With three different winners from the first three rounds, the Australian Top Doorslammer Championship is proving to be a close battle as the series prepares for its eastern swing.

After beginning the season in Darwin with Nitro up North, the Top Doorslammer field moved on to Alice Springs Inland Dragway for the Red CentreNATS. Weather conditions played havoc with the event, with just one session of qualifying taking place before racing. With a top qualifying pass of 5.967, John Zappia claimed the $1000 bonus prize from Crow Cams, and he would only get quicker with a 5.870 in the first round to defeat Matt Abel’s 6.126. Kelvin Lyle used a 6.380 to get by a wall-scraping Mark Chapman, whose Plymouth Fury suffered some minor damage that would rule him out of the remainder of the event. 

In the second round, Zappia took a solo pass in the absence of Chapman with a loose 7.396 clocking that would nonetheless earn him a place in the final round, while Lyle earned his ticket care of a similarly rough 7.006 against Matt Abel.

Fans had to wait a couple of months for closure on the Red CentreNATS, as track officials ruled it would be too cold to complete the final round. That meant the third round of qualifying at the Goldenstates, held last weekend at Perth Motorplex, would serve as the battleground to decide the victor. 

Lyle had the momentum, coming off a season opening win at Darwin, but he would face a resurgent Zappia, whose pre-event testing at the Motorplex had yielded very quick runs. Zappia got the jump early with a 0.085 reaction time and never looked back, securing his first win of the season in the Dananni Hotshots/Fuchs Monaro with a national record-setting 5.668 pass at 412kmh, as Lyle’s Mustang wandered out of the groove for a 6.658.

Zappia said he did not expect the run to be anywhere near as quick, as his engine had been behaving strangely after it backfired the supercharger on a previous run.

“Honestly, the engine didn’t sound like it was running on eight cylinders when we fired it up, it sounded a bit fluffy at idle, so we weren’t sure how it would go,” he said. “But then we go 5.66 to win the race and set the national record, wow!”

With Alice Springs’ racing finally complete, focus turned to the Goldenstates. Zappia’s win not only earned him valuable points to close the gap to points leader Lyle, but also top qualified him for the Goldenstates, earning another cool $1000 thanks to the Crow Cams Top Qualifier bonus in the process.

Daniel Gregorini missed Alice Springs, but returned with a vengeance in Perth, qualifying second on a 5.757. Abel’s 5.952 put him into third, as Chapman’s repaired Fury showed it was ready to rumble once again with a 6.105. Stuart Moresby’s consistent Dananni Hotshots Studebaker filled fifth with a 6.225, followed by Lyle (6.299), Pino Priolo (8.252), Marty Dack (8.750) and Ryan Moresby (9.038).

The first round saw Stuart Moresby return to the fives with a 5.866 to upset Lyle, as Chapman’s 6.079 defeated Priolo. A red light from Abel wasted a 6.110, allowing Dack’s 6.190 to take the win, while Gregorini’s 5.755 took out Ryan Moresby. Zappia’s top qualifying efforts gave him the first bye run and he once again lowered the national record with a quick 5.645.

In round two, Ryan Moresby took a solo run to open the round, as did Chapman when Dack was unable to fire up in the staging lanes. Things got more intense as Stuart Moresby went 5.891 to defeat Abel’s 6.553. Gregorini was metronomic in his 5.762 to beat Priolo, as arguably the race of the night took place between Zappia and Lyle. Zappia’s 5.644 defeated a 5.836 from Lyle, but the action was not over there as Zappia’s motor backfired across the finish line, with smoke and flames accompanying him into the braking area. Back in the pits, the Zappia Racing team would need to thrash to make a motor change in time for the final round.

Indeed, attrition was taking its toll across the field. Chapman and Stuart Moresby survived to make the B Final, where Moresby’s 6.009 clinched the stripe from a 6.216. The time crunch was on for Zappia but unfortunately he could not make it to the lanes in time, leaving Gregorini to take a solo run. As the cold night air set in, Gregorini’s outstanding consistency came to an end with a tyre-smoking run, but the timing could not have been more perfect. He left with the points and a renewed enthusiasm for a potential championship run with the Scratch & Match Motorsport team.

“It’s the not the way you like to win but at the end of the day the team works hard and it’s not just the race, there’s blood, sweat and tears all weekend long to get to the final,” he said. “I was running my car safe as we have to be careful with no spare engine, and that worked out well for us this time. It’s the whole package that gets the green light.”

The next round of the Australian Top Doorslammer Championship will take place at Willowbank Raceway on January 6 and 7 for New Year Nitro. Zappia will take the championship lead into the event, with 254 points in total, followed by Lyle (225), Abel (175), Gregorini (154) and Chapman (82).

Photo credit:  Cackling Pipes