The FIA Main Event, Santa Pod, 27th-30th May 2005
Report and Pictures by Richard Stirling
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Friday Saturday Sunday Monday
The FIA Main Event was the season opener for the FIA series and the meeting proved to be a great success and provided the promise and excitement that thousands of eager fans have been hankering for. There were thrills and only the odd oil spill, but the weekend was blessed with good weather and one and all came away truly satisfied, myself included. All in all, it was a fantastic if not exhausting weekend, blessed with good attendance and a second-to-none Santa Pod organisation. The track and the whole place was simply awesome all weekend.
As the opening event for the FIA series, the Main Event was going to be a thriller on all counts. New cars, new crew members and New Crew Chiefs were all eager to flex their muscles. After the weekend, Lex Joon with new Crew Chief Eddie Corr, became Holland's first Top Fuel FIA event champion in a fire-licked final round. Dave Wilson reset his own European record and won the event in Top Methanol Dragster (I truly hope they will prevail with the FIA in the current TMD crisis). Ers Urbacher showed he had lost none of his performance when he set a new speed record and downed Dan Larson in a thrilling side-by-side Top Methanol Funny Car final. In Pro-Stock, Jackie Hansen took home the silverware when Jimmy Ålund left a red light on the tree. Jackie was quicker anyway, even though he took the long way round to the finish! After hurting their motor in the semi-finals Patrik Wikström had a real thrash around to make it to the final and a heap of tyre shake meant he gave it up to a victorious Roger Johansson in his blue Mustang. Sven Olav Rolstad prevailed over Joachim Riemer who broke early in the final of Supertwin. My fellow 'Picky Virgo' Ian King deservedly lifted the title in Top Fuel bike after a weekend packed with personal record performances. In the final, he 'smacked down' Steve Woollatt with another run in the 6.3 second zone to Steve's charging 6.5 second pass. Well done indeed, Ian! In the final FIM/UIM category of Pro Stock bike, Martin Bishop was victorious over Richard Gipp.
I had hoped to be at Santa Pod, early Friday morning, but some work spilled over which delayed my arrival until about lunch time. A lovely day it was, too, and the sportsman qualifying was well under way. I was providing photographic support to the Fansfueler project for the weekend and it was good to catch up with everyone again and to hear the project is moving forward apace.
I set off for a wander up in the pits it was good to see Peter Knight and the team warm up the Canto Top Fueler – even though they would not running Friday. I love nitro warm-ups, but every time I see Laurie on the starter, he seems to pull such a funny face! Perhaps he’s making for a quick ‘duck’ if something went bang! Another item of interest in the pits and perhaps a first in Europe is the one piece carbon fibre body which was to be used on the fourth Top Fueler belonging to Sweden-domiciled Knut Söderquist. Nitro legend and master car chief Gary Page was carded to drive what is essentially Knut’s test car for this weekend. Hopefully, this will extend to the whole FIA tour.
After securing sponsorship from Prolong and Bushys the Manx brewery, Chris Andrews is at last on the European FIA Top Fuel tour. I have seen Chris work hard as a crew member and enhance his driving skills over the past year or so whilst searching for Top Fuel opportunities. On the Swedish Top Fuel tour at Piteå, last year, he was about to stage his dragster (as used by Smax) and his brakes failed completely. Calmly, he staged the car on the clutch and won his round over Tommy Möller. Most impressive driving! Its a good job Piteå has a huge runoff area...
It is great to see the ever increasing popularity of the Pro-Mod category. It is hardly an inexpensive way to race, as many of these cars would cost as much as a Top Fueler to purchase outright. It seems that the European trend has been moving ever more towards the Supercharged combination and British competitors Gordon Appleton and Andy Robinson have followed the trend and migrated to the alcohol-guzzling BAE motors topped with Superman superchargers. The picture on the right, above, is the new 110 Gallons per minute fuel pumps (there's two of them) on Thomas Nataas' Top Fuel Dragster. That will empty a swimming pool of nitro in just a jiffy!
I stayed locally on Friday evening at a 'cheap and cheerful' motel frequented by some racers and crew members. Whilst stepping to the bar to order another drink, I must have unwittingly triggered the arrival of numerous (and thirsty!) crew members and guess who got lumbered with the enormous bar tab! I reckon the blighters were wondering around the car park peering through the window waiting for he perfect opportunity! Revenge will be mine...
At the track and Saturday morning proved to be another spectacular day. Krister Johansson is another man on a mission this year. For 2005, he continues to campaign his A/Fueler in the Top Methanol dragster category, but with one big difference. He has been shopping in the USA! In amongst the impressive armoury of purchases he has made include parts and tuning advice from the legendary A/Fuel duo Darien and Meadows who run an A/Fueler for John Force’s daughter Ashley and her rail is as fast as they come.
Saturday soon proved to be a day of frights! In the first Pro-Mod session, Bert Englefield got away with what could have been a huge accident. He suddenly lost traction in the Pukka Pies and plunged right towards and perilously close to the concrete in the Boost lane. Some damage was done but thankfully nothing too serious. Just before the the second Top Fuel session, Lex Joon and Gerda enjoyed a giggle with me as my camera malfunctioned (pilot error!!) and little did Lex realise that he would have more than a thrill of his own when he pulled a huge wheelstand right on the hit of the throttle. Great efforts on behalf of the team, Jon Webster and Santa Pod who immediately donated their demonstration Top Fueler to be used to provide the steering parts to fix Lex's beautiful dragster. It was completed in the middle of the night, thanks to those great efforts.
After heading back to Derby on Saturday night, I had a really early start to get back to 'The Pod' Sunday morning. The final qualifying sessions went well and mention must be made of the Swedane team of driver Tommy Möller. The team is part Swedish and part Danish (ex-Kim Reymond) and Tommy has been to America and purchased the Top Fuel dragster of Doug Herbert in an effort to improve performance. Doug is a big guy and as Tommy is 6 feet five (at least!) this seems an excellent master plan. Tommy dug deep into the 4 second zone and at last became a member of the 300mph club with a storming 308mph pass which - it has to be said was a run which Tommy pedalled it twice! Jon Webster had a good couple of runs after being up all night with Lex, fixing the wheelstand damage. I must mention the cheery mob called RagMop who spent the entire weekend trundling around Santa Pod on a curtain-side truck, keeping the crowd entertained with their Motorhead impressions. For a listen of what their version of 'Ace of Spades' sounds like, click here.
I stayed locally again Sunday night and enjoyed a really good night with friends. It was a bright and breezy early start, though to get to the track early enough to enjoy my favourite pastime (after munching bacon baguettes!) - the Nitro Warm-ups. Thomas Nataas and Andy Carter were pumped and sounded strong as they prepared for Round One. Fate, it seemed, had another plan for them. Even though Thomas can be seen launching hard in the right hand picture, he hit terrible shake nanoseconds later which shook the car that hard the throttle cable disconnected. Andy was up against Jon Webster and didn't fare much better. His burnout procedure did not go well and when it came to the green light, there was smoke and that was it. A nightmare for him and the B&Q backed team - but drag racing is like that. Sometimes you win. Sometimes you lose. It was a pity that the Rune Fjeld owned cars were out in Round one. Rune and his drivers Andy and Thomas will be back, of that you can be guaranteed.
In round 2 of Top fuel Micke Kagarad was up against Jon Webster and if you look carefully at this picture, you can see Micke's head turned to the right, looking for Jon Webster. Clearly, he was having problems and yet, Jon was having his own problems because when Jon did come past, he was already on fire! Jon would have a real thrash on his hands to get the car turned round for his first FIA final. It was good to see some progress with the Nitro Funny cars as can be seen here with Gordon Smith hiking his front wheels past the 60 foot marker! New combinations and not as much testing as they would like caused problems for both Gordon and John Spuffard over the weekend.
After two rounds of racing, everyone was getting excited at the prospect of final round eliminations. I enjoyed the last warm-ups of the day for Jon Webster and Lex Joon and I headed down track on the spectator side to get a reasonably good perch at the top end. I was really feeling quite weary by the time I got there! When it came to the Top Fuel final, Jon had problems seemingly right on the line and Lex stormed on for the win on a run besieged with problems. A fire started at around 300 feet and despite its ferocity, Lex didn't care and kept his boot in all the way to the line. Congratulations to Lex and the MPM Oil team for a worthy win. Rumour has it that 5 of those lovely Top Fuel heads were sacrificed to the Aluminium Gods at the main event. Ouch!
I was glad to reach my trusty steed later in the evening and to cruise back home. It felt like I had walked to the moon and back and I was glad to be able to get back to work for a rest. Thank you for taking the time to read this report and please come back to www.topnitro.co.uk soon!
I must thank Tog, Sharkman and Eurodragster for invaluable race data and juicy gossip, as always. Many thanks, boys!