AUSSIE TOP FUEL STAR TO RETURN FROM INJURY
Australia’s Top Fuel community has received a major boost with Sydney based team owner-driver Peter Xiberras on the comeback trail after recovering from multiple spinal injuries sustained in a massive crash at Sydney Dragway in May 2018.
Xiberras was hospitalized for two weeks and following major surgery and extensive rehabilitation program has returned to racing during a private test session at Willowbank Raceway, Queensland.
“I had serious doubts as to whether I would ever return to racing,” said Xiberras. “Lying in hospital and being immobilized for two weeks there were many times when I thought my racing days were over. One of the main reasons I decided not to quit was the support of my family who wanted to continue racing. Without that, I probably would have become just another spectator watching Top Fuel from the grandstand."
A standout in Supercharged Outlaws, Xiberras took the plunge into the Nitro ranks in 2014 after purchasing two cars and race transporter when legendary Australianteam owner Graeme Cowin quit the sport. After four low key seasons, Xiberras announced his arrival as a championship contender when he scored his maiden win in January 2018 and went into the ill-fated Nitro Thunder meeting third in the championship, 20 points behind Kelly Bettes and 22 markers adrift of Rapisarda Autosport International ace Damien Harris. After qualifying mid-pack and disposing of 3-time champ Phil Read in first round his eagerly anticipated duel with NHRA regular Wayne Newby turned sour. Just beyond the Christmas tree Xiberras’s car snapped to the left, crossed the center line, plowed into the retaining wall then careered down the track for another 150 feet before coming to rest. Surprisingly, given the massive impact, Xiberras was able to walk away from the wreck.
“The car was a write-off,” according to crew chief Tim Adams. “The front and back half were destroyed. The cockpit was repairable but to ship it back to America and get fixed was going to cost more than to get a new chassis built. The car we are now running has been front halved and we have spent a lot of time making the cockpit area safer, mainly through changes to the seat belt set-up and the position of the seat. Engine wise we have new cylinder heads and blower and gone with a six disk clutch set-up. Getting our head around running a six disk is going to be the challenge.”
Xiberras’s return to driving was a low-key affair with four passes over two days. Another test session is scheduled in the lead up to his return at the Santo’s Super Thunder meet in April.
“When you jump into a fuel car you get into a zone,” said Xiberras. “All the thoughts I had running through my mind in the months since the crash just went out the window. When you’re in the car and the engine starts up and you step on the throttle for the first time it all came back. It felt I hadn’t been out of the car for nine months. Any reservations I had disappeared. It's not just about the driver getting back in the groove. It's also the crew. We are all a little bit rusty but after the first run and the first turn around it all comes flooding back. With three rounds remaining this season there is no pressure. We can't win the championship but we can play a role in deciding who will. We want to go out, learn, enjoy our racing and get primed for the 2019-20 season.”