SANTO’S SUMMER THUNDER ROARS INTO SYDNEY
Top Fuel will be the headline act at the Santo’s Summer Thunder meeting at Sydney Dragway, January 17-18.
Rapisarda Autosport International will field four of the seven entries headed by local heroes Wayne Newby and Damien Harris along with American imports Ashley Sanford and Dom Lagana who will make his first appearance in Australia since November 2015.
“I’m excited and so are my boys,” said team owner Santo Rapisarda. “The logistics of running four cars will be a challenge. But that’s what drag racing is all about. My boys, Santino and Santo Jr, have gained a lot of experience racing in America, are well organized, and have the resources to handle the situation. To have two cars racing off in the final would be terrific. Who would I like to see win? I’m not saying, but I think the crowd would be leaning towards an Aussie winner.”
An in-form Wayne Newby will be the hot favorite to take the win as he continues to dominate the category with four wins and three runner-up finishes from his last seven races. His latest victory coming two weeks ago when he defeated teammate Harris at the New Year’s Thunder meet at Willowbank Raceway.
While Newby has been busy collecting gold Christmas trees, Harris continues to chase his first win since the 2018 Winternationals. So far, he’s notched a third and a second this season, and a long-overdue win would be a popular result with the local Sydney crowd.
Sanford finished third at the New Year’s Thunder event running an Aussie personal best of 3.82, 313 mph and will continue her quest to land her maiden Fuel win in Australia.
“Two Aussies and a couple of Americans is great. Looks like we could see a bit of rivalry happening within the team,” said Sanford. “All good fun. The ideal result is to have a Rapisarda car win the meeting, and hopefully, it’s got Ashley Sanford’s name on the side.”
Lagana last raced on the NHRA tour at the Thunder Valley Nationals where he narrowly lost to world champion Steve Torrence in the semi-finals.
“I follow the drag racing scene in Australia, and it’s always cool to see how people go about racing in different countries,” said Lagana. “It’s an honor to be invited to race for the Rapisarda family. I’m not coming for a holiday. I’m coming to win.”
Two-time champ Phil Lamattina has finished fifth twice this season. In his latest outing at Willowbank Raceway under the all-in format, the carrot king had the misfortune to face off against the rampaging Newby on two occasions.
Sydney-based Phil Read, after finishing a strong fourth last year, was expected to lead the charge against the all-conquering RAI squad. However, his 2020 season has floundered due to a string of mechanical gremlins and parts failure.
Peter Xiberras, winner of the opening round, returns after missing the New Year’s Thunder meeting due to business commitments. As a result, he’s slipped a 97 points and three spots behind Newby. With only three rounds remaining, he will need an outstanding performance in this meeting to keep in touch with the lead group.
In Pro Slammer, all eyes will be on 11-time champ John Zappia, who will need to narrow a formidable 75 points gap to series leader Steve Ham to keep his championship hopes alive.
Zappia’s season began slowly with a first-round loss to archrival Ben Bray in the first and only round so far this season for the category. Zap then returned to his home track Perth Motorplex, 2450 miles west of Sydney, where at his most recent outing, he clocked confidence-boosting 5.58, 260 mph to win a local Pro Slammer event.
Ham will be favorite to score back-to-back wins after blitzing the field in round one of the championships. The Queenslander top qualified defeated Ben Bray in the final and also pocketed the maximum points on offer for low et and top speed.
Category legend Victor Bray - sidelined with sponsorship woes - returns for the first time this season.
January in Australia is mid-summer and racers would usually expect to be confronted by sizzling temperatures; however, this weekend, they will face mild conditions with a predicted maximum of 79-degrees on race day.