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Sun, 30 Jun 2019, 18:03 PM

Wayne Newby Makes Australian Top Fuel History at Willowbank
Courtesy of John Doig

Rapisarda Autosport International ace Wayne Newby and tuning guru Santino Rapisarda have etched their names in the history books when they became the first driver/tuner combination to become two-time 400 Thunder champions after defeating Kelly Bettes in the final round of the 2018-19 400 Thunder championship at the Gulf Western Oil Winternationals, June, 9.

With only seven entries the focus was on the prized top qualifier spot that came with the added bonus of a bye in round one.

RAI star Damien Harris topped the timesheets with a spectacular pass of 3.778 sec, a whisper over his national record of 3.777 sec. Teammate Ashley Sanford, chasing her maiden Fuel win, qualified second ahead of Bettes, 3-time champ Phil Read then Newby. Peter Xiberras, returning after a 12-month absence, was sixth ahead of part-time campaigner Terry Sainty.

The quickest side-by-side 1000-foot pass in Australia was the highlight of round one. Newby took the win with a 3.78/312 mph while his opponent Phil Read shredded a belt at around 900 feet and had to settle for a 3.81/315 mph.

Harris, on his solo run, broke his Australian record for the second time in 24 hours with a majestic pass of 3.77/322 mph.

Rank outsider Terry Sainty caused the boil over of the season when he dashed Ashley Sanford's dream of a maiden win in Top Fuel. Sanford's hopes were dashed in bizarre fashion when on the hit of the throttle her helmet slipped down and she was unable to see the track. Showing great composure, Sanford took one hand off the steering wheel to push her helmet back in place and was forced to steer one-handed.

"It’s one of those things that happens once in a lifetime," said Sanford. "My helmet got pushed forward, the visor moved down towards my nose and, for a while, I was driving in the dark. I tried driving with one hand and also fix the helmet. I saw Terry and decided it was better to back off and keep in the car together."

Sainty went on to take the win with a 4.02/288 mph to Sanford’s 4.58/231 mph.

The spotlight then moved the semi-final pairings that saw teammates Harris and Newby facing off in the top half of the draw.

Harris overpowered the track and lost to Newby. The scene was set for a winner to take all final against Bettes to decide the 400T championship.

Newby lead off the line with a superior reaction time of .06 sec to Bettes. 08sec. Newby disappeared into the distance until he proceeded to lose grip. Bettes then made a desperate attempt to gather up Newby who was forced to wrestle his car towards the finish line and despite missing the centre cone by an estimated six inches took the win with a 5.60/138 mph to Bettes 10.21/76 mph.

"It must have been a fun run for the crowd," said Newby. "I don't know what happened to Kelly, but we had a pretty ugly run. I did get to have a close look at the centerline at one stage. I remember the words that Stan Tindale, a racer from my early days, said to me. "If you back off you can steer the car, I did, and it all turned out well." Santino gave me a great race car. I can't thank Santo and the Rapisarda family enough for allowing me to win a second Top fuel championship."


Santino Rapisarda
“It was an honour to stand on the start line and collect the win light. Wayne deserved nothing less than to win the championship. My driver is the best, he is the backbone of our team and brings a new level of professionalism to our team. For Dad, who has put so much into the sport, this is a great result.”

Wayne Newby
“In the final, I saw the centre line. It was close. Really close. Congratulations to Junior and Damien who set a new National record recorded low ET and Top Speed of the weekend. Overall it was a great weekend for the Rapisarda family.”

Santo Rapisarda Jr.
“We decided to go for it in the semi-final against Wayne but came up short. The car has really come on strong over the season. That was shown when we ran 3.778/321mph in qualifying then a 3.774/322 mph in round one. Congratulation goes out to Wayne, Santino and the team on winning the championship. “

Damien Harris
"To put down runs in the 70s straight off the trailer was a testament to how hard Junior and the crew worked in the lead up to the event and over the weekend. On the run against Wayne, Junior really went for it… I think he had a 73 or 74 in mind and what happened was the track couldn’t hold it.”

Rob Cavagnino
“We are in a happy place with our tune-up and pleased with our performance this weekend. What happened when Ashley’s helmet malfunctioned is something we’ve never seen before. But that’s racing. We finished runner-up three times this season and that’s a credit to the consistency of our program and set-up.”

Ashley Sanford
" I would have loved to finish the season with a win, but that wasn't how things worked out. This was my 13th race start in Top Fuel. Not my lucky number. Wayne and Santino really deserved to win the championship and to see Damien and Junior smash their Australian record was a real highlight."

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