The Australian Top Doorslammer Championship is far from decided following the 52nd annual MacTrack Westernationals at Perth Motorplex.
For some qualifying started on a high note, while for others there was devastation. Shane Catalano’s beautiful Valiant Charger put two rods out in the very first burnout of the first session, ending his weekend far earlier than he would have hoped.
“That’s our Westernational campaign over,” Catalano said. “It pretty much sums up our season.”Meanwhile, John Zappia delivered a quick 5.697 to take the top spot. He was joined in the fives by Daniel Gregorini (5.875) and Marty Dack (5.904).
The second session saw almost a repeat of the first in terms of the names at the top. Zappia improved to a 5.675, as did Dack’s Mustang with a 5.865 that shuffled him into second place. Gregorini stayed consistent with a 5.876, but problems with the transmission would rule him out of the final session.
The third and final qualifying session was a beaut with a bunch of exciting passes. Lisa Gregorini completed her licensing earlier in the evening and was able to take a shot at qualifying for race day, which she did with a 6.107 run. Championship leader Kelvin Lyle finally found his groove with a 5.827 to move into second, while veteran Peter Kapiris handed in an early shut-off 6.123 in his Saratoga. But the biggest cheers came for Zappia as the Fuchs/Dananni Hotshots Monaro rocketed to a 5.614, the quickest pass so far of the 2022/23 Australian Top Doorslammer season.
Race day would use the all-run format with ten cars going head-to-head. The first round opened with Lisa Gregorini taking on Ryan Moresby’s Drive Straight Ford Falcon. In a shock result, Lisa claimed her first win light with a 6.119 pass after Moresby had problems. Her husband Daniel was also in winning form, with a 5.834 defeating Maurice Brennan’s Just Flooring Commodore. Dack won a thriller against Mark Chapman’s Plymouth Fury in a 6.025 to 6.033 race, while Lyle’s 5.877 came up golden against Matt Abel’s 6.740. The round finished with one of the most shocking upsets of the season when Kapiris downed a red-lighting Zappia, whose early-leaving 5.720 would be worthless against a 6.014.
Back in the pits, the news went from bad to worse for Zappia as he discovered engine damage and would need to change out the motor. Time would run out before the second round as Zappia discovered a burned airline fractionally too late, resulting in Lisa Gregorini taking a solo pass for a personal best 6.008 and yet another win light. Chapman got some revenge on Dack, turning the tables with a 6.014 win to Dack’s red-lighting 5.977. Kapiris broke into the fives with a 5.995 to win against Abel, who joined the red light club, as Lyle’s 5.953 secured him an A Final place and defeated Brennan. Daniel Gregorini needed a time better than Kapiris’ to guarantee the other A Final place, and he did just that with a 5.753 win over Moresby.
The final race round would see some racers recover pride, as others took worse turns. Moresby finally turned on the win light with a 6.122 to get by a hapless Brennan who continued to struggle. Zappia couldn’t take a trick, with a transbrake issue seeing him only able to take the beams against Abel. Perhaps that was for the best though, as Abel had no parachutes in the braking area, hitting the sand and barrel-rolling to a stop, with the ’57 Chevy body stripped from the chassis. Fortunately Abel was unhurt, as the car took most of the beating. After a short cleanup, Chapman and Dack had their third confrontation of the night, with Dack getting the bragging rights on a 5.891 win.
That left just the A and B Finals to run. Lisa Gregorini faced Kapiris in the B Final, with her perfect winning record coming to an end as Kapiris put up a 5.923 to her 6.071.
The A Final saw Daniel Gregorini take on Lyle. With Zappia having a horror event, Lyle was aiming to stretch his points lead, while Daniel was getting within sight of second-placed Zappia himself. The final round was arguably the race of the event for the Top Doorslammer brigade, as a 5.752 from Daniel defeated a 5.747 from Lyle on a 0.073 to 0.130 holeshot.
“It was a rematch from Sydney and with Kelvin and I having a history of close races, this one didn’t disappoint,” Daniel said. “To earn my second win this season was great and we are building a great record at the Westernationals now too with four event wins. These Christmas tree trophies are starting to take up some room but I’m not complaining!”
Just two rounds of the season remain, the Nitro Champs at Sydney Dragway in May and Nitro Up North at Darwin’s Hidden Valley Drag Strip in June. Lyle sits first in the points (530), followed by Zappia (448), Daniel Gregorini (434) and Matt Abel (242).