RAPISARDA DENOUNCES QUARTER-MILE RACING, THREATENS TO QUIT DRAG RACING IN AUSTRALIA
The NHRA has its Countdown.
Australian drag racing has its Showdown.
Santo Rapisarda, the dominant multi-team owner in Australia’s elite tier of the sport, has threatened to abandon Top Fuel racing in his homeland unless two key racetracks follow NHRA’s lead and introduce a 1,000-foot course.
“I will not race quarter-mile again,” Rapisarda declared along with his demand that Sydney Dragway and Willowbank Raceway institute the shortened course for the IHRA-sanctioned 2017-18 season that will begin in November at Sydney Dragway.
Rapisarda made the announcement from Brownsburg, Ind., as his Top Fuel team prepared to compete in this weekend’s Chevrolet Performance U.S. Nationals at Indianapolis.
“The time has arrived for Australia to abandon the 1320-foot race distance on the grounds of safety,” he said. “I have been giving this a lot of thought, and my mind was made up at the 2017 Winternationals [in Australia] when both our cars ran over 330 mph. It was a historic moment for the team, but when you run at those speeds the risks are too great.
“The NHRA made the decision to abandon quarter-mile racing in 2008, when Scott Kalitta was killed. I consider both our current drivers, Damien Harris and Wayne Newby, to be part of the Rapisarda family and could not live with myself if anything were to happen,” the crane-industry mogul from Sydney said.
His son, Louie Rapisarda, died July 22, 1990, in a crash at Willowbank Raceway in Queensland.
Santo Rapisarda’s lawyers have sent a letter to management at Sydney Dragway and Willowbank Raceway, outlining his concerns about safety. One of Rapisarda’s major contentions is that track safety, including braking distances, have not kept pace with race technology and escalating speeds – a concern on the American front, as well.
“When Top Fuel dragsters raced in the 1990s, it was estimated that with 3,000 horsepower and speeds approaching 300 miles per hour that was about as fast as these cars would go over the 1320-feet distance. However, today, 9,000 horsepower and speeds over 320 mph are common. And the distance cars have to stop in have not got any better.” said Rapisarda.
If RAI were to pull from the sport, the impact on premier drag racing in Australia would be monumental. With a mix of home-grown talent and some of the NHRA’s top stars from the United States, RAI has fielded four dragsters at many events and accounted for at least half of the entries.
The team arrived on the NHRA scene in 2012 and has brought Australians Terry Sainty, Damien Harris, Wayne Newby, and Mark Mariani to race in the U.S. on the sport’s biggest stage. Newby will drive the RAI entry at Indianapolis this weekend.
RAI developed a bit of a cult following when it reached out to some of the NHRA’s top talent. Three-time Top Fuel champion Larry Dixon, Cory McClenathan, Tommy Johnson Jr., and Dom Lagana have raced for Rapisarda on both continents.
Rapisarda’s line drawn in the sand throws the spotlight also be on the governing bodies for the sport, the IHRA and Top Fuel Australia, to address the issue.