RAPISARDA AUTOSPORT INTERNATIONAL PART OF HISTORY
Rapisarda Autosport International were part of history when Queenslander Kelly Bettes became the first women in Australia to win a Top Fuel championship. The 33 year old Queenslander won the title by a minuscule 2 points over RAI star Damien Harris.
There was redemption for RAI when Harris won the Gulf Western Oil Winternationals, the most prestigious event on the domestic calendar, plus setting a new Australian record for the1000 foot race distance along with strong performances from his team mates Wayne Newby and Ashley Sanford.
In Qualifying Harris headed the field with a world class run of 3.78//524 km/h to earn a first round bye then faced off against Sanford who earlier in the day had easily defeated Victorian racer Rachelle Splatt.
There were no team orders from within the RAI camp with Harris, needing to defeat Sanford to keep his title hopes alive.
Both cars stepped off the line in unison. Harris edged to the front and hung on to with a new Oz record of 3.78/526 km/h to Sanford’s 3.89/509 km/h.
In the other semi -final Bettes needed victory to secure her championship while Newby was on a mission to win and give team mate Harris the chance to win his second 400 Thunder title. Both cars launched hard and set sail to the end zone. Bettes prevailed and took the win in a photo finish to claim the 400T title.
The T/F final was a brutal affair. Harris nailed the green light and with a full candle pass of 3.77/527 km/h defeated Bettes smashing his Australian record and grabbing the prized Winternationals championship much to the delight of the near capacity crowd.
“In the final we went for broke. Junior gave the car a bit of a tickle and it went straight down the track. It was a great result for our team and for Santo who was the backbone of the series this season running three cars.” Damien Harris.
“In the lead up to the meeting I wasn’t happy with the consistency of the car and I decided to change the clutch program a little bit. Dad also gave us a rev up because we weren’t doing as well as we should. That helped as well.” Santo Rapisarda Jnr.
“Running my fastest time ever in Australia, a 3.83 was a great way to end the season with the Rapisarda family. When we went up against Damien in the semi final we were out to win. We gave it all we had and he deserved the win. Then for him and Santo junior to win the Winters and set again a new Australian record was a great result for all the Rapisarda teams.” Ashley Sanford.
“This is a very humbling sport and earlier in the weekend we had electrical issues. Just when your down, you go out there and suddenly it all comes together and we ran a 3.83 That’s very satisfying and gives the team the confidence that your on the right track.” Rob Cavagnino, tuner of the Ashley Sanford car.
“There was a lot of pressure across all the cars in the Rapisarda team. Santino and his crew gave me an awesome car and we gave it our best shot. Santo put three cars on the track and speaking to fans over the weekend they really appreciate what he has done for the sport this season.” Wayne Newby.
“We may have missed out on winning the Winternationals but I think we can be proud of how we performed over the weekend. Our crew gave 100 percent and for a Rapisarda car to walk away with another Winternationals win and Australian record is something we can all build on in the off season.” Santino Rapisarda.
THE FINAL WORD.
“Congratulations to Kelly Bettes and the Lamattina boys on winning the championship. To see a women win a Top Fuel championship is a real milestone for the sport. I’ve very proud of my boys. When we struggled a few rounds ago they never gave up. They put their heads down, went to work and bounced back over this weekend. A Winternationals win is always special and too see a 3.77 run is something I don’t expect to see this season. Maybe in a couple of years time but not this year.” Santo Rapisarda. END