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RAPISARDA AUTOSPORT INTERNATIONAL STAR DAMIEN HARRIS CREATES AUSTRALIA TOP FUEL HISTORY

Rapisarda Autosport International veteran Damien Harris has made Australian Top Fuel history as the only driver to win Top Fuel championships across three sanctioning bodies. The West Australian's maiden title came in 2005 under ANDRA; in 2016, he secured the 400 Thunder Championship. At Hidden Valley Drag Strip, Darwin, on June 17, he secured his place in the history book when he defeated reigning champ Peter Xiberras to win the Burson Auto Parts Australian Top Fuel Championship.

“As I’ve said on more than one occasion, it’s an absolute honor to race for and represent the Rapisarda family," said Harris. "It means the world to me. I need to thank Santo Junior, the crew chief who tunes the car and has assembled a great crew to enable me to win the championship. I also want to thank my family for their support, this weekend and over the years. Santo Rapisarda may have been a little nervous watching back home in Sydney, but then I reckon he would have been over the moon and jumping up and down on the couch after the win.”


The Darwin result was a reversal of what happened in 2022 when Harris won the final round, and Xiberras took out the title.

Hidden Valley Drag Strip in the Northern Territory is a unique venue and is 4300 miles from the nearest capital city, Brisbane, Queensland. The meeting is held in the depth of the Australian winter. It has a climate similar to Miami, FLA, during February, with temperatures in the mid-70s and low humidity providing a unique set of conditions, unlike any other event on the tour.


Heading into the final round Harris, lead reigning champ Peter Xiberras, and three-time champ Phil Read.


QUALIFYING

Qualifying never rose to any great heights. Xiberras, the only racer to dip below the four-second barrier, topped the time sheets with a 3.99, 290 mph. Harris secured second place on a 4.14, 218 mph from teammate Newby who changed an engine between rounds with a 4.15, 218 mph, followed by LTFR duo Phil Lamattina and Shane Olive.


Western Australian Rookie Kyle Putland, in his third ever meeting, travelled 2390 miles to race at Darwin and was sixth with Read in seventh spot seeded to meet Harris in round one of eliminations.

ROUND ONE

Xiberras, on a solo, ran a 4.01 despite getting loose around half-track and pocketed the maximum 30 points on offer to close within 35 points of Harris. With a 4.16, Lamattina easily accounted for Olive after both spun the tires at the identical time of 2.8 secs. Read’s championship hopes evaporated in bizarre circumstances against Harris when excessive sump pan pressure shut his engine off 3.3 seconds into the run.


Newby spun the tires 2.8 seconds yet hung on to defeat Putland, who dropped a number three cylinder at half-track. Newby also hit a bird at the finish line. Newby said, "At 300 mph, it got my attention, but I couldn’t tell you what type of bird it was.”

ROUND TWO


Damien Harris secured the championship despite a major fright from Putland, who led off the line by .001 sec and held out Harris until the last 25 feet.


“I thought we had it in the bag right up to the finish line,” said Putland. “It was one of our best performances since we started in Top Fuel and a real boost to our confidence to know we can run with the top teams.”


Xiberras booked passage to the A-final against Harris with a 4.02, 290 mph while his opponent Read after posting a superb .007sec reaction time, then preceded to turn the tires.

Lamattina made it to the B-FINAL after outpacing Newby, and Olive, on a solo, went into shake around 50 feet.

ROUND THREE

Read had a solo in the D-FINAL.

Olive clocked low elapsed time of the weekend with a 3.95, 295 mph weekend to take the C-FINAL against Putland, who popped the 'chutes just past the Christmas tree.

According to Phil Lamattina, "it took around five pedals” to defeat Newby in the B-FINAL. “We’ve been having a challenging season,” said Lamattina.” But I think we’ve turned the corner. We missed out on the A-Final but have developed some momentum and confidence going into the next season.”


To Newby, finishing runner up in the B-FINAL was not the result the team was chasing at the season finale." We've had our chances this weekend, but lady luck hasn't been on our side."

Xiberras, who surrendered his title to Harris in the previous round, took the A-FINAL after smoking the tires against Harris, who also smoked the tires.


“This was an awesome result,” said Xiberras. “At the end of the day, we were chasing the championship and did everything that was possible. We won the meet and bagged as many points as possible, but Damien won too many meets earlier in the season and put himself in the position to win the series. Damien is someone I consider to be a friend. I admire and respect the guy and am stoked that he won the championship.”


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