Rapisarda Autosport International gun duo, Damien Harris and Santo Rapisarda Junior, shredded the history books when they clocked the first run under the 4.50-second barrier ever recorded in Australia with a breathtaking pass of 4.44 in qualifying at the 2017 Gulf Western Winternationals.
The time obliterated the previous best, a 4.50 sec set by highly decorated RAI star Larry Dixon in 2013.
Damo”, as he is affectionately known, has become the third quickest driver in the world over the quarter-mile behind America superstar Doug Kalitta and eight-time NHRA champ Tony Schumacher.
Not to be upstaged by their team-mates, Wayne Newby and Santino Rapisarda also stepped up to the mark and smashed the glass ceiling with a majestic 4.48 sec on day two of qualifying.
3-time NHRA champ Larry Dixon and tuning guru Lee Beard were foiled in their quest to make it an RAI ‘three-peat’ when rain hit the Ipswick venue and forced qualifying to be abandoned. Earlier in the day, the duo made their intentions clear with a silky 4.52 pass.
To cap off a superb weekend for RAI Newby, at the completion of qualifying, had amassed sufficient points to collect his first Oz Top Fuel title.
“I had my fingers crossed that we could if we were lucky to run a 4.99 and when the time came up on the timing boards I was ecstatic,” said team owner Santo Rapisarda. “The crowd in the grandstand went crazy, they were up on their feet, cheering and yelling. I was so happy for Damien, Santo Junior and the crew. The next day was the icing on the cake when Santino and Wayne also ran their first 4.40. The crowd was over the moon. Larry and Lee also had a 4.40 in their sights, unfortunately, it didn’t happen because of the rain.
I also want to congratulate Peter Xiberras who ran a personal best of 4.55 sec against Wayne and will be a real contender next season.”
SANTO RAPISARDA JNR.
We were trying to run in the 4.40’s but how deep we weren’t sure. It was an excellent run. The motor was perfect and we had a lot more clutch application in the first part of the run to make it run through the middle. I couldn’t believe the crowd reaction. They were just as excited as the team was when the time came up.”
“The car took off, threw me back into the belts and went straight down the track. There was a bit of a move at the top end and I drove it right to the line. An official ran over and told me “you ran a 4.40”. I thought it was quick but I had no idea how quick and couldn’t believe it when he told me it was a 4.44.”
“We were trying hard and were inspired by my brother running the 4,44. It was a spectacular run. We wanted to step up and follow suit. We changed the configuration of the clutch and made a few other changes. It really paid off. A 4.48 was terrific.”
“We ran consistently over the season. Santino and the crew stepped up to the challenge of giving me a race-winning car. I want to thank Santo for giving me the opportunity to drive for his team. To win a championship is all about teamwork and is a testament to the commitment and talents of Santino and the crew.”
“It was disappointing not to get a run at the record and see what we could have run. Then it rained but drag racing often is about ‘woulda’, ‘coulda’, ‘shoulda’, but safety is a prime consideration and we had to shut the car off.”
“We felt confident going into the last round of qualifying. Earlier we had run a 4.52 when we were very conservative with our clutch setup. I believe a 4.48 was possible then it rained. It just wasn’t meant to be. Having RAI cars qualify 1-2-3 says a lot about the organisation and professionalism of Santo’s team.”