LEGENDARY drag racing team owner Santo Rapisarda has threatened to pull his Rapisarda Autosport International team out of Top Fuel racing in Australia unless the two major race tracks, Sydney Dragway and Willowbank Raceway, introduce 1000ft racing for the 2017-18 IHRA season, which kicks off at Sydney Dragway in November.
“I will not race quarter-mile again,” Rapisarda said in a press release. “The time has arrived for Australia to abandon the 1320ft race distance on the grounds of safety. I have been giving this a lot of thought and my mind was made up at the 2017 Winternationals when both our cars ran over 330mph. It was a historic moment for the team, but when you run at those speeds the risks are too great.
“[In the USA] the NHRA made the decision to abandon quarter-mile racing in 2008 when Scott Kalitta was killed. I consider both our current drivers, Damien Harris and Wayne Newby, to be part of the Rapisarda family, and could not live with myself if anything were to happen.”
Rapisarda’s lawyers have sent a letter to both tracks outlining his safety concerns, citing braking distances in particular as an example of how safety standards have not kept up to date with race technology and escalating speeds.
“When Top Fuel dragsters raced in the 1990s it was estimated that with 3000hp and speeds approaching 300mph, that was about as fast as these cars would go over the 1320ft distance,” Rapisarda said. “However, today, 9000hp and speeds over 320mph are common, but the distance cars have to stop in has not got any better.”
Street Machine columnist and Aussie Doorslammer racer Victor Bray said he shares Rapisarda’s concerns.
“I’ll go on record as believing Top Fuel guys should be running over 1000ft in Australia, as they have been doing in America for nearly a decade,” he said. “If Top Fuel were to run 1000ft it increases the braking and shut-off area, and that’s got to be safer. Watching the NHRA, the spectators and the fans have come to accept that the shorter distance is much safer, and no less exciting. “Someone theorised that if they were still racing over a quarter-mile in America, the speeds would be over 350mph, and that’s bloody crazy, especially on some tracks built when the cars were flat-out running 200mph.”
It will be interesting to see how the IHRA and Top Fuel Australia respond to Rapisarda’s ultimatum. We’ll bring you further developments as they come to hand.