Xiberras fastest in Nitro Up North Darwin qualifying

Peter Xiberras posted a 3.999 ET in qualifying on Friday nigh. Image: Grant Stephens/Cackling Pipes

Reigning champion Peter Xiberras set the only sub-four second pass as competitors struggled in the heat at Hidden Valley’s Nitro Up North.

The first night of the event, which is taking place alongside the Repco Supercars Championship at the Betr Darwin Triple Crown, saw Xiberras in his PremiAir Hire dragster set a 3.999 in Q1 which would remain the best of the night.

He was a standout, as the dragsters struggled to come to grips with a tricky racetrack that saw most cars either spinning the tyres through the finish line or shutting off early.

Points leader Damien Harris and teammate Wayne Newby rounded out the top three after Q1, separated by only 0.004s. Phil Read, driving the Hydraulink Dragster, had a disastrous opening round with only a seven-second pass leaving him at the bottom of the qualifying list.

The Lamattina Top Fuel Cars of Phil Lamattina and Shane Olive went into synchronised tyre smoke just past halftrack, with Western Australian Kyle Putland facing a similar situation on his way to a very early shut off 5.39s pass.

The tricky racetrack persisted into Q2 with no driver improving on Xiberras’ 3.99 effort from Q1.

The Supercars team owner, doing double duty for the only time this year ‘double stepped’ his dragster on the start line, with no time recorded due to leaving the start line too soon.

Damien Harris improved slightly to a 4.101s in the second session, but not enough to move up the order from his #2 position. His teammate Wayne Newby was unable to improve.

The biggest match-up of race day will undoubtedly be the Round 1 pairing between Championship combatants Read and Harris, being a must win for Read to stay in the title hunt.

Xiberras will receive a bye run in Round 1 courtesy of the uneven field and the number one qualifying position, with Newby to race Putland and the team-mates Phil Lamattina and Shane Olive to do battle.

Xiberras said after qualifying, “In tomorrow’s [Saturday’s] title deciding race, we are neck and neck with Phil Read and 65 points behind Damien Harris. We are pulling out all the stops to ensure that we are at an advantage and ready to seize the opportunities that come our way, and our performance tonight has set the right momentum”.

In Top Doorslammer, multi time Australian champ John Zappia laid down the run of the night with a 5.72s to pace the field. Championship leader Kelvin Lyle was the only other car to go into the five-second zone, with the difficult conditions catching out many of the teams.

Lyle said before the race, “Our first win of the season came in Darwin, so if we can go up there and repeat that, that would be just fantastic. To raise the championship trophy would be a great honour and something we have worked hard for, and a great way to thank all of those who have helped us along the way”.

In Top Fuel Motorcycle, only Benny Stevens was able to record a representative time with a 6.69s run. The championship will be decided this weekend, with Rob Cassar holding a slim 47-point buffer over Stevens.

The Australian Top Fuel Championship and the Australian Drag Racing Championship for Top Fuel motorcycle and Top Doorslammer will be decided on Saturday night at Hidden Valley alongside the Repco Supercars Championship round.

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