Next Championship Round Preview
Santa Pod’s Easter event, the Festival Of Power, ushers in Year 8 of the MSA British Drag Racing Championship, Pro Mod-style.
The 2014 series is extended to six rounds and will produce a fresh champion – 2013 title-winner Bruno Bader will not defend his crown though he still plans to attend some of the races to make life supremely difficult for the other contenders.
Britain’s ‘Godfather of Pro Mod’, Andy Robinson, doubtless starts the season as championship favourite. Robinson has done the deal three times before, in 2007, 2009 and 2010, and only missed a fourth triumph last year by losing a winner-takes-all final to Bader at the National Finals. Robinson’s new ’69 Camaro will have exchanged last year’s gunmetal-grey bodywork for a vivid new livery when it arrives for the Festival Of Power. At 237.66mph, the Camaro is already faster than its Studebaker predecessor but not yet as quick – 6.177sec to the Stude’s 6.054.
Robinson does not have the quickest or fastest machine on the FOP entry list, though. That belongs to the Netherlands’ Robert Joosten. Joosten’s ’70 Camaro had laboured puzzlingly since its 2011 debut but a trip back to its birthplace in South Carolina a year ago cured its problems and the Dutch star hit 5.990/241.22 at Tierp last August before finishing as runner-up at the European Finals. Joosten will focus on the FIA Championship this year but may take a tilt at the MSA crown too if the going looks good.
2013’s surprise package was Rick Garrett. Driving a multi-coloured, nitrous-boosted ’41 Willys Coupe, Garrett won last year’s Easter opener in only his second Pro Mod outing – a remarkable achievement – and continued to lead the championship for much of the season until slipping to third behind Bader and Robinson at the very end. All eyes will be on the Surrey racer and a crew comprised of his three sons to see if they can magic up any more surprises this year.
2012 MSA Champion Roger Moore brings along his familiar nitrous ‘00 Viper with all-new engineering under the hood, and Andy Wright bids to emulate BA Racing team partner and 2008 champion Philip ‘Bert’ Englefield at the wheel of their sleek black, blown methanol ’38 Ford. Wayne Nicholson arrives with his Lucky Devil ’63 Corvette; shorn of the breakage and bad luck that have plagued it in the past, the Yorkshire team looks like a win that could soon happen. Another entry blighted by mechanical difficulties belongs to Steve Hall. The gorgeous ’55 Chevy that debuted last year is a state-of-the-art, Andy Robinson Race Cars product with pedigree written all over it.
Kev Slyfield already has a race win to his credit – 2010’s Summer Nationals – which he secured at the wheel of his popular but ill-behaved Willys. The characterful vehicle’s powertrain was not a problem; rather, it was the unwieldy body – still partly original steel – that was considered a hindrance. Now Slyfield arrives with the powertrain installed in a brand new ’57 Ford Thunderbird, another Andy Robinson Race Cars product alongside Moore’s, Hall’s and Robinson’s own. Those in the know expect big things of the T’bird.
Another successful car constructor, Chris Isaacs Race Cars, enters its first Pro Mod creation into the fray, a turbocharged ’70 Plymouth Duster, and it will be Chris Isaacs himself taking the wheel. The team is a joint venture between Isaacs and Sportsman ace Spencer Tramm, who will take his turn in the hot seat later in the year.
There are nine entries for this opening MSA round but others are expected to swell the ranks as the season progresses. Andy Frost plans to unleash his outrageous, road-legal Vauxhall Victor at May’s second round, when other top Europeans will be in town for the start of the FIA series. Graham Ellis’s brand new turbo Mustang awaits its owner’s recovery from the injuries he sustained in a terrifying wreck at September’s National Finals. France’s Eric Monsenego is expected to join compatriot Jean Dulamon in due course. Monsenego’s Plymouth Barracuda and Ellis’s Mustang have also both emerged from the busy Andy Robinson manufactory near Basingstoke. Sportsman racers Amanda Cox and Bobby Wallace have each expressed intentions to step up to Pro Mod and may be welcomed into the class later this year.
And then there is Steve Rawlings. Steve’s nitrous ‘Vette is now almost ready for action, and when it does emerge during the season, it will be the joyous end to a seven-year wait. Patience is indeed a virtue.