Words/Photos Roger Gorringe
Santa Pod’s all new concrete quarter-mile proved to be a hit with many of the racers despite it being somewhat ‘green’. Track crews have worked untiringly to preparing it for the first heavy duty it has seen, the first round of the FIA & FIM European Drag Racing Series. Two European records were created; a speed of 250.55mph was taken by Sweden’s Rikard Gustafsson in Top Fuel Bike and in Super Street Bike, England’s Steve Venables ran a 6.928. It is a steep learning curve for both racers and track crew to get used to the new race surface but it all looks very promising.
Top Fuel saw Finland’s Antti Horto on pole with a 3.904/303 just ahead of England’s Liam Jones, 3.905/312, Malta’s Duncan Micallef 3.920/309 and rounding out the three’s, Finland’s Anita Mäkelä with a 3.957/295. In an unusual position as DNQ was Sweden’s Micke Kågered who gave the crowd a fine off the line fuel fireball in qualifying. “I don’t stand a chance, I don’t have the correct clutch parts,” was the quote from Denmark’s Stig Neergaard prior to the final, as he’d won both his rounds despite going up in smoke and furiously pedalling against a tyre smoking Micallef then a win against a red light from Jones. Neergaard faced Mäkelä in the final, both lost power mid track and it was a victorious Stig Neergaard who crossed the line first with a 4.236/202 against the 4.398/199.
Top Methanol was led by Germany’s Dennis Habermann with a 5.321/270 just ahead of older brother, Timo’s 5.365/265. A mix of three Top Methanol Funny Car’s, one A/Fuel and three blown Dragsters vied for early championship points. Team Habermann dominated with Dennis seeing of German TMFC Jürgen Nagel after an earlier bye, Timo shook and pedalled beating Sweden’s TMFC Mikael Larsson then the A/Fuel car of Jonny Lagg, 5.314/264 to a losing 5.574/262. The final was a victory for Timo Habermann as his 5.301/267 beat Dennis’ 5.376/269.
Pro Modified lost a couple of entries as the weekend before at The Doorslammers event; two Dutch cars unfortunately got loose and hit the wall. Leading the now 16-car chase this year was inevitably, multi champion Micke Gullqvist with a 5.868/244 from his ’68 Camaro. It was Gullqvist all the way with wins over Peter Wacker, Norbert Kuno and the now lone Dutch competitor David Vegter. Meeting Gullqvist would be fellow Swede Jimmy Ålund in the ’51 Chevy who had seen off Jon Webster, Freddy Fagerström and Sweden’s Jan Ericsson. It was a great race with an early lead from Micke Gullqvist and a winning 5.904/246 to the losing slowed-up 6.898/147.
Pro Stock an all Swedish entry had just four cars racing and was led in qualifying by defending champ Bengt Ljungdahl in his Camaro on a 6.645/204. Ljungdahl red lit in round one to allow Robin Norén into his first final to face Stefan Ernryd. A 0.007 light from Ernryd’s Dodge Dart coupled with a 6.603/207 got him the trophy as Norén runner-upped with a 6.703/207.
Top Fuel Bike witnessed some stunning passes, Greek rider Filippos Papafilippou having purchased Ian King’s fueller ran a 5.8 on his first pass then bettered it to get pole with an incredible 5.782/236, streets ahead of anyone else. It was not an easy way through to the final but Papafilippou made it, beating Thomas Pettersson then Lorcan Parnell to face arch-rival for the championship, Sweden’s Rikard Gustafsson who’d surpassed the runs by Stuart Crane and Eric Richard. Both bikes in the final did not deliver the usual numbers and a lucky early click-off 6.017/227 from Filippos Papafilippou beat the 6.027/240 from Gustafsson.
Super Twin Bike had a surprise top qualifier, Denmark’s Marcus Christiansen with a 6.429/215 on his first visit to Britain however, despite getting wins over Marc van den Boer and Norway’s Ronnie Aasen his luck ran out in the final as he failed to run. The win went to Norway’s Hans Olav Olstad who dispatched Gert Jan Laseur and Neil Midgley then ran a solo 6.845/200 for the trophy.
Pro Stock Bike the five bike field was led by Sweden’s Kenneth Holmberg on a 7.434/172 to top the qualifying but he fell in round one to a red light against England’s Alex Hope. Hope would face Frenchman Maurice Bertrand in the final but a red light gave Bertrand the win, a 7.455/174 against the losing 7.789/138.
Super Street Bike had a whopping twenty-four bike entry and was led by England’s Steve Venables on a 6.968/214. Venables held on to take the final with a succession of six-second passes eventually meeting Denmark’s Mogens Lund. A perfect light from Lund was no match as Venables caught and passed him recording a 6.934/210 to the losing 7.038/210.