Nitro Up North lights up Darwin
Saturday 17th June, 2023 - 11:59pm
Nitro Up North lived up to expectations with a spectacle under lights in front of a capacity crowd at Hidden Valley Dragway on Saturday night.
The Australian Top Fuel Championship was on the line, and was a three-horse race between leader Damien Harris, reigning Champion Peter Xiberras and three-time Australian Champion Phil Read.
Round 1 of racing saw a battle of the teammates, with Phil Lamattina and Shane Olive facing off in the first race. It was a close race, but ultimately Lamattina got the win in a narrow 4.16s to 4.27s race.
After the race, Olive also let slip that this would be his last race in the car for the foreseeable future, with the team later confirming that it would be scaling back to a single car program for next season via social media.
Peter Xiberras in the Premiair Racing dragster received a solo run courtesy of the number one qualifying position. He would go on to record a solid 4.01s, with the car skating on a loose racetrack from half track onwards.
Harris and Read would do battle in round one, with Harris taking the victory with a 3.98 over a tyre smoking Phil Read.
“We need all the points we can get; this is a good start. We had to change an engine after the warm-up, both teams pitched in and got it done. Fingers crossed we car go on with it”, Harris said.
In a fiery match up, Kyle Putland and Wayne Newby would go head-to-head with both cars experiencing significant fires.
Putland’s dragster erupted first, with a fireball from the back of the car at around ¾ track. Newby’s Atlantic Oils Dragster would expire deep into the braking area. Newby would ultimately get the win.
Round 2 of racing would see Peter Xiberras open the round with a 4.02 win over Phil Read, with Read smoking the tyres at half-track.
Shane Olive received the bye run, shaking hard to an early shut off.
Phil Lamattina took a win over Wayne Newby, with a quick pedal and recovery to a 4.45s after losing traction early in the run.
Damien Harris had the opportunity to wrap up the title if he could win his round two matchup with Kyle Putland and run quicker than Phil Lamattina’s 4.45, an opportunity he did not waste.
With a tyre shaking 4.22s run taking the win over Putland, Harris would wrap up his third Australian Top Fuel Championship.
Harris said after the win, “I just want to thank the Rapisarda Family and all the guys on the team back in Sydney who work so, so hard on this car and all the cars.”
I can’t wait to get back to Sydney and deliver the Stan Sainty Cup (that the winner of the Australian Top Fuel Championship receives) to Santo Senior”.
Phil Read opened round three with a spectacular solo pass, with a massive engine explosion and resulting fire cutting down one of the rear slicks on the Hydraulink dragster.
Crew Chief Bruce Read said on the start line after the pass, “It’s been a crappy weekend for us. The season is done now, thank God, and we will bounce back and do our sponsors proud next year. Congratulations to Damo on the championship.”
Shane Olive made his last start for the foreseeable future against Kyle Putland in the ‘C’ final, with Olive logging the quickest run of the weekend with a 3.95s at 475km/h run with Putland going up in smoke at the hit of the throttle.
Phil Lamattina and Wayne Newby did battle for the honours in the ‘B’ final with both cars up in smoke at the hit. Newby gave up the chase, with Lamattina stabbing the throttle at least seven times on route to the round win.
The even final was a fitting finale with the new Champion Damien Harris taking on the top qualifier and #2 in points, Peter Xiberras.
At the green it was a similar story with both cars up in smoke almost at the hit of the throttle, with Xiberras recovering to take his second event win of the season.
Top Fuel Motorcycle was wrapped up by Rob Cassar, who took the double after wrapping the championship earlier in the evening.
Benny Stevens would be the only racer to run under the 7 second zone throughout the weekend, with parts attrition trimming the field back to only three bikes in the final round of racing.
In Top Doorslammer, the title race was already wrapped up with Kelvin Lyle holding an insurmountable lead in the Championship.
The race track proved particularly difficult for the 3000 horsepower sedans to get down, with most cars shaking and spinning the rear slicks at various parts of the run.
Eleven-time Champion John Zappia was the only racer to run into the 5 second zone, with a 5.85 in the first round on his way to a win over Matt Abel.
Other first round winners were Kelvin Lyle and Lisa Gregorini, who recorded a win over husband Dan who tagged the wall in the loss.
Lisa Gregorini would have problems of her own in round two with a vicious crash head on into the concrete wall at an estimated 297km/h.
The car looked to be on a good run until just after half track, when it appeared to lose traction and turn hard into the right wall before ricocheting back across the track into the opposite wall.
Her opponent Matt Abel was first on the scene, and fortunately Gregorini escaped from the accident unscathed.
John Zappia would again put down the quickest elapsed time of the round with a 5.72 on a solo pass, with Kelvin Lyle recording another win over Peter Kapiris.
The Final round of the season between John Zappia and Kelvin Lyle would be marred by an accident involving Kelvin Lyle.
Lyle hit the wall just after the ¾ track mark. The car did not appear to slow through the braking area, narrowly missing the car of Zappia with cameras losing vision of the car shortly after.
At the time of writing no official report on Lyle’s condition was available.