Rapisarda Autosport International swept the field, taking the top three places at the New Year’s Thunder meeting at Willowbank Raceway, Jan 4.
Reigning fuel champ Wayne Newby defeated Damien Harris on a holeshot the final of Top Fuel. Ashley Sanford grabbed third place ahead of veteran Phil Read and Phil Lamattina, making his first appearance at the venue since June 2015 finished fifth.
“It was a great result for our team,” Santo Rapisarda said. “I was delighted to see Ashley run a personal best. I also want to thank all the boys and girls who worked on the cars over the two days in the hot and very humid conditions.”
“The first run on the day against Phil Lamattina set the team up for the rest of the meeting.” Said Newby. “We had a few dramas after second round when we had to replace the engine and blower. I’m lucky to have a great crew and tuner in Santino Rapisarda, who stepped up to the mark and gave me a badass car.”
For the first time this season, the meet was conducted under the all run format featuring two rounds of racing plus bonus low et and top speed points to set the field for the final round.
In round one Harris took the win against Sanford who smoked the tires. Newby with a 3.89 pass grabbed low et points to account for Lamattina, who dropped a cylinder and spun the tires. Newby’s time all the more impressive given the track temperature was a sizzling 135-degrees. Read, lowest in the points coming into the meeting, was granted the solo run and dropped the number eight-cylinder on the step.
Round two and on a marginally cooler track Harris booked his passage to the final when his opponent Read cut a red light, his first ever in a career that began in 2004. Newby faced of against Lamattina again, and honors went to the RAI star. Lamattina’s race was over after a sluggish reaction time of .174. “Going into the run, we had a few issues with the supercharger and a couple of problems in the clutch. I got caught napping on the line, and in drag racing, you always need to be on your game,” said Lamattina. Sanford made the solo run.
The final between Newby and Harris was run under idyllic conditions and produced the best race of the day. Both cars marched in unison down the track until Harris’s chances of victory evaporated after taking out a timing box. Newby ran a 3.86, 311 mph, with Harris turning in a 3.84, 310 mph.
“For the final, we decided to be more aggressive.” Explained gun tuner Santino Rapisarda. “We bought the clutch timers in. Changed the blower and pistons in the car and put in a new motor after we kicked the rods out in the second round. We took a bit of a gamble, rolled the dice and it paid off.”
The race for third and fourth between Sanford and Read was highlighted by a slashing win to Sanford and came with the added reward of a personal best in Australia of 3.82, 313 mph for the Californian speedster.
“The car left angry,” said a jubilant Sanford. “When I say angry that’s meant as a positive. It stayed glued to the ground and went straight down the track. As soon as I pulled the’ chutes, I knew it was a big number.”
Lamattina’s weekend got no better when he detonated an engine spectacularly on his solo run.
NHRA tuning wiz Jim Oberhofer traveled from Texas to work alongside Jim Read Racing tuner Bruce Read “Its always great to come down to Australia,” said Oberhofer. “I consider the Read’s to be family. Bruce really knows how to run the car, and I’m basically another set of eyes. Phil, he’s one of the finest drivers not just here in Australia, but anywhere Top Fuel is raced.”
Gary Phillips has extended his winning streak to six after taking the honors against rising star Jake Donnelly in the final of Pro Alcohol. The finale evolved into a brutal pedalfest after both combatants struggled off the line.
Phillips, the most experienced racer in the category, was quickest to recover and took the win with a 6.58 to Donnelly’s 7.28.
“We had a few problems in the first two rounds and decided to change the ignition points box.” Said Phillips.” That fixed the problem, and the car was a hotrod in the final.”
24-year-old Donnelly making only his second start in the elite category, confirmed his status as a genuine championship contender. His reaction time of .000 in the first round was best of the meet.
In Pro Stock, Tyrone Tremayne claimed his first gold Christmas tree since March 2018 with a gritty win over fellow Queenslander Wayne Daley. Tremayne’s passage to the final included a holeshot win over sibling Aaron followed by a comfortable victory over little known Rob Deckert. Daley downed Deckert, then Aaron Tremayne, to advance to his first final since May 2018.
Rank outsider Andrew Badcock caused a major upset after defeating hot favorite Glenn Wooster in the final of Pro Stock Bike.