Top Fuel delights packed crowd ahead of Riverbend Nationals race day

Day two of the Riverbend Nationals has seen Top Fuel headline an action-packed program for a bumper crowd at Dragway at The Bend today with plenty more action to come for race day tomorrow.

Multiple three-second and 500kph+ passes from the 11,000hp flame-throwing stars delighted as Top Fuel undertook qualifying alongside Top Doorslammer, Pro Stock, Pro Stock Motorcycle and the Aeroflow National Sportsman Championship.

And it wasn’t just qualifying action on-track today either, with the Pro Stock competitors who were in action at the rain-affected Australia Day Nationals enjoying their postponed round of racing today, with Robert Dekert taking out a strong A-Final victory over Rick Chilton (for more on this, see further in this report).

In Top Fuel, Damien Harris and Peter Xiberras immediately had the fans on their feet when, in what was the very first Top Fuel pairing of the day, they delivered an incredible side-by-side 3.822/516.55kph (Harris) 3.832/509.06kph (Xiberras) performance to be 1-2 respectively on the qualifying sheets out of the gate.

Harris was far from done, coming back out in the second and final qualifier for Top Fuel and sending the place into a frenzy with a 3.786/462.33kph pass – with this effort made even more amazing when you consider that the defending champion and the Rapisarda Autosport International team have had a frantic preparation coming back from massive damage to his regular dragster at the last round in Perth last month.

Q2 wasn’t without its controversy either, with Xiberras ‘timing out’ when Phil Read went into full stage, seeing the Supercars team owner not recording an official time – although the team notes that the data indicates it was close to the Q1 effort.

This saw Xiberras fall to third on the ladder behind Harris’ team-mate and current title leader, Wayne Newby, who also impressed with first a 3.952 second pass at 477.33kph in Q1 and then an eye-popping 3.823 at 520.75kph in Q2. Read was fourth quickest with his Q2 3.8409 at 317.51mph effort, while Phil Lamattina rounded out the field after struggling to get down the track in both qualifying runs.

Damien Harris (Cackling Pipes)

For Harris, today’s qualifying efforts were all the more sweet considering he’s not in his usual dragster this weekend.

“Obviously, it is nice that the ‘loan car’ has performed the way it has,” Harris said.

“I think we all knew it would run pretty well as it has run well in Sydney for Larry (Dixon); it has just had a bit of finessing and been able to run very well.

“Obviously the effort that the whole Rapisarda family and the crew have put in to get the car ready for this event and all the extra love they have put into Larry’s car to make sure it is ready for this weekend has been phenomenal, and they have 12 more weeks ahead of a lot of work to try and get my car front-halfed and ready for Sydney.

“For tomorrow, I think the car has got all the potential in the world and we obviously have a lucky first round, being a solo, so we are already off to a good start!”

In Top Doorslammer, John Zappia top qualified ahead of Daniel Gregorini following the completion of three qualifying rounds. Zappia led the way through all of today’s close-running qualifying sessions, first with a 5.6719 second 407.51kph pass against Russell Taylor, before holding on to the spot by just .00001 of a second while sitting out Q2 when Russell Taylor ran a 5.6719 second pass at 414.116398kph.

The 11-time champ then lined up against Taylor again in Q3 with the 11-time champion putting down a 5.6423 second 411.20 kph run to further improve his top qualifying time, with Taylor slipping to third on the order when Daniel Gregorini threw down a 5.658 second pass in the preceding run.

Rounding out the top five for qualifying were Ronnie Palumbo (5.7218/414.11) and Lisa Gregorini, with ‘Mrs YoungBlood’ having a cracker of a weekend so far, achieving a PB ET on Friday which she then went on to better in both Q2 and Q3, ultimately ending up with a best performance of 5.7446 at 395.72kph.

John Zappia (Cackling Pipes)

“We started off with a good run straight off the trailer, going 5.67197, which was the number one by a tenth of a second,” Zappia said.

“We sat the second qualifier out and held on by one, one ten thousandths of a second to the top spot in Q2 when Russell (Taylor) went 5.67198 it went right down to the fifth digit that we held on by.

