Day two of Willowbank Raceway's FUCHS Winternationals has seen an array of high speed passes wowing a bumper crowd at Queensland's premier drag racing facility today.
At the close of today's proceedings Phil Lamattina (Top Fuel), John Cannuli (Top Alcohol), John Zappia (Top Doorslammer), Jason Grima (Pro Stock), Chris Porter (Top Bike) and Rhett Lougheed (Pro Stock Motorcyle) are on top of the timesheets for the ANDRA Pro Series brackets and will return to the track for the continuation of qualifying from 12.30pm tomorrow (Sunday), ahead of eliminations racing on Monday.
In Top Doorslammer, reigning and five-time champion John Zappia blazed through to set a 5.753 second pass at 251.30 miles per hour to secure his spot as the number one qualifier for the bracket which is the quickest seen at Willowbank Raceway with a 'bump spot' (position 8) of 6.033 seconds at the close of today's racing.
The result is under the current national record (5.769s, held by Zappia) and the second quickest pass set in a Doorslammer in Australia (the quickest is also held by Zappia, set at the 2012 FUCHS Winternationals). Under ANDRA rules, for a driver to reset a record they must run a second pass within 1% of the time before the end of the event (known as 'backing it up').
"That was a bit of a blur for sure, it was flat-out and it was a bit scary getting pretty close to Peter Kapiris in the deep end of the track, I knew it was fast but I didn't think it was a 'five-seventy' until I heard the crew yelling and screaming when they came around to the car," said Zappia.
"To top qualify under the national record in the FUCHS Striker Monaro at the FUCHS Winternationals is pretty special, we have been chasing the 'seventies' since we ran one at last year's FUCHS Winternationals, so it is a great result for the team who all work so hard and also our sponsors FUCHS, Striker Crusher and Screening and our other supporters like K-Trans, ProComp, Beta Spuds and PPG."
In Top Fuel, FUCHS' Phil Lamattina powered through to a 4.610 second pass at 331.04 miles per hour to have the crowd on their feet and secure his spot as the number one qualifier at the end of the night.
"That was absolutely amazing, to run a 331 mile per hour pass is just fantastic, and to do it in the FUCHS Top Fuel dragster at the FUCHS Winternationals at the same time fellow FUCHS-sponsored driver Zappia also top qualified is just great," said Lamattina.
"The whole crew has been working so very hard, and we will just see where we can go from here, I think we can definitely go faster if the conditions are right."
While the rest of the Pro categories will enjoy two qualifying sessions tomorrow, Pro Stock has just one more left to run before they enjoy their first round of eliminations tomorrow, thanks to their 16 car field (as opposed to the eight car field of the other pro brackets).
St Marys South (NSW) resident Jason Grima – yesterday's top qualifier after session one – retained his spot at the top of the sheets this evening, as the Pro Stock field reaffirmed their status as the quickest Australia has ever seen by further lowering their record bump spot (position 16) to 7.106 seconds from yesterday's 7.124s mark.
"We missed the tune-up this morning but we were able to turn it around and set a new track record for Pro Stock on our way to regaining the number one qualifier spot which was pretty great," said Grima, who lowered his best time for the weekend to 6.989 second pass at 195.59 miles per hour.
"I have to say a big thank you to Bob and Randy from the US's East West Clutches for all of their help and support, and the team for everything that they do, now we will just see what the conditions are like tomorrow and see if we can run another six!"
Earlier in the second Pro Stock session of the day, Carbrook (QLD) racer Shane Tucker – the 2012 FUCHS Winternationals winner for the bracket - was the first competitor to run a six second Pro Stock pass during competition at Willowbank Raceway, before Grima pipped him for the top spot later in the session.
Rhett Lougheed ran the fastest pass for Pro Stock Motorcycle in Australia at 189.55 miles per hour to be the top qualifier for the category at the close of the second qualifying session for the bracket. If the Queensland-born US resident can 'back it up' during the remainder of the event he will have the chance to write his name in the record books before flying home to California.
"It has been great being back here and racing at the FUCHS Winternationals, I have been catching up with people I haven't seen in 15 years and when you combine that with top qualifying it has been a pretty good day," said Lougheed.
"There is definitely more in the bike considering that run was a bit shaky and I double-shifted it, essentially missing second gear and going straight to third, so going forward we will just see how we go – it is a great start to our FUCHS Winternationals campaign."
In Top Alcohol, Carbrook's (QLD) John Cannuli powered to the top of the sheets this evening with a 5.638 second effort at 251.53 miles per hour.
"The car is responding really well to the changes we are making to it and we are very happy with how things are going so far. Tomorrow we will try and hop it up a bit more to chase the '5.5s'and just see how we go, it is definitely going to be competitive so we just have to do the best we can for ourselves and also our sponsors Marque Lubricants, Ice Slushee, Marland Mushrooms and Donnelly Blasting Services."
In Top Bike and second on the title points ladder currently, Narangba's (QLD) Chris Porter is determined to make the most of the absence of his friend, reigning champion and current points leader Chris Matheson, from the event (due to injury). So far, he is on the right track at the top of the qualifying sheets at the close of its second of four qualifying sessions.
"After adding a new clutch and fuel set up at the Nitro Champs we were getting lots of power but were moving to the left off the line, so here we turned it right down and then started to take baby steps up, and it paid off today with us taking the top spot," said Porter, sponsored by Frasers Motorcycles, Dun Rite Performance and Factory House Maids.
"There are 'sixes' in the bike for sure and we will be doing what we can to keep on top tomorrow – Chris is a good friend of mine and we always race for lamingtons over our reaction times as a bit of a laugh, but with him out of the event this weekend I have a real chance to peg some points back on him so I am taking full advantage of that! Having said that though, I have to say a big thanks to his crew and also Ken Lowe, who have really helped us in the lead-up to the event."
Today's racing also included passes from the 1320 Race Cars Competition, Super Stock, Super Compact, Gasoline Alley Harley Davidson Competition Bike, Allstar Batteries Supercharged Outlaws, Knijff Earthmoving Modified, Powercruise Super Sedan, Prime Signs/Speed Elec Super Street, Gasoline Alley Harley Davidson Modified Bike, Donnelly Blasting Services Junior Dragster and Neptune Pool Care Super Gas categories.