John Zappia has been a part of drag racing culture in Australia for well over three decades, a time where Willowbank Raceway has also grown to be part of the bedrock of the sport.
Ahead of the annual running of Australia's biggest drag racing event, the Winternationals, the driver of the Fuchs/Dananni Hotshots Monaro recalled fond memories from the early days of the venue, where he competed at 'Wild Bunch' events.
“Willowbank has always been good, with big crowds and great traction,” he said. “We've got lots of positive memories, a few bad ones, but mostly we remember the highlights.”
Most vivid in Zappia's memory is the 2010 Winternationals, where he faced Robin Judd in a winner-takes-all final for the ANDRA Top Doorslammer Championship.
“That final round really stands out,” he said. “We were second in the points and it all came down to the last run. The points are a lot further apart this time so we can't have that scenario again, we will just have to see how the cards fall.
“We've had lots of different experiences at the Winternationals. Some times we have doubled up with a Winternationals win and a championship, sometimes we have been biting our nails in the stands after going out in the early rounds, waiting for someone to win or lose.”
With unpredictable weather a standard part of the Winternationals, Zappia said he will first aim to qualify into the eight car eliminations field.
“We need to get in the show on the first pass to take the pressure off. I have been caught out with that before, where we didn't qualify on the first pass and we missed out on the elimination rounds.
“After that we can creep up on it and find some improvements. We are coming with a good proven package and we are pretty confident we have found all our bugs and fixed any issues.”
Zappia is in the running for the 400 Thunder Pro Slammer Championship but is approaching the event with an aim to control only his own destiny.
“Although the Fuchs/Dananni Hotshots Monaro ran well in Sydney we have made some improvements since, and we have our eyes on winning the Winternationals once again. Whatever happens with the championship is up to Paul.”
The Winternationals is Australia's biggest drag racing festival and Zappia is looking forward to meeting up with his legions of east coast fans once more.
“We've always prided ourselves on being accessible to fans, so please come and see us in the pits, check out our merchandise and have a chat,” he said. “Unless we are about to head out to the staging lanes or turning the car around between rounds, we love to talk to people about the Fuchs/Dananni Hotshots Monaro and make sure they have an awesome race track experience."