Wayne Newby tasted victory for the second time this season after defeating American teammate Ashley Sanford in the final of Top Fuel at the Nitro Thunder meeting at Sydney Dragway, May 4.
John Zappia broke a 10-month long drought with a gritty win over reigning champ Paul Mouhayet in Pro Slammer. Aaron Tremayne outpaced sibling Tyrone in Pro Stock and evergreen Gary Phillips took the honors over long-time rival Steve Reed in Pro Alcohol.
The two-day meeting, featuring all the Pro categories for the first time since November got off to a rocky start when the opening day of racing was canceled due to rain. Day two featured a test and tune session, two rounds of racing with a sliding scale of bonus points based on ET and speed. The top two in the points then meet in the final with the rest of the field battling for the minor places.
Top Fuel car count was boosted by the return of four-time champ Darren Morgan, Sydney’s favorite son Terry Sainty and Rachelle Splatt with ex-NHRA tuner Glenn Mikres on board. The comeback by Morgan also signaled a reunion with longtime tuner Ben Patterson who has recently plied his trade in Europe and NHRA.
Race day and it was Newby chasing his second win of the season who stamped his authority on the meeting with easy wins over Sainty and Splatt and coupled with a swag of bonus speed and time points easily cruised to the final.
Sanford, chasing her first ever win in Top Fuel, was in superb touch, steamrolling Splatt and Sainty on her way to her fourth career final.
Reigning champ Bettes defeated Morgan and RAI racer Damien Harris but narrowly missed a spot in the final because Newby and Sanford had accumulated more bonus points.
In a repeat of round one of the 2018-19 season Newby and Sanford went toe-to-toe in the final.
Sanford led off the line and then blazed the tires. Newby also had his share of dramas and was on and off the throttle. Both cars struggled for grip and it was Newby who gained composure the quickest and went on to take the win.
“You do what you need to do to take the win and in the final, that meant pedaling the car,” said Newby. “We knew that the track was going to be cold and our tuner Santino Rapisarda put a lot of work into calming the car down. It paid off.”
Sanford, a four-time runner up in Top Fuel was philosophical. “To get that close to a win was exciting and heartbreaking at the same time. My time will come. I want to come back to Australia and chase after a gold Christmas tree for as long as Santo Rapisarda will allow me to drive for his team.”
Morgan, who last raced since November 2017, made an impressive comeback. In round one he ran a 3.86/318 mph but lost on a holeshot to Bettes who clocked 3.87/300 mph. Then followed a surging come from behind win over Sydneysider Phil Read. In round three and racing Bettes for what was essentially third and fourth place, Morgan shook the tires and Bettes took the win.
Damien Harris, chasing his maiden win this season, opened his account with a narrow loss on a holeshot to three-time champ Phil Read. Round two saw any chance of a finals berth evaporate when his car come to a halt just off the start line after the manifold tether cable came loose and shut the engine off. A cruel blow to Harris and tuner Santo Rapisarda Jr team who have experienced a horror run of bad luck this season. The team did come away with low et and top speed of the meet with a 3.80/321 mph from round one. Harris raced Read again in the third round and despite a slick .08 sec reaction time, the best of the round, fell short again and would eventually finish the day sixth.
Sainty and Splatt, racing for seventh and eighth place, both had tire shake and Sainty recovered the better to take the win with 7.90/93 mph.
Whenever John Zappia and Paul Mouhayet meet in a Doorslammer final it is guaranteed to be a heart in the mouth experience. This was no exception. Fans were treated to a rollicking adventure. Mouhayet out of the blocks with a superb .048 holeshot grabbed the lead and looked set for the win until Zappia drove past. Mouhayet proceeded to thrill the crowd with a series of spectacular pedals and spending time on two wheels in a valiant attempt to take back the lead. Zap claimed victory with a 5.65/254 mph.
“We were up against it going into the final,” said Zappia. “In the previous round we burnt a spark plug and melted the number five piston,” said Zappia. “We replaced the piston, put it all back together, didn’t have time to set the tappets, we put the blower back on and towed out straight to the start line. It was a great win under the circumstances.”
“It was a bit of a cowboy ride,” said Mouhayet. “It shook, I gave it a pedal, another pedal, got up on two wheels and when saw Zappia go around me and decided to get off it.”
In Pro Stock Aaron Tremayne turned a .041 sec. reaction time into the easiest of wins after his brother Tyrone shut off early and was forced to roll down the strip. Title contenders Wayne Daley and Chris Soldatos battled for third place with honors going to Daley who led all the way.
The Final of Top Alcohol was over when Steve Reed tossed a blower belt handing Phillips the win.
The next round of the 2018-19 season is the Winternationals at Willowbank Raceway, June 6-9.
— Competition Plus (@competitionplus) January 4, 2019