AUSSIE TF RACER XIBERRAS DENIES AMERICAN SANFORD FIRST TF WIN
Sydney team-owner driver Peter Xiberras scored his maiden win in Top Fuel after defeating American speedster Ashley Sanford in round two of the 400 Thunder Series at Willowbank Raceway.
Rapisarda Autosport International duo Damien Harris and Wayne Newby finished third and fourth ahead of Queensland rookie Kelly Bettes.
The one-day event attracted only five entries. Missing in action were the highly fancied Darren Morgan and Rachelle Splatt. As a result, race organizers were forced to introduce a variation of the Chicago Style format. All cars made two runs with the top two in the points facing off in the ‘A’ final and next two in the points racing for third and fourth places.
Seeding’s for round one was based on championship points with series leader Damien Harris handed the solo run.
Round one and the Xiberras campaign got off to a strong start with a narrow win over Bettes. Sanford, a late addition to the field when team-owner Santo Rapisarda decided to run a third entry, opened her account with a comfortable win over teammate Wayne Newby who smoked the tires around the 200-foot mark.
In second round Xiberras scored a holeshot win over Bettes who appeared to tag the wall in the breaking zone. Sanford came from behind to score a gritty win over her RAI team-mate, Harris, despite a ’chute popping out approaching the finish line.
Newby, on the bye run, smoked the tires just beyond the Christmas tree.
The final pitted Xiberras, chasing his first win since entering the elite category in 2014, against Sanford on a mission to be the first women to take a win in Oz Top Fuel in 25 years.
Sanford bolted on the green and looked set to win until Xiberras clawed his way to the front and hung on to take the win.
“I’m over the moon to get my first win in Top Fuel,” said an elated Xiberras. “It’s been a long time coming. Ashley cut a better light, then, I caught up and was able to drive around her. I’ve been runner-up on about four occasions, and hopefully, this win will be the beginning of something special for the future.”
“I can’t be unhappy with today’s result,” said Sanford. “Well done to Peter and all his crew. I’ve raced four rounds in Top Fuel, had two wins and been in my first final. Every time I drive in a Fuel car, I’m on a learning curve. I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again. Thank you, Santo and all the Rapisarda family for the opportunity to race in Australia.”
Honors in the battle for the minor places between RAI teammates Harris and Newby went to Harris who also set a new Oz record for 1000 foot with a 3.87, 315.56 mph pass.
Pro Slammer attracted 11 entries including last round winner Texan Frankie Taylor racing for Team Bray, John Zappia who recently plied his trade in Pro Extreme in America, second-generation star Ben Bray, series leader Paul Mouhayet and the sole femme in the category, Michelle Davies.
Bray and Zappia with two wins apiece and accrued bonus ET points had little difficulty in cruising to the final round.
Mouhayet booked passage to the shootout for third and fourth after a first-round solo then second-round win over Taylor whose campaign to win back-to-back wins in Australia came to an abrupt end when he was disqualified after race officials deemed he had touched the center line.
“The car was drifting to the left, and I hung on until around 1000 foot when I had to pull the ’chutes,” said Taylor. “I never crossed, but apparently my popped ’chute crossed the center line. We still had a great time. It’s been fun hanging out with Victor Bray and his family.”
Davies was a surprise packet. In only her second meeting she accounted for Taylor and veteran Queenslander Garry Phillips to race against Mouhayet in the consolation final. Mouhayet came from behind to take the win and clocked the fastest speed on the day with a 255.34 mph.
The eagerly anticipated final between arch rivals Bray and Zappia looked over when Bray cut a .042 sec light to Zappia’s .123.
Zappia fought back and drove past Bray to take the win.
“The car was great all day,” said Zappia. “We tweaked the car a little for the final. Ben got the holeshot and we got to the lead around half track. A good day’s work.”