With just two rounds remaining for the Australian Top Doorslammer Championship, it’s Kelvin Lyle’s title to lose.
Mathematically, just three drivers have a chance at winning the Australian Top Doorslammer Championship: Kelvin Lyle (530 points), John Zappia (448) and Daniel Gregorini (434).
Of those three, it’s obviously Lyle who sits in the box seat. For the Ford Mustang driver it has been one of his finest seasons yet.
The penultimate round of the series takes place at the Gulf Western Oil Nitro Champs, this Friday and Saturday at Sydney Dragway. For Lyle, it’s a return to a happy hunting ground, having claimed the Top Fuel Slam event victory in January.
While Lyle will be hoping the season’s status quo remains, his chasers John Zappia and Daniel Gregorini will be praying to the gods of speed for a hiccup in the plan. While the points gap is mathematically within reach, Lyle would need a disastrous finish.
Zappia is coming off some positive testing in Perth, where the team netted two 5.6-second times before rain interrupted the local season’s Grand Final. After a range of mishaps and gremlins interrupted his Westernationals weekend in March, Zappia is confident the team now has the platform to reach the top. Vitally important to Zappia will be the range of ‘little points’ on offer, including bonuses for quickest elapsed time and top speed at each event. All will make a difference when the final points are tallied in Darwin in June.
Gregorini arrives in Sydney fresh off a WA state championship win, and with slightly less lofty goals than Zappia. After missing a points round in the national series earlier in the season, Gregorini said he would be happy to clinch second.
While the top three will have the points at front of mind, there will be seven other teams vying for the Nitro Champs win. Among them will be Daniel’s wife Lisa, making her first appearance at Sydney Dragway in her Camaro. She will be looking to clock her first five-second run, after a 6.00 earlier in the season at Perth Motorplex and an outstanding debut at the Westernationals.
Few teams will have worked harder to be at the Nitro Champs than Matt Abel. Currently fourth in the points, Abel rebuilt his ’57 Chevy Top Doorslammer in record time after a sand trap rollover at Perth Motorplex.
The remaining five entries are made up of the southeast’s most capable teams, aiming to disrupt the western onslaught. Paul Cannuli will certainly be one of the favourites for the event, bringing his ex-Moits Racing (and championship winning) Ford Mustang to the party where 5.6-second times are well and truly possible. The Crow Cams Top Qualifier Award could be within his grasp!
Geoff Gradden, who has been spending his time doing double duty with his Saratoga Top Doorslammer and his Suzuki Hayabusa Extreme Bike, is arguably the dark horse in the field. It seems like just about any conditions suit his tune-up perfectly, let alone the good weather predicted for this Friday and Saturday.
Peter Kapiris, also driving one of the famed Murray Anderson-built Saratogas, continues to accumulate runs as his return to the sport gets back up to speed.
Rounding out the field will be two very popular cars, Craig Burns’ Mustang and Craig Hewitt’s Monaro. Both have relatively factory outlines, giving them a Pro Street look that sets them up as the underdogs against the radical bodies found elsewhere in the field. Burns in particular has had no issues cranking out five-second passes despite this.
The Top Doorslammers will first be on track for the Sydney crowd at 5pm on Friday, with a second qualifying session at 6.30pm. Race day Saturday will see the first round shortly after 2.30pm, with the second round at 4.15pm and the finals on track at 6.30pm.