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MSA British Drag Racing Championship

Championship Rounds Race Reports

Round 2: Santa Pod Raceway – The Main Event - 28th to 31st May 2010

The most frenetic weekend in MSA British Drag Racing Championship history began with the arrival of an American superstar and ended with the emergence of a new, young European hero.

Anticipation had been spurred weeks earlier by the announcement of a 28-strong, eight-nation Pro Modified entry list for Santa Pod Raceway’s Main Event, combining MSA Round 2 with the start of the FIA European Pro Mod Championship. The historic victory achieved in the USA’s NHRA series by Swedish entrant Michael Gullqvist, the first ever by a European racer, then intensified the excitement before a last-minute entry by America’s Melanie Troxel and her crack NHRA crew sparked a real ferment.

Amidst the tumult, few reckoned on Sweden’s youthful Lindberg Brothers’ team stealing the show. The unheralded “New Generation” outfit, average age 20-something, had replaced an ageing Chevy Nova with a state-of-the-art, US-built 1968 Pontiac Firebird. Test runs on an eighth-mile track at home had shown great promise but this would be driver Johan Lindberg’s first outing in the machine over the full quarter-mile.

Melanie Troxel spacer Bruno bader spacer Roger Johansson

Rain washed out Saturday’s qualifying sessions, leaving the teams just two Sunday attempts to make the cut for Bank Holiday Monday’s head-to-head eliminations. Lindberg’s pair of 6.0-second elapsed times set the standard and four more six-zeroes, each allied to a 236mph terminal speed, carried him to his first international victory on Monday. The extraordinary, metronomic consistency of quick times and fast speeds ensured that Lindberg will never be overlooked again.

Overshadowed by Lindberg’s stunning ascent to stardom, British veteran Andy Robinson had his own remarkable weekend. When Robinson won this race a year ago, 6.0-second timeslips were non-existent. Since then, performance figures have progressed to the extent that Robinson’s first-round opponent, Jan Gunnarsson and his fabulous Cadillac, could clock 6.047sec and still lose. Three 6.1-second wins, including the holeshot over Gunnarsson, took Robinson to the final but a broken engine prevented him confronting Lindberg in what promised to be a classic match-up.

Another Briton, Graham Ellis, produced the kind of career-best run he has been threatening for some while, 6.074sec/232.46mph, to qualify 2nd behind Lindberg but blew his chances with a red-light false start in the first round against Finland’s Marko Lantto when his car’s brakes failed to hold on the line.

Also celebrating a personal best was Michael Gullqvist, the hero of Atlanta. On his return from beating NHRA’s finest two weekends earlier, Gullqvist drove his own Chevy Bel Air to his best-ever European ET of 6.126sec, though in a losing cause as Robinson beat him to the stripe in round two. In March, of course, on his first NHRA outing at Florida’s Gatornationals, Gullqvist had clocked 5.827/248.84 in the Roger Burgess-owned Camaro now shoehorned into his Santa Pod pit-space (see below).

It should also be noted that Dutch star Marc Meihuizen hit a career-quickest 6.094 in testing on the previous Thursday but damaged the engine badly enough to force his withdrawal from the race.

Roger Moore spacer Jan Gunnarsson spacer Kev Slyfield

Every race has its share of incidents and two here were unusual. Andy Robinson blew his motor not once but twice, uncharacteristically oiling the top end of the track both times. The second oildown came at the end of his winning semi-final against Adam Flamholc and the damage prevented him from making the final. The first was a monster during Sunday’s opening qualifying session and halted racing for a long while. It is a rare occasion when Robinson stops the show; twice in one race makes it a collector’s item.

It is also unusual to see the Christmas tree felled on a burnout, but Switzerland’s Rolf Ammann achieved the feat with distinction, ripping up the fastenings and the cabling in the process. Both incidents occurred in Sunday’s opening session and helped make it, at some 2 hours and 40 minutes in duration, the longest Pro Mod qualifying session in living memory.

In a weekend laced with stories, the dominant narrative was the last-minute entry of US superstar Melanie Troxel and the even later arrival of her car, airfreighted from America to Amsterdam by Kalitta Air then shipped by land and sea to reach Santa Pod, and the shared confines of Michael Gullqvist’s pit, precisely on time.

Already an NHRA winner in Top Fuel and Funny Car, Melanie Troxel has lately addressed her talents to Pro Mod. Her wealth of experience was shown in three hair-raising runs, object lessons in bravery, judgement and car control. On her second qualifying pass she slalomed sideways more than once, yet muscled the Camaro to a 239mph clocking, one of the fastest Pro Mod speeds seen in Europe. Her first-round match against Sweden’s Adam Flamholc was even wilder, bringing defeat and immediate elimination, yet no witness of these runs could ever again suppose that driving short distances in a straight line is by definition an easy matter.

Three “sighting shots”, however, were all that master tuner Al Billes needed to grasp the nuances of track and atmospheric conditions. Granted a late-afternoon, solo demonstration pass, Troxel reeled off 5.937sec/242.42mph, the quickest, fastest run achieved on European soil. While Troxel and crew head home on team owner Roger Burgess’s private jet, the car will remain in Europe. Plans for its future use are under consideration but logic suggests this will not be its last appearance.

With an Easter win already to his credit, Andy Robinson retains the MSA British Championship lead with Johan Lindberg separating him from third-placed Graham Ellis. The battle for homeland supremacy will resume in three weeks when Robinson and Ellis head the entry list for MSA Round 3 at Santa Pod’s Summer Nationals.

Andy Robinson spacer Johan Lindberg spacer Presentation

RESULTS:

Qualifiers:
1. Johan Lindberg - Sweden - 6.0145 - 232.43 [233.97]
2. Graham Ellis - UK - 6.0743 - 232.46
3. Andy Robinson - UK - 6.1292 - 228.15
4. Bruno Bader  - Switzerland - 6.1681 - 203.33
5. Mats Eriksson - Sweden - 6.2106 - 235.18
6. Michael Gullqvist - Sweden - 6.2261 - 223.42
7. Melanie Troxel - USA - 6.2431 - 239.85
8. Fredrik Fagerström - Sweden - 6.2529 - 224.50
9. Roger Johansson - Sweden - 6.4349 - 219.18
10. Adam Flamholc - Sweden - 6.4637 - 166.07
11. Marco Maurischat - Germany - 6.4764 - 215.13
12. Urban Johansson - Sweden - 6.6263 - 221.43
13. Mikael Lindahl - Sweden - 6.7296 - 216.86
14. Jan Gunnarsson - Sweden - 6.8262 - 208.17
15. Marko Lantto - Finland  - 6.8301 - 215.11
16. Terje Håkonsen - Norway  - 6.8881 - 199.76
Non-qualifiers:
17. Roger Moore  - UK - 7.0680 - no speed
18. Kevin Slyfield - UK - 7.5480 - 153.10
19. Marcus Hilt - Switzerland - 7.7326 - 185.00
20. Philip Englefield - UK - 7.8689 - 127.32
21. Ray White - UK - 8.0641 - 128.45
22. Henri Joosten - Netherlands - 8.5913 - 129.18
23. Wayne Nicholson - UK - 10.5991 - 92.91

Unclassified entries:

Rolf Ammann - Switzerland
Jean Dulamon - France
Robert Joosten - Netherlands
Robert Koper - Netherlands (did not attend)
Norbert Kuno - Germany
Marc Meihuizen - Netherlands

Eliminations:

Round 1:
Roger Johansson 6.689sec / 210.11mph def. Fredrik Fagerström broke
Adam Flamholc 6.304 / 218.22 def. Melanie Troxel 6.601 / 228.90
Michael Gullqvist 6.259 / 220.18 def. Marco Maurischat broke
Mats Eriksson 6.389 / 228.16 def. Urban Johansson 6.407 / 228.92
Mikael Lindahl 6.359 / 222.54 def. Bruno Bader 6.427 / 222.22
Andy Robinson 6.114 / 226.78 def. Jan Gunnarsson 6.047 / 228.16
Marko Lantto 8.821 / 155.79 def. Graham Ellis 6.582 / 228.16 DQ r/l
Johan Lindberg 6.049 / 236.13 def. Terje Håkonsen 6.824 / 203.39

Round 2:
Mats Eriksson 6.039 / 240.17 def. Mikael Lindahl 6.187 / 230.09
Adam Flamholc 9.165 / 81.97 def. Marko Lantto DNS
Andy Robinson 6.122 / 226.74 def. Michael Gullqvist 6.126 / 230.38
Johan Lindberg 6.012 / 236.07 def. Roger Johansson 6.334 / 225.89

Semi-final:
Johan Lindberg 6.014 / 236.19 def. Mats Eriksson 9.761 / 90.88 DQ r/l
Andy Robinson 6.112 / 221.09 def. Adam Flamholc 6.467 / 214.10

Final:
Johan Lindberg 6.042 / 236.09 def. Andy Robinson DNS

Low Elapsed Time of the Event: 6.012sec. – Johan Lindberg
Top Speed of the Event: 240.17mph – Mats Eriksson

(Non-competition exhibition: 5.937 / 242.42 – Melanie Troxel)

Career-best performances set during event:

Graham Ellis  6.074 232.46
Michael Gullqvist 6.126 -
Jan Gunnarsson 6.047 -
Johan Lindberg 6.012 236.19
Melanie Troxel 6.243 239.85 (in European competition)

The 2010 points table is on the Rounds & Points page.