Epic Race Reports

2009 FIA- European Finals

The 2009 FIA Drag Racing Series, had been a memorable one for so many reasons. Records were being broken at every event, racing was fierce and hopes were high that the European Finals would be a suitable finale to a fantastic season. Many of the FIA 2009 titles were still to be decided this weekend and several superb new records had been set in the weeks running up to this event. So even more than usual, there was an air of optimism around Santa Pod Raceway, that this would be an epic weekend.

 

 

The weather forecasts predicted 4 days of glorious conditions, so we arrived at 'The Pod' on the Wednesday. Meeting up with old friends, we set up camp and began to soak up the atmosphere. Sadly there weren't the usual test-passes to enjoy, but Thursday was Sportsman Qualifying day and dawn broke with pure blue skies. The area of high air-pressure above us, not only meant good weather, but fantastic racing too.

 

When motors burn fuel, they rely heavily on the level of combustion provided by burning air with fuel. This is why we see so many superchargers on the top class machines. They force air into the motor to increase horsepower, the more air you can burn - the more fuel too. Injecting nitrous is also a method of increasing the amount of air/fuel a motor can burn. So when the air is dense and clean as it was today, this enables engines to produce far more power than when in low presssure air.

 

 

See some stunning passes by both Colin and John opposite.

Sleath's best run of the day was 7.804 seconds over the quarter mile, at over 191pmh. But Colin eventually took No.1 Qualifying Spot, with an awesome 7.708. The two racers had been getting faster with every run and when they rolled out with massive burnouts on Friday morning, a massive cheer went up in the crowd. This heart-felt appreciation immediately rewarded by two scorching hot passes, Sleath re-taking No.1 qualifying position with a memorable 7.703 second, 193 miles an hour pass. Astounding numbers for cars with full MOT's, running on treaded tyres and this was heartily acknowledged, by the appreciative Santa Pod crowd.

UEM Pro Stock Bike

By the time the FIA classes were ready to run on Friday morning, those assembled on the spectator banking were in good cheer. First of the Pro classes would be the FIA Pro Stock Bikes. These have around 1600cc engines and are loosly based on manufacturer's machines. As with Pro Stock cars, they are not allowed any exotic fuels or aspirations, making the racing very close. For the first time in many years, as Pro Qualifying began; the track and air pressure were absolutely perfect for drag racing. This was emphasised immediately by Dave Beck, who laid down an impressive 7.166 second pass at 185 mph, very nearly breaking the European record, with the first Pro run of the day.

UEM Super Twin

 

 

 

At just after 11am, the Super Twin Machines gathered behind the startline. These Nitromethane burning monsters are always superb to watch and this morning would be no different. There is nothing quite like the sound of twin cylinder Harley Davidson Motorcycles running on Nitro, as you will see in the video opposite. This was Team Zodiac's Roel Koedam's, first pass of the weekend and as you can hear the team were very pleased with running 6.85 seconds at 198mph. Their time being good enough for third place, after round one. 

UEM Top Fuel Bike

 

Next up and staying on two wheels, were the Top Fuel Motorcycles. We had already heard that Peter Svensson had run a record breaking and eagerly awaited 5 second pass at another meeting. As a result there was excited chatter all along the spectator banking, that we would surely see this repeated today. A point which had completely ecplised Ian King having taken the 2009 UEM Championship title this morning, by qualifying with a 6.12 second, 222 mph pass.

 

All eyes were on Svensson though and the Team Kendall Billet Evo performed it's burn-out to rapturous applause. The 1622cc motor screaming raucously, with it's disctinctive sounding engine note. Once staged, the lights went green and Peter left the line noticibly later than Sverre Dahl. But as you can see opposite, Sverre's rear wheel lost traction, whilst Svensson's machine accelerated hard.

 

 

 

 

The Team Kendall bike; scorching it's way up the remainder of the track, like a scolded cat. Before crossing the finishing line, to to record an incredible 5.97 second, 232 mph pass. Sending those of us assembled on the spectator bank, into wild celebration at seeing our first ever 5 second bike pass.

Enjoy the Video opposite as Peter made UEM history, by running the first 5 second Top Fuel Bike pass in competition and the first we had seen at Santa Pod. Some of the more eagle eyed spectators though (particularly one Simon 'Harpic' Pocock) noticed Peter having to do a lot of driving and possibly even feather the throttle a little, to get the bike settled. So even better times seemed achievable, from the team Kendall machine.

FIA Pro Stock

Next up would be Multi FIA Champion Jimmy Alund. We had spoken to Jimmy regarding the incredible run of titles he had won in a row, the previous evening. Teasing the good natured Swede, that he was being rather selfish and furthermore running out of room on his truck, to display his collection of championship titles.

