamattina and then Sarah Osborne with both races neck and neck over the line. Then I was up against Mason Kuchel in the final where I had to wait on the tree before I could go and then went past him at almost 40mph difference on the line, which was a hard one to judge, but it was good to have close races all day that were all close across the finish line.
“I want to say a massive thank you to my mum and dad for taking the time off and travelling around with me, to Gordon Crawford for carting the car up here from Perth in his trailer, and a big thank you to the Osborne family for having us in their pit.
“I also want to make a special mention of Heather Parkinson and Centralian Motors for the use of a brand new 2022 Ford Ranger for our tow car, and also the ASID staff, ANDRA, and everyone else who makes these events possible. Finally, thank you to our sponsors – Scruffy from BL and SG Lake Brick Cartage, Ken from Taylor Tyres, Mike Sprlyan from ACS Sports Images, Aaron Deery from ADR Engines, CIC Coatings, and Summit Racing Equipment.”
In Modified Bike, Brian Alvisio was thrilled to take out his first ANDRA Christmas Tree after coming exceptionally close aboard his ‘Joker’ liveried Kawasaki ZX14 in Darwin last week. Alvisio ensured his place in the final against Brian Hotker by taking victories from reigning champion Shane Walker (round one) and last year’s winner Dean Gunson (round two) before enjoying a bye in his semi. Hotker meanwhile had taken victories from Bryan Finn (round one), Ian Read (round two) and Decoglaze Glass Splashbacks Top Qualifier, Jake Hamilton-Moderate (semi).
“This is pretty good! I come from Brisbane, and we went to Darwin first where I got the runner-up as well, so it has been a pretty successful trip!” Alvisio said.
“It has been a great trip all round. We spent a week in Darwin, then a week getting here through Kakadu and the Katherine Gorge and all the touristy stuff, and tomorrow we will be going to Uluru and taking a week to head home via the sights.
“I couldn’t be happier to be honest, this is my first ANDRA Christmas Tree, and it really means a lot. This bike of mine has just been on-song for the last two weeks. In Darwin I had seven passes all within five hundredths of a second and then in qualifying yesterday I had four passes within four hundredths of a second. The Christmas Tree here is a bit different to what it was in Darwin and what I have closer to home, but we got our head around it and cut some better lights today.
“Thank you to my girl Sheree Manning – she is my travel buddy, my partner, she is everything, she is just fantastic. Also, thanks to Dewalt Power Tools, Blaze Hanssen and Max Norman.”
Another racer who was delighted with the result today was Glenn Henley, who along with a team of people pulled off a massive feat to be ready to compete in the opening rounds of the new Summit Racing Equipment Sportsman Series season in his Datsun 1200 Ute.
Henley took the victory despite a break-out in the final after Decoglaze Glass Splashbacks Top Qualifier Greg Damiani red-lit on the line. He had earlier defeated reigning champion Vlado Turic (round one) and Chris Theo (semi) while Damiani had successfully battled against Leon Davies in the first round before enjoying a bye in his semi.
“I am ecstatic! Five weeks before Darwin we didn’t have a motor and then we just raked up as many bits as we could off the shelf, took a second-hand block and everything we could and built a motor in five weeks – we got it going the Thursday before we headed to Darwin on the Saturday,” Henley said.
“It has been a huge effort by a large amount of people and this win really is a reward, I have to mention Brenton and Nick at THR for assembling the motor and Craig Carrison for all the machine work but really there is just way too many people to thank here for all the different roles they played in getting us to the track.
“We had to be really tight with the dial-in today and good on the tree, because when you are racing the likes of Greg Damiani, he just nails the tree and his dial-in every time, so we had to be tight.
“Thank you to my wife Tracey for coming on the trip and to Ned and Nikolas Karanovic for inviting us on the road trip to Darwin. We travelled with about seven different car loads for the fortnight and met another three or four groups of people that we didn’t know before, and now we are really good friends. The road trip was one of the best parts. Thanks to Tracey also for her work on the weather station today as it was only us here today and she learnt it last night, and to my brother Brett Henley and Dean Cleary who flew up to Darwin to help me.”
In Super Street, newcomer to the senior ranks Tommy Turic made it two wins from two events in his Ford Falcon XY with victory over Allan Brooks in the final. Turic had earlier taken on Cody Hodgins (round one) and Tony Antonino (semi) with a bye-run in round two. Brooks meanwhile had emerged victorious from races against Colin Dawson (round one) and Michael Bridges (semi) while also enjoying a bye in the semi-final. Decoglaze Glass Splashbacks Top Qualifier Bruce Howie did not proceed past his round one bye.
In the Modified ranks, a three-round shootout format was employed, with Craig Baker taking out the victory over Josie Hodgins in the final in his rear engine dragster. Baker booked his spot in the final with three wins over Josie Hodgins, Decoglaze Glass Splashbacks Top Qualifier Chris Moore, and Daniel Hodgins; while Josie took two wins, also over Moore and Daniel Hodgins.
In Super Sedan, Lance Larcombe pulled out a perfect light 0.000 reaction time aboard his Chev Camaro to take the win over Decoglaze Glass Splashbacks Top Qualifier Tony Miskelly in the final. Larcombe had earlier faced off against Alex Gkroidis (round one), Nikolas Karanovic (round two) and two-time champ Martin Mirco (semi). Miskelly raced his way to the final stand with wins over Mark Busscher (round one) and reigning champ Peter Tzokas (round two) before a bye in the semi-final.
In Supercharged Outlaws, Andrew Sutton and his Camaro Coupe was successful over Mark Kuhn in the final, after having earlier dispatched Doina Day (round one) ahead of a bye in the semi while Kuhn had raced and beaten Michael Oehms (round one) and Decoglaze Glass Splashbacks Top Qualifier, Alan Mahnkoph (semi).
For full results from the Desert Nationals, please visit https://www.andra.com.au/series/results/
ANDRA thanks the Central Australian Drag Racing Association and all of its volunteers and sponsors for an outstanding racetrack and a well-run event.
The 2022/2023 Summit Racing Equipment Sportsman Series season will now head to Mildura’s Sunset Strip for the Spring Nationals across September 17-18. For event information, visit www.sunsetstrip.org.au
For more from ANDRA, visit www.andra.com.au
Images by Amber Simms Photography