Sparks are set to fly at next weekend’s Australian Nationals as Top Fuel title hopefuls Phil Lamattina and Allan Dobson take their season-long battle all the way down to the wire at Sydney Dragway.
The ANDRA Top Fuel title showdown, which sees Lamattina head to his home event with a 33-point advantage, has see-sawed all year long – and is certain to be the electrifying main feature at Australia’s oldest and most prestigious drag racing event.
Lamattina, challenging for his team’s third Top Fuel title, however is not counting his chickens ahead of the event with a maximum of 118 points available from the final round.
“We aren’t taking any comfort from the points lead, we’ve seen that diminish at one racing meeting,” said the Lamattina Top Fuel Racing driver, who is currently on 543 points.
“We go into the Australian Nationals with a lead, but that’s it. We don’t believe we’ve got it in the bag, not by a long shot.
“The only confidence we have is in the car’s, and our crew’s abilities.”
Rapisarda Racing’s Dobson, who led the title chase mid-season, knows that his team has to focus on nailing each and every step to remain in contention - and lift the crown.
“[The points’ gap] certainly does add in a whole lot of unnecessary pressure that we didn’t need,” said Dobson, who sits on 510 points heading into the final round.
“If one of us can meet Phil first round, and put him away, we’ve still got to go on and win the event to win the championship, so it’s a big ask.
“It’s really going to come down to one point here and there. So, we’re going to throw everything we can at it, give it a damn-good go and enjoy the journey of the title going down to the wire.”
The battle also looks set to be a straight fight, with both teams having now dealt with mechanical issues that have affected them through the season – Lamattina experiencing clutch plate gremlins, Dobson engine management issues.
“Our year got off to a flying start. We went over to Perth and won three out of the four rounds over there.
“But halfway through the season, we fell back into some clutch plate issues that have plagued us on a few occasions through different seasons – and we felt like the wheels had fallen off our championship. Dobson had, by then, won three in a row – and overtaken us in the points.
“However, we identified and fixed the problem at a test in Sydney, went to the Winternationals and ran low Elapsed Time (ET), and top Mile Per Hour (MPH).
“We then went to Adelaide and took the win, and now we’re very happy with how the car is going, and also how the season has turned around for us.”
Dobson is also confident that solving his engine management issue will help him to get away cleanly in Sydney.
“It was just a little glitch, but it was enough to cause an upset and retire our lead to Phil in Adelaide,” Dobson said.
“We’re on top of it now, which will help to control the tyre shake that put me out of the first round in Adelaide, and retired my chances at the Winternationals, too.
Lamattina, however, still has plenty of obstacles left to clear - with his title rival no slouch.
“We’re taking the Nationals very seriously, know that Dobson is going to give 100 per cent and we want to make sure we’ve got some answers for him,” he said.
“The weather will play a part in proceedings. If it gets hot there will naturally be attrition.
"I’ve also never won at Sydney, only made the finals. So even though it’s our home track, I’ve never produced the goods on the scoreboard in regard to Sydney. I love the place, but it hasn’t loved me back.
“So we’re very excited and at the same time very nervous.”
The Australian Nationals begins next Friday 31st October, with qualifying for Top Fuel getting underway on Saturday at 1pm.