 

 

Perhaps in an effort to address this, Jimmy announced his plans to run several NHRA events at the beginning of next year. The Klintberg & Way Team driver, is a huge fan of NHRA Pro Stock and said that he hoped not even to be at the Main Event in 2010, preferring to compete with the world's elite in America. Though European Pro Stock fans will certainly miss Jimmy, no-one can deny the 7 time FIA Champion, the chance to race against his NHRA counterparts. Especially when you hear of his passion for all things Pro Stock and desire to compete against such legends as Jeg Coughlin in the NHRA. Jimmy went on to explain, that he had new carburetors for the weekend, which gave improved fuel flow over the quarter mile and should give him better top end performance. However, he wasn't going to fit them for Friday's qualifying, opting to see how the car would perform without them, in these fantastic conditions.

The Pontiac GTO certainly sounded strong without them, as Jimmy did a huge smokey burnout the following morning. The car looking superb, under brilliant blue skies.

 

 

See the video opposite, as Jimmy Alund takes number one qualifying spot and in the process, breaks his own European Pro Stock record. Running an awesome 6.64 second 207mph pass, without having even fitted the new parts.

His 207.3 mph would have been a new European top speed record, but for Sundblom's 207.4 mph, only moments before. Both drivers though, would have the opportunity to come out and back it up with their second run of the day, meaning that the either driver could take the speed record by running a similar or better time over the remainder of the weekend.

 

FIA Top Fuel Dragster

The Santa Pod crowd were aware that this had an unprecidented morning's Drag Racing and between passes, the air was filled with excitement and appreciation at what we were seeing. The epic 8000 horsepower Top Fuel Dragsters were to run next, though with a depleted European field and the championship having already been decided. Stig Neergaard was the first driver to really put in a proper pass and despite driving through a lot of wheelspin, he set a new personal best of 4.79 seconds, at 302mph. Opposite we see Joran Persaker in Stig's second dragster, but it was Andy Carter who took No.1 position, with a 4.78 @ 310 mph.

FIA Top Methanol Funnycar

 

With the Top Methanol Funny Car title pretty much being a certainty, once again for Ulf Leanders. It was up to Dan Larsen and Leif Andreasson, to show their metal by finishing the year with a race win. Dan (opposite) was paired with Danny Bellio, for his first qualifying run, where he ran a modest 6.40 to take second qualifying position. But with Ulf coming out of his pass with tireshake, it was Leif who sat atop the class with an impressive 5.75 at 244 mph.

 

FIA Top Methanol Dragster

 

 

Staying with Methanol, it was the turn of the Dragsters to follow. The 2009 FIA Title was heading to Germany with Timo Habermann, but European records had been tumbling all year and the air would suit these 3,500 horsepower machines.

Opposite we see Fred Hanssen who put down a fantastic first pass of the weekend, to record a 5.38 at 265 mph and take No.1 qualifying spot.

 

 

 

 

Also running well this weekend was relative newcomer Esko Raisvou, who's team seemed to have a handle on their tricky Nitromethane injected machine . Esko qualifying 4th, with a personal best of 5.60 seconds at 259 mph. Sadly in the opposite lane, Paul Ingar Udtian dropped a lot of oil at the top end and racing was suspened for a clean up.

 

 

After the break, the best of the remaining passes was Champion elect Timo Habermann (opposite), who would only manage second position with his 5.46, 259 mph run. This pushed Peter Schofer's 5.47, down into third position after round one of qualifying.


FIA Pro Modified

 

We had seen the Pro Mod's waiting behind the start line during the break and there had been a great deal of talk about the New European record holder, Mats Eriksson. Mats had run a 6.09 which was the first ever run below 6.1 seconds in Eurpoe, at the Nitrolympics in Germany a few weeks before. As a result speculation was rife, that his time could be improved upon this afternoon.

 

First to run should have been the ever improving Roger Moore, in his Nitrous Injected Dodge Viper, but he was shut down before staging. Next up were Ingo Rolla, who was paired up with the gorgeous matt-black, supercharged Camaro, of David Vegter (opposite).

 

This was a brand new car on only it's fourth pass and was clearly a handful for the Dutch Driver, who with considerable skill, wrestled it back into line, before coming off the throttle early.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

See opposite what happened next. as Ingo Rolla's Dodge suddenly veered right and into the unlucky David and his new car.

