Read, Stevens do the Westernats double while Zappia strikes back

Eleven three second passes, three side-by-side, four of those at more than 500kph including two at more than 510kph – Top Fuel well and truly put on a show for a packed house at the Perth Motorplex across the 53rd MacTrack Westernationals as part of the National Drag Racing Championship (NDRC) this weekend.

It was a case of two Phils in the A-Final with Phil Read taking on Phil Lamattina, with the pair delivering a breathtaking side by side three second pass to the delight of the packed house, with Read (3.910/503.44kph) taking his second consecutive Westernationals victory, beating Lamattina (3.950/463.99kph) to the line by a margin of six feet.

The entire Hydraulink Jim Read Racing outfit was ecstatic with the result.

“I think I am moving to Perth; I seem to win here a lot!” grinned Phil Read.

“Thank you to Peter Xiberras, he is one of my sponsors, we miss you, wish you were here!” he said of his Top Fuel compatriot who he defeated for the Westernats win in 2023.

“Thank you to all of our sponsors, we dedicated this win to Gav (Gavin Coulthard), he has come back to the races after losing his daughter recently and it is great to see him back at the track. And to Wayne and Damien, thank Christ they are okay.”

The win is also critically important in the championship chase.

“It was important for both us and the Lamattinas to make a move with Damien Harris out early this weekend and Xiberras not here, as the Rapisardas have been getting away from us in the championship, so it is an important result,” Jim Read Racing crew chief, Bruce Read, said.

“This place certainly seems to like us!”

Phil Read (Cackling Pipes)

As alluded to by Phil and Bruce Read in their speeches, it was a difficult day for the championship leading Rapisarda Autosport International outfit.

It started Damien Harris blazing through to the top qualifier spot in Q2 early in the afternoon with a 3.870 second pass at a mammoth 511.89kph before a front left wheel failure saw him stranded on the track. While Harris was okay, his dragster would take no further part.

Harris’ team-mate Wayne Newby continued on to take the team to the B-Final against Kyle Putland following a mixed day which included a blazing round one win over Read (3.921/503.72) and a round two loss to Lamattina when he went nowhere off the start line with a problem on his dragster. In his B-Final run, Newby was on a barnstormer, crossing the line in 3.868 seconds at 510.57kph – however, like with Harris earlier in the day, it then all went wrong with his RAI dragster heading into the sand at speed and into both nets before coming to a stop. Newby was able to exit the car and walk to the medical crews who placed him observation, but it certainly wasn’t the end of the weekend the team was looking for.

Newby had been lined up against rookie Kyle Putland for that B-Final, however Putland had gone nowhere on the start line after noticing his front left tyre was deflated, a real disappointment given the local crew had battled through issues to make it to the line in time after a strong weekend which included their first three second pass at home on Saturday night (which was then followed up by two more in today’s racing) and his first race win – his round one win over Lamattina (3.040/476.88kph).

Phil Read wasn’t the only one doing a double in group one this weekend either – with Benny Stevens backing up his 2023 Westernationals win with not one but two 2024 Westernationals Gold Christmas Trees as Top Fuel Motorcycle contested two championship rounds this weekend.

Benny Stevens (Cackling Pipes)

Stevens took the round one A-Final win over Damien Muscat when the final was run at midday today after a windstorm put a stop to it being run last night, and then raced through to his second A-Final of the day, this time against Wayne McGuinnes, who defeated Stevens in the Goldenstates A-Final back in November.

The ‘Sunday’ B-Final win went to Greg Durack over visiting US star Michael Beland, while Kim Leonard won the C-Final on a solo pass after Damien Muscat was pushed back from the startline with bike issues.

The ‘Saturday’ B-Final win went to McGuinnes over Durack, with Kevin Gummow winning the C-Final from Leonard, and the D-Final going the way of Beland over Ricky Wood.

“Two Gold Christmas Trees – what a week it has been!” Stevens said.

“We came out here on Wednesday for testing and didn’t do much good, we ended up hurting the motor.

