CROWD PLEASER: Winternationals record-breaker John Zappia blasts down the Willowbank Raceway dragstrip during the weekend.
CROWD PLEASER: Winternationals record-breaker John Zappia blasts down the Willowbank Raceway dragstrip during the weekend. Dragphotoscomau

Zappia creates Australian title history

BY the time the 2015 Fuchs Winternationals drew to a close, more than 35,000 race fans had come through the Willowbank Raceway gates.

Event and national championship winners were crowned in all of Australia's drag racing brackets.

West Australia's John Zappia became the first competitor in Australian drag racing to clinch eight consecutive national titles.

At the same time, he took the Top Doorslammer event win and set a new national elapsed time record, facing Brisbane racer Ben Bray in the final.

"This is just unbelievable, the Fuchs Striker Monaro just flew all weekend,'' Zappia said.

"We had tyre shake on every run except that one. So we took a gamble as we thought we were going the wrong way.

"On that run it went back to a 5.91 second run and we knew Ben (Bray, who he was facing in the final) could run 5.91 and that he can cut lights, so we thought let's try something we haven't tried.

"We threw it at it, it took it, I punched second gear and didn't have to lift.

"That was the first full-throttle pass of the weekend and I told everyone that if I could hold it flat it would run a '60' and it went a 5.69-er.''

Zappia then became emotional, adding: "This is for Craig Pedley from Striker Crushing. Thanks for 10 awesome years. This win is for you."

Bray impressed by running all the way to the finals in his comeback to competition.

Sunday's race day marked the 12-month anniversary of his mammoth crash at the same event and venue.

Bray competed in his father Victor Bray's '57 Chevy Top Doorslammer.

Earlier, he bettered his father's personal best elapsed time in the car before going on to secure a berth in the finals.

Bray has a new Corvette in the making for his continued comeback to the sport. "Now it is just about getting in the new car and getting to laying down some good results,'' he said.

Also drawing the applause of the crowd were Brad Lemberg, who took out the Pro Stock Motocycle class win in his first pro-level event.

Jamie Noonan finally clinched the Top Alcohol event win after having twice previously made it to the finals only to be thwarted by rain and mechanical issues.

Nino Cavallo took the event win over 2015 champ Lee Bektash in Pro Stock.

Mark Drew clinched back-to-back Australian titles and the Top Fuel Motorcycle victory.

Joining them in celebrating victory were sportsman racers David Gauldie (Super Gas), Eden Ward (Junior Dragster), Ace Edwards (Modified Bike), Robert Winterburn (Super Street), Andrew Saliba (Super Sedan), Daniel Morris (Top Sportsman), Rob Harrington (Modified), Josh Fletcher (Supercharged Outlaws), Ross Smith (Competition Bike), Matt Lisle (Super Compact), Rob Nunn (Super Stock) and Wayne Cartledge (Competition).

An otherwise perfect event was marred by three incidents.

Mount Nathan resident Greg Ward (Supercharged Outlaws) and Hillcrest 17-time Top Alcohol champion Gary Phillips each dramatically crashed their race machines before walking away unscathed.

Two-time Top Fuel champion Phil Lamattina suffered two shattered vertebrae after an incredible accident. He suffered a chassis failure at 466kmh.

Victorian-based racer Lamattina was in a stable condition and good spirits in the PA Hospital while the medical team explores options for treatment and rehab.



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