 

 

 

The chasis of the Dodge went straight through David's rear wheel pictured below, next to images of both cars. These give us an idea of the forces involved in the crash and an appreciation of how lucky both drivers were to escape uninjured.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

As you can imagine there was another lengthy break whilst the car-nage was cleared away. We were all pleased to hear David and Ingo were ok. But in speaking with David's extremely disgruntled crew later on, as they surveyed the prospect of a £40,000 repair bill. We were told that Inga was under investigation, for having over welded his chasis. Making the incident allegedly the result of too many repairs having been made, to the aged chasis of Rolla's Dodge. Finally, the clean up operation was complete and next to run was Joran Persaker againt Dorset's Kev Slyfield. Joran had already competed in Top Fuel, but was back out now with the ex Pro Stock, twin Turbo Pontiac (opposite).

 

Persaker ran a modest 7.6 and Slyfield a disasppointing 7.7. But it was Bert Englefield who put in the first good number, running a 6.5 at a personal best speed of 218 mph. Not to be outdone and with a new motor, which was purring beautifully, was Patrick Wikstrom (top opposite). Patrick managed 4th qualiying position with a 6.24 second run and Micke Gullqvist took third, with a highly respectable 6.22 second, quarter mile pass.

The last two racers were fired up behind the start line and a huge cheer went up around Santa Pod Raceway. New European record holder - Mats Eriksson, would be racing FIA Championship leader - Andy Robinson.

 

 

 

 

Only a few weeks ago were we hailing Swedish Drag Racing Legend Mats Eriksson, for breaking the European Pro Modified record at the Nitrolympics. During congratulations on Thursday night, Mats was his typical magnanimous self. The legendary racecar builder playing down his chances at the FIA title and any chance of a 5 second pass. Saying that at least until the rule change for 2010, concerning improvements to Pro Mod superchargers, 6.0 second passes were likely to remain the target time. Mats also went on to explain that he was happy if his rival race car builder Andy Robinson, took the championship this year - as Mats felt he deserved to. I think it's safe to say that few other drivers - in any sport, would offer such generous sentiment.

 

 

 

 

Post European record celebrations -click on image for larger version

 

 

 

 

We all waited with baited-breath. The prospect of the first ever European side by side 6.0 second pass, was a truly tantilising one. And as the two race car builders performed their burn-outs, an even larger cheer came from the Santa Pod crowd. The sons of each driver backed up the two supercharged methanol burning doorslammers, on to the start-line with great care. Ensuring that their father's would both have the best possible traction for their launches. Finally the rev's built up and the two championship contenders, inched their way towards the startline.

When the lights went green, both machines leapt forwards, Mats leaving a little before Andy, but Andy's Studebaker seemingly a little harder.

 

 

 

Salutations as Mats came out for his first run after the 6.09 in Germany.

 

 

Eriksson's 60ft time was nothing special, but the Green Goblin really began to dig in towards half-track and flew down the remainder of the 1/4 mile. Clearly Mats was still accelerating hard as he crosed the finish line, leaving the charging Andy Robinson in his wake.

 

 

 

We all looked intently at the timing lights to see what he had run, I for one was so busy looking at the last two digits of the time, as we had grown used to doing, to immediately see the big beautiful number 5 at the front. His time being a truly incredible 5.988 second pass at 241.5 miles an hour, by far the fastest ever in Europe & the first 5!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

See the video opposite for the fastest Pro Mod run in Europe and the elusive 5 second pass, we had been waiting for for so long.

Note the modest celebrations of the camera man's friends. I can assure you further up on the bank, scenes were very, very different. We were surrounded by utter pandemonium, such was the level of appreciation of what we had all just witnessed.

So a massive congratulations to Mats, Lars Goran & the ME Racing team - we dont believe the record could have fallen to a more deserving group of guys. And as you can see from a few images up - celebrations went on well into the night.

Andy Robinson also managed to put down a superb pass wih a new personal best of 6.07 seconds, making him number two qualifyer to Mat's number 1.

 

FIA Top Fuel Funny Car

 

To end the first qualifying session, we were to see the Top Fuel Funny Cars run. Sadly there were only four competitors this weekend. But with the 8000bhp brutes running a shorter wheelbase than their Dragster counterparts, they are always great to watch. Opposte we see Shockwave aka 'The Hailsham Oiler' against Thomas Nataas, Thomas ran a decent 5.136, to Smiths 5.40 to take #1 spot. But all along the spectator bank, the usual speculation was rife, that today we might see the elusive 4 second run. It was widely considered to be the icing on the cake of a memorable day's racing if we could. Predictably though, Spuff only managed a 5.2 in the superb conditions, so we would continue to wait for that special moment.

 

However, with 5 second runs in both Pro Mod and Top Fuel Bike, the energy of the Santa Pod crowd could not have been more electric. And due to all of the the oil downs and crashes, we would be spared the tedium of the Sportsman classes. Instead the Pro Classes were brought round for their second qualifying session without delay....for many of us, a more perfect days racing this could not have been.

 

See the European Finals Image Galley here