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MSA British Drag Racing Championship

Championship Rounds Race Reports

Round 1: Santa Pod Raceway - Auto Trader Easter Thunderball - 21/24 March 2008

Against all odds, Santa Pod Raceway’s Easter Thunderball meet, including Round 1 of the MSA British Drag Racing Championship, was completed successfully.  Easter’s Arctic weather threatened abandonment of the event – snowstorms and high horsepower do not mix – but the race was compressed into Monday after much of Friday and all of Saturday and Sunday were lost.

The MSA Championship’s Pro Mod racers, promised the luxury of five qualifying rounds, ended up with a single Monday shot in frigid conditions which played havoc with tune-ups and tyre-grip.  Unruly handling was the order of the day, typified by reigning MSA champion Andy Robinson’s wild rides to final victory.

Robinson spacer Englefield spacer Trophy

Robinson’s route to triumph during eliminations included defeats of Sweden’s Mats Eriksson and his closest UK challenger, Philip Englefield.  Indeed, Robinson’s semi-final clockings (6.885sec./228.07mph: Low ET and Top Speed of the Meet) were remarkable achievements from such a bucking-bronco drive.

Robinson-Englefield finals are becoming a familiar occurrence.  The pair, Britain’s longest-serving Pro Mod racers, contested two of last year’s four completed MSA final rounds (the fifth was rained off) and finished first and second in the championship.  Their presence in this season’s first final is a testament to the wealth of experience which helped them and their respective crews prosper under such difficult conditions.

Mats Eriksson made the long haul from Sweden only to find the same kind of weather he’d have hoped to leave at home.  In qualifying, Eriksson’s rocky 8.039/178.85 was good enough to secure pole position in the unforgiving cold.  Ironically, his first-round 7.056 was by some margin the second-quickest pass of the meet.  Unfortunately for Eriksson, his opponent, Robinson, was running his stellar 6.88 in the other lane.

Eriksson spacer Cockerill spacer Ellis

The Essex rivalry of Basildon’s Danny Cockerill and Westcliff’s Graham Ellis got off to an inauspicious start.

Danny Cockerill’s 1957 Chevrolet Bel Air damaged some engine internals on his 8.094/139.23 qualifying pass and, with turnaround time so short, Cockerill elected to forgo his 2nd spot in the field for eliminations.

The debut of Graham Ellis’s brand new, 1970 Plymouth Superbird attracted much comment and attention.  “Stealth bomber” was the phrase on many lips as the vehicle’s ground-hugging contours and temporary black livery gave it an ominous, sinister look.  Ellis’s hopes of easing into the saddle and securing his Pro Mod licence over the scheduled five qualifying sessions were thwarted by the weather.  In Monday’s chilly conditions, powertrain problems scuppered the car’s maiden voyage.  A second test-run, later in the day, produced a booming launch followed by an easy coast to the finish, clocking 8.61 seconds at a gentle 127mph.  Once it is running at full tilt, this unique machine promises to become one of Pro Mod’s most eye-catching performers.

Hoddesdon challenger Ian Bishop endured a fruitless weekend.  The Monday morning qualifier afforded Bishop his first opportunity to test in action the new nitrous-oxide injection system installed in his 1996 Dodge Avenger.  The motor emitted a fiery cough at the hit of the throttle.  Under normal circumstances, a simple adjustment would have cured the problem for future attempts but, thanks to the weather, this was the team’s only chance.

Eriksson spacer Slyfield spacer Slyfield

For Verwood’s Kevin Slyfield, there was more frustration.  Eager to put their new, high-compression engine setup to the test, Slyfield and his crew were thwarted by the weather from making any decent, representative attempts.  Slyfield actually managed three shots at the track over the weekend but, each time, the chilly, tractionless surface sent the 1941 Willys-bodied machine skating and bouncing off-line.  The car’s chassis needed thoroughly re-tuning to meet the exceptional conditions.

Ossett’s Wayne Nicholson had a disconcerting debut in Pro Mod.  Nicholson’s 8.170/167.03 in Monday’s lone qualifying session would have placed him 4th among the off-pace shots achieved in the wintry chill.  However, the Lucky Devil Corvette weighed-in marginally under the Pro Mod limit on the Santa Pod scales and, with no chance to return, Nicholson forfeited his place in the field.

Qualifiers:

1. Mats Eriksson (8.039 / 178.85)
2. Danny Cockerill (8.094 / 139.23)
3. Philip Englefield (8.154 / 154.58)
4. Andy Robinson (9.829 /   96.54)

Semi-final:

Englefield (10.906/121.22) bye run  -  Cockerill withdrew
Robinson (6.885/228.07) def. Eriksson (7.056/183.37)

Final:

Robinson (7.275/209.24) def. Englefield (8.225/153.53)

When MSA Round 2 takes place during the FIA Main Event (23-26 May), the contest is expected to attract two dozen or more leading Pro Mod teams from across Europe.

Warmer, drier weather will be a welcome bonus.

2008 Points standings after Championship Round 1:

Po MSA No Driver R1
1 1 Andy Robinson 75
2 2 Philip Englefield 56
3 3 Mats Eriksson 38
4 3606 Danny Cockerill 37
=5 387 Ian Bishop 10
=5 606 Kev Slyfield 10
=5 777 Wayne Nicholson 10

The 2008 Season Standings are on the Rounds & Points page.