US Top Fuel star, Cory McClenathan, driving for legendary team owner Santo Rapisarda, has made history by defeating returning Australian champion Darren Morgan on a holeshot to win 400 Thunder’s inaugural event, the 2015 East Coast Nationals
Rapisarda Autosport International (RAI) also made further history as they became the first Top Fuel team in the world to field four cars at the one event – a feat that might have been the second occurrence should the Nitro Champs not have been rained out.
Team owner Rapisarda has come away extremely impressed with the way that the RAI team handled the challenge.
“Credit is due to the entire RAI team for the time that they have put into making the four car assault possible. The fact that there was minimal parts damage sustained across the four cars over the weekend is a testament to the team. We knew it was going to be tough, but it was much tougher than what we first though. Nonetheless, the entire team deserve a well-earned rest and can walk away from the event as the first team to successfully field four cars at one event in the world,”
The ideal qualifying scenario for the team would have been to have all of the RAI cars in the top four, meaning the earliest that any RAI cars could meet one another was in the semi-finals, guaranteeing that an RAI car would win the event.
Current Australian Champion, Damian Harris walked away with pole (4.787/296.37) after three sessions of qualifying , the final session completed Sunday morning after rain ended qualifying activities the previous night.
McClenathan qualified second (4.837/246.30), Lagana third with a (4.863/280.84) and Newby seventh with a (5.460/176.01) – which meant that Cory McClenathan and Wayne Newby would have to face off against each other in the opening round.
“One of the things we were hoping for is to not have to race any of our team cars in the first round of eliminations, however, things didn’t work out that way. Despite this, we feel we gave the fans a good show, which is important, when we fronted against Cory Mac in the opening round of eliminations,” said Newby.
In the semi-finals, the first matchup, saw Dom Lagana face off with team mate and fellow countrymen, Cory McClenathan. McClenathan took the win with a 4.880/273.61, which bought to an end Lagana’s first race in Australia. Cory’s elapsed time of 4.65 seconds went to stand as low elapsed time of the event.
“Once again, I want to take this opportunity to thank the Rapisarda family for allowing me the opportunity to race in Australia. Thanks also to Aaron Hambridge for serving as co-crew chief on my car for the weekend. It’s been a great experience. I would have liked to have raced Cory in the final, making it an all RAI/USA final, but the cards just didn’t fall that way,” said Lagana.
The second semi-final was a battle of the champions, the current champion Damian Harris and former four-time champ Darren Morgan. Both teams produced side-by-side four second performances. Unfortunately Harris’ run at the event was ended with Morgan’s 4.745/302.96 to Harris’ 4.812/302.69.
“We know from prior experience that Darren is always a tough customer and today was no different. My guys, led by Santo Junior have done a fantastic job this weekend despite the ignition problem. Our performance this weekend, gives us confidence in knowing that we’re starting things off on the right foot as far as championship defence goes,” said Harris.
For the fans, the final was arguably one of the best final rounds seen in Australian Top Fuel history with Cory Mac taking the win on a hole-shot, 4.685/314.17 to Morgan’s 4.675/317.87.
With the win, it marks the third event in a row in Australia that McClenathan has won.
“I don’t know whether I’m more excited about the race win this weekend and go three-in-a-row, or the fact that I’ve been a part of history in RAI being the only team in the world to field four Top Fuel Dragsters at the one event. I always love coming down-under and interacting with the awesome fans. It’s an honour to be a part of a great team like RAI and I hope that it’s not too long before I return,” McClenathan said.
Lee Beard, crew chief and long-time friend of McClenathan, enjoyed his time once again with the Rapisarda team.
“It’s incredible to be able to come to Australia again and serve as Cory’s crew chief and stand here in the ‘winner’s circle’. Cory and I have won numerous races back in the USA during the 1990’s and winning here this weekend brings back many fond memories during of those times. This wouldn’t be possible if it wasn’t for Santo and the Rapisarda family. Whilst it’s good to win races, one of the most rewarding experiences for me is the ability to transfer my knowledge to Santino and Santo (Junior) Rapisarda. They’re extremely passionate about the sport and the way that they handled the weekend’s challenges is a testament to them,” concluded Beard.