3-Time NHRA Champ Larry Dixon Back in a Top Fuel Dragster — In Australia

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Dixon Back in a Top Fuel Dragster — In AustraliaIcon Sports Wire - Getty Images
  • Dixon, an NHRA all-time great who was inducted in the Motorsports Hall of Fame of America in 2021, will race Friday and Saturday at the Australia Day Nationals in Sydney.

  • Dixon in the U.S. operates a dragster and gives thrill rides down the dragstrip in his two-seater.

  • In Australia, Dixon will race for the Rapisarda Autosport International (RAI) team—a team that is no stranger to fielding U.S. drag racing talent.

Since 2013, three-time NHRA Top Fuel champion Larry Dixon has become a regular “import” for the Rapisarda Autosport International (RAI) team in Australia. And this weekend, he’ll make a return appearance at Sydney Dragway, where he won the Nitro Champs last May.


This time Dixon will be one of four RAI drivers, joining Damien Harris, Wayne Newby, and newest addition Shane Olive this Friday and Saturday at the Australia Day Nationals.

With the arrival of Dixon, team owner Santo Rapisarda will cover half of the field of eight, bringing it to capacity for the first time in recent memory. The last time RAI entered four cars was in November 2015, at the East Coast Nationals. Newby and Harris teamed with NHRA racers Cory McClenathan and Dom Lagana. McClenathan defeated local Darren Morgan in the final after eliminating Lagana in the semifinal.

Dixon, who in the U.S. operates a dragster and gives thrill rides down the dragstrip in his two-seater, certainly remembers his final-round triumph over Phil Lamattina in his most recent Australian start.

“The Rapisarda family gives me great equipment and a great crew to work with on the car. I enjoy working with Rob Cavagnino, who tunes the car. We won the last time we worked together, so we hope to repeat that success,” Dixon said. I’m very appreciative of the opportunity from Santo and the Rapisarda family to race again in Australia. What Santo has done for not just the sport of Top Fuel in Australia but also for drag racing over such a long period has been remarkable. To put four cars on the track is unbelievable.”

Fielding four Top Fuel cars is something the late Don Schumacher did in NHRA competition, but for Rapisarda, the task is daunting, he said: “Running two cars is a challenge, three cars is a handful, and when you get to four cars, that’s a massive undertaking.”

He spoke with tuner son Santino and Santo Jr., and they told their father, “Let's go for it.” And he didn’t have to be asked twice. “In drag racing, you need to set goals and push the limits. That's what it was all about when we decided to run four cars," Rapisarda said.

The quartet of cars was in the works at some point in the season. Poor weather forced cancellation of the Christmas race at Sydney, where Olive—who came over from the Lamattina camp—was supposed to make his RAI debut. So the team owner said that “the most likely time was at the January meeting. That's how it's worked out.”

It’s a godsend for Olive, who was the odd man out when his former team pared down to one car.

“When Santo rang and asked if I was interested in driving the third car, I thought about it for all of maybe a millisecond,” Olive said. “I couldn't believe my luck. It will be strange to maybe line up and look across the lane and race against my old boss, Phil.”

Rapisarda said, “There’s a lot on the agenda for the team over the weekend. Damien is looking to score back-to-back wins. Shane is making his debut and will want to make his mark. Wayne is chasing his first win of the season. And Larry will be looking to take a trophy back home to Indianapolis.”