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NITRO CHAMPS READY TO HEAT UP

The action at Sydney Dragway’s Nitro Champs – the penultimate round of the 2022/2023 Burson Auto Parts Australian Top Fuel Championship and the Australian Drag Racing Championship (ADRC) for Top Doorslammer and Top Fuel Motorcycle – is set to heat up tomorrow (Saturday May 6) following the conclusion of qualifying for these brackets this evening.

Racing for these headliner brackets will kick off from 2.00pm Saturday, before continuing with round two from 4.15pm and the finals from 6.30pm.


Leading the way into racing will be top qualifiers Phil Lamattina (Top Fuel), John Zappia (Top Doorslammer) and Benny Stevens (Top Fuel Motorcycle).


Lamattina secured the top qualifier position (3.77) over Burson Auto Parts Australian Top Fuel Championship title leader Damian Harris (3.79) and Wayne Newby (3.80), with his run seeing the team absolutely ecstatic as it marked a personal best.


Title contenders Peter Xiberras (3.829) and Phil Read (4.08) were fourth and fifth fastest respectively, ahead of Kyle Putland (4.17), Shane Olive (4.34) and visiting US star, Larry Dixon (7.690), who experienced problems in both runs.


Lamattina’s top qualifier result came courtesy of his Q1 run, with Q2 bringing a fire for the Fuchs-sponsored LTFR Top Fuel Dragster. The ‘Carrot King’ will face off against Dixon in the first round, with Harris and Olive, Newby and Putland, and Xiberras and Read to make up the other opening pairings.


“We weren’t shocked but obviously when you haven’t run that quick ever, it sort of takes a little bit for it to sink in for everyone. It was a personal best by a whole bunch, so that is great and a really good morale booster for the team,” Lamattina said.


“Obviously we have been struggling a fair bit lately, so we have been working on stuff and we tested the car last Friday and it went well. It really is a testament to the hard work that has been put in by Shane Olive, and also Luke Marsden and all the work he has been putting in before he left. Aaron Hambridge sort of just gave it a few little tweaks and then bang, it is all there.


“(After Q2) we know where our boundaries are now, and we have got a good handle on the race car. I know it might not have looked like that, but we know what is going on and why. I don’t want to make excuses, it is what it is, and we continue to learn, so it is all good.


“For tomorrow, we are feeling quietly confident. Anytime you start off number one it is a good thing. But there are also so many great competitors here and it is a tough field. Whoever gets through, they are going to have earnt it, that is for sure. At the end of the day, race day is the most important day, and that was just qualifying!” he concluded with a smile, while thinking Fuchs and also Burson Auto Parts for their support.


In Top Doorslammer, while title leader Kelvin Lyle got off to a good start in Sydney by topping Q1 with a 5.650 second effort, 10-time champion and currently second placed John Zappia had an enthusiastic answer for him in Q2 with a 5.642 effort to take out the top qualifying honours and lead the field into race day.

Third fastest was Daniel Gregorini (5.696) – currently third in the title chase – ahead of Geoff Gradden (5.742), Paul Cannuli (5.756), Lisa Gregorini (5.820), Peter Kapiris (5.895) and Craig Burns (5.981). Failing to qualify were Craig Hewitt (6.235) and Matt Abel (7.489) – with Abel having come to the event following a roll over in the latest round for the championship in Perth.


“It is anyone’s game,” Zappia said.


“We overpowered it on the first run – we came with a tune-up that went well in Perth but overpowered the track here. The air was pretty good in that first one and so we had to pedal it to still do a 5.90 which was pretty impressive at 255 miles per hour.


“We backed it off a heap at the start line for Q2 and sent it, it dead hooked the Hoosiers and went on to do a 5.642 second run at 257 miles per hour, even with moving around a bit at the top end where the track was a bit loose. I was really happy with that, even though we nearly slowed it down too much given how it took off, but it got down the track and ended up holding as number one, so we were pretty impressed, especially given the 1.006 sixty foot time which is slow for this type of car.


“Tomorrow is another day, and we race at 2.00pm which we didn’t today so it will be a bit of a guessing game. We will just have to fine tune it from here and try and win rounds and take it one race at a time in the Dannani Hot Shots/Fuchs Lubricants Monaro.”

In Top Fuel Motorcycle, Benny Stevens ensured he took out the top qualifier honours with a 6.501 second run in the opening outing. Second fastest was Aaron Deery with a 6.729 ET, however after going deep into the sand at the end of his Q1 run, it is looking unlikely he will be able to repair the bike in time to return tomorrow. Third fastest was Chris Matheson (6.860) ahead of title leader, Rob Cassar (7.039), John Zahra (13.485) and Leonard Azzopardi (22.365).


For full event information including entry lists and scheduling information, and to buy tickets, visit http://sydneydragway.com.au/nitro-champs-2023-1

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