“Then we came out for the final one and gave it a tweak, putting a little more in it, but not too much.

“Daniel Gregorini went 5.68 in front of us, but we thought we should be good with the conditions being really good and the air. We came out, left first (against Russell Taylor), and it felt strong all the way and ran under the record.

“I am really happy with that, and it looks like it still has a little more in it off the line, so I am very happy with the Dananni Hot Shots FUCHS Monaro, it was flying and going dead straight, so we are looking good for tomorrow – it will be very close competition though, with everyone stepping up!”

In Pro Stock Motorcycle, Luke Crowley top qualified ahead of Paul Andrews (7.148/294.54kph), dominating the three sessions with a 7.0905 second 301.2692 kph pass in Q1 before bettering to 7.082/302.86 in Q2 and then improving again to 7.0062 second 311.53 in Q3. Tony Frost (7.322) and Maurice Allen (7.488) completed the five bike field.

Luke Crowley (Cackling Pipes)

“It has been a pretty good day – our weekend didn’t start out that well with testing last night, but we have got on top of it today and managed to get it down the race track,” Crowley said.

“We made a pretty drastic change for the last pass to go 7.00 – a change I don’t really want to comment on too much, but it was pretty drastic, and that is why the MPH went from 188 to 193. It has shown us we can definitely give the bike more power tomorrow in the first two gears, so hopefully we can run a low six-ninety or something depending on what the weather does.”

In Pro Stock, both qualifying and racing were completed today – with qualifying for tomorrow’s round for all competitors undertaken alongside racing for those competitors who had been on track for the Sydney round that was affected by rain in January.

Rob Dekert (Cackling Pipes)

Robert Dekert took out the A Final win over Rick Chilton with a 6.3894 second 320.01 kph run. Dekert earned his way into the A final with wins over Ray Oxley in both round one and round two after Oxley red light in round two. In the B-Final Chris Soldatos took the win (7.192/311.82) over Mario Polito, who ran into trouble and became stranded on the track soon after the hit.  Soldatos found his way to the B-Final with both a loss and a win to Mario Polito in rounds one and two. In the C-Final, Omar Sedmak (6.956/316.36) took the honours over Tony Polito, who suffered a slow run (9.891/149.17) after a bye in round two and besting Tony Polito in round one. Oxley took the D-Final honours with a bye after two previous defeats to Dekert.

“It was a good win, I was absolutely wrapped with that,” Dekert said.

“It wasn’t too bad of a day for us, in the second pass we had a bit of an issue with the lights not coming down, but it was a good day overall.

“The car is performing really well; I am very happy with it. Tomorrow we will have to see how we go; it is a very competitive field.

“It is absolutely packed here, the atmosphere is great, and I am looking forward to going racing again in front of the huge crowd,” he added, while thanking ETS Race Fuels, Unique Body Smash Repairs, Plucka’s Race Craft, JAX Automotive and Ridgeway Motorsports.

Heading into tomorrow’s Riverbend Nationals racing for the Pro Stock bracket, Tyronne Tremayne leads the field over Dekert thanks to his top qualifying 6.86/320.45kph performance, with Aaron Tremayne, Soldatos, and Sedmak rounding out the top five on the qualifying ladder.

Tyronne Tremayne (Cackling Pipes)

Also on-track today was the completion of qualifying for the Aeroflow National Sportsman Championship, as well as the commencement of racing for three of its brackets: Super Street, Super Sedan, and Top Sportsman. For the full story on their qualifying, please click here.

The Riverbend Nationals will continue at Dragway at The Bend tomorrow, Sunday April 7, with on-track action from 10.00am local time. Eliminations racing for the Aeroflow National Sportsman Championship will be held across the day, while Top Fuel, Top Doorslammer, Pro Stock and Pro Stock Motorcycle will hit the track from 11.00am, 1.30pm and 4.15pm local time (note: daylight savings time ends tonight). For full event information, visit www.ndrc.tv

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