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EPIC FINAL BATTLE SET FOLLOWING THRILLING SHOW IN SYDNEY

This weekend’s Nitro Champs at Sydney Dragway – the penultimate round of the Burson Auto Parts Australian Top Fuel Championship and Australian Drag Racing Championship chase – have ensured the Top Fuel title battle will go down to the wire at next month’s finale in Darwin.


Larry Dixon took the event A-Final win over top qualifier Phil Lamattina, with the visiting US star ecstatic to take his first ever Sydney win and his first Top Fuel victory since winning at Willowbank Raceway in 2016.

Dixon took a convincing win over Top Qualifier Phil Lamattina, with a 4.385 second pass at 426.33 kilometres per hour while Lamattina experienced problems straight off the hit.

“Wow!” grinned Dixon. “I was talking to Phil, and he has been racing here a long time, and he said he has never won in Sydney. I was like, neither have I!” he laughed.

“It is great. The last win I got in Top Fuel was at Willowbank Raceway in 2016, so this is pretty darn cool.

“I can’t thank Santo and the whole Rapisarda team enough for bringing me down here to do this. I love Top Fuel cars and they give me the opportunity to do this. Thank you to everyone, and to all the fans – everyone has been so warm and welcoming to an outsider, and I really appreciate it. I am just so happy!”

Title leader Damien Harris was relegated to the D-Final after a difficult weekend which included crossing the centre line in round two, and while he took that win over Kyle Putland with a 3.992 over Putland’s 4.074, his points buffer heading into the final round is just 65 points over his nearest rivals – Phil Read and Peter Xiberras.


Read was second placed heading into this weekend’s event, but was unable to front for the C-Final against Shane Olive (3.916) following a fiery second round win. Following Read’s no-show, when Xiberras won his B-Final against Wayne Newby (3.833 to 9.193), the defending champion elevated himself to equal second in the title standings, tied with Read.


In short, anything can happen come the final day of racing in Darwin at the Nitro Up North event, part of the Darwin Triple Crown Supercars festivities across June 16 and 17.

In the Australian Drag Racing Championship, Benny Stevens took the Top Fuel Motorcycle victory over title leader Rob Cassar (Stevens is second in the points), while John Zahra won a solo B-Final when the record-breaking Chris Matheson was a non-starter for the finals following a scrape with the wall in his round two run.


“We have never raced in Sydney before, so we have been studying the weather and everything. In the first round we went out with a tune that we thought would work, and ended up running a 6.51 while riding through the finish line on the back wheel, so that gave us a good indication of where we were at,” Stevens said.

“In the next qualifying pass, we sort of left the tune the way that it was as we wanted to get a bit of consistency and back up what we did in the first pass, and we ended up running a 6.62 with the bike sliding around a bit from the half-track onwards. At the end of the day, it was another win, and we were the top qualifier, so we were happy.


“Come race day, we put the tune back to the six fifty run, and we ran a 6.52, which were happy with. We left it the same for the second round against Rob Cassar, as our focus was on being consistent. We ended up winning that second round against him with another 6.52 which we were really happy about.


“In the final round we turned it up just a little bit, going through and adding a bit more fuel and clutch where it was needed, and we finished off with a win in the final with a 6.47. The biggest thing for us what we ran a few passes that were over 195mph to the half-track, which is a big win for us, as this is an area we have been focusing on and we can see results from that, so we are very, very happy.


“Another highlight of the weekend for us is Aaron Deery’s bike. We have been focusing on that bike and it has been running awesome times even with being off the throttle early. In Q2 he went into the sand and damaged the bike a bit which saw him unfortunately out for the weekend, but it was awesome to see that bike performing so well and that he ran a PB – I am very proud of him and we will have that bike ready to go for Darwin,” he concluded, while thanking his team’s sponsors: Worx Equipment, AAA Demolition and Tree Services, Racecraft, Darling Downs Drilling, Bakers Creek Harvesting, West Coast Air, TRP, CJD Trucks, Red Line Synthetic Oil, Gardiner Engineering, MDR Trans, Nelg’s Ali Mods, Applied Automotive Performance Engines, and The Gate Bar and Bistro.

Matheson had earlier had the crowd on their feet by setting Australia’s first five second Top Fuel Motorcycle pass.


“This has been a big effort from the team, how’s that for a bit of history here in Australia,” Matheson grinned after the record-setting effort.

“To everyone, wow, thank you for supporting us, I can’t do it without the team and all of my guys, Performance Wholesale, Rocket, Aeroflow…all the guys who support what we do. Steve McBride back in the States, Jack from CycleDrag…what a big moment.

“We have been plugging away at this for about 11 years, I can ring the nursing home now and let them know I am coming next week.


“That’s a big moment.”


In ADRC Top Doorslammer, Kelvin Lyle solidified his spot on the top of the championship points heading into Darwin with an A-Final win over a red lighting Geoff Gradden (5.937/404.8kmh), while top qualifier John Zappia remains second in the points following his B-Final victory over Matt Abel (5.607/409.61kmh).

The C Final win went to Craig Hewitt (8.241/145.03kmh) over a red-lighting Lisa Gregorini (11.13), who earlier in the day had the crowd on their feet with a hole shot win (5.825) over 11-time champion Zappia (5.674) in only her second event as a licensed Top Doorslammer racer in the second round.


Peter Kapiris took a solo in the D-Final (11.364), shutting down early after a wheelstand. Daniel Gregorini – who was third in the title standings ahead of this weekend – was unable to front for the second round or the final after his round one win over Craig Burns, doing his championship aspirations no favours.


“Sydney certainly likes us!” smiled Lyle.


“We have had a lot of wins here in Sydney, for some reason this place just loves us. It is a great track, and we love coming here, so it is good to come here and get some more wins.

“Yesterday in qualifying we did our PB on the first run with a 5.65, which also put us on top until Zappia came out in the second run with a 5.64, but we were still feeling pretty confident for the racing with that.


“In the final we had to wait around a fair bit, so we upped the power up and probably went a bit too far, I had to pedal it a few times! I actually didn’t realise that Gradden had a red light, so I just kept on pedalling it to get it down the track and was told later when the crew got down there that he had red lit!


“Everyone is really excited ahead of Darwin with the championship how it is, it feels really great. Our first win for the season was in Darwin in June of last year, so if we can go up there and repeat that, another win would be just great.”


The final round of the 2022/2023 Burson Auto Parts Australian Top Fuel Championship, and the Australian Drag Racing Championship for Top Doorslammer and Top Fuel Motorcycle, will be held in Darwin across June 16 and 17.

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