9th-11th July 2004, Midnight Sun Internationals, Pite Dragway, Piteå, Sweden
Gary Page. Nitro legend and reigning Swedish Top Fuel Tour champion. He's back to defend his title this weekend!
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This has got to rate as one of the most bizarre drag races in the world. To any regular spectator, all the ingredients are there: The drag strip, the cackling nitro cars, nice weather, loads of spectators and all the tasty nosh you can eat. Same as any other drag race, I suppose. Nope. These guys are running top fuel, its nice and light and its midnight. Anyone who's been high up in the northern hemisphere during summer will relay the same tale. It doesn't get dark. The darkest it gets is bright twilight, if that's not a contradiction in terms. This sort of race meeting has got to be experienced by any serious race fan. Erm, quite why I'm not there this weekend escapes me (money) but my 'spies' are on the ground and will be sending in regular updates. So we'll look forward to the results coming in soon.
So, where is Piteå? Well, courtesy of the SHRA Lulea web site, these pictures give us an idea. The left hand one is a pictorial of the drag strip itself with enthusiastically large crowds. The middle picture shows the Pite Dragway in relation to Piteå and Lulea to the north. Just so as you get yourself completely orientated, the map on the right shows how seriously north in Sweden this event is.
This weekend in the Fuel categories we have got a useful number of entries. Making an appearance in his Fuel Funny car, is Leif Helander. They are all still getting the hang of things with Nitro so this is going to be a very useful track test for Leif, if nothing else. Tommy Möller is also on the premises with his gorgeous all-back Fueller and Monica Öberg is again at her local track with her trusty nitro chariot. As announced on the SHRA website, Chris Andrews is wheeling the car driven by Smax Smith on the FIA tour. It's been a while since he stunned everyone with his amazing licensing passes at Santa Pod in October 2002. The picture on the right was Chris at the 2003 Autosports show at the NEC. Many thanks to eurodragster for the picture.
It's been a while since Monica Öberg has been on the European tour. The picture on the left is her launching off the line at Piteå last year and the picture in the middle is her backing up after a burnout. In the right hand picture Tommy Möller is backing after another smoky burnout, again at the 2003 event. I would like to express my gratitude to Richard Lindahl for producing the pictures from Pite Dragway. They are excellent, indeed.
As mentioned previously, Gary Page was at Piteå in 2003 and was driving the car which Smax went on to win the Top Fuel Championship that year. It must have been a good sign for Smax because Gary won the event! If only I had a picture of Gary with the funny hat that he won! Last year Susanne Callin was racing the red dragster with both vehicles coming, of course, from the expansive stable of Knut Söderquist. Gary, as many are aware, actually prefers driving the more difficult-to-handle nitro funny cars which, he's been driving since he was 17, the lucky chap! The picture on the right is of Gary just about to go out and 'play' in Mark and Jackie Hawkins Dodge Avenger nitro funny car last August, which has subsequently been sold to Doug Ripley to run as a Top Methanol Funny Car. Doug has been having increasing success with that car since it's transformation to the alcohol ranks.
Saturday: Things have now got underway and there has been a couple of rounds of Top Fuel qualifying runs. Chris Andrews has stunned everyone with a run of 5.084 seconds. England is also cheering for Gary Page who is second quickest with a pass of 5.703 seconds. Monica has not had a 'full pull' yet and has run 6.343 seconds. Tommy Möller is pulling up the rear with lots of shaking and smoking with a 6.760 second pass.
Sunday: Well, things have gone fairly well for everyone, so far, with the exception of Monica Öberg. Yesterday they loaded a tune up into the car and on the pass when she was paired with Chris Andrews, her motor just KABOOMED right on the line. This pretty much destroyed everything, but it didn't shake Monica up at all, though. Within 30 minutes, she'd got dinner on the go for the guys and the crew had pretty much got everything torn down. Whether Monica has all the necessary spares to come out again later today remains to be seen. Again, many thanks to Richard Lindahl for providing an absolutely superb picture of the event. Alongside that picture is a quick look at Gary Page's ride for this weekend (middle) and Chris Andrews' car for his competition debut. Thanks to Jon Crawford of the Santa Pod Racers Club for the picture of the Promise Top Fueller.
As competition got underway in the first round, Chris Andrews was paired up with Tommy Möller. Chris made a very creditable 5.152 second pass at 283.34mph to make it through to the final in what was Chris's first round of competition in Top Fuel, so that was extra 'nice' that it was a round win. What makes it even more impressive, is that Chris didn't have any brakes to hold the car, so he staged the 'good old way' by easing the clutch into stage. It takes a seriously cool head to do that and manage all the other things that are going on in a Top Fuel cockpit, before a run. Congratulations on the first round win, Chris. In the other first round match up, Gary Page was up against Monica Öberg and Gary needed to keep his head cool, too and apply some psychological pressure on Monica as she staged at her home track. It worked well and Monica got a little bit over-excited and pulled a red light, handing the win over to Gary who, luckily for him, blew the tyres off at about a couple of hundred feet out and had to get out of the throttle. He then burbled through anyway, to take the win with a 11.48 second run. In the second 'round', Tommy went up against Monica in what was a 3rd & 4th place decider and Tommy went up in smoke again! Monica ran a very creditable "five thirty somethin'", according to my source. We then we came to the final round and it was an "All England" affair comprising of reigning champion Gary Page and the likeable young upstart Chris Andrews. Regrettably, after the burnout, Chris couldn't get reverse. Apparently, after his first round win, a blackened crankshaft was discovered which, although not serious, is unfixable at the track. A motor change (see the Gallery where Chris (on the left) is getting his hands very dirty helping to pull the motor out with Shockwave's FC Crew Chief Dave Bryant and his team member Nicky and team owner Knut Söderquist himself) was the result and as is often the case after a motor change, the clutch wouldn't bed properly, so that was Chris's competition debut over and Gary had a freebie to get another one of those ridiculous hats! Gary stepped on it though, and enjoyed the ride till just past half track and clicked it to a 5.66 second pass. Many, many and extra congratulations to Gary, but I must insist on getting a shot of him with that hat when he brings it back! Actually, the hat is called a Lappmössa and when Gary went to pick up his prize, apparently they said they hadn't got one for him this year!. Never mind, he's already got one already. Good luck for later in the season, Gary.
Many thanks to Tog and Sharkman and everyone involved with eurodragster, the SHRA, to Richard Lindahl for the superb pictures from the track and my spies 'on the premises' at Piteå. More soon from www.topnitro.co.uk. Thank you for calling by.
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Report and some pictures by Richard I. Stirling Copyright © 2004 http://topnitro.co.uk