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Mon, 07 Jan 2019, 09:18 AM

Rapisarda Autosport International Star Sanford Leads 400 Thunder Championship
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RAI speed princess Ashley Sanford has claimed the lead in the 2018-19 championship from teammate Wayne Newby after finishing second behind Kelly Bettes at the New Years Thunder meet at Willowbank Raceway, Jan 5.

Sanford's quest to win her first Top Fuel Christmas tree came up agonizingly short in the final. A near perfect start, including a holeshot over Bettes in the final, unraveled when Sanford's car broke a rod at .7sec into the run and another at 1.3 sec. and was forced to limp to the finish line.

"Two races and two second places. Again we came so close," said Sanford. A mechanical failure in a Rapisarda car is a rare occurrence but it can happen. One bonus coming out of the meet is that we are leading the championship."

Round one matchups were based on championship point's standings. The most intriguing pairing pitted series leader Newby against NHRA star Richie Crampton. Their run was aborted when the red lights on the Christmas tree began to flash when they went into stage and both cars were shut down. On the restart, Newby was given a solo when Crampton's car was discovered to have spat a bolt out the back of the blower during the burn-out. RAI star Damien Harris took low ET points for the round with a 3.91/499 km/h to defeat Bettes who cut a red light.

In second round Bettes defeated Sanford and Harris' weekend turned sour after failing to back up against Crampton after the burn out due to a broken clutch linkage. Phil Read scored an upset win over Newby who was forced to shut off early.

With all eyes on the battle between Sanford and Bettes for the overall winner of the meet, teammates Harris and Newby were chasing redemption. The Harris/Santo Jr combo came from behind to defeat NHRA star Richie Crampton. The speed of 517 km/h, the fastest of the day. It was similar good news in the Newby/Santino camp with a superb lead all the way victory over Sydney veteran Phil Read.

Special guest in the RAI hospitality area was 18-year-old Finnish backpacker Axel Koskiinen. The 18-year-old befriended Wayne Newby during practice the day before the event. "I was sitting next to Wayne in the grandstand watching Pro Slammer and we got talking about drag racing. Wayne had a Rapisarda team shirt on and I asked him did he work on the car. I almost fell off my seat when he said he drove a car. He invited me over to have a look over the car, introduced me to Santino and from there I just hung around the team. All the crew were so nice and friendly. I've been to drag racing events in Europe before but have never been able to get this close to the action."

Wayne Newby, "It was just one of those weekends. There's a lot of work we need to do before Sydney."

Santino Rapisarda. We made a few mistakes over the day but we will learn from the experience. We won in Sydney in November and look forward to getting back to our home track in two weeks time."

Santo Rapisarda Jnr. We had two low ET'S for the weekend and when we raced NHRA star Richie Crampton in the second round we suffered a clutch linkage breaking. At that moment our weekend was over."

Damien Harris. A failure with a Rapisarda Autosport International car is a rare occurrence. We had a car that was on track to win the meeting but it wasn't to be."

Rob Cavagnino. "In the final Ashley was in front when we broke a rod at .7 sec. then another at 1.3. We don't know why parts break but it happens. It's disappointing."

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