Water, earth, wind and fire were unable to stop John Zappia from claiming his fifth straight event win at Santo’s Summer Thunder at Sydney Dragway on Saturday.
The first battle was against earth and fire. Zappia had to cover the 4000 kilometres from his Perth base to Sydney, but the bushfire crisis threatened to halt his advance across the continent. Fortunately the fires in Western Australia were brought under control and the highway across the Nullarbor Plain was opened up.
“We left a day earlier to allow for time in case there were delays or detours from the fires. Once they opened the highway it was all clear driving,” Zappia said.
Once Zappia arrived in Sydney, it was water proving to be the next problem as rain forced the postponement of Santo’s Summer Thunder to the Australia Day long weekend.
“The event got cancelled on Thursday, unfortunately after most of my crew had flown in,” he said. “We had to reschedule airfares, send people back, and schedule others to come for the postponement. The upside was we got to stay with the team’s good friends Fred and Filomena in Sydney at their place, they were great hosts and took us sightseeing into Sydney once the weather came good.”
Last to overcome was air, as strong winds at the track threatened to blow away anything not tied down in the Zappia Racing pit area, and humid conditions made horsepower hard to find.
“It was 41 degrees of heat with strong winds at the track, trying its hardest to blow everyone’s marquees over, so we had to strap everything down to make sure they would still be there Friday!
“The weather that arrived for race day was so humid, with 120 water grains. I haven’t tuned in air like that for a long time.”
The Dananni Hotshots / Zappia Racing Monaro knocked out a 5.69 straight off the trailer in Friday testing, Zappia got down to business for Saturday’s race day. The first round saw him taking on Mark Hinchelwood’s ACDelco Monaro, which was coming off a personal best in testing.
“We had some tyre shake on our shakedown pass earlier in the day for the first round we needed to step it up a bit,” Zappia said. “The changes worked and we went 5.68/254mph for low ET and top speed of the event.”
In round two, Zappia faced another driver who was delivering new PBs – Michelle Davies.
“Michelle had been running very well with consistent 5.8s and we decided to leave our car alone so we could see if our first round pass was repeatable. We went 5.71 at 252mph, a little down on speed as the bumps in the track unloaded the tyres during the run.”
The performance was enough to put Zappia into the final against championship leader Steve Ham.
“For the final we looked to step the Zappia Racing Monaro up. The track had got better and so we got after it a bit more. I managed to cut a tiny holeshot on Steve’s automatic car, with our old clutch and swapping feet we still managed a .055 light against his .056!
“We got out well and then I believe Steve got loose and had to pedal, and we pulled away from there for a 5.69/254mph win.”
Crossing the finish line first turned out to be the easy part as things got wild for Zappia in the braking area.
“As I went through the top end the bumps unsettled the car so bad it went into a tank slapper. I was just holding the steering wheel straight praying it wasn’t going to hit the wall. I managed to pull it up and turn before the sand trap, that was a pretty scary ride in the braking area but at least there was relief with the win.”
Zappia has returned across the continent to Perth Motorplex where he will be racing in the Summer Slam Series at the Night of Fire on February 1.
“We arrived back Tuesday morning and started servicing the engine to get it ready for Saturday. We just want to keep going consistently and I am keen to work on my reaction times. I had a good reaction time in the final at Sydney but I want to do that more often. We are aiming for six wins in a row and look forward to seeing all of our fans again in Perth.”
– Zappia Racing Media Release