race reports

FIA/FIM-E Euro Finals at Santa Pod Raceway, England

Season Sputters to a Close

 

Words and photos by Ivan Sansom & Rose Hughes

Thanks to SPR timing crew for access to timing data

 

The European Drag Racing season came to its conclusion at Santa Pod Raceway with the Euro Finals, although the event was severely disrupted and ultimately curtailed by the repeated intervention of the wet stuff. For all of the FIA/FIM-E professional categories qualifying was a challenging affair with, at best, two sessions permitted, which caused some shocks in the formulation of the fields for eliminations. Rain also plagued the activities on finals day with the sterling work of the track preparation crew managing to get the eight FIA/FIM-E classes past the semi-final stage before more rain and only small breaks on the weather radar frustrated their efforts.

 

FIA Top Fuel Dragster

Duncan Micallef

 

After a slew of pole sitting efforts across Europe this season, one of the major casualties of the abbreviated qualifying was Brit Liam Jones who failed to make the eight-car field in FIA Top Fuel Dragster. With Jones and the Arxell.com/Rune Fjeld Motorsports team on the outside looking in, and the first-round loss of Finn Antti Horto in the Eagle Racing/Rune Fjeld Motorsports entry (who had qualified low with a 4.0883/292.06), the 2017 points series was deservedly decided in favour of Duncan Micallef driving the third RFM dragster who has led the points thanks to a strong series of event wins in Sweden, Finland and Germany.

 

The Maltese Bajada Energy racer celebrated by working his way to a final round berth, defeating second generation Jndia Erbacher at the quarter final stage with a 4.1579/303.78 run (top speed of the meeting) and a competition solo at the semifinal stage when opponent Stefan Gunnarsson was a no-show after a catastrophic engine explosion in his first round.

Stefan Gunnarsson 

Anita Makela 

 

Micallef’s final round opponent was due to be outgoing series champion Anita Mäkelä; the popular Finnish racer producing her best race day performance on what has been a wretched season with round wins over Stig Neergaard and Mikael Kågered, the latter came with a 4.0754 at only 240.72mph for the quickest elapsed time of the weekend.

Mikael Kågered 

Rick Stubbins 

 

With a sixteen-bike field, Rick Stubbins took the season Cup title when Borg fell at the quarter final stage and would set up an all British final when Stubbins defeated Mogens Lund (the Dane passing Borg into second in the points) and Steve Mead bested Austria’s Erich Gruber in the semis.

Stephen Mead

 

Stubbins may have not been the quickest over the season, but the solid consistent low seven second performance delivered the Protek Suzuki to a final round berth at each event that got that far.

PHOTO EXTRA SLIDESHOW

Roman Sixta 

 

The Super Twin field was also reduced to a four-bike ladder, with former funnybike standout Neil Midgley belting out a 6.7611 at only 164.25mph to demonstrate the potential of the blown DOHC twin. Eliminations just had one round completed, with Roman Sixta defeating points leader Martijn de Haas with a 6.9260/197.18 to a 7.1053/200.77. This would have opened up the championship chase as Roman could overhaul de Haas if he won the event. Sixta’s opponent was due to be Bruno Salesse in a Czech v France match up, as Super Twin rookie Salesse benefited from Midgley breaking traction past the tree, but the premature curtailment of the event gave de Haas a third title in a row.

Martihn de Haas 

 

“The Finals were a disappointment because of the weather, just the one pass in qualifying wasn't enough to test the modifications on the frame we did after Hockenheim,” de Haas said. “When on Sunday we had to race Sixta, we experienced clutch issues, which we still haven't figured out. Instead of a solid six-second pass the bike just didn't go, leaving an open door for Roman. As you know the rain helped us to become champion again, not the way how you would like to win. However, the results and consistency the team delivered at the Main Event and Hockenheim was just enough to keep us in the nr1 spot, a big thank you from me to the team, they work hard to maintain that consistency!!

 

“We made a lot of changes to the bike this season and we are confident we can improve our personal bests, but we need more passes. If everything goes to plan, I will be getting my bachelors in engineering this winter, so will have more time to go racing next season!”

 

FIM-E Pro Stock Bike

Fredrik Fredlund 

 

Fredrik Fredlund came into the event with a substantial lead in the stockers and emerged from the event with low qualifier (7.0970), the event win (thanks to taking the green under power in an uncontested solo prior to Leeks’ similar effort in TFB) and his seventh championship. He didn’t take low ET as that went to Robert Karlsson in the Swede’s first round victory over Len Paget with a 7.0279/188.22.

Robert Karlsson

 

Karlsson and Fredlund were due to meet in the final after semifinal victories over Alex Hope and Martin Bishop respectively, but the former was a no-show so enabled Fredlund to pick up the trophy and he celebrated with a body slide along the wet track.

