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MSA British Drag Racing Championship

Championship Rounds Race Reports

Round 3: Santa Pod Raceway – SPRC Summer Nationals – 14-15 June 2008

Surrey’s Philip ‘Bert’ Englefield must like Santa Pod Raceway’s Summer Nationals. Last year’s June event gave the veteran Pro Modified racer his first runner-up finish of the new century. Now this year’s race has made him a winner. The win wasn’t pretty but it came with a career-best elapsed time and left Englefield heading the MSA British Drag Racing Championship for the first time.

On a weekend of blessedly fine weather for once, Englefield qualified 2nd at 6.635sec./211.93mph, behind low qualifier Andy Robinson. Englefield defeated Kevin Slyfield in the opening round of eliminations before unleashing his career-best ET, 6.552 (at 212.81mph), to beat rookie Graham Ellis in the semi-final.

Englefield was then unopposed in the final, where tyre-shake thwarted his hopes of a stylish solo finish (a 6.40 perhaps?). In his third season running his 1938 Ford Coupe on supercharged methanol, Englefield and his BA Racing team are starting to show the power and consistency that makes a formidable competitor.

Roger Moore spacer Graham & Andy spacer Bert

Reigning MSA British Drag Racing Champion Andy Robinson started his weekend with a bang – the right kind of bang – but ended with a couple of the wrong kind. Robinson’s opening qualifying pass produced a stunning 6.164-second elapsed time – just three thousandths of a second short of his UK record – at 227.63mph. Ominously for the rest of the field, it looked easy enough to suggest he had more performance in reserve.

That, however, was Robinson’s high spot in an otherwise low weekend. An unidentified problem, possibly electrical in origin, twice blew out his engine’s supercharger burst panel. Additionally, a dropped cylinder head valve required a major repair job. Together, these problems halted the anticipated performance avalanche in its tracks. Robinson’s challenge, and his MSA championship lead, succumbed when the burst panel popped again before the semi-final.

Essex’s Pro Mod campaigners continue to proliferate. Westcliff-on-Sea’s Graham Ellis was joined at this race by Chelmsford’s Roger Moore, making his class debut.

Ellis and his 1970 Plymouth Superbird-bodied creation had already made an impact on their first two appearances in Pro Mod, blasting straight into the 6-second, 200mph zone as soon as the weather allowed. Here at his third race in the class, Ellis overcame engine problems to reach his first semi-final while again running quicker and faster than ever before, clocking new career-best figures of 6.526/218.07. All that horsepower and torque broke the mounting plate beneath the engine’s prototype supercharger and hampered Ellis’s progress. When he returns to action with a stronger plate installed (and fresh painted livery replacing the current matte black), expect the meteoric progress to continue.

It is always a nerve-wracking moment when a driver first takes the helm of a brand new, much more powerful racing machine. Roger Moore (“The Man With The Golden Car” …??) managed to scuff the paintwork on his gleaming Dodge Viper when his inaugural burnout turned squirrelly but, by the end of the weekend, had eclipsed the previous personal bests he had achieved as a Super Pro racer. With a 7.849/173.06 timeslip now to his credit, Moore will aim to complete his licensing runs and enter competition as soon as possible. These machines, of course, don’t come with easy-to-follow handbooks – each one presents a unique empirical challenge – and Graham Ellis’s rapid progress will be a hard act to follow.

Ian spacer Kev spacer Wayne

Unfortunately, Essex’s third Pro Mod star, Danny Cockerill, was unable to attend.

Hertfordshire’s Ian Bishop set career-best marks and achieved one of his primary objectives during the race. Bishop intended a new, triple-stage nitrous oxide injection system to boost his scarlet Dodge Avenger into the 6-second, 200mph zone. When 6.963sec. flashed up on the clocks after Bishop’s first qualifying pass, half of that battle was won. His terminal speed, 197.03mph, was also his fastest ever and carried him yet closer to the magic double century.

Unfortunately the new-found power had a damaging effect on the engine’s pistons and Bishop’s progress was halted for the weekend. But the down-time was well-spent: Bishop and his crew left the track confident they had found the root of the problem and eager to return to action at the next race.

Dorset’s Kevin Slyfield and his M&D Tooling team endured a perplexing weekend but, like Bishop, did celebrate with a career-best performance that achieved one primary goal.

In his second season in Pro Mod, Slyfield went halfway to meeting his 6-second, 200mph targets with a 203.14mph qualifying pass. However, the run – a good terminal speed from a slow elapsed time, 7.90sec. – clearly illustrated the conundrum facing the team. The 1941 Willys-bodied machine runs straight and true once under way but hops and skips at the start. Slyfield plans a test session comprised entirely of burnouts and launches to find a solution. Once he nails the problem, he will have a formidable racing car.

Yorkshire’s Wayne Nicholson enjoyed promising performance, almost caused an upset and encountered an unusual diversion during the weekend.

Another of this season’s new Pro Mod entrants, Nicholson and his crew felt they were making headway at last with the more powerful engine combination installed in the Lucky Devil Chevrolet Corvette since its days in Super Pro. Paired in the first round of eliminations against reigning champion Robinson, Nicholson produced his best run of the event, 7.779/176.33, and looked for a while as though he might defeat the errant champion. Robinson, however, recovered from his shakey start just in time to avert the upset.

Nicholson’s unusual diversion occurred on his way to Santa Pod. Nicholson made a rendezvous with a BBC team at a motorway service station to record a radio interview complete with the sound of his blown methanol ‘Vette fired-up and running. "Yes," said the interviewer as his recording equipment went right off the dial, "now I understand why you can't start this up at home." Pity anyone taking a car-park nap in the vicinity!

Andy Robinson now heads to the Continent to contest the FIA European Pro Mod Championship rounds at Alastaro (Finland), Mantorp Park (Sweden) and Hockenheim (Germany).

He will rejoin the British contingent in September to take on Europe’s best when MSA Round 4 is combined with the FIA European and NDRS Bilsport Series final rounds at Santa Pod’s FIA European Finals.

Qualifiers:

1.  Andy Robinson       6.164 / 227.63
2.  Philip Englefield      6.635 / 211.93
3.  Ian Bishop            6.963 / 197.03
4.  Graham Ellis          7.083 / 197.19
5.  Kevin Slyfield         7.900 / 203.14
6.  Wayne Nicholson    8.080 / 168.54

Roger Moore carried out observed licensing runs.

Eliminations:

Quarter-finals:
Graham Ellis 6.526 / 218.07  def.  Ian Bishop – broke.
Philip Englefield 7.062 / 205.27  def.  Kevin Slyfield 8.629 / 165.37
Andy Robinson 7.218 / 206.00  def.  Wayne Nicholson 7.779 / 176.33

Semi-finals:
Andy Robinson – bye-run – broke on burnout
Philip Englefield 6.552 / 212.81  def.  Graham Ellis 16.186 / 47.23 (tyre-shake, broke)

Final:
Philip Englefield – unopposed – 12.376 / 109.23 (tyre-shake)

Career-best performances set during event:

Name ET MPH
Graham Ellis 6.526 218.07
Philip Englefield 6.552 -
Ian Bishop 6.963 197.03
Kevin Slyfield - 203.14
Roger Moore 7.849 173.06

MSA British Drag Racing Championship Round 3 points:

Name R3
Philip Englefield 97
Andy Robinson 58
Graham Ellis 55
Ian Bishop 36
Wayne Nicholson 34
Kev Slyfield 34

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