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CHAMPIONS, EVENT WINNERS CELEBRATED IN DARWIN

In front of a packed house, the Burson Auto Parts Australian Top Fuel Championship and Australian Drag Racing Championship have celebrated not only event winners for Nitro Up North, but also the season Champions for Top Fuel, Top Doorslammer and Top Fuel Motorcycle at the Hidden Valley Drag Strip this evening.

Taking out the ultimate rewards tonight were Damien Harris (Top Fuel Champion), Kelvin Lyle (Top Doorslammer Champion) and Rob Cassar (Top Fuel Motorcycle Champion), with Cassar having his hands full by taking out the event victory also. Joining him in lifting the Nitro Up North winners’ trophies were Peter Xiberras (Top Fuel) and John Zappia (Top Doorslammer).

While celebrating the successes of the evening, the drag racing community is also holding new Australian champion Kelvin Lyle in their thoughts today, following a heavy accident in the Top Doorslammer A-Final. Lyle is being cared for in hospital in a stable condition, and all at the ADRC and Top Fuel Australia wish him a speedy recovery.


In Top Fuel, Harris locked down the title for Rapisarda Autosport International in round two with victory over Kyle Putland, while Xiberras (PremiAir Racing) locked down second in the title with his own round two victory against Phil Read (Hydraulink Jim Read Racing), with who he had been tied for second place heading into this weekend’s finale.

The championship winner and runner-up faced off in the A-Final in a rematch of last year’s Nitro Up North event, where Harris took the event win, but Xiberras took the title, with this year seeing a reverse of those results with Harris claiming the Stan Sainty Cup and Xiberras the event win.

The B and C final wins went to Phil Lamattina (Lamattina Top Fuel Racing) and Olive (LTFR) over Wayne Newby (RAI) and Kyle Putland respectively.


It was an emotional final run for Olive, last year’s rookie of the year, with it announced during the event that the second LTFR car is sitting out the 2023/24 season so the team can concentrate their efforts on a single car for Lamattina. Olive more than made it count, not only taking the C-Final win, but also setting the quickest ET of the entire weekend with a 3.953 second pass at 475.7kph.


Read had a solo in the D-Final which saw an aggressive 4.160 second pass at 359.51kph unfortunately punctuated by a half-track explosion and a cooked right rear tyre.

“The first thing I said was that was a driver’s win. We saw Newby’s car shake and I got a bit nervous, but that is why he (Harris) is number one. He is a great driver and he deserved it last year, but we got it this year,” Harris’ crew chief, Santo Rapisarda Junior said following the championship clinching victory.

“We assembled this team at the start of last year and they have come along in leaps and bounds. I am so proud of them and so thankful to them and to my old man for allowing us to do this, and to my wife and everyone at home and everyone that is behind us.”

“It is an awesome job by the team, I am lost for words a little,” Harris said.


“I want to thank Atlantic Oil, they have been amazing this year, and I also want to thank the Rapisarda family for allowing me to represent them and all the guys in Sydney who have worked so hard for this.


“I can’t wait to give the Stan Sainty Cup to Santo Snr back in Sydney when we get back there. It is awesome you know, we got out there in front points-wise, and then we struggled a bit towards the back end of the season with silly mistakes, so to come back and get it is awesome. I am glad it came down to the wire in Darwin – it is just awesome.”

In Top Fuel Motorcycle, Rob Cassar secured the ADRC title win in his nitrous-powered Ballistic Performance Parts Kawasaki against Benny Stevens’ Fuelled Motorsport Harley with a thrilling round two win over his title rival in Stevens.


The latter rode a bucking bull all the way down the track before crossing the centre line as Cassar raced through for the win. Third place in the title went to Chris Matheson on Nitro Voodoo, who retired from the sport following his record-breaking five-second performance in Sydney last month.


Cassar also took out the Nitro Up North win, wrestling his bike all the way down the track and narrowly avoiding the centre line in the A-Final against Fuelled Motorsport’s Aaron Deery.

“It has been a long year and 27-thousand kilometres, and it is a miracle,” a clearly emotional Cassar said after clinching the title following a round two victory over Benny Stevens.

“I am the smallest bike in the field and probably the smallest, most under-budget guy. I drive everywhere myself and my wife flies in. We bleed drag racing. I have been doing this for 32 years.

“This is fantastic. I can’t do it without my crew, my wife, my nephew, my sponsors, and everyone that helps me. I have guys in Sydney that crew for me when we are travelling and Katie can’t help me, and also in WA. I lost my dad in March, and a couple of guys jumped in the car and took it to Perth for me. My dad used to say I am crazy (doing this), and I think he was right,” he smiled.


“Gavin Spann was the last one to win a title on a nitrous bike in Australia, so it has been a while, and it is just fantastic.”

In Top Doorslammer, Kelvin Lyle formalised his championship by qualifying for the field in Darwin, taking the championship win over 11-time champ John Zappia and third-placed Daniel Gregorini – last year’s champion. Zappia was declared as the A-Final event winner for Top Doorslammer, while local racer Matt Abel took the B-Final victory on a solo.

With the conclusion of this 2022/2023 season, the racers now look ahead to a new era for Australian drag racing, with the new National Drag Racing Championship (NDRC) set to kick-off in July for the sportsman competitors and October for group one. For more details on the NDRC, please visit www.ndrc.tv.

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