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RACERS DO IT FOR SAM AT ATLANTIC OILS TOP FUEL SLAM

More than 200 race teams came together from all over the country for this weekend’s Atlantic Oils Top Fuel Slam to race in front of a capacity crowd in honour of Sam Fenech and celebrate the sport he loved.


Emotions were high across the action-packed program on Saturday 28 January at Sydney Dragway, with the sell-out crowd entertained by high quality racing from start to finish, and moved by emotional tributes to Sam Fenech.

The opening ceremonies were just one way that Sam Fenech was remembered across the day and night of racing, and included a Missing Man formation from the Top Doorslammers, speeches, and the unveiling of Adam Brand and Matt Cornell’s incredible new release, ‘Our Church.’


The song, celebrating community and the fact ‘we all race for the same reason’, was set to footage of Australian drag racing while featuring both Sam Fenech and Louie Rapisarda. The video was created by Top Fuel Australia’s own Nathan Prendergast and the production is already being hailed as the new drag racing anthem. You can view the video here.


On the track, the racers left nothing on the table as they all did their best to race for Sam and bring home the win in his honour.

When all was said and done, in the group one brackets it was Peter Xiberras (Burson Auto Parts Australian Top Fuel Championship), Kelvin Lyle (ADRC Top Doorslammer), Rob Dekert (ADRC Atlantic Oils Pro Stock), Jeremy Callaghan (ADRC Pro Mod) and Chris Matheson (ADRC Top Fuel Motorcycle) who held the big trophies aloft with A-Final victories, taking wins over Phil Read, John Zappia, Chris Soldatos, Neil Murphy and Rob Cassar respectively.


For the defending champion Xiberras, it was his first event win since the 2021 Winternationals and his first A-Final of the 2022/2023 season.


“It has been a while!” Xiberras grinned upon getting out of the car and being presented with the big trophy.


“This one was always about Sam. After it happened, I think everyone for the last three weeks has been on tenterhooks and talking themselves in and talking themselves out, I know I have been.


“I wanted to come here for Sam and then work out what I wanted to do, and I am just so proud that I could do it in his honour.

“He is such a loved character, and we won’t forget him. I had his brother and his son come and see me today, and it was such a vote of confidence that they approve of what we do still.

“Thank you very much to everyone, and to my team – I just can’t believe it, this is just fantastic. And to Phil, to race him and his team is an absolute honour and a pleasure.”


Xiberras and top qualifier Read earned their way to the A-Final courtesy of taking two wins a piece in the opening rounds, meaning they had the maximum points required to secure their ticket to the A-Finals despite having lower ETs than other race winners. Xiberras’ win came courtesy of a 3.846/483.66kph pass over Read’s 4.162/350kph effort.


In the B-Final, US drag racing star Larry Dixon took out the win and third for the round with a 3.932/501.17kph pass over team-mate Wayne Newby, who had the header flames go out early for a 4.461/281.06kph.


In the C-Final, what was supposed to be an all-LTFR C Final ended up being a Shane Olive solo when his boss and team-mate Phil Lamattina was unable to front for the run due to issues starting his Top Fuel Dragster. Olive took the C-Final win with a 4.467/290.07kph pass.

In Top Doorslammer, Kelvin Lyle had his hands very full, taking out not only the A-Final win for the Atlantic Oils Top Fuel Slam, but also the top qualifying honours, and the A-Final win for the held-over Willowbank Raceway A-Final which was held during qualifying earlier today.

“This means a lot,” Lyle said at the bottom end of the track.


“And it is not just about getting the two trophies, but to just do it in Sam’s honour. It means a lot.


“I was racing him at that last meeting, and to have that happen was just tragic.

“So, I really, really wanted these, for him.”


In what was an all-West Aussie A-Final, Lyle (5.729/409.45kph) defeated Daniel Gregorini (5.776/407.45kph) in a great race that saw the West Aussies separated by just six hundreths of a second on the line. Gregorini had earlier in the day taken the Willowbank Raceway B-Final win from Matt Abel.

In the Top Fuel Slam B-Final, Zappia took on Emilio Spinozzi and walked away with the win and third for the round thanks to a 5.692/405.25kph – the first Doorslammer ‘60’ of the weekend – over Spinozzi’s 5.882/399.95kph.


In the C-Final, returning Doorslammer royalty Peter Kapiris was grinning from ear to ear with victory with a 5.924/384.86kph effort seeing him triumph over Geoff Gradden, who had a messy run but was able to gather it back up.


In Atlantic Oils Pro Stock, top qualifier Rob Dekert was another with plenty to smile about, taking the A-Final win over Chris Soldatos with a 7.011 pass at 315.59kph, with Soldatos forced to settle for the runners-up trophy with his 7.125/308.69kph pass.

“That was good, really good,” Dekert grinned.


“The final felt really good – I look behind me after fifth gear and Chris wasn’t beside me, so I said, ‘it must be mine!’” he laughed.


“It was a good weekend and we top qualified as well, so it was good all round and it was great to see everyone come out to honour Sam Fenech.”


In the Atlantic Oils Pro Stock B-Final, it was Rick Chilton who took the win and third for the round, emerging victorious over a red-lighting Tony Polito (7.065/311.70kph).


Bruce Leake was unable to front for the C Final Final after a nasty incident after he crossed the finish line as the round two winner. Leake was able to exit his damaged car under his own power. Mario Polito therefore undertook a solo, crossing the line with a 7.415 second pass at 272.41kph.

In Pro Mod, top qualifier Jeremy Callaghan faced off against Neil Murphy in the A-Final and took the win with a 5.944/400.26kph pass over Murphy’s 6.054/390.27kph result.


Third for the round and winner of the B-Final was Robert Campisi, who laid down a 6.501/311.92kph pass to beat Steven Athans (6.715/345.83kph) to the line.


In Top Fuel Motorcycle, Chris Matheson took out the A-Final win over Rob Cassar, with a 6.306/344.26kph pass enough to see him beat Cassar’s 7.334/292.64kph to claim the big trophy.


The next round of the Burson Auto Parts Australian Top Fuel Championship and the Australian Drag Racing Championship (ADRC) will be held at the Perth Motorplex’s Westernationals event, across March 4 and 5. For event information, visit www.topfuelchampionship.com.au or www.motorplex.com.au


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