“On Thursday we had another test day and put a new motor in it and got down the track and everything was good.

“Then on Saturday race day we torched a head and had to switch a motor out – luckily we ran a good time with that.

“Then today was a bit of a shamble with a few problems, but we found the problem before this last race.

“I want to thank all our sponsors and crew for everything, I really appreciate everything. Happy days!”

In Top Doorslammer, John Zappia made a massive strike back in his title fight against Russell Taylor, taking the A-Final win over the rookie with a crowd pleasing 5.676 at 407.61kph. Russell meanwhile red lit on the line and then had to get off it after the Camaro SS started turning to the right.

John Zappia (Cackling Pipes)

The pair have had a huge rivalry this season, facing off in the last two finals with Taylor taking the win both times – albeit following a stewards’ investigation the last time out when Zappia was disqualified from the victory due to a crew infraction while in full stage.

Zappia had been on-song all weekend, taking out the top qualifying honours before taking a round one solo win and a round two win over Daniel Gregorini to earn his place in the A-Final, with his Monaro likened to a ‘bracket car’ across the weekend thanks to its incredibly consistent times (5.716/5.749/5.744/5.732/5.676).

“The Dananni Hot Shots/FUCHS Monaro was flying all weekend, it was consistent as,” Zappia said.

“We have been trying to run a sixty all weekend, we have been stepping it up taking small steps all weekend not wanting to overdo it and we got it right then and got it done – with five-six anything I am wrapped!

“Congratulations to the crew who have done a fantastic job and worked their butts off, a lot less than normal though as nothing has broken! The motor has come apart well all weekend and we have kept it alive and crept up on it.”

Russell joined Zap in being super consistent across the opening two rounds, also setting five second, 400kph+ passes on his way to the A-Final, defeating Frank Taylor in round one and Lisa Greogrini in round two with 5.854/405.19kph and 5.775/405.06kph runs respectively.

Mark Chapman was showing a big return to form, taking the B-Final win over Ronnie Palumbo, who while he went nowhere on the startline with a launching problem, has regained confidence at the wheel across this weekend with a 5.914 and 5.918 during racing today.  

Maurice Brennan took the C-Final win from debutant Andrew Cole in his first five second pass (5.925) with his new converter (his third in total), while Cole took out some timing blocks in another wild ride down the strip. Lisa Gregorini won the D-Final over Frank Taylor which was incredibly welcome after chipping away at problems across the weekend. Daniel Gregorini did not take part in the finals after grappling with electrical issues all weekend long.

Also taking to the track with plenty of enthralling performances today were the Aeroflow National Sportsman Championship competitors.

Taking out the victories were Cooper Plummer (Junior Dragster), Cameron Lockett (Super Street), Paul Nieuwhof (Modified Bike), Kathy Regan (Super Sedan), Paul Garbellini (Modified), Jason Lippi (Top Sportsman), Kasey McClure (Supercharged Outlaws), Michael Holister (Competition Bike), Errol Quartermaine (Super Stock) and Connor McClure (Competition).

Claiming the runner-up honours were Luca Lamattina (Junior Dragster), Chris De Bruin (Super Street), Paul De Klerk (Modified Bike), Nicholas Puglia (Super Sedan), Neil Gannaway (Modified), Geoff Chaisty (Top Sportsman), Norbert Claite (Supercharged Outlaws), Chris Allen (Competition Bike), Steve Norman (Super Stock) and Steve Martin (Competition).

A full Aeroflow National Sportsman Championship report will be published soon.

The National Drag Racing Championship now looks ahead to the Ken Scroop Memorial at Mildura’s Sunset Strip over March 9 and 10 for the Aeroflow National Sportsman Championship, before heading to Dragway at The Bend for the Riverbend Nationals, featuring Top Fuel, Top Doorslammer and Pro Stock as well as the Aeroflow National Sportsman Series across April 6 and 7. For event info and tickets, go to ndrc.tv

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