Louie Rapisarda
Louie Rapisarda dragphotos.com.au

Fifty reasons to remember Australia's most promising Top Fuel racer

IN the year in which he would have turned 50, Willowbank Raceway honours the memory of Louie Rapisarda.

Rapisarda was widely acknowledged as Australia's most promising Top Fuel driver before he was tragically killed in an accident at the track on July 22, 1990.

Twenty-seven years have not dimmed the memory of the polite and well-liked young man, largely due to the dedication of his father Santo, whose race cars have carried his beloved son's name on their rear wing for all of that time.

Top Fuel racers in Australia also compete for a perpetual trophy honouring Louie.

Louie passed away at 23. At the same age his younger brothers Santo Jnr and Santino - crew chiefs of two of the Rapisarda Autosport International dragsters - have achieved outstanding success, having tuned their father's cars to the two quickest times for Top Fuel in Australia at the recent Gulf Western Oil Winternationals at Willowbank Raceway.

Louie grew up around his father's race cars At age 11, he was given the job of assembling the top end of the Rapisarda fueler engines and was soon-after in charge of most of the engine building.

After competing in his father's car in the Alcohol category in late 1986, Louie first ran in Top Fuel at Willowbank in February, 1990, where he was runner- up to multiple Australian Champion Jim Read.

In early 1990, Louie became the 10th and final member of the Goodyear Five-Second Club and, at 22, the youngest. He was presented with the Goodyear Five-Second Club trophy by ANDRA National Director Tony Thornton at the 1990 Winternationals.

To qualify for his place in the club, Louie ran 5.73 seconds at Calder Park Raceway in Melbourne on March 31, 1990, making him the fourth quickest of the club's members on only his eighth pass on nitromethane.

Racing in the honoured memory of Louie, the Rapisarda Autosport International team has advanced to the top of the category in Australia and is also competitive when racing in the United States.

At the recent Winternationals, Santo Jnr tuned the Damien Harris-driven car to Australia's first sub 4.5sec clocking. The 4.443 time saw Harris become the third quickest driver in the history of piston-engined, quarter-mile performances. The world record is 4.420sec.

Team driver Wayne Newby joined the 4.4sec club with a Santino Rapisarda-tuned 4.481sec time and alongside him, Peter Xiberras's personal best of 4.554 put the pair into the history books for the quickest side-by-side pass outside of North America.

Newby won the 400 Thunder Top Fuel Championship for 2017, the eighth Top Fuel title for Santo Rapisarda Snr. Santo drove to victory in 1983, then scored titles with team drivers Glenn Mikres (1997 and 1998), Steve Read (2001 and 2002), Damien Harris (2015 and 2016) and Newby in 2017.

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