The Atlantic Oils Top Fuel Slam at Sydney Dragway saw the completion of two Australian Top Doorslammer Championship finals in a single day, but it was one man who would leave with both trophies on an emotional weekend. Following the tragic events at Willowbank Raceway’s New Year Nitro, the third round of the series, the A and B Finals were postponed to the second qualifying session in Sydney.
There Kelvin Lyle would face John Zappia in the A Final while Daniel Gregorini took on Matt Abel for the B Final honors. After rain delayed qualifying from Friday to Saturday, the showdowns would take place in the heat of the day, making for unpredictable contests. Perhaps it was the tough conditions causing distraction in the A Final, as both Lyle and Zappia left with slow reaction times. Lyle’s 0.231 put two tenths on Zappia’s very much delayed 0.430, and that was the deciding factor as both racers finished with 5.77 elapsed times. In the B Final, Gregorini’s clean 5.87 produced the win against Abel.
Qualifying as a whole saw nine cars take to Sydney Dragway’s awesome track surface, including a number of fresh faces in the Australian Top Doorslammer Championship. As well as earning an early win, Lyle was also the top qualifier thanks to his Friday night 5.72 pass. Zappia slotted into second courtesy of his 5.77, with Gregorini in third on a 5.80. Sydney’s own Emilio Spinozzi dropped a 5.89 for fourth, followed by Geoff Gradden’s Saratoga on a 5.92, Matt Abel’s 6.05, a 6.06 from returning veteran Peter Kapiris, a 6.12 by Craig Burns and a 6.33 from Craig Hewitt. The largest field of the Australian Top Doorslammer Championship season so far was thus ready to go, but first they would honour Sam Fenech, who passed away in a race accident on January 7.
To do this, the teams made a ‘Missing Man’ formation, idling down the track to recognise Sam and his contributions to the sport. It was an emotional and moving ceremony to one of the most loved racers in the category, taking place live on 7plus. The teams returned to the pits with a chance to cool down and re-fuel before the first round of racing commenced. The first match-ups were all Sydney, with Spinozzi taking on Burns while Hewitt took on Gradden. Spinozzi barely scraped through for the win in a 5.94 to 6.15 race, as Burns’ 0.005 to 0.206 holeshot almost secured the victory. Gradden took his Saratoga to a 6.01 for the points over Hewitt. WA’s Gregorini used a pedalling 5.89 to defeat Victoria’s Kapiris, while Zappia and Lyle took solo pass wins with 5.95 and 5.80 numbers respectively.
Round two of racing opened with Kapiris on a bye run 6.07 as he continued to rack up clean runs while he got used to being in the hot seat again. Zappia began to find his groove with a hauling 5.75 to defeat a 5.97 from Gradden, and Spinozzi once again had Burns’ number thanks to a 5.89 to 6.05 race. Gregorini improved to a 5.79 to drive by Hewitt’s 6.23, guaranteeing himself an A Final position, and Lyle put down a punishing 5.74 for the “W” against Abel to secure his second A Final place of the day.After a tough weekend, Abel was able to redeem himself with a nice 5.83 to open the third round of racing. Burns broke into the fives with a 5.98 win against Hewitt’s 6.55, as Peter Kapiris also cracked the fives once more thanks to a 5.92 knockout of Gradden’s slowing 8.95, leaving just the finals to take place.
Zappia and Spinozzi first lined up for the B Final. Zappia took the opportunity to drop the quickest run of the event with a 5.69, gaining valuable championship points against Spinozzi’s 5.88.All that then remained was for Lyle and Gregorini to settle their A Final. Lyle took two hundredths on the start line and never looked back, hot-footing to a 5.72 to take over the championship lead, as Gregorini took a valiant runner up on a 5.77.
Lyle now sits number one in the series on 440 points, followed by Zappia (428), Gregorini (326) and Abel (231).“This means a lot, not just to get the two trophies but to do it in Sam’s honour,” Lyle said. “I was racing him last meeting and to have that happen was just tragic. I really, really wanted these (trophies).”The Australian Top Doorslammer Championship now heads back west to Perth Motorplex for the Westernationals on March 4 and 5.