Photos by Jon Van Daal
PERTH, AUSTRALIA -- Veteran Australian Top Doorslammer racer John Zappia beat arch rivals Victor and Ben Bray in the race to be the first doorslammer outside of the U.S. to make a five-second lap. Zappia ran a 5.967/241.97 in his ’71 HQ Holden Monaro in a dramatic final round win over Gary Phillips in the East Coast Nationals held at Western Sidney International Dragway to join American Mitch Stott in that ultra-exclusive club. [Ed. note: It should be noted for historical purposes that Zappia used a 523 c.i. Walt Austin Racing Hemi and a screw type supercharger and no overdrive restrictions while Stott was restricted to a 14-71 conventional rotor Roots ‘charger with 24% overdrive.]
Zappia, from Perth, Australia, has been a mainstay of “tin top” racing since taking the car off the road in the early Eighties. Over time he has worked his way into the eights, sevens, sixes and now first in the fives.
Using the old cliché about the axe that keeps getting new handles and new blades, so too has the Monaro been lightened, refined and further refined. The rear quarter panels, rear bumper and the roof are all still original steel with the doors, boot (trunk) and front clip being lightened further and further.
Zappia is quite a character, who is well known for not wanting to lift and this was the case when he faced multi-national champ, Gary Phillips in the final. According to DRO sources the “air” was at 400 feet above sea-level with few grains of water. Judging from the overcast conditions seen in the photos, the track and ambient air temps were also prime for supercharged performances.
DRO also heard from a source that the Brays simply couldn’t calm their car down enough to keep the tires from spinning and shaking.
The U.S. speed record holder Pro Mods, Jim Oddy, commented on the five-second pass and conditions. “Congratulations to John Zappia. I know he’s been racing for a long time and really earned this. I kind of feel for the Brays; they obviously just couldn’t take enough power out of the engine for the car to go down track.
"The problem is," Oddy continued, "that when you work on an engine combination for hot weather and figure out how to make horsepower when the atmospheric conditions get really good like they did at that race, you don’t know how to compensate and get the power back out of the engine.”
In the final round Phillips cut a .096 light, which absolutely murdered Zappia’s sleepy .210, but this guy has a big heart and went out to win the race.
“I remember the front end came up really high when I left the line – a lot higher than normal," Zappia said. "I changed gear in mid-air and it just kept flying. Around about the 1000 foot mark (really about the 1300 foot mark) I remember catching him. When I got out of the car I heard the camera crew say, 'Let’s not tell him,' and I thought – wow it must have been a 5.99 but when they told me it was a 5.96 I was knocked out.”, Zappia not only won the meet but also ran the quickest speed with the 241.97 and top qualified with a 6.08 for a heavily subscribed Top Doorslammer bracket. Zappia also made laps of 6.017/239 and 6.02/240 to back up both ends of the record.
There was also a $10,000 prize for the first five-second doorslammer pass from Deno’s Cranes and it was a happy Zappia who gratefully accepted the check and the accolades from the assembled crowd.
(Jon Van Daal and David Cook contributed to this report.)