Zappia wins frosty final in Summer Slam

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John Zappia’s Dananni Hotshots/Tony’s Auto Wreckers Monaro claimed the opening round of the Summer Slam season in chilly conditions at Perth Motorplex on Saturday night.

Mild daytime conditions allowed Zappia to turn in a top qualifying performance early in the day, as he led the field with a 5.799 at 407kmh in the second session. “We had great air during the day but I was getting a bit aggressive with my launch revs,” said Zappia, who still uses a traditional clutch setup that requires the driver to moderate the throttle while staging.

“On our first run the Dananni Hotshots/Tony’s Auto Wreckers Monaro Top Doorslammer rattled hard, so I pedalled it and punched second gear for a 5.82. “The second run was quite similar, though we had pulled some timing out of the tune up to settle it down. It rattled a bit further out on that run but we recovered and managed to top qualify by a tenth of a second.”

An uneven field resulted in Zappia earning a bye run for the elimination round, giving the team an opportunity to try a new ratio in the B&J transmission. The change appeared to work, as Zappia carded low ET of the event with a 5.751. “We still had some tyre shake, but it was a lot easier to manage. I shifted to second and lifted just slightly off the throttle but was back in quickly for what would be our quickest run of the day.

Zappia’s performance earned him a place in the final against Matt Abel, with the rapidly cooling conditions creating an unpredictable racing surface. “Unfortunately by the time we got to the final it was really cold, I think everyone was shivering!” Zappia said. “The air was excellent and the track was cold, but not dewy.

Matt and I left with similar reaction times but then suddenly I was pointing right and almost heading into Matt’s lane. I had to get off the throttle big time and straighten back up. As I got back into the throttle I could see Matt ahead, and he was wheelstanding away on every gear change. I didn’t think I had a chance of catching him, but then right before the finish line he got close to the wall and backed off. I shot past but I honestly didn’t know if I had beaten him to the line. I waited to hear from my crew on the radio and they said I got the win.

I really thought I had given the win to Matt, but then Matt gave it back. It was one of those thrilling races where the lead changes and it keeps fans on the edge of their seats.”

Zappia’s victory was matched by his nephew Brodie in Junior Dragster, who defeated Zara Board in the final. “I think this might be the eighth time we have both won at the same event, and hopefully we can add many more as Brodie is in his second last season in Junior Dragster,” the senior Zap said.

Despite the success, the event did end on a sad note, with the news that one of Zappia Racing’s biggest fans passed away during the night. Frank Earnshaw, also known as ‘The Man With The Sign’, could regularly be seen on the terraces of Perth Motorplex, holding a variety of signs that commended racers on their performances. “Frank was actually the uncle of a former crew member of ours, so we were very sad to hear of his passing,” Zappia said. “Our sympathies go out to all of his family and friends.”

Zappia Racing will next be on track for the 47th Goldenstate Championships on November 26-27, a round of both the Summer Slam and the Australian Drag Racing Championship for Top Doorslammer and Top Bike, as well as the Summit Racing Equipment Sportsman Series.

Photo: Phil Luyer High Octane Photos

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