 

FIM-E Super Street Bike

Franklyn Borg

 

The Super Street Bike class delivered the solo record threatening performance over the weekend with Malta’s Franklyn Borg striking one out of the park with a 6.9165/204.22 (a substantial chunk below the 6.946 class record) that sent bike owner Simon Giordmania on a unique startline celebration as Borg took top spot in qualifying.

Jonny Lagg 

 

Lagg’s performance since a chance encounter with Randy Meyer at the previous round in Sweden suggests the class will be tightly contested in 2018.

 

FIM-E Top Fuel Bike

Rikard Gustafsson 

 

The disruption to qualifying produced a somewhat confused picture in FIM-E Top Fuel Bike, with points leader Rikard Gustafsson outside the four bike ladder (itself a construct of a single session to make the field) after shedding the drivechain following tire shake on his solo effort. Eliminations started with Steve Woollatt (low qualifier with a 6.3449/210.93 from the sole nitro bike) pretty much locked in as favourite on his home track, but, in keeping with the tone of the event, a -0.1242s red handed Dale Leeks his first round win in his first visit to eliminations with the Warpspeed nitrous bike.  In the other semifinal, Warpspeed principal Stuart Crane strapped a significant hole shot on Fil Papafillippou (second qualifier with a 6.7047/209.04) and then hauled to the 1,000-foot mark where things started to get a little hot onboard Crane’s ride when the inlet cam decided to depart through the cam cover cause a substantial conflagration that induced some gymnastics to keep his legs away from the fire as much as possible through the shutdown area.

Stuart Crane

 

Despite all this, Crane still managed to post a new PB 6.8180/176.46 and taking the event win. Crane was structurally okay, with comparatively minor burns to his knee, but this now left something of a conundrum for the team as a win in the final would take the title out of Gustafsson’s grasp, but the Warpspeed team decided against the necessary rebuild.

Dale Leeks 

 

“We were more than happy with our weekend, Dale in his first final and a new best mark for a British nitrous bike, we didn’t want any accusations of team orders and Rikard deserves the championship given his performance over the season,” commented a beaming Crane after the bizarre conclusion where Leeks took the winlight in an uncontested final on a sodden track with the rain falling. Given Leeks’ flair for the dramatic, he had to take two goes at taking the green under power, but it was quite a weekend for the Warpspeed nitrous duo.

 

FIM-E Super Twin Bike

Neil Midgley 

FIA Pro Modified

Andy Robinson 

 

The combined FIA and MSA Pro Modified category had Swede Jimmy Ålund qualify low with a 5.9786/236.09 run, followed by Andy Robinson with a 6.0769/236.15. Robinson kept British hopes alive with a 5.994/237.49 season’s best in the first round of eliminations on the sixteen-car ladder but a loose air line on the transmission halted his chance of honours at the quarter final stage. The final was due to be contested by Dutch racer David Vegter, who has been so good in qualifying throughout the year with the PedalToTheMetal Camaro finally having a good raceday, and the newly crowned and almost perennial FIA champion Micke Gullqvist before the rain came.

Micke Gullqvist 

 

Gullqvist said: “We arrived to England with a five round lead and just needed to make one pass down the track to secure the 2017 FIA Pro Mod Championship. After that was done, we reset the focus to winning the event. It’s always nice to conclude the season in a good way, it makes the off-season feel much better. Because of weather problems we got only two rounds of qualifying and we qualified on 7th spot with an early shut off 6.15 run, after a minor hardware problem. On Sunday we cut through the field with consistent runs, but when it was time for the final against David Vegter the rain came to stop the event. I’m extremely pleased with this season, we only lost one single round in the six events championship. We have a great team that does not make many mistakes. We were hard to beat this season, we were the ‘untouchables’.”

David Vegter 

 

FIA Pro Stock Car

Gullqvist’s Swedish compatriot Bengt Ljungdahl gained his first FIA Pro Stock Car title when he gained a spot in the round after taking a competition bye in the semifinals, giving planned opponent Stefan Ernryd too much to do to overhaul the VP Racing Fuel Camaro; Ljungdahl benefiting from building up a big early season points lead to fend off the late season hiccups and a strong charge (including low qualifying at the event) from Ernryd’s Dico Dodge. 

 

FIA Top Methanol

Tim Habermann 

 

Timo Habermann took the Top Methanol title during qualifying, picking up enough of the little points and ending up on pole with a 5.4340 just a feather ahead of sibling Dennis who was second with a 5.4354 and would also end up second in the points. Timo was another champion elect to be frustrated by the rain waiting to run the finals, but Dennis had earlier been defeated by a resurgent Jonny Lagg, the out-going 2016 Top Methanol Dragster champion charging to a 5.4036/264.05 personal best ET with his Swedish A/Fuel entry.

VOLUME XIX,  NUMBER 9 - SEPTEMBER  2017

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