Next Championship Round Preview
2013 Round 2: Santa Pod Raceway – FIA ‘The Main Event’ - 24th – 27th May 2013
Nineteen Pro Mods have entered for The Main Event which, as usual, combines MSA Rnd.2 with the first round of the FIA European Drag Racing Championship.
Surrey’s Rick Garrett heads the MSA points table following his unexpected MSA Rnd.1 victory in freezing conditions at Easter’s ‘Festival Of Power’. Racing for just the second time in Pro Mod, Garrett had sustained engine damage during the warm-up before even setting a tyre on the track and seemed homeward bound. By the close of play, he and his team – consisting only of his three young sons – had repaired the damage and won the race. Beating the brand new Camaro of Andy Robinson in the final, Garrett set new best marks for his fledgling career of 6.981sec/196.24mph.
Unfortunately, these figures leave Garrett the slowest in the field, except for Germany’s Norbert Schneider who makes his Pro Mod debut driving compatriot Norbert Kuno’s second Dodge Avenger. Like Garrett, Schneider is an experienced Sportsman racer who, by chance, had previously bought and raced Garrett’s Nissan Skyline. With 19 cars vying to qualify for a 16-car eliminations field, three will be going home early, barring breakage or withdrawal among the successful qualifiers. Garrett’s sights are now set on gaining experience and improving performance, and he harbours no illusions about glory this time around. On the other hand, no one tipped him to win at Easter, either.
The arrival of the European elite to contest the FIA opening round raises today’s eternal question: who can challenge Michael Gullqvist? Since Pro Mod became an FIA class in 2006, the reigning and triple FIA champion has won seven races and runner-upped at five more. The next-best winning record is Urban Johansson’s at three.
Yet only one of those victories has come at Santa Pod in a combined MSA race, and that was as recently as last September at the European Finals. What’s more, Gullqvist has just been beaten two weeks before The Main Event (12 May) at Tierp’s season-opener in Sweden, though not before setting fresh personal bests for elapsed time and terminal speed.
On Tierp’s concrete, Gullqvist qualified at 5.897sec – the first legitimate 5.8sec clocking in Europe – and 247.08mph. His compatriot Mattias Wulcan is still getting to grips with a sleek black Firebird acquired last year. Wulcan began Tierp eliminations with decent new PBs of 6.23/237 but instantly blitzed them out of the stats books in round two with a positively indecent 5.934/245.99, which proved sufficient to snatch the win from opponent Gullqvist’s 5.940/246.90. What a cracking match! Wulcan thereafter went off the boil and lost the final to Fredrik Fagerström, who is not entered for The Main Event.
So the good news is that Gullqvist can be beaten. The bad news is that it will likely take seriously quick performance figures to do it. Ominously for the other 17 entrants, Wulcan joins Gullqvist on The Main Event’s entry list. Wulcan may be new to British eyes but is no newcomer to fast door cars, having flitted for some years between Pro Mods and Top Doorslammers in Sweden. So too has another Swede unfamiliar here, Mats Wicktor, who drives a naturally-aspirated Corvette with a 13-litre motor and receives tuning guidance from British nitrous expert Trevor Langfield, of Wizards Of NOS.
The real fascination of The Main Event is how these racers will all take to the new Santa Pod track surface. Neither Gullqvist nor Mats Eriksson were much enthused by the previous track’s fabled bumps. Will the new, smooth veneer unlock their internal speed demons? The results achieved in Easter’s frigid conditions hint that it just might.
Most of the British and Swedish entrants and the lone Frenchman, Jean Dulamon, at least have the advantage of a prior runout. For the likes of Switzerland’s Bruno Bader – winner of this race a year ago – and Marcus Hilt, the dangerous Dutch trio of Joosten, Meihuizen and Vegter and the aforementioned Norberts from Germany, this will be a first shot at the track this year, though Robert Joosten did test his tricky Camaro in America after shipping it back there for repairs and psychoanalysis.
On the home front, there is an even newer Andy Robinson-built car scheduled to appear than Robinson’s own Camaro, when Steve Hall gives a debut to his ’55 Chevy. It’s the season-opener too for Andy Frost. Kevin Slyfield’s season appeared finished before it had begun when he smacked both walls on his first pass at Easter, but the Dorset racer has managed to repair the damage and makes a quick and welcome return. Graham Ellis could certainly make a mark if he can just get his auto/turbo Superbird to stage properly, and Wayne Nicholson, low qualifier in the Easter chill, looks to be shaking off his 2012 lethargy and reviving his earlier promise.