PETER XIBERRAS AND DAMIEN HARRIS LIGHT UP THE GRAND FINAL OF THE AUSSIE TOP FUEL CHAMPIONSHIP
There were two winners at the final round of the Burson Auto Parts Australian Top Fuel championship that was played out at Hidden Valley Raceway, Darwin, June 18-19.
Xiberras bounced back sensationally from a round one red light in round one to clinch back-to-back championships when his nearest rival Phil Lamattina stumbled and lost to teammate Shane Olive in the second round.
The other victor was Damien Harris, who won the meeting after defeating Xiberras in the A- Final and also claimed his second win of the year for Rapisarda Autosport International.
“We did it. What a weekend,” said an elated Xiberras. “Winning one of these was a childhood dream come true; to back it up with a second is just really special.
"It is a perfect example of how this sport works – everything can change in just one run, so you can never give up.
"You must always keep your focus, and keep throwing everything you have at it, and that is what we have done.”
Going into the season's final round, Xiberras led his nearest rival, two-time champ Phil Lamattina, by 10 points.
Under the all-in format, there are two rounds of racing, each with 30 points to win and 10 for runner-up, plus bonus points on offer for low E.T.
The Top two in the points then race off in the A- Final, followed by the next pair racing in the B- final and fifth and sixth in the C- Final.
Round one winner Phil Read topped the time sheets in qualifying for the second time this season with a 3.97/294 mph ahead of Harris on a 3.98/270 mph, followed by Xiberras, Lamattina, Olive, and Newby.
There was drama overnight when the Xiberras camp discovered a broken engine mount thanks to a massive dose of tire shake in Q2.
RAI quickly stepped in to help. Lending the team their welding equipment to repair the car.
RAI also had its own issues after discovering a broken wing tree on the Newby car.
In Round One, Newby clocked 3.99/280 mph to upset Read who dropped a cylinder on the hit.
Harris shook, had a pedal but held his nerve and accounted for Olive who also shook around the 330-foot mark.
The highly anticipated Xiberras versus Lamattina shoot-out was over in a flash when Xiberras cut a red light.
Lamattina pocketed the 30 points and squeezed past Xiberras to take a 10-point lead with two rounds remaining.
Two hours later, the fortunes of Lamattina and Xiberras were dramatically reversed.
Lamattina lost to teammate Olive after breaking a belt at half-track.
"After the first round, I was reasonably confident, “ said Lamattina. "People might say why weren't their team orders when you raced Shane to allow you to win. That’s not the way it happens. Because whatever you decide, you’ve got to live with that decision.”
That left Xiberras needing to defeat RAI star Newby to snare the 30 points on offer and claim the championship with one round remaining.
An ice-cool Xiberras responded in superb fashion posting a regulation 4.09/289 mph pass to take the win. His opponent Newby shook around 100 feet, kept his foot into it, then got the near-capacity crowd up on their feet after he crossed the centerline.
The in-form Harris booked passage to the A- Final after the lights on the Read car went out around 3.1 secs. into the run.
The Xiberras versus Harris trophy race produced the closest finish of the weekend.
Harris trailed on the green but slowly reeled Xiberras and took the win with a 3.85/315 mph sec to Xiberras with a 3.88/313 mph to secure his second win of the season.
"That was a terrific race with Peter," said Harris. "We left side by side, but I didn't see him on the run. I think the crowd love to see close racing with lots of flames and that's what we delivered."
In the B-Final, Lamattina’s woes continued after he suffered his second loss of the day at the hands of Olive.
The C-Final went to Newby when Read went up in smoke on the hit.
Western Australian Kelvin Lyle became the first winner of the recently launched Top Doorslammer championship after defeating local hero Matt Abel in the final.
Lyle drove around Abel, who went into shake and was forced to lift.
“It is always good to come away with a win for the season's first meeting," Lyle said. “The final was not bad. We didn’t change the car at all from the run before. I probably didn’t think my car could take much more-so we didn't make changes and it ran very similar numbers.”
Reigning Doorslammer champion Daniel Gregorini accounted for eleven-time champions John Zappia in the B-Final.
Victorian Rob Cassar defeated Greg Durack in the final of Top Fuel Bike.
Xiberras became the first winner in living memory to have won a T.F. championship without winning a round of the series. His report card for the season shows five-second places and a fourth.
Phil Read was sporting a new personal sponsor. Local fastener company Screw Fast.
Lisa Gregorini, the wife of Doorslammer star Daniel, travelled from Perth to continue her license-testing program.
Top Fuel Bike champion elect Chris Matheson was a late scratching after suffering an eye injury at the Winternationals in Queensland a week earlier.
Xiberras had a busy weekend also overseeing his Supercar team that was also racing at HVR. The team had best finishes of 18th and 22nd.
Drama in the RAI camp when much-loved truck driver Mario Libreri was rushed to hospital with a kidney stone. He returned on race day to a rock star reception from the team.