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MSA British Drag Racing Championship

Championship Rounds Race Reports

Round 4:  Santa Pod Raceway – Mopar Nationals - 29th – 30th July 2017

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Report

Warning to drag racers everywhere: if you harbour championship ambitions, don’t play with grandchildren (yours or anyone else’s). Kev Slyfield crocked himself doing just that (the grandkids were his own – so much for family loyalty!) and was forced to withdraw from the Mopar Euro Nationals, MSA Rnd.4. Slyfield’s genuine title hopes now lie in tatters. It is not so much regaining lost ground on the track that poses a problem; rather, it is the forfeiture of 100 bonus points awarded at season’s end to racers with perfect attendance records at all six championship races. It’s not an impossible task to win the crown without this bonus – Bruno Bader achieved the feat in 2013, just – but it’s near-impossible.

Andy Robinson took the opportunity to stamp his authority on the title chase. Arriving at the track leading by just one point from Slyfield, Robinson left with a 70-point cushion over Bobby Wallace, whose semi-final finish vaulted him above Slyfield into second place (20 points per elimination round). Robinson and Marck Harteveld shared the meeting’s spoils, finishing first and second respectively in qualifying, then finishing in the same order in the final. En route, Robinson clocked the event’s top speed (235.31mph) in Q3 and Harteveld achieved low elapsed time (6.112sec) while beating Wallace in the semi-final. By coincidence, the pair also registered the race’s slowest figures: 15.831sec (Robinson, E1) and 66.30mph (Harteveld, Q3).

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In truth, Robinson’s victory combined sterling performance with a dose of luck. The aforementioned 15sec, first-round ET fortunately came on a bye run – the car shook and failed to hook up – while Philip Englefield’s semi-final redlight threw away a 6.296/227.00mph pass against Robinson’s slower but winning 6.327/226.74. The final against Harteveld was a different matter: Robinson won a terrific match on a holeshot, 6.145 to the Dutchman’s 6.129.

Harteveld and his Voodoo Hemi Racing crew are quickly getting the hang of their ex-Pete Farber Plymouth Superbird imported last winter from the USA. On the car’s third European outing, Harteveld reached his first MSA Pro Mod final (he was FIA runner-up last year at Hockenheim) and clocked fresh personal-best marks of 6.112sec/234.08mph, with plenty more performance looking set to come. Their fellow Dutch team, led by Michel Tooren, has stumbled somewhat this season after such an impressive 2016 debut year when Tooren took over the driving seat left vacant by the death of Robert Joosten. A new, improved engine has not been easy to integrate, and both Dutch crews were hard at work together until 3.00am on Sunday fixing problems in the Jack Hammer Barracuda’s pit. A season’s-best 6.258/230.23 was the result in Sunday’s opening round, only for the flying Wallace to snatch a 6.348sec holeshot win.

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For the other European entrants, it was not an event to remember. Germany’s Marco Maurischat, qualified fifth, threw away a first-round 6.288/227.79, his weekend’s best, with a minuscule redlight (-0.0014) as Philip Englefield shook and stuttered to a 12sec winner. The good news is that Maurischat remains committed to the MSA championship, to the extent that he will forgo a trip to his home race at Hockenheim in order to keep the car at Santa Pod; he has insufficient time to do both. Moreover, he plans a similar programme next year and should offer a serious title challenge if he can manage to contest all the season’s races (he missed Easter this year).

The French pair, veteran Jean Dulamon and Pro Mod debutant Eric Monsenego, both broke in pre-race testing and withdrew from competition. Monsenego’s trouble was in the transmission. Dulamon snapped a rod – a repeat of a problem suffered last year in the same cylinder – and headed home to south-west France to ponder a solution. If he finds one in time, he might return for September’s National Finals, but is more likely to resume next year.

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Of the home runners, besides Robinson, Bobby Wallace was the star turn, qualifying third and unloading that first-round holeshot on Tooren before semi-final defeat to Harteveld. Mick Payne had problems over-revving on gear changes. Like the Dutch contingent, he and his crew also pursued a remedy into Sunday’s early hours. Wayne Nicholson lost a transmission seal launching on his first qualifying attempt and, with fluid under the wheels and clouded in smoke, came to rest with the Corvette’s nose lightly grazing the track wall. Nicholson withdrew from competition but tested on Sunday at 6.493sec/216.15mph, encouragingly close to his 6.456 personal best.

Jon Webster’s first run in his new turbocharged Mustang consisted of the weekend’s best burnout (a sign of things to come?) and a 12sec/67mph cruise initially logged as a qualifier and then demoted to a test or observed run. Webster thereafter retired from competition citing pushrod problems. For fans of automotive diversity, the svelte, waist-high, gold-bronze ‘Stang extends a Pro Mod style spectrum that stretches all the way to an opposite extreme embodied by Fast Freddy Fagerström’s Chevy truck. For fans of drag racing’s aural diversity, it’s a shame that turbo cars no longer sound like an artillery barrage when revving up at the start. But that’s progress for you.

The Chris Isaacs-Spencer Tramm team had the worst weekend of all. The team was seeking to make its season’s debut at the fourth time of asking, after one thing or another had stymied its previous attempts. This time, Tramm and the crew had brought the turbo Plymouth Duster to the track only to learn that Isaacs and his wife had been the innocent parties in a road collision. Chris escaped unscathed but Rosie was taken to hospital, though not believed to be seriously hurt.

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As yet, Andy Robinson has no grandchildren but the world is alive with alternative threats to his ascendancy, so a sixth MSA crown merely hovers over his head until the points are securely in the bag. Robinson leads by 70 points with a maximum of 226 remaining on the table at the last two races, plus the 100 bonus points for all competitors with perfect attendance records. Catching him will be a tall order, but that won’t stop his opponents trying.

PS: Absent friends – the Moore brothers, 2012 MSA champions, brought their nitrous Dodge Viper to the track for a one-off visit, albeit not in Pro Mod competition but to stretch its legs in the JT Construction UK Top Sportsman Heads-Up Race. Roger Moore vacated the driving seat while crewchief brother Dave and longtime crewman Gary Butters took turns at the wheel on Friday and Saturday (how many Pro Mod teams can claim to have blooded two new drivers in a single afternoon?) before Dave cantered to victory in Sunday’s Heads-Up Race, clocking best figures of 6.762/200.67 on the way. One hopes that finances might one day allow a return to Pro Mod where this team belongs.

Photos courtesy of Blackett Photography.

RESULTS:

QUALIFYING:

Po. Driver Country Time Speed Best MPH
1 Andy Robinson  GBR 6.159 235.31  
2 Marck Harteveld NED 6.173 234.08  
3 Bobby Wallace  GBR 6.247 222.21   
4 Philip Englefield  GBR 6.258 224.50 228.17
5 Marco Maurischat  DEU 6.308 227.79  
6 Michel Tooren  NED 6.453 221.45 225.89
7 Mick Payne GBR 7.381 147.66  
Alternates:
  Jon Webster  GBR 12.482 67.37  
No Time:
  Wayne Nicholson  GBR      
Withdrawn entries:
  Jean Dulamon FRA      
  Chris Isaacs GBR      
  Eric Monsenego FRA      
  Kevin Slyfield  GBR      

ELIMINATIONS:
Round 1:
Philip Englefield 12.204, 70.69 def. Marco Maurischat 6.288, 227.79
Bobby Wallace 6.348, 217.20 def. Michel Tooren 6.258, 230.23
Marck Harteveld 6.655, 175.06 def. Mick Payne 11.850, 70.62
Andy Robinson 15.831, 68.75 bye

Semi-Final:
Andy Robinson 6.327, 226.74 def. Philip Englefield 6.296, 227.00 DQ R/L
Marck Harteveld 6.112, 234.07 def. Bobby Wallace 6.325, 218.03

Final:
Andy Robinson 6.145, 234.88 def. Marck Harteveld 6.129, 232.88

Low Elapsed Time of the Event:  6.112sec. – Marck Harteveld (E2)
Top Speed of the Event:  235.31mph – Andy Robinson (Q3)

Personal-best performances set during event:
Marck Harteveld 6.112, 234.08

The 2017 points table is on the Rounds & Points page.