The 2009 Auto Trader Easter Thunderball from Santa Pod Raceway.

11th & 12th April  2009


Report and pictures by Richard Stirling (c) 2009


Sunday Picture Gallery         Monday Picture Gallery



Against my better wishes, I had actually taken heed of localised weather reports and, I’m ashamed to say that I skipped the Friday and Saturday qualifying days of The Easter Thunderball meeting. How could I do this at the first major meeting of the year? Well, sorry experience over the past couple of seasons had kind of driven away the enthusiasm for waiting most of the day getting soaked only to be told “It was called an hour ago. Didn’t you know?”. I probably did know in most cases, but held onto the belief that they were all wrong and that the long waited-for sun was about to break through the foul and ugly mists and would scorch the place dry in moments. As I said, years of this ill-founded optimism had taken it’s toll and I decided to skip it until the weather promised something a little better.


After picking up my buddy Mark at a ludicrously early hour, we traveled down to Santa Pod early Sunday morning, bathed in fine weather. Our enthusiasm for the racing ahead was bolstered by such comely weatherial surroundings and we hastened to our destination. As we approached our Motorway turn-off, disappointment began to filter into our moods as all sorts of shades of grey darkened what had been beautiful skies. As we neared Wellingborough, spits and spots of water droplets soon besmirched our windscreen and as we approached Podington, these droplets seemed pretty much on a determined effort requiring sustained activation of the now melodic swish of wipers to maintain a clear view.


After checking in at the Media centre and catching up with various latest gossip, I decided to head off into the pits and have a constitutional peruse around anything and everything. The clouds were still heavily laden with moisture and the floor was wet and it was without difficulty that one could come across a splashy puddle. The track team were, as always, hard at work on the thankless task of getting the track dry and I set off to see what was happening or, at least, perhaps find something smelly.


I paused and paid some attention to the new paint job of Gordon Smith – now with the amusing handle “Flash Gordon”. It is by far and away the finest of paint schemes to adorn the ex-Jim Dunn Pontiac Firebird that is the Shockwave we have come to know and love.


Moving on, I came across the Pro Mod pits and was delighted to meet Graham Ellis as he was about to hop into his beautiful PM Plymouth Superbird Roadrunner. This Andy Robinson Race Cars production is a testament to state-of-the-art engineering and no-expense-spared investment by Graham. Since the car first appeared in its paintless form, early in 2008, Graham has settled in behind the wheel and has wisely picked up valuable goodies along the way, including a motor built by the loving hands of the legendary Carl Spearing and used by Danny Cockerill on a 6-teen,  230mph+ ride. Still on team, Graham has retained the crew and tuning services of Father and Son Nottingham inhabitees and famed ex-Supermod racers Andy and Lee Kirk. It was a pleasure to see the team bonded and working together just like Coffee and Cream. Although I am a confirmed Nitroholic, if Alcohol-based warm-ups are to be the order of the day, then this sharp one sufficed quite nicely!


As I cruised further up into the pits, my attention was soon grabbed by the large tented area which was home to the Rune Fjeld Motorsports team. Despite the general ambient moistness, it was obvious that there would be racing later in the day and mindful of that, it was important that each of the cars were warmed up in turn. First to go was the funny car of Thomas Nataas and soon milling throngs gathered as the Funny Car, led my Ian Pellant under the steely eye of Rune Fjeld. As the crew got the car running comfortably on Alcohol, with Paul Smaxman running the fuel chores, Lawrie Bamford checked the timing and Nitro Pilot and crew member extraordinaire, Gary Page, handled many things amongst which were managing the air-bleed plugs which controlling the air into and around the supercharger and adjusting the tickover. The switchover to Nitro was welcome as it was noxious and these fragrant fumes were wonderfully rounded off with a cackle not dissimilar to a festival of 12 bore shotguns fired in symphony.


Enough of this overly descriptive verbosity! My extensive pit trawl was soon to end and the hard work capturing the pictures you see in the galleries, began. It was only afterwards, once I was reviewing the pictures, that I came to realise that I had made a silly slip: I use two cameras and it is vital that they are time-synchronised in order for the picture order to make sense. They do not, however, take into account British Summer Time. I can clearly remember on the morning the clocks went forward, getting up and thinking – “I must reset the cameras”. Just as I finished with one of them, Mrs. Topnitro appeared with some sort of urgent task or other – I can’t remember what it was – I think she wanted rushing down to casualty because she’d broken a freshly painted finger-nail or something like that; the crux of the matter was I set one camera and not the other and thus created a massive job for me to isolate which pictures were which – then to purchase a software tool that could fix the time stamp. Ugh!


Anyway, the duly corrected timeline of pictures is now available for your delectation. Click on your choice of Gallery above and all will be revealed!


Thanks for reading this article. We look forward to you visiting soon!


 Richard Stirling ©, May 2009