The Spring Bank Holiday here in the UK traditionally brings with it the first round of the FIA / FIM European Drag Racing championship held at Santa Pod Raceway. With the European Drag Racing Elite in attendance and over 270 race entries, an action-packed, adrenaline-filled high octane weekend was guaranteed for the huge number of race fans in attendance.
Starting Thursday with an open test the meeting spans five days concluding on Sunday. For many racers the test day is their first opportunity to run after their cars, or bikes, have been parked over the winter, so the opportunity to test prior to the event proper is very welcome. With the weather not always on our side, there are inevitable delays and this was the case for 2019. Santa Pod’s devoted track crew never give up which resulted in some thrilling evening sunset sessions and 9:00 pm finishes.
A welcome addition on the entry list was the Top Doorslammer category. Having attended Santa Pods Doorslammers meeting the previous weekend, staying on for the Main Event as an invitational class wasn’t a difficult decision to make. Six Swedish entries were joined by Estonian Andres Arnover and Ingo Ekert from Germany to battle it out over the quarter mile. Used to running only the eighth mile the teams had some figuring out to do, but they soon got a handle on it, and their ET’s began to fall.
Having won the big prize at the Doorslammers event, and running the all-time quickest Top Doorslammer pass of 5.53 on Santa Pods surface back at the 2018 event, you would expect Mattias Wulcan to be feeling quietly confident, it was no surprise to see him take the number one qualifier spot. Come race day though he made it all the way through to the final only to be taken out by Caroline Strand, Caroline winning the event with a 5.94 pass at 242mph to a slowing Mattias 6.67 at 144mph.
Pro Modified saw a healthy field with the largest entry list for eight years. Sweden’s Andreas Arthursson made his first trip to Santa Pod with his stunning ’69 Chevelle, a consistent 5.7s runner Arthursson will contest the whole FIA tour for the first time this year. Two other newcomers to the class were the UK’s Jon Tebenham with the ex. Marco Maurischat ’53 Corvette and Dmitry Samorukov, also with a Corvette, Russia’s first ever FIA entry.
As usual with the Pro Mod’s, there was no shortage of excitement. There were unfortunately casualties though, the first when Bert Englefield with the ’38 Ford Hot Rod got out of shape and tagged the wall in the shutdown area causing damage to the chassis, Marcus Perman then suffering a similar incident. Next to fall was Norbert Kuno who had his Dodge Avenger up on two wheels and sideways across the track before hitting the wall. Then our Russian visitor, Dmitry Samorukov, had a wild ride with his car heading right then left with a slight brush of the wall but after driving job of the weekend, he was able to return for the first round of eliminations only to suffer a fire which put an end to his weekend. Number one qualifier David Vegter had suffered severe engine damage at the Doorslammers and had to return to the Netherlands for repairs, the effort was rewarded with a Personal Best 5.80/240mph. The final saw Micke Gullqvist with the win 5.83/245mph while Mats Eriksson jumped the tree.
Top Fuel Dragster was an even split between male and female with four men and four women on the ladder. England’s Liam Jones will be doing everything he can to take the championship this year, and got off to a good start testing at Easter with multiple three-second performances, but, he is going to have to look out for those ladies! Saturday’s evening session saw the fastest and quickest side by side ever in Europe, Anita Mäkelä 3.87/311mph with Liam hot on her heals 3.89/312mph. It would be an all-female final with Anita meeting Maja Udtian, Anita taking the win and resetting her own European ET record 3.84/296mph, Maja with staging difficulties.
In the Fuel Funny Car pits, it was Kevin Kent and his team with all the work to do. Having suffered a rear axle shaft failure, which subsequently damaged the chassis, he was rather stuck. When track owner Keith Bartlett asked if any of the parts could be used from the Santa Pod Raceway ‘display’ Funny Car Kevin took him up on his offer and borrowed the whole car, transferring all his parts to it which resulted in a 5.00am finish. Unfortunately, Kevin managed to break a second rear end in the loan car, it would be Steve Ashdown against Kevin Chapman in the final, Steve bagging the win 4.75/188mph to Kevin’s 5.58/134mph.
Top Methanol saw the welcome return of Malta’s Manty Bugeja and his dragster, his first time competing against dragsters and Funny Cars in the same class. Manty made his way to the final where he met Sandro Bellio who had defeated Jonny Lagg’s A/Fueler. The win went to Sandro and his Funny Car, which is given a slight advantage over the dragster, 5.53/253mph to Manty’s 5.45/268mph, the winning margin of 0.2428.
Pro Stock was an all Swedish affair with last year’s championship winner, Bengt Ljungdahl, qualifying in third position. All was going well for Bengt until he met Jimmy Ålund in round two, Jimmy taking the win with a troubled run, Bengt with a red. The final saw Jimmy, who was also campaigning Pro Mod at this event, take the win 6.59/209mph to Michael Malmgren’s 7.96/122mph.
First time out after a crash at last year’s NitrOlympX, Rikard Gustafsson was on fine form with a string of five-second pass straight off the trailer on his rebuilt machine. With Rene van den Berg out having suffered an engine fire, and Steve Woollatt out with mechanical problems, it was Glenn Borg who would meet number one qualifier Rikard for the final, Rikard with the victory 5.95/242mph to Glenn’s 6.90/201mph.
While Super Twin Bike racer Martijn De Hass was getting to grips with his new machine last year’s champ, Marcus Christiansen, qualified number one and met the super straight running Samu Kemppainen in the final – Marcus 6.50/215mph at the stripe, Samu with problems. Pro Stock bike number one qualifier Fredrik Fredlund suffered transmission problems and was out, Janne Koskinen taking the win 7.23/185mph when Martin Bishop failed to make the start line.
Super Street Bike never fails to excite and with three riders in the six’s the competition was fierce. Saturday evenings qualifying session had the crowd on their feet when Steve Venables and Mogens Lund ran the fastest and quickest side by side runs ever in Europe, Steve 6.87/201mph and Mogens 6.96/209mph. With a sudden surge of good fortune, it was Erich Gruber who would match up against Steve Venables in the final, Steve taking the win, and another ET record 6.85/213, Erich 7.84/185mph.
As well as all the pro classes there was a full program of Sportsman racing along with jets and a couple of stuntmen keeping the crowd entertained during downtime. Something for everyone then, one thing is for sure, there was never a dull moment!
Many thanks to Eurodragster.com for access to race data and pit notes.