The 2015 Fuchs Winternationals have concluded in style under beautiful blue skies in front of a near-capacity crowd this evening, with more than 35,000 spectators coming through the gates over the four days (June 4-7).
Today’s proceedings saw both event and national championship winners found in all of Australia’s drag racing brackets, at what is the largest championship drag racing event held outside of North America.
Clinching event wins today in the Pro classes were Cory McClenathan (Top Fuel), Jamie Noonan (Top Alcohol), John Zappia (Wallace Bishop Top Doorslammer), Nino Cavallo (Pro Stock), Mark Drew (Top Fuel Motorcycle) and Brad Lemberg (Pro Stock Motorcycle), while Damien Harris (Top Fuel), Gary Phillips (Top Alcohol), Zappia (Top Doorslammer), Lee Bektash (Pro Stock), Drew (Top Fuel Motorcycle) and Maurice Allen (Pro Stock Motorcycle) took out the national championships for their brackets.
American drag racing star McClenathan took a spectacular victory in Top Fuel at the Fuchs Winternationals, crossing the line in full flame to take the event victory from Sydney’s Wayne Newby.
‘Cory Mac’ had earlier disposed of West Australia’s Mark Sheehan in round one, before running an impressive 4.567-second pass at 304.87 miles per hour to dispatch another West Aussie in Damien Harris – who clinched the Top Fuel championship tonight – in the semi-final, to face off against Newby in the final. Both Harris and Newby were the American’s team-mates this weekend, with all three driving for Santo Rapisarda’s Rapisarda Autosport International outfit. Harris’ title is the first for a Rapisarda team driver since Steve ‘The Pom’ Read in 2002.
“This is just so unbelievable, I have one of these on my mantel at home and now I have one to sit right next to it,” said McClenanthan, who won the 2011 Nationals event in Sydney with Rapisarda Autosport International.
“This is really cool to do this at the Fuchs Winternationals, I know it is a points deal for everyone and I didn’t want to disrupt that so whoever won, won - but I did not come out here to be second place.
“Santo calls me he expects me to come out here and stand on the gas and not let off and that’s what we did. We hurt some parts doing it we had one good run today and you’ve gotta have a bit of luck in drag racing.
“Thanks to Santo’s Cranes, Rapisarda Autosports, to Santino and Santo Junior who do a great job on their cars, Lee Beard did a fantastic job for me and all the guys over there - it’s a team thing not one guy as they say but thank you to all and to Santo Rapisarda - this is in memory for Louie, and I am just so glad to have brought it home,” he added, in reference to Santo’s son Louie Rapisarda who passed away in the Top Fuel accident in 1990.
McClenathan’s victory came after a tough weekend for the Top Fuel field, who endured seeing two-time champion Phil Lamattina suffer a terrible crash on Saturday during qualifying. Lamattina Top Fuel Racing crew chief Aaron Hambridge attended at the track today to speak to attending media. For more on Lamattina and what Hambridge and also team co-owner Angelo Lamattina had to say, please click here.
Zappia became the first ever in Australian drag racing to clinch eight consecutive titles this weekend by officially claiming his eighth Top Doorslammer national title. At the same time, he claimed back-to-back Fuchs Winternationals event wins in the Top Doorslammer bracket – which is being sponsored by Wallace Bishop this weekend – while setting a new national elapsed time record of 5.693 seconds.
“This is just unbelievable, the Fuchs Striker Monaro just flew all weekend. We had tyreshake on every run except that one, so we took a gamble as we thought we were going the wrong way, so let’s just try something as whatever we did on the second run didn’t work. On that run it went back to a 5.91 second run and we knew Ben (Bray, who he was facing in the final) could run 5.91 and that he can cut lights, so we thought let’s try something we haven’t tried. We threw it at it, it took it, I punched second gear and didn’t have to lift. That was the first full-throttle pass of the weekend and I told everyone that if I could hold it flat it would run a ‘60’ and it went a 5.69-er!,” said Zappia, who then became emotional, adding: “This is for Craig Pedley from Striker Crushing - thanks for 10 awesome years, it has been fantastic Craig - this win is for you.”
While placing runner-up to Zappia, Brisbane racer Bray has impressed all the same this weekend in his comeback to competition – with today marking the 12-month anniversary of his mammoth crash at the same event and venue which saw him in a back brace for three months with back and rib injuries.
Bray competed in his father Victor Bray’s ’57 Chevy Top Doorslammer this weekend, and earlier in the weekend bettered his father’s personal best elapsed time in the car before going on to secure a berth in the finals.
“I came to this weekend with no expectations, and to get to the final has just blown that out of the water. When it comes to bettering Dad’s personal best in his car – he is like an old bear, I know he will come back and he will take it back,” laughed Bray, who has a new Corvette in the making for his continued comeback to the sport. “The fans have just been phenomenal and the support we have received all weekend long has been so appreciated. Now it is just about getting in the new car and getting to laying down some good results.”
Lemberg’s victory in Pro Stock Motorcycle capped off a fairytale weekend for the Mackay resident on his father Ross Lemberg’s bike, which included a number one qualifier spot and the lowest elapsed time for the event. Taking home the national title for Pro Stock Motorcycle was Maurice Allen, who also took out the title in 2011.
“It feels awesome, it is a dream come true on our rookie meet, I couldn’t be happier at the moment. Heading to the final we thought it could go a bit better and added a bit of fuel there, and it looks like it paid off! Dad is going to be stoked, we are just living the dream at the moment,” said Lemberg.
In a case of the third time being the charm, Noonan finally got his hands on the gold ‘Christmas tree’ trophy in Top Alcohol – taking the win over Brendale’s Steven Reed. Noonan has made it to the finals in both of his two previous event appearances, being unable to race the first due to an event rain-out and unable to front for the second due to mechanical issues.
“That was a great weekend, in qualifying we couldn’t get down the track so we just had to back it down to try and win the race and it all worked out to plan and it was a really good effort. Twice in two years I missed out on the final with rain on one and breaking on the other, so to finally get the win is a great feeling.”
Cavallo took the win in his debut Pro Stock season against the seasoned champion Lee Bektash, who claimed his first national pro-level title at the Fuchs Winternationals after claiming the Super Gas title in 2001.
“Unbelievable, coming into the Pro Stock category I didn’t expect to win a meeting to be honest, but to win the Winternationals is just unbelievable – it is out of control. A big thank you has to go to my crew - they have done unbelievable this weekend, well done also to Lee Bektash - we are real, real happy,” said Cavallo.
In Top Fuel Motorcycle, Drew clinched back-to-back Australian titles and the event win.
“That is really good, the track has been killer all weekend, in the end we just did enough to win (rounds) to get through to take the win (in the final) and it is happy days as we have back-to-back Australian championships, it’s just great,” said Drew.
Also taking event wins today were David Gauldie (Super Gas), Eden Ward (Wallace Bishop Junior Dragster), Ace Edwards (Modified Bike – after just putting his bike back together after crashing at the April national round), Robert Winterburn (Prime Signs/Speed Elec Super Street), Andrew Saliba (Powercruise Super Sedan), Daniel Morris (Top Sportsman), Rob Harrington (Knijff Earthmoving Modified), Josh Fletcher (Donnelly Blasting Services Supercharged Outlaws – 13 years after being title runner-up in Junior Dragster and four years after his father Bill won the title), Ross Smith (Competition Bike), Matt Lisle (Super Compact – purports to be the fastest car in world on a 26-inch tyre.), Rob Nunn (Super Stock) and Wayne Cartledge (Competition). For full event results, please click here.
Taking national titles in the Summit Racing Equipment Series were Graeme Spencer (Super Gas – who last won an Australian title in 2006), Eden Ward (Junior Dragster – winner of the annual Louie Rapisarda Trophy), John Kapiris (Super Sedan – his third consecutive Australian title), Steve Fowler (Top Sportsman – winner of two previous Super Sedan titles), Michelle Osborn (Modified – only the second womanto win a Modifiedi title following Kelly Bettes in 2010), Ross Smith (Competition Bike – his second consecutive title), Dom Rigoli (Super Compact – his second consecutive title) and Al McClure (Super Compact – second consecutive title).