AUSSIE 2023-2024 TOP FUEL SEASON KICKS OFF WITH NEW SERIES AT A NEW VENUE
Australia’s newest drag venue, Dragway at The Bend in rural South Australia, will host the first round of the 2023-2024 National Drag Racing Championship, October 21-22.
The $35 million facility situated an hour from Adelaide, the Capital of South Australia, was expected to open in 2022, but supply shortages and construction delays pushed the date out by 12 months.
The meeting, the first to be conducted under the recently formed NDRC umbrella, has attracted six Top Fuel entries, including two cars from the Rapisarda Autosport International stable.
Damien Harris, who secured his third Australian title at Hidden Valley Drag Strip, Darwin, in June, and teammate Wayne Newby, seeking to atone for a disappointing 2022-2023 season where he finished in an uncharacteristic lowly fourth place in the championship.
Two-time champion owner-driver Peter Xiberras, runner-up to Harris last season, heads the rest of the field that includes Phil Read, who finished third overall last season and is chasing his first title since 2008, along with team owner-driver Phil Lamattina, looking for his first title since 2014.
Western Australian Kyle Putland, who strung together a series of solid performances in his rookie season, will debut his new ride, an ex-NHRA car raced by Troy Buff.
With no data or tuning info to call upon going into the event, RAI team owner Santo Rapisards is confident of stepping up to the challenge.
"Racing at the brand new venue for the first time will be a real test and that's something that we are looking forward to facing and conquering,” said Rapisarda.
"Over the past couple of seasons, we've raced at tracks we've never seen before, Alice Springs, Mildura and Heathcote and done well."
“All the teams will start off on the same footing. No one knows what to expect and whether one lane is better than the other. Once they get some rubber on the track, my boys will have a close look and take it from there.”
Tim Adams, tuner of the Xiberras car, echoed Rapisarda's comments.
“Data is king,” according to Adams. “You cannot beat runs and becoming familiar with a racetrack. When we go to Willowbank and Sydney Dragway, we know where we can start, how aggressive we can be and what we can expect. If you've never seen, let alone raced on a track, you have no info to fall back on. The tricky part is not knowing how hard you can push the car.”
Joining Top Fuel on the program is Doorslammer, Top Fuel Motorcycle Pro Stock Motorcycle and round one of the East and West Sportsman Conference.
Australia’s most decorated Doorslammer racer, John Zappia, enters his twentieth season in the category as a warm favorite to add another championship to his current tally of 11.
“In the off-season, I've been working on my race fitness and have dropped around 15 pounds,” said Zappia. “I’m going to the Bend in great shape to race and hopefully win. The Bend is not the first track we’ve raced at for the first time. It also happened at Hidden Valley in Darwin a couple of years ago. You don't go with your best tune-up, but probably what worked the last time you raced. That was in Darwin at the final round of last season. I’ll send my brother Richard out to have a look at the lanes, do a run and see where we go.”
His main opposition is likely to come from husband-and-wife Daniel and Lisa Gregorini and the veteran duo of Peter Kapiris and Matt Abel. Sportsman racer Ronnie Palumbo will make his debut with Fabietti Racing.
In Top Fuel Motorcycle, reigning champion Rob Cassar heads a stellar field, including last season's runner-up Benny Stevens, Aaron Deery, Les Holden, Corey Buttigieg and Ian Ashelford.
"To win one championship was amazing, so if we could try and do it again, that would see us part of a very select group of racers," said Cassar.
Pro Stock Motorcycle will be a wide-open affair led by two-time champion Glenn Wooster, Scott White, Luke Crowley and Locky Ireland.