Xiberras and Zappia take thrilling New Year’s Thunder wins

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Peter Xiberras took an emotional win in round two of the 400 Thunder Top Fuel Championship at Willowbank Raceway in Queensland on Saturday night in front of one of the biggest one-day crowds ever seen in Australian drag racing.

Xiberras took advantage of the all-run format at the event, bouncing back from a first round holeshot loss by 3 thousandths of a second to Top Fuel rookie Kelly Bettes in the Lamattina Top Fuel car.

“After several runner ups, to finally get the gold trophy means so much to me and my team,” Xiberras enthused after the event. “This is a team sport, so a huge thanks has to go out to them, and we are even hungrier to repeat in Sydney at the Santo’s Summer Thunder in two weeks time”.

Xiberras overcame American Ashley Sanford, who earlier in the day recorded her first ever Top Fuel round win over her Rapisarda Autosport International teammate and reigning 400 Thunder champion Wayne Newby. Sanford continued the trend by taking down her second teammate of the day Damian Harris in the second round, recording the quickest time of the round in the process.

“I have to give all the credit to Santo and the boys for having faith to put me in their car again for the next two races,” Sanford said prior to the final. “To get my first two round wins in 400 Thunder in front of a crowd like this, with a family team is just incredible”.

With the win, Xiberras moved into second in the 400 Thunder Top Fuel points standings only 11 points, and less than a round of racing behind leader Damien Harris.

In Pro Slammer a resurgent John Zappia bounced back from two – by his lofty standards – sub-par championship rounds in Darwin and Sydney, with a dominant performance to take home the maximum points haul available at the New Year’s Thunder.

A dramatic second round matchup between USA based Frankie Taylor and the incoming championship leader Paul Mouhayet proved to be the biggest talking point of the event, however with both drivers crossing the centreline.

Taylor was deemed to have crossed first, sliding over the centreline with his rear tyre, handing the win to Mouhayet – only for Mouhayet’s car to make a sudden dart to the right that saw the Moits Mustang mow down the finish line timing blocks.

The race could prove pivotal in the championship as Mouhayet was awarded 20 points for the round win, but was denied the elapsed time bonus points due to an invalid time being recorded as a result of hitting the timing blocks – which cost him a place in the final round against Zappia.

Zappia faced Ben Bray in the final with his quickest-of-the-day 5.706 proving too good for Bray’s 6.074.

“It’s nice to finally get back to where we are used to being – on top of the points,” Zappia said with a wry smile. “My team got the job done today and it’s nice to be holding the trophy at the end of the day.”

With Zappia taking the maximum points haul from the event, he assumes the 400 Thunder Pro Slammer points lead from Paul Mouhayet.

Other 400 Thunder Professional series winners were Aaron Tremayne in the Pro Stock over New South Wales’ Jason Hedges, and Corey Buttigieg over Maurice Allen in Pro Bike.

The 400 Thunder Series now moved to Sydney Dragway in two weeks time for the Santo’s Summer Thunder – the next round of the championship for Top Fuel, Pro Slammer, Pro Alcohol and Top Bike.

-400 Thunder Media

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