After a 12-month hiatus from the winner’s circle, Phil Read returned in a big way after outpacing fellow veteran Phil Lamattina in the final of Top Fuel at the 53rd Westernats, held at the Perth Motorplex on March 2-3.

Read led all the way, posting a 3.91, 311mph to Lamattina’s 3.95,287 mph. 
Read’s previous win was at the Westernats in March 2023 when he defeated Peter Xiberras. 

Read’s victory was overshadowed by spectacular crashes involving RAI teammates Damien Harris during qualifying and Wayne Newby in the B-Final. 

Harris had just crossed the finish line to secure the No. 1 qualifier with a 3.87, 316 mph when his right front wheel separated from his car. Harris then made contact with the right-side retaining wall and eventually came to a rest in the gravel trap in a cloud of smoke, dust, and sparks.   

Incredibly, Harris was uninjured and able to get out of the car unassisted.
Newby’s crash came after he claimed the easiest of wins when his opponent, local racer Kyle Putland, was wheeled off the start line with a flat front left tire. A regulation 3.86, 315 mph pass turned sinister when his chutes failed to deploy fully. The car skipped through the gravel trap and eventually came to rest, entangled in the second catch fence.

Newby was helped from the car and transferred to the Medical Centre with non-life-threatening injuries. 

According to sources close to the team, both cars appeared to have sustained minor damage. 

The unnamed source told Competition Plus Australia, “What you see is not the problem; what you cannot see is the real worry. There seems to be significant structural damage.”

The cars will return to the RAI workshop in Sydney when the team transporters arrive later this week. 


Newby led the time sheets in Q1 with a 3-90/310 mph from Lamattina and Putland. Without a doubt, the highlight was Putlands’ 3.94, 309 mph, his first three-second pass at his home track and cracking the 300-mph barrier for the first time. 

The second session was abandoned due to rain, residue from a dusty track, and gusting winds. Race officials opted to complete the session early on race day.

Under the ANDRA rule book, because Round One was not completed, Putland’s time/speed was declared null and void, much to the chagrin of his local army of supporters.

When qualifying resumed, Harris opened his account with a 3.87, 316 mph, which put him at the top of the field, but that achievement became irrelevant following his crash. Newby was second on a 3.90, 310 mph ahead of Lamattina, Putland, and Read.

ROUND ONE - Newby continued his superb form with a 3.92, 311 mph to drive around Read, who shot a spark plug out at half-track and then dropped cylinders at around 800 feet.

Putland caused a massive boilover after driving around Phil Lamattina, who spun the tires 2.5 seconds into the run and then dropped a fistful of cylinders.
ROUND TWO  - Read booked his place in the A-Final after cutting a .084 light to Putland’s .119. He hung on to take the win by .04. Both had belt issues: Putland was near half-track, and Read was approaching the finish line.

Newby’s hopes of making the A-Final were over after he two-stepped his car against Lamattina, who went on to run a 3.91/281 mph. Long-time tuner Aaron Hambridge said, “The run and time turned an average weekend into a good one.” 
FINAL ROUND - Both Read and Lamattina went for broke from the green. Read cutting a .016 light and Lamattina on a .023. Lamattina was in front by the 60-foot marker, but Read clawed his way to the front and took the win.

“It feels good to get the win after the struggles we’ve been having with our new tune-up,” said Read. “The best part about the weekend is we didn’t hurt a single part. It’s all about finessing the tune-up. I wasn’t sure I had won until the boys came on the radio and said you got him, you got him.”
DOORSLAMMER - Local legend John Zappia top qualified and defeated the in-form Russell Taylor in the A-Final of Doorslammer.


Like their Nitro brethren, Doorslammer qualifying was impacted by the weather and track conditions. 

Zappia topped his rivals with a 5.71, 251 mph. Fellow Western Australian Daniel Gregorini took second with a 5.83, 250 mph, followed by Taylor with a 5.87, 249 mph.

Rising stars Ronnie Palumbo and Lisa Gregorini qualified in fourth and seventh place, respectively. 


Palumbo, who has struggled since winning the season’s opening round, showed a welcome return to form with a comfortable win over Lisa Gregorini. Daniel Gregorini fell to little-known eighth qualifier Maurice Brennan in a significant upset. Series leader Taylor cruised to win over fellow W.A. racer Frankie Taylor. 


Russell Taylor continued his march to the A-Final, leading all the way to edge out Lisa Gregorini despite the ‘chutes coming out early. 
Zappia overcame a sluggish reaction time of .205 to catch and pass Daniel Gregorini for a place in the A-Final.

Palumbo outpaced Frank Taylor with a 5.91, 243 mph, and number six seed Maurice Chapman led all the way to defeat Brennan and make the B-Final.


Armed with lane choice, Zappia claimed the easiest of wins when Taylor cut a red light.

“The car was flying all weekend,” said Zappia. “We started the weekend off safe and crept up on it. The increments were small, in fact, maybe too small. We didn’t want to blow the tires off or hurt the engine. We also tried to get the car to the minimum weight and put a little less fuel in it. In the final, it was a matter of go or blow and it worked out for the best.”

Chapman won the B-Final when Palumbo ran into electrical gremlins before quarter track. 


CALENDAR CHANGES - Nitro Funny Cars will be added to the program for the Top Fuel Nitro Champ meeting at Sydney Dragway in May.
The event has blown out to three days to accommodate the category and expected strong Sportsman entry.

Rapisarda Autosport International is likely to run four cars. They entered The same number at the washed-out Australia Day meeting, including ex-LTFR star Shane Olive and NHRA legend Larry Dixon. That number is in doubt after what occurred at the Westernats. 

The Nitro Funny Car meet at Willowbank Raceway scheduled for April 12-13 will likely be canceled.

ZAPPIA’S ALPHABET - John Zappia was running his favorite A-engine following a significant refresh. The B and C backup engines were also given a spruce up ahead of the event.

FACES IN THE CROWD - Spotted in the pits was local Nitro Funny Car veteran Anthony Begley. ‘Beggs’ is expected to debut in Nitro bike later this season.  

Peter Xiberras’ crew chief, Tim Adams, was also in attendance. The team sat out the meet and will return to racing at the Riverbend Nationals later this month.

GREMLINS AT WORK - The meeting was plagued with a series of electrical and timing issues. 

Harris almost cooked an engine waiting for the Christmas tree to go green in qualifying. The tree never lit up, and the team lost the run. At one stage, Doorslammer was timed over 1000 feet instead of the quarter-mile distance. Similar issues happened at the 2023 Westernats. 

MORE SILVER FOR LAMATTINA  - Luca Lamattina qualified seventh and made it to the final round before losing to local Cooper